GOP’s Star Social Issues Candidate Won’t Talk About Social Issues

GOP’s Star Social Issues Candidate Won’t Talk About Social Issues

File photos by Sam Hodgson

Carl DeMaio (left) and Scott Peters

With no presidential contest, debt-ceiling showdown or racy Twitter scandal to keep them occupied, national Republicans are starting to take a lot of interest in Carl DeMaio and his bid to oust Rep. Scott Peters in 2014.

The National Republican Congressional Committee gleefully touted a poll last week that showed DeMaio leading Peters. Republicans believe DeMaio will help them gain ground on social issues. The release highlighted this passage for emphasis: “When asked who better reflects your positions on social issues, 40 percent of voters in the 10News poll went for DeMaio, with Peters getting just 38 percent and 23 percent ‘not sure.’”

And writing for Policy Mic, this junior from Georgetown (DeMaio’s alma mater) hails DeMaio as just what the party needs to “to stop its downward slide”:

DeMaio has taken a traditionally liberal position on a few key issues such as marriage and abortion, and this could be the beginning of a new type of Republican candidate.

It is with this socially liberal position that new-generation Republicans like DeMaio can accomplish two political goals: First, they take voters away from Democrats who would vote based on social issues. Second, by taking a similar social stance to Democrats, they make the economy the biggest difference between the two parties.

Sara Libby on NewsA competitive congressional race featuring an openly gay Republican has the D.C. media salivating, too. DeMaio already caught the attention of the Washington Examiner and Roll Call.

But all these politicos are setting themselves up for a long, disappointing road.

Not because DeMaio doesn’t have a shot at winning – he has a great one – but because the party has already begun hyping DeMaio as its big, gay proof that Republicans are evolving on social issues. And that puts them on an awkward collision course for when DeMaio deflects any and all questions on those issues over and over, for 15 straight months.

Often when Republicans play identity politics with their candidates, the candidates are in on the act.

There was Michael Steele, who loved to throw around phrases like “off the hook,” there was Allen West’s constant thundering that black voters should leave the Democrats’ “plantation,” there was Sarah Palin the hockey mom and, finally, there was Ann Romney on behalf of Mitt, declaring, “I love you, wom-en!”

DeMaio’s different.

Though he urged the GOP to embrace inclusion in his post-mayoral campaign reflection and described himself as “very candid and blunt and direct” when announcing his House bid, DeMaio is uniquely evasive when it comes to social issues.

He was the only one in last year’s mayoral race who didn’t fill out Planned Parenthood’s candidate questionnaire, though the group sent it to him twice – once early on in the race, and again a week before the election, at the DeMaio campaign’s request. He never sent either back, Amy Denhart, director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest, told me.

He was booed at one mayoral debate after refusing to answer a question from Nathan Fletcher on whether he supported a statewide measure that compels schools to include the contributions of gay and disabled citizens in textbooks and curricula.

“I do not believe the role of the mayor is to advance a social-issue agenda,” DeMaio said at the time. Did I mention this particular debate was hosted by the LGBT Community Center? That’s like attending a Chamber of Commerce debate and refusing to discuss the economy.

And he’s made it clear that he won’t be any less hostile to such questions in his congressional run, though the House votes regularly on bills that regulate social issues. His positions on social issues warrant a small section buried under the “other key issues” tab on his campaign website. They say, for example, “Carl DeMaio supports a woman’s right to choose” but don’t include any nuance or detail.

Then, there’s this: “While these positions will guide Carl DeMaio’s votes on these issues should they come up, Carl believes Washington should be focused on balancing the budget, revitalizing the economy, and providing quality services to taxpayers – and leave the social issues out of our politics.”

I emailed DeMaio for clarity on whether he plans to open up more about his social stands. In case it was easier to talk specifics, I also provided a particular example for him to weigh in on: Does he support Sen. Patrick Leahy’s proposed floor amendment that would add protections for binational same-sex couples into the immigration bill?

