The New York chapter of the Log Cabin Republicans announced "Starting at 1," a new initiative designed to increase members' involvement in state and local politics, with goals that include recruiting and grooming successful candidates for elected office.
Starting at 1 takes its name from the launch date of January 1, 2011. Beginning next month with e-mail updates to members and a presence on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, the initiative will provide information to encourage participation in local government and state Republican organizations and committees, the traditional entry points for heavyweight political involvement.
"Right now we have a politically savvy membership, and it's time to take things to the next level," said Gregory T. Angelo, a spokesman for the Log Cabin Republicans of New York, in a statement. "Starting at 1 is designed to take the enthusiasm we've seen from our members for everything from joining their local community board to becoming more involved in the Republican county committee and even running for office. With the momentum from the 2010 midterm elections driving us forward and the mounting excitement for the 2012 presidential election ahead, 2011 is the perfect time to begin building the gay GOP leaders of tomorrow, and Starting at 1 seeks to give individuals the tools to do just that."
As elsewhere, all politics is local in New York, but aspiring power brokers may find the terrain inaccessible, even treacherous, without an introduction and guidance. Starting at 1 aims to help gay Republicans traverse the playing field comprised of entities such as community boards, county committees, and district leader offices.
"We're going to be encouraging people to run for committee, to engage more with their district leaders, to engage with their community board, to build a back bench with Log Cabin," said Angelo. "That starts with people getting the tools they need to become part of that process. We'll let people know about opportunities for candidate school and running for county committee and who their district leaders are."
Starting at 1 arrives after a wave of Republican midterm election gains in Congress, to which New York contributed six seats, more than any other state, to the House takeover. However, no Republican won statewide office in New York despite races for two offices, attorney general and comptroller, initially thought to be competitive. Meanwhile, many Republicans in the state felt dissatisfaction with their Tea Party-backed gubernatorial nominee, Carl Paladino, whose antigay remarks to a group of ultra-Orthodox Jewish leaders in October prompted a national uproar. According to the nonpartisan Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, not a single openly gay Republican was elected to a state legislative office this year.
On the other hand, the GOP made gains in the New York state assembly and won back the state senate, where advocates await action on the marriage equality bill that failed last year and on a long-stalled transgender civil rights bill. Republican senate leader Dean Skelos said during the campaign that he would recommend bringing the marriage equality bill to the floor pending consultation with his conference, and lobbying groups like Log Cabin note that historic gay rights legislation including the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act and a hate crimes bill passed under a Republican state senate in the past decade.
While the initiative was formally announced Wednesday, Log Cabin members learned about Starting at 1 earlier this month during the group's holiday party in New York City, which drew Republican leaders including Log Cabin executive director R. Clarke Cooper, former Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman, and state party chairman Ed Cox. The initiative is exclusive to New York right now, but the state chapter hopes to inspire gay Republicans everywhere.
"Starting at 1 is entirely a Log Cabin Republicans of New York initiative, though it is a model that can be replicated by Log Cabin Republicans chapters throughout the country," said Angelo. "In fact, it's our hope that other chapters will follow our lead with similar efforts to engage their membership during this incredible window of opportunity in Republican Party history."