A Delaware state representative has apologized for criticizing his primary opponent for raising campaign funds at a drag show.
Rep. Earl Jaques had objected to the event held by Eric Morrison, a gay man and veteran drag performer who is challenging Jaques in the 2020 Democratic primary. “That is so far off-base for our district, it’s unbelievable,” Jaques told The News Journal of Wilmington, Del., in a story published Wednesday. “You wonder what the point is. You can have fundraisers, I don’t care about that. But dressing in drag? Really?”
“I’m not sure he represents the people who attend those places of religion,” Jaques added, noting there are numerous churches in his House district, the 27th, in the northern part of the state. “If he’s actually having a fundraiser in drag, I don’t think those churches would endorse that … I’m just saying it’s a little different, that’s for sure.”
After the story came out, Jaques issued a statement of apology.
“It is wrong to attempt to pass judgment or impose one person’s belief structure onto others,” he said. “My job as a State Representative is to represent all constituents of the 27th District, regardless of gender, race, creed, orientation or identity, period.” He also said his remarks were “insensitive, hurtful, and simply wrong.”
Delaware House Democratic leaders released a statement at the same time pointing out that Democratic legislators had advanced LGBTQ rights in the state. “We have spoken with Rep. Jaques and expressed our disagreement with what he said. ... We appreciate that he has apologized for his comments,” said the joint statement from House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf, Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst, and Majority Whip Larry Mitchell.
“We remain committed to protecting the rights and equality for all residents, and part of that is addressing shortcomings or issues when they arise,” they continued. “We as a caucus will continue working to advance the cause of LGBTQ residents throughout Delaware.” They have “taken great pride” in the work they have done for the community, they added.
Morrison told The News Journal he appreciates the statements from both Jaques and the Democratic leaders, but “unfortunately, this does not change the fact that Rep. Jaques voted against same-sex marriage in 2013 and refused to vote yes or no on banning the barbaric practice of conversion therapy for Delaware’s LGBT minors” in 2017. Both bills passed and were signed into law. Jaques said he voted against marriage equality and abstained from the conversion therapy vote because he had to represent his constituents’ views, not his own.
Jaques, 72, was first elected to the House in 2008. Morrison, 44, who works in human resources for JPMorgan Chase, is the first candidate to run against Jaques in a primary since 2010. If he wins the seat, he will be the first out gay man elected to the Delaware legislature.
Indeed, Delaware, although generally liberal, has never elected any out LGBTQ person to the state legislature. One state senator, Karen Peterson, came out as gay while in office but did not seek reelection as an out candidate. And Sarah McBride, who is trans, is running for an open seat in the state Senate in 2020. McBride, a Democrat, is currently national press secretary for the Human Rights Campaign.
The primary election for state offices will be held September 15, followed by the general election November 3, 2020.