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Backing the Wrong Horse

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Dear editor:

Ben Joravsky's lengthy piece [June 25] on the defeat of the gay rights bill in Illinois and the family feud on who is to blame failed to mention anywhere the role played, or the lack of a role played, by Governor George Ryan.

According to the July 12 issue of the Nation, Doug Ireland labeled Democratic gubernatorial candidate Glenn Poshard a "rabid homophobe" with no documentation.

All during the campaign for governor, the Tribune devoted a vast amount of print to any gay organization holding a press conference to denounce Congressman Poshard with little or no opportunity accorded for Poshard to respond.

The Nation article suggested that the gay vote deserted Poshard in droves. So where was the payoff for the gay lobbying groups? Ryan was given a cheap grace for his moderate views on gays, while Poshard's pro-labor and pro-education stances were ignored.

Why didn't Ryan do any arm-twisting on some of his GOP colleagues and offer to campaign for them if they faced a challenge in the primary for voting for gay rights? The word on Ryan before his election was that he would be a more activist governor than Jim Edgar.

The lesson to be learned is that interest groups will have to build their coalitions well before the election and then hold together. If women independents described in the article could wheel and deal for casino gambling in exchange for gay rights votes, why didn't the gay community and some women independents wheel and deal with Poshard during the campaign?

In some cases the pro-choice, gay rights candidates would not even appear on the same platform as Poshard, though late in the campaign there was a pro-Poshard piece I distributed signed by former representative Abner Mikva and Paul Simon hailing Poshard's progressivism and his decency.

Poshard never had a chance to show this because candidate Ryan dodged major debates while Poshard was underfunded and was even criticized for putting a limit on contributions.

In working three precincts that I helped carry for Poshard, I found very few attacks on his alleged homophobia, but more criticism of Carol Moseley-Braun's visit to Nigeria, which to me was a nonissue, considering the CIA consorting with the likes of Pinochet. If one uses only a single litmus test, one is sure to be disappointed, as were moderate Democrats who helped elect allegedly pro-choice Republican governor Christine Todd Whitman, who just signed a bill restricting teenage abortions, while this same governor is dipping into workers' pension funds. All single-issue groups should beware of bestowing cheap grace.

Gerald R. Adler

Seventh Ward Chair

Democratic Party of Evanston

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