The Victory Fund's endorsement of a gay Republican in Virginia has the head of an LGBT political group angry over the perceived snub of the state's Democratic candidate.
Republican Patrick Forrest is trying to unseat Democratic State Sen. Janet Howell, who he's accused of running a whisper campaign that uses his sexual orientation against him.
Terry Mansberger, founder of the LGBT Caucus of the Democratic Party of Virginia, said the Victory Fund had favored Forrest just because he's gay. And he says he's "offended" by the accusations of gay-baiting.
"We are very disappointed that the Victory Fund would choose to support a 'so-called out' gay Republican… based solely on his sexual orientation, ignoring what is best for LGBT families in Virginia," he said in a statement reported by the Falls Church News-Press.
Mansberger said the Victory Fund would "blindly endorse any gay candidate anywhere for office." But his statement also referred to "smear tactics" that he found more objectionable.
He could be referring to Forrest's claim, reported by the Washington Blade, that the Howell campaign is reaching out to Republican voters and lawmakers to ensure they know he's gay, hoping to drive down support from his own party.
Forrest says voters have alerted his campaign that they were warned by Democrats about his plans to push a "homosexual agenda" in schools. And he has a recorded conversation with a Democratic precinct captain (who is not directly associated with the Howell campaign) in which the woman describes a strategy to ensure Republicans know that Forrest is gay.
Howell has denied the allegation, and her campaign manager told the Blade that the precinct captain was "highly intoxicated and speaking about something she knows nothing about."
The Victory Fund denies any accusation that it unfairly picked Forrest over Howell, who has a record of supporting LGBT rights.
"The Victory Fund exists to grow the number of openly LGBT elected officials," spokesman Denis Dison told The Advocate, noting that the group is nonpartisan. "Our endorsement criteria are not limited to sexual orientation. Candidates must also be viable, meaning they should also demonstrate the experience and judgment necessary to succeed as public officials. They should be able to point to a record of public service and an obvious commitment to their communities. Patrick easily met those standards, and the Victory Fund was proud to endorse him."