With the Occupy Movement sucking up all the New York oxygen, you may have missed some fascinating stealth politicking being done in Erie County, New York, on the west side of the state. A move to register new Conservative Party voters has come to my attention, and the source is going to surprise you. Hint, it isn’t ACORN, though they will probably make the FOX News list of suspects.
You may recall that earlier this year, four Republican State Senators defied their party and voted to make same-sex marriage a reality in the Empire State. It was a particularly noteworthy vote by State Senator Mark Grisanti, because he had campaigned as a staunch opponent of gay marriage. Grisanti’s