DeMaio emailed me twice to say he’d try to answer, but hedged that he wouldn’t be free to talk until July.

DeMaio is right that he shouldn’t have to be the “gay” candidate. DeMaio alone should get to define how he projects himself.

But even an understandable desire to control your image isn’t a good enough reason to avoid questions that are asked of all candidates.

Nor does not wanting to be branded the “gay” candidate hold water as an excuse for refusing to discuss issues like abortion or medical marijuana. DeMaio’s insistence that mayors don’t deal with social issues won’t work as a deflection this time around.

DeMaio may believe that the government should “leave the social issues out of our politics,” but it’s not very likely the rest of his party will oblige a freshman lawmaker.

Last week alone, House Republicans voted to ban abortions past 20 weeks of pregnancy. Depending on a looming Supreme Court decision, Congress could soon be voting on legislation that dismantles the Defense of Marriage Act. There are 13 equality-related measures  facing the House this session, according to Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights advocacy group.

Then there’s the fact that Peters isn’t likely to ignore social issues. He posed for photos this week for the NOH8 campaign to emphasize his support for marriage equality.

Republicans, especially young Republicans, seem desperate for a candidate they can hold up as proof of a new generation of leaders who take more liberal stances on social issues.

DeMaio says he’s that candidate. He just doesn’t want to talk about it.

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Sara Libby

Sara Libby

Sara Libby is VOSD’s managing editor. She oversees VOSD’s newsroom and its content. You can reach her at sara.libby@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0526.

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Olin Hyde
Olin Hyde

I'm not a DeMaio fan-boy. Rather, I find myself surprised to come to his defense. It is absurd to criticize Carl DeMaio on his silence on social issues. Rather, it reflects that he has carefully considered the implications of what he says now -- before he reaches a national audience. If only all politicians were so thoughtful. DeMaio is running on a platform of fiscal responsibility. Attacking his silence on social issues is the only angle Scott Peters can take given Peter's culpability creating San Diego's pension disaster while on city council. I was a registered Democrat and have recently become an independent. I find both parties more ideological than practical; more interested in self-preservation than public service. The reality is that both parties are fiscally irresponsible and want to expand the role of government -- only in different directions. They are not equivalent. Republicans want to socialize women's bodies and create a Hobbesian, Christian theocracy driven by corporate interests under the false banner of "free market capitalism." Democrats simply want to please everyone by creating unsupportable government programs to solve every imaginable problem while concurrently diminishing anyone's responsibility for anything. They both agree to spend more than we can afford and do as little as possible to address the real threats to our Republic: runaway spending, corruption by special interests and failure to lead. Carl DeMaio invited me to his house for brunch a few months ago. He did this knowing that I was a strong supporter of Nathan Fletcher in the mayoral campaign and a founding board member of the progressive non-profit New Leaders Council of San Diego. I was impressed that Carl reached out to an unknown person who was less likely friend and more likely political foe. Carl told me that he believes the two political party system is dysfunctional yet remains a practical necessity. The strength of both parties is reflected by the absence of elected independents or 3rd party candidates. In San Diego County, Republicans are a 3rd party behind Democrats and Independents. There were only about twenty so people at this brunch. Two types were present: half looked like stereotypes from Central Casting of Fox News junkies. They represented the impending death of the Republican party: old, white people who complained about immigrants and fraudulent elections while occasionally promoting ill-conceived opinions that were completely divorced from facts. The other half of the audience were far more interesting: young, smart Republicans. They represented the only possible future for the party: promoting fiscal responsible governance (sic smaller government), pro-small business (sic anti-corporate protectionism) while showing no interest in their elders' diatribes on the 3 G's (that aliente voters like me) -- guns, God and gays. I found myself talking to Council Member Scott Sherman for more than 30 minutes before I knew he was an elected official. He didn't mention anything negative about Democrats or positive about conservative ideologies. Rather, we spoke about the harsh realities of starting and growing small businesses. Something that DeMaio also did prior to going into politics. The latter groups are DeMaio's people -- younger, more small-business oriented people who don't care about the color of skin or the sexual and religious preferences of a candidate. The former group of angry old people are nothing more (or less) than political necessities for raising money. Money DeMaio needs to defeat Spendthrift Scott Peters; a man who's only "real world experience" prior to government service was lawyering for big corporations. So it is not so ironic that Democrats will attack Carl's silence on sexuality and social issues. Thinking these issues matters to Democrats misses the point: The only thing any political party cares about is getting elected. This depends first on raising money, second on ideological hype and thirdly on maintaining group discipline. As an independent, Carl's silence is actually attractive to me: It reflects he's more interested in substantive issues, like reducing government spending, than he is on engaging in symbolic politics.

