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New York madam Kristin Davis, who allegedly arranged female escorts for former governor Eliot Spitzer, reached a milestone in her underdog bid for governor last month when she qualified for the ballot as the candidate of the new Anti-Prohibition Party. In a frank follow-up conversation with The Advocate, she talked about the party's potential to become an outside force for marriage equality, what it's like to be the first woman to run for New York governor while on probation, who's not on her client list, and what she would ask Spitzer if given the chance to appear on Parker Spitzer, the new show he will cohost on CNN.
Lest anyone still question the seriousness of her candidacy, Davis says, "If I wanted the press, I would just release my client list. People find that far more interesting that politics."
The Advocate: What was it like getting on the ballot?
Kristin Davis: It was definitely more difficult than I thought. They don't make it easy to get on the ballot. Most people don't understand that the system, especially here in New York, is not geared toward letting the average person try to run for office. It's really geared toward continuing to empower the political class. They give you roughly 30 days in which to collect a minimum of 15,000 signatures, a hundred of which have to be from half the congressional districts, so you really have to amass a huge amount of signatures. We collected close to 23,000.
Why did you call your party the Anti-Prohibition Party?
Part of my platform is to stop the prohibition on marijuana, the prohibition on gay marriage, the prohibition on prostitution, so it just fit in with the large scale of what we're working on.
Is this a permanent party we can see expect to see in future elections?
I recognize that it's extraordinarily difficult for us to win. We're up against [Democratic nominee and state attorney general] Andrew Cuomo, whose approval ratings are over 60%, and he's got $23 million. It's kind of hard as a grassroots campaign to go up against that sort of power. I think that the better win for us is to get 50,000 votes. That's a huge win. If we get 50,000 votes, then the Anti-Prohibition Party gets permanent ballot access, well, semipermanent, for the next four years. So for four years we will have a permanent spot on the ballot from which we can actually lobby for these issues. We can bring bills to the senate, such as a marriage equality bill, and push for these issues. Now, New York is also organized in a hierarchy of the ballot so, let's say, if we were to get 120,000 votes, then we would take line C, so it would be Republican, Democrat, Anti-Prohibition. That's when you would really be able to really move these issues into the forefront of politics, where I think they should be.
So how would you work from the outside for issues like marriage equality?
First off, I think it's disgraceful that the gay and lesbian community has given millions of dollars to the Democratic Party and they failed to pass a marriage equality bill. I read it was like maybe a month ago, where Andrew Cuomo was supposed to make a certain amount of calls and to help with that issue, and he didn't make one call. I find it largely disgraceful and I think something needs to go through. There are a lot, not a lot, but there is a good handful of Republicans who were on the fence about this issue who need to be lobbied, and it has to be a bipartisan thing. You can't rely on just the Democratic Party. I think that somebody who actually cares about this issue, a lobbying group or a party, needs to go and really make people accountable for their votes. None of this wish washing beforehand. We need to know. We need to have the bill in front of the legislature knowing what we're working with, rather than just bringing it up for a vote because it's something that we've been pressured to do. There's a difference between being pressured and just going through the motions and actually wanting to push this through.
Are any of the Republicans on the fence on your client list?
I don't think that anyone really currently in New York -- there are politicians on the list, but I don't think there's anyone currently in the New York area.
What kind of gay support do you have?
[True Blood star] Denis O'Hare has definitely been on board with the cause. A couple of them don't want to be named because of their standing in the Democratic Party. So that makes it a little difficult, but we've definitely been working with them. They're just a little scared to make the move.
So there are prominent gay Democrats that support you quietly?
That is correct. They are advising us on what steps to take to increase the support from the community. Helping us find, one was helping us try to find a running mate as lieutenant governor. They were largely in support of the candidacy, but there's different mind-sets when you're over 50 in the gay community when you're very entrenched into the political system and you're not really willing to make such a vocal change or a visible change, and when you're younger. We're finding that we're getting younger support from different little groups of activists.
Are you noticing a lot of interest in marriage equality on the campaign trail?
No. I think first and foremost across the board is the economy. I think if people don't have jobs and if they're struggling to pay their rent, and we're in such a recession, everyone just wants to know, How are you going to revive the economy? That seems to be the first and foremost question. How are you going to reduce taxes and what are you going to do about jobs? We're in some desperate times.
I think there are some similarities. The Tea Party is a movement that is gaining in momentum because people are just disenchanted with the current state of our economy and our government. So I think we share that in common, but in contrast, I think my platform is really that (a) I believe in small government, and I just want the government to take their constitutional role, which is to stay out of people's lives and to stay out of the boardroom. And I don't believe in any shape or form that the government should dictate what people do with their bodies, whether that's to sell it or who they should marry. It's not their role. When the government starts getting involved in that, I think we should be uprising.
What is you position on the Islamic cultural center and mosque proposed near the World Trade Center site?
I oppose the mosque. I oppose it based on facts and statements said by Imam Rauf. If this man says he's getting $5 million, if the $5 million that he purchased the space for, or partial purchase I guess at this time, from New York City Muslims, and then after the sale, and when he filed his 2009 financial reports, it shows that his biggest sole contributor is from a Middle Eastern country. So he, number 1, lied, and I would like to know why. I feel like people lie for a reason and they're trying to hide something, obviously. And he needs full disclosure at this time. I base my decisions on everything on facts, we can see that he lied. I think we should use the Patriot Act to have full disclosure on the financial records so that we know who's funding there.
Are you still on probation as a gubernatorial candidate?
I'm still on probation and have probably another two years at this point in time. I go weekly. By probationary standards, I am considered a sex offender, but not by criminal justice standards, by the system. I go to the sex offenders' unit and I'm placed under the same sort of criteria and scrutiny as a pedophile and as a serial rapist, and I go to a special unit with these people every week. Probation considers promoting prostitution a sex offense, but yet somebody like the governor who frequented prostitutes isn't considered a sex offender. The system is very warped. I also go to probation-mandated therapy in the sex offenders' unit with the same sort of individuals. I've been followed, harassed, assaulted, had people's probations violated for following me and stalking me. It's not necessarily a very safe environment.
Can you see yourself as a guest on the new Spitzer show?
I'd love to go on the program because I'd like to, and not even as an aggressive guest, I would just like to ask questions, I would really like to get Spitzer's take on whether or not he feels that the treatment has been fair. Nobody ever asks the real questions. I would like to have a debate with him, to some degree, not in an aggressive, confrontational sort of way, just in a very matter-of-fact, "Why do you feel like you can continue toying with coming back to politics? How do you feel you've redeemed yourself? Why should the people of New York accept you?" Number 2, what would Eliot Spitzer the "steamroller" have done to Eliot Spitzer the john? We know that Eliot Spitzer the steamroller would have had Eliot Spitzer the john in jail. Why does he feel that he shouldn't have to serve time or pay a fine, or anything?