BY William McGuinness
October 09 2009 9:00 AM ET
Jesse Connolly stared at his suitcase with a decision to make. The 31-year-old straight campaign manager for Maine’s No on 1 effort, fighting to preserve marriage equality in the state, was considering a quick fund-raising trip to Miami in September but decided instead to send an assistant. Out-of-state campaign dollars are vital, but Connolly, born and bred in the Pine Tree State, is intent on keeping his focus local.
If approved by Maine voters on November 3, Question 1 would repeal the state law enacted in May to legalize gay marriage, and deal the marriage equality movement another painful blow following the November 2008 passage of Proposition 8 in California.
But Maine is not California. Mainers are an ethnically homogenous group who collectively struggle through long winters in small, close-knit towns. Connolly says his main message to them is that gay people are already part of this club, not a separate group seeking inclusion. The No on 1 team is going door-to-door trying to persuade those on the fence and asking supporters to donate money. He uses real Mainers in advertising spots to sway a population he describes as familial. “Maine is a way of life,” Connolly says.
Stand for Marriage Maine, the pro–Question 1 campaign, is headed by Frank Schubert, the Sacramento political strategist behind Prop. 8’s success (his PR firm, Schubert Flint Public Affairs, received top honors at the American Association of Political Consultants’ conference in March). Schubert is attempting to reprise his West Coast win through familiar strategies -- including factually dubious ads that assert gay marriage will threaten church freedoms, alter school curricula, and challenge “traditional” families.