Gay GOP candidate for U.S. House faces criticism from opposing camps

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Carl DeMaioManuel Balce Ceneta, AP

Carl DeMaio

The organization said DeMaio never sought its endorsement.

DeMaio said the story is more complicated, dating back to 2012 when the group declined to endorse him when he ran unsuccessfully for mayor of San Diego. He said they also gave insider campaign information to his opponent.

Steven Thai, a spokesman for the Victory Fund, rejected DeMaio’s claim about leaked campaign information and said DeMaio simply didn’t qualify for an endorsement.

The back-and-forth underscores the bitterness that exists between DeMaio and some in the gay community.

“I’m not going to let their partisan politics deter me from what I see as the important role I can play, which is to be present in the Republican Party, to go to hard-to-win audiences, the social conservatives, and stand and say, ‘I am openly gay, I am proud. And it shouldn’t matter who I love. Let’s talk about the issues that united us, not divide us,'” DeMaio said.

DeMaio generally avoids discussing his sexual orientation or other social issues, but he seems to have taken some lessons from his mayoral campaign when he was criticized for being too dismissive of their importance. An early campaign ad this year featured DeMaio and his partner in a local LGBT pride parade.

The advertisement caught the National Organization for Marriage‘s attention, which called DeMaio a “determined activist who will rip traditional values from the Republican Party.”

The last openly gay Republican to serve in Congress, Jim Kolbe of Arizona, said much has changed since he came out in 1996. He believes most Republicans don’t have a problem with an elected official being gay. Yet he said he understands why DeMaio prefers to focus on taxes, jobs and other pocketbook issues.

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A candidate’s sexual orientation “is pretty much a peripheral issue for most people,” Kolbe said.

DeMaio built his reputation with his work as a member of the San Diego City Council on pensions and other fiscal issues. He finished second in the primary and will face Peters in the fall. FEC records show social conservative groups spent about $156,000 to support another Republican.

“It’s totally in opposition to Carl DeMaio, but I’ll tell you, it’s equally in opposition to what the Republican leadership did, and that is go into an open primary early for a candidate who doesn’t support the platform,” said Connie Mackey, president of the Family Research Council‘s PAC.

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