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Meet the new mayor

Meet the new mayor


Mike Gin, the newly elected mayor of Redondo Beach, Calif., is openly gay and overcame a nasty antigay mailing campaign to win. He talked to about running a clean race and what voters really care about

Redondo Beach, Calif., mayor-elect Mike Gin knows a thing or two about having mud slung at you. In the final days before a May 17 runoff election, a far-right political action committee mailed a flier to 6,000 homes accusing Gin, a Republican, of being a "liberal" with a "hidden agenda"--a reference to the fact that Gin, who's gay, received about $3,000 from the Washington, D.C.-based Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund and contributions from the Log Cabin Republicans of California. Gin went on to win with more than 60% of the vote. The Advocate spoke to Gin, 42, a former aerospace computer scientist and Redondo Beach city councilman, about his win.How does it feel to win?It's great. I'm overwhelmed and honored by the support that my community has given me in spite of a bitter and divisive campaign.Did you expect to win? I had no expectations, because there had not been a mayoral election like this in the history of the town. We had good indications out there, but it all depended on who showed up at the polls.To what do you attribute your victory?My supporters, volunteers, advisers, campaign manager--and my partner [of 10 years], Christopher Kreidel.How did gay support--both local and national--play in your victory, if at all?I credit my victory to my local volunteers and supporters. I really think it was really the local support that was really key.What do you think the people of Redondo Beach value in a leader?Someone who will listen to their concerns [and give them] a voice in local affairs. These are not just people who are involved in the city through a board or whatever. These are regular folks who vote, but they may not have the time to get involved. The "silent majority," if you will. They want someone who will make them a part of the process.On what criteria then does the "silent majority" judge gay people?I think the election results in my race show that people in my community judge people on their merits and qualifications, not on personal issues like sexual orientation.How did you reach out to voters?I started walking door-to-door last July. It was a goal of mine to walk the entire city. I figured I would treat this position like I was interviewing for a job, and it was important to make personal contact with the people I'd be working for. That's how I built my platform. The issues that were most important were (1) managing growth, (2) forming stronger partnerships between the city and the school district, (3) promoting a healthy and robust economic environment, (4) improvements in public safety and infrastructure, and (5) improving the quality of life in our neighborhoods.Now--about the mailer. When did you first see or hear about it?When I received a copy of it on April 30 [about two weeks before the election].What was your first reaction?Frankly, I was shocked and hurt a little. I was really disappointed the campaign had turned down that road. It was a piece designed to discredit me.Who advised you about how to respond?My campaign manager, Jonathan Eubanks, was my main advisor as well as my political consultant, Jonathan Brown. Basically, Mr. Eubanks felt it would backfire on my opponent [who is also a Republican]. I run positive campaigns about issues that people in my community really care about. For me, my sexual orientation wasn't an issue in this campaign.Throughout your campaign you said you were going to keep it clean. After it became clear that some of your opponent's supporters weren't going to play that way, were you ever forced to question your method?We really didn't. We've seen other political races before where there was a back and forth [of such accusations], and I looked at myself as just a voter and asked, How do I feel about that? I did not feel good about engaging in that kind of campaigning. I feel like many folks are really tired of that.Who did you turn to for strength and encouragement during the campaign?A lot of different people in the community sent me e-mails, particularly after that mailer came out, encouraging me to stay on the high road.As a Republican, how does it feel to be called liberal?I look at myself as a progressive person but also very fiscally conservative in terms of government spending. So I really consider myself moderate.If it was possible in California, would you want to get married?Someday my partner and I hope to share in the same rights and responsibilities that are afforded other couples as well.Do you think that all gay politicians have a "hidden agenda"--certain issues they all agree to push for?I think the GLBT community is as diverse as any other community. There are a variety of different opinions. We're individuals as well [as GLBT].How much do larger national issues like gay marriage, "don't ask, don't tell," and workplace discrimination affect local municipal elections like yours?Not much at all. The debates on those issues take place on the national level. I think in local elections people care about issues close to home.Do you think it is important for national organizations, like the Victory Fund, to support politicians on every level of government, from the very top to the very bottom?I was grateful for their support. I'm glad there is an organization out there to really encourage GLBT folks to run for office.Log Cabin has said it hopes to gain a greater voice in California state politics by electing more Republicans [friendly to gay rights]. How do you think your victory in Redondo Beach affects the state as a whole?I've been surprised and honored by the attention that our little town has received. I just hope that it provides hope to gay, lesbian, and transgender folk to get involved in the political process.Where do you see yourself in five years politically?[The political process] is something I definitely enjoy. I don't know what's going to happen five years from now. I'm going to concentrate on being mayor and addressing the issues that my community is concerned about.

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