Republican leaders such as fellow Californian, Rep. Kevin McCarthy moved early to demonstrate their support for DeMaio and hosted fundraisers for him.
“The message was sent by San Dieagans who said they don’t want a Republican Party fixated on social issues,” DeMaio said. “They want someone like me, who is going to focus on job creation and government accountability.”
The opposition from national gay rights groups has not been as confrontational.
Fred Sainz, a vice president for the Human Rights Campaign, said its backing of Peters was more of a statement about Peters and his support of gay rights issues.
Still, Sainz noted DeMaio’s reluctance to discuss social issues. “To reject social issues as a platform is in part the denigration of LGBT people because it’s not an issue for us, it’s our lives,” he said.
DeMaio was endorsed by the Log Cabin Republicans. The group’s executive director, Gregory T. Angelo, described DeMaio’s candidacy as a “game-changer.”
“It completely obliterates the narrative the Democrats have been riding for decades – that only members of the Democratic Party support LGBT rights and you’re only hope of being elected as a gay individual to higher office is by being a Democrat.”
At 15, DeMaio lost his mother to breast cancer. He says his father left the family prior to her death. He spent his high school years attending a Jesuit boarding school near Washington D.C., and went on to Georgetown University.
Carl Luna, a political science professor at San Diego Mesa College, said that part of DeMaio’s friction with many in San Diego’s gay community is the perception that in 2008 he did not aggressively fight against Proposition 8, since overturned, that said only marriages between a man and a woman were valid.
Brian Adams, a political science professor at San Diego State University, said the lack of support from the local gay community is more about DeMaio’s style.
“He’s been a flamethrower,” Adams said. “It makes it very difficult to have that crossover appeal.”