Olin Hyde
Olin Hyde subscribermember

I'm not a DeMaio fan-boy. Rather, I find myself surprised to come to his defense. It is absurd to criticize Carl DeMaio on his silence on social issues. Rather, it reflects that he has carefully considered the implications of what he says now -- before he reaches a national audience. If only all politicians were so thoughtful. DeMaio is running on a platform of fiscal responsibility. Attacking his silence on social issues is the only angle Scott Peters can take given Peter's culpability creating San Diego's pension disaster while on city council. I was a registered Democrat and have recently become an independent. I find both parties more ideological than practical; more interested in self-preservation than public service. The reality is that both parties are fiscally irresponsible and want to expand the role of government -- only in different directions. They are not equivalent. Republicans want to socialize women's bodies and create a Hobbesian, Christian theocracy driven by corporate interests under the false banner of "free market capitalism." Democrats simply want to please everyone by creating unsupportable government programs to solve every imaginable problem while concurrently diminishing anyone's responsibility for anything. They both agree to spend more than we can afford and do as little as possible to address the real threats to our Republic: runaway spending, corruption by special interests and failure to lead. Carl DeMaio invited me to his house for brunch a few months ago. He did this knowing that I was a strong supporter of Nathan Fletcher in the mayoral campaign and a founding board member of the progressive non-profit New Leaders Council of San Diego. I was impressed that Carl reached out to an unknown person who was less likely friend and more likely political foe. Carl told me that he believes the two political party system is dysfunctional yet remains a practical necessity. The strength of both parties is reflected by the absence of elected independents or 3rd party candidates. In San Diego County, Republicans are a 3rd party behind Democrats and Independents. There were only about twenty so people at this brunch. Two types were present: half looked like stereotypes from Central Casting of Fox News junkies. They represented the impending death of the Republican party: old, white people who complained about immigrants and fraudulent elections while occasionally promoting ill-conceived opinions that were completely divorced from facts. The other half of the audience were far more interesting: young, smart Republicans. They represented the only possible future for the party: promoting fiscal responsible governance (sic smaller government), pro-small business (sic anti-corporate protectionism) while showing no interest in their elders' diatribes on the 3 G's (that aliente voters like me) -- guns, God and gays. I found myself talking to Council Member Scott Sherman for more than 30 minutes before I knew he was an elected official. He didn't mention anything negative about Democrats or positive about conservative ideologies. Rather, we spoke about the harsh realities of starting and growing small businesses. Something that DeMaio also did prior to going into politics. The latter groups are DeMaio's people -- younger, more small-business oriented people who don't care about the color of skin or the sexual and religious preferences of a candidate. The former group of angry old people are nothing more (or less) than political necessities for raising money. Money DeMaio needs to defeat Spendthrift Scott Peters; a man who's only "real world experience" prior to government service was lawyering for big corporations. So it is not so ironic that Democrats will attack Carl's silence on sexuality and social issues. Thinking these issues matters to Democrats misses the point: The only thing any political party cares about is getting elected. This depends first on raising money, second on ideological hype and thirdly on maintaining group discipline. As an independent, Carl's silence is actually attractive to me: It reflects he's more interested in substantive issues, like reducing government spending, than he is on engaging in symbolic politics.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones

