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N.Y. AG Endorsement Questioned

N.Y. AG Endorsement Questioned


A prominent gay supporter of New York attorney general candidate Kathleen Rice is criticizing the process by which the Empire State Pride Agenda endorsed her closest Democratic rival, Eric Schneiderman, but the gay rights lobbying group said the same process has been used to endorse legions of candidates.

In a statement released by the Rice campaign, labor leader Stuart Appelbaum, head of the powerful Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, questioned the process by which the Pride Agenda endorsed Schneiderman, a state senator from Manhattan.

"I was surprised and disappointed by the Empire State Pride Agenda PAC's decision to endorse Eric Schneiderman for New York State Attorney General," said Appelbaum, a Pride Agenda board member since last year. "This endorsement was not made by the Empire State Pride Agenda board; nor was the board consulted. The PAC which made the endorsement should not be confused with the board. The endorsement by the PAC does not reflect the views of the board, nor the broader LGBT community."

Reached for comment by The Advocate, Appelbaum said he was concerned that the endorsement announced Thursday did not specify it came from the organization's PAC. In his opinion, that creates a false impression that he, as a board member, was involved with the choice.

"The endorsement is presented as coming from the Empire State Pride Agenda," he said. "The press release refers to the Empire State Pride Agenda. Members of the board were not even aware that there was an endorsement coming. They were not consulted. This just reflects the views of the handful of people who are on the PAC."

A critic of the organization's bumpy search for a new executive director this spring, Appelbaum said his latest complaint was motivated by concern for process, and not bitterness that the Pride Agenda passed on his preferred candidate. He said that he had questioned the endorsement process before it was apparent Schneiderman won.

"When they started making endorsements this year, I started questioning," he said. "Not because I disagreed with the results, I disagreed with the process."

Pride Agenda executive director Ross Levi defended the endorsement process as typical of previous years in an e-mailed statement.

"The Pride Agenda has followed the same process for years to endorse hundreds of candidates, and 2010 is no exception," he said. "Our PAC votes on endorsements based on a candidate's response to our questionnaire, as well as other factors such as their record working to advance LGBT rights and viability in the race. So far this year, we have made 53 endorsements following the same process. This was the 54th.

"We are very proud to have joined so many others in the LGBT and broader progressive community to support such a great champion of equality and justice as Eric Schneiderman."

With just under one month to go before the primary, competition remains keen between the five candidates in the Democratic attorney general field. Rice, the Nassau County district attorney, leads in polling, while Schneiderman has earned considerable support from gay political clubs and out elected officials.
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