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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Alex Whitney Out for Votes as Gay Republican

Strib here. He's running against Margaret Kelliher - who voted for the stadium tax.

Alex Whitney, who has worked as a fundraiser for nonprofit groups and the GOP, also has made a personal contribution of $5,000 to his own race.

While gay and lesbian politicians are no longer unusual in the United States, those who avow their sexual orientation are rare in the Republican Party, which has pressed for constitutional amendments to ban same-sex marriage and civil unions.

Whitney is running in a district that long was represented by Minnesota's first openly gay legislator, former DFL Sen. Allan Spear, who was succeeded by another gay DFLer, Scott Dibble. Openly lesbian DFL Rep. Karen Clark represents an adjoining Minneapolis district.

"I have great respect for my opponent and his family," Kelliher said. "My focus on this campaign is on lowering property taxes and making health care more affordable. This announcement doesn't change that focus."

State Sen. Paul Koering, R-Fort Ripley, came out as gay in 2005, three years after he was elected in a socially conservative area. Last month he narrowly weathered a primary election challenge from a fellow Republican who emphasized family values and traditional morality.

Whitney said Tuesday that the angriest reactions to his candidacy have come from gay Democrats. "They're furious at me, even more than socially conservative Republicans," he said.

While he has made little secret of his sexual orientation, his political orientation may be even more controversial.

"Living in Minneapolis," he said, "I can safely tell you that coming out of the closet as a Republican was far more tumultuous for me than coming out as gay."

If I were Alex Whitney, I would talk about the stadium issue big time. That's an issue that can have legs against Kelliher. The DFL and GOP candidates have the same positions on gay issues and abortion rights.