Sorry, but the only people who care about the so called social issues are small interest groups that generally seek validation, a hand out, or both from government for their pet issue or circumstance. The number one issue in peoples minds is the economy. whether you are a public union remora or a real working stiff, you'll vote for either the handout of other peoples money, or fiscal responsibility. If you are a democrat you'll vote for policies that keep minorities down through handouts, because poor dependent minorities vote democrat. You certainly don't want middle class educated minorities hard at work in the private sector, where they will turn into republicans. This whole article is based on a straw man that gay rights and other similar issues carries elections, they don't. With the US 50/50 between the takers and the producers, what wins elections is candidates people get excited over. No one who votes for DeMaio wants to hear him talk about gay issues, they want to hear him talk about how he is going to detach a few leeches from the private sector economy. The people who want to hear him talk about gay issues are never going to vote for him anyway.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones subscriber

Sorry, but the only people who care about the so called social issues are small interest groups that generally seek validation, a hand out, or both from government for their pet issue or circumstance. The number one issue in peoples minds is the economy. whether you are a public union remora or a real working stiff, you'll vote for either the handout of other peoples money, or fiscal responsibility. If you are a democrat you'll vote for policies that keep minorities down through handouts, because poor dependent minorities vote democrat. You certainly don't want middle class educated minorities hard at work in the private sector, where they will turn into republicans. This whole article is based on a straw man that gay rights and other similar issues carries elections, they don't. With the US 50/50 between the takers and the producers, what wins elections is candidates people get excited over. No one who votes for DeMaio wants to hear him talk about gay issues, they want to hear him talk about how he is going to detach a few leeches from the private sector economy. The people who want to hear him talk about gay issues are never going to vote for him anyway.

Don Wood
Don Wood

DeMaio has a constituency problem. He is gay, but his primary constituency groups is ultra-conservative tea party republicans who traditionally have been opposed to gay marriage and other gender equality issues. So DeMaio tries to be all things to all people. When in from of a gay audience, he says "I'm one of you". When appearing in front of his tea party friends, he doesn't say much at all about his sexual preferences. Some might think of this as rank hypocrisy, but DeMaio has to do this to remain politically viable at all. He's getting lots of money from Washington DC groups affiliated with Karl Rove and the Koch Brothers, who oppose gay marriage, who know they can depend on DeMaio to vote their way if he ever gets elected.

Don Wood
Don Wood subscriber

DeMaio has a constituency problem. He is gay, but his primary constituency groups is ultra-conservative tea party republicans who traditionally have been opposed to gay marriage and other gender equality issues. So DeMaio tries to be all things to all people. When in from of a gay audience, he says "I'm one of you". When appearing in front of his tea party friends, he doesn't say much at all about his sexual preferences. Some might think of this as rank hypocrisy, but DeMaio has to do this to remain politically viable at all. He's getting lots of money from Washington DC groups affiliated with Karl Rove and the Koch Brothers, who oppose gay marriage, who know they can depend on DeMaio to vote their way if he ever gets elected.

Chris Brewster
Chris Brewster

DeMaio is a study in self-loathing, which he tries to salve through professional success. I wonder sometimes if he looks in the mirror and pukes.

Chris Brewster
Chris Brewster subscribermember

DeMaio is a study in self-loathing, which he tries to salve through professional success. I wonder sometimes if he looks in the mirror and pukes.

Lucas OConnor
Lucas OConnor

It isn't like climate change, reproductive justice, voter rights, or marriage equality have been in the news recently after all.

Lucas OConnor
Lucas OConnor subscriber

It isn't like climate change, reproductive justice, voter rights, or marriage equality have been in the news recently after all.

Wm.
Wm.

@Sara Libby: "... new type of Republican candidate" is not accurate--evidently the Georgetown jr is too young to remember "Rockefeller Republicans" & too inexperienced to research the past. Productivity (e.g. creating jobs) would be enhanced by replacing TEA Party hacks with RRs!

