Utah Democrats have chosen an openly gay man to fill the vacant seat of a state senator stepping down for failing health. If he's formally appointed by Gov. Jon Huntsman, Scott McCoy would join Rep. Jackie Biskupski, a Democrat from Salt Lake City, as the only openly gay state legislators.
Former senator Paula Julander had requested that her husband, Rod, be her replacement representing Salt Lake City, and many Democrats expected him to win Saturday's election by party delegates from the 2nd Senate District.
But instead, McCoy edged him by three votes--a surprise because he hadn't even decided to run until the night before.
Tammy Kikuchi, the governor's spokeswoman, said Saturday that Huntsman intends to approve the appointment Monday morning.
Rod Julander says he and his wife were "disappointed" in the outcome, but that they would continue to be involved in politics. "We're taking it well," he said, noting that his wife had "wanted it very badly" for the vote to go to him.
Paula Julander, who suffers from an internal inflammation called diverticulitis, came home Saturday from the hospital. "What she is upset about is that she had supported [gay rights] issues, and then they organized to defeat her candidate," Rod Julander said.
Biskupski, who was the state's first openly gay legislator, said the transition could be difficult for McCoy. Soon after she was elected, she said some lawmakers wouldn't even look at her. "I don't think it's going to be easy for Scott, but it will ultimately be good for him," she said.
Just last week, McCoy, as vice chairman of the gay rights advocacy group Equality Utah, criticized the body he's poised to join after senators voted against a bill that would have given two adults--gay or straight--marriagelike rights. "This is about the fact that they don't want to do anything that would be beneficial for gay people," he said at the time.
Still, McCoy vowed Saturday not to be a single-issue senator. "I represent probably one of the most diverse constituencies in the senate," he said. "I'm committed to doing my level best to represent not only gays and lesbians but all people."
Gayle Ruzicka, founder of the conservative Eagle Forum, called the choice "very interesting." "People have the right to make their own choices, and that's the lifestyle he 's chosen, and that's the choice the Democrats made," she said.
McCoy, who grew up in Missouri and Oklahoma, has a law degree from Yeshiva University's Cardozo College of Law. He moved to Utah three years ago to clerk for Utah supreme court justice Leonard Russon. (AP)
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