Gay Republican Candidate’s Ad Poses Test for Party

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from The Wall Street Journal,

Republican House candidate Carl DeMaio, left, holds hands with partner Johnathan Hale in 2012. The image is part of a campaign ad on TV.

Carl DeMaio is one of three openly gay Republicans running for Congress this year, and he would be at least the third to serve in the House if he wins. But Mr. DeMaio on Thursday will take a step that none of them has, airing a campaign ad that features a shot of him with his same-sex partner.

The clips are brief: A shot of Mr. DeMaio holding hands with his partner, Johnathan Hale, as they march in a gay pride parade in 2012, followed by a clip of the San Diego candidate waving a rainbow flag that symbolizes the gay-rights movement.

The implications are deep for a Republican Party whose platform defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman at a time when same-sex marriage is becoming more broadly accepted.

“This is who I am,” Mr. DeMaio said in an interview. “It’s something that’s important to me. I want to embrace equality, and feel like the party should, too.”

Mr. DeMaio, who presents himself as a “new generation Republican,” isn’t a long shot trying to make a splash. He is one of the party’s top challengers this year as it tries to unseat Democratic Rep. Scott Peters.

n addition to Mr. DeMaio, two other openly gay Republicans are trying to unseat incumbent Democrats in the House: Dan Innis in New Hampshire and Richard Tisei in Massachusetts.

“People are interested in us because they think we can be catalysts for change in the party,” said Mr. Tisei, who ran in 2012. “The party is at a tipping point.”

Their candidacy has drawn opposition from some conservatives. Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, which opposes gay marriage, said the ad was an effort to raise money from more liberal parts of the country.

In the past, conservative activists have denied openly gay Republicans from top perches in the party. Mr. DeMaio’s media adviser, Richard Grenell, a former Bush administration spokesman at the United Nations, resigned as a spokesman for 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney under pressure from social-issues conservatives and gay-rights groups.

Mr. DeMaio wouldn’t be the first openly gay Republican in Congress. Former GOP Reps. Jim Kolbe of Arizona and Steve Gunderson of Wisconsin disclosed their sexuality after serving for many years. And Mr. Tisei mentions his husband by name in his official biography on his campaign website.

By highlighting his sexuality in an ad, Mr. DeMaio is hoping to diminish it as an issue so that voters focus on other concerns, such as his calls to pare the debt and overhaul the tax code.

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