Jim Abbott
Jim Abbott

It has been my experience that people who are members of minority groups (like Carl Demaio) who constantly advocate against civil rights -even those rights that benefit them- suffer from either unmanageable egomania or witheringly low self-esteem.

Jim Abbott
Jim Abbott subscribermember

It has been my experience that people who are members of minority groups (like Carl Demaio) who constantly advocate against civil rights -even those rights that benefit them- suffer from either unmanageable egomania or witheringly low self-esteem.

dcallahan85
dcallahan85

This coming at a time when SCOTUS declares that Congress needs to reform Voting Rights Act, voted to limit abortion, and both legislative branches are wrestling with the issue of LGBT rights within immigration reform. Carl is naive to think that he can go to congress solely on fiscal issues. To be a real leader, he needs to capitalize on social issue reform while being a fiscal reformer if he truly wants to advance the Republican Party.

outofthebox
outofthebox

Your diatribe is quite musing. Don't put all your eggs in one basket Karma can be deceiving so are the underlying unknown attachments that tend to break a person's stride when that closet door pops open and ooops all those skeletons fall from the shelves. I am appalled at the current misogynistic un-Christian-like vitriol spewing from a once grand ole party one I would have stuck my neck out for but, no longer. Personally, everyone of those deadbeats on both sides of the aisle should all be arrested for malfeasance of public office. NONE of the current administration is protecting the American public they are all in it for their self-centered narcissistic super egos. The malevolence in Washington oozing from the Executive Branch to both houses is disgusting and un-American. The Constitution is still a viable living document and yet, it's dynamic existence is all but, washed over with the way the current administration takes privilege with rule of law and the abusive malingering of the tax payer's fiscal responsibility is out right lascivious in nature. I am appalled at the current crop of Republican's especially, the women. You would have thought they'd learned a thing or two regarding pride, work ethics, driven agendas, priorities. Instead, you have a bunch of 40 to 60+ something XY chromosomal neanderthal male mentality trying to harbor medical judgement over a woman's body. Good grief, don't these men have mother's? I don't like the double standards either. No contraception well NO VIagra! According to the parables of the Christian-Right's Bible "sex" is only to be used for procreation NOT for enjoyment. Hence, No VIAGRA!!! Sometimes I think back to anthropology class and reflect on the problem and conjecture of "the missing link." In theory, and through my many years on Mother Earth watching the population and its recumbent nature in the male species of humans. I believe the Male gene XY is not complete as the Female gene sequence is XX. Therefore, I deduce that the upright walking male species of human is reduced to theoretically, being the missing link. Their actions and banal,jejune is a genetic anomaly which, has become inane and ghastly profound as well as totally esoteric. Good luck with your bid and your poisonous fruit this article seems to tout. -A

Olin Hyde
Olin Hyde

Shocking Sunday: I actually agree with Jim on this one. Let's focus on Congressional failures starting with the budget. It is shameful and hypocritical to criticize a gay man for not discussing his sexuality. It has nothing to do with his political positions.

cole macy
cole macy

DeMaio is a typical scum-of-the-earth pol. he has no credibility and will get smoked by Peters. Love how you try to claim half the country is a taker, while the other half is producers. straight from the capitalist handbook. "public union remora?" do tell me your thoughts on the DoD leeches...

Olin Hyde
Olin Hyde subscribermember

Shocking Sunday: I actually agree with Jim on this one. Let's focus on Congressional failures starting with the budget. It is shameful and hypocritical to criticize a gay man for not discussing his sexuality. It has nothing to do with his political positions.

moleman
moleman subscriber

DeMaio is a typical scum-of-the-earth pol. he has no credibility and will get smoked by Peters. Love how you try to claim half the country is a taker, while the other half is producers. straight from the capitalist handbook. "public union remora?" do tell me your thoughts on the DoD leeches...

Andy Kopp
Andy Kopp subscribermember

You're too funny, Jim.

outofthebox
outofthebox

His skeletons will fall.... that will get pretty boy Paul.... tap tap tap tap

Chris Brewster
Chris Brewster

DeMaio seems to be uncomfortable with himself and his drive to succeed seems aimed at countering that discomfort. Who would logically wish to curry favor with people who despise their lifestyle? Perhaps only those who confuse success with having people like you.

Chris Brewster
Chris Brewster subscribermember

DeMaio seems to be uncomfortable with himself and his drive to succeed seems aimed at countering that discomfort. Who would logically wish to curry favor with people who despise their lifestyle? Perhaps only those who confuse success with having people like you.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones

Funny how Andy? DeMaio is not a gay issues candidate, he is a fiscal issue candidate. I, like most people with Tea Party morality don't care about his sex life. The only people who seem to care are people who don't support DeMaio's type of fiscal conservatism. You'd almost think they have an agenda.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones

Funny How Andy? Gay issues don't carry elections, and DeMaio isn't a gay issues candidate, he is a fiscal issues candidate. Of course people like Libby, whose far left ideology runs opposite Demaio's on fiscal issues want to drag him into the whole gay issues thing, probably thinking it will hurt him with his Tea party base in their false but self serving belief that anyone opposite them on the political spectrum is racist, sexist, stupid, whatever, but it's just self delusion on their part. The problem with that is the Tea Party and fiscal conservatives don't care. DeMaio is gay, so what? He doesn't trumpet his sexual choices any more than most people do, that's called good taste in conversation topics, so get over it and talk about real issues.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones

Funny how Andy? I could put a half dozen voter issue polls up here, all showing the economy is number one and these "social issues" are minor. In fact: http://www.pollingreport.com/prioriti.htm Social issues exist so people with agendas can make noise. Granted, if you are gay and want the government to validate your sexual choices, or like the idea of killing babies before they get to see sunlight and breath air, or think the only people who should have guns are the cops and criminals, you are going to support those issues, but in the end the candidate who wins wins on economic issues, supported by either the private sector or the public sector, whichever is larger in that geographic area. Now granted, social issues can also be used as a wedge, or to demotivate, in order to have some slight impact as Sara is trying to do here, and in very close elections it might occasionally make a difference, but generally speaking the choice made at the polls is pretty much baked in by how many people in that area fill as opposed to how many drain.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones subscriber

Funny how Andy? DeMaio is not a gay issues candidate, he is a fiscal issue candidate. I, like most people with Tea Party morality don't care about his sex life. The only people who seem to care are people who don't support DeMaio's type of fiscal conservatism. You'd almost think they have an agenda.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones subscriber

Funny How Andy? Gay issues don't carry elections, and DeMaio isn't a gay issues candidate, he is a fiscal issues candidate. Of course people like Libby, whose far left ideology runs opposite Demaio's on fiscal issues want to drag him into the whole gay issues thing, probably thinking it will hurt him with his Tea party base in their false but self serving belief that anyone opposite them on the political spectrum is racist, sexist, stupid, whatever, but it's just self delusion on their part. The problem with that is the Tea Party and fiscal conservatives don't care. DeMaio is gay, so what? He doesn't trumpet his sexual choices any more than most people do, that's called good taste in conversation topics, so get over it and talk about real issues.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones subscriber

Funny how Andy? I could put a half dozen voter issue polls up here, all showing the economy is number one and these "social issues" are minor. In fact: http://www.pollingreport.com/prioriti.htm Social issues exist so people with agendas can make noise. Granted, if you are gay and want the government to validate your sexual choices, or like the idea of killing babies before they get to see sunlight and breath air, or think the only people who should have guns are the cops and criminals, you are going to support those issues, but in the end the candidate who wins wins on economic issues, supported by either the private sector or the public sector, whichever is larger in that geographic area. Now granted, social issues can also be used as a wedge, or to demotivate, in order to have some slight impact as Sara is trying to do here, and in very close elections it might occasionally make a difference, but generally speaking the choice made at the polls is pretty much baked in by how many people in that area fill as opposed to how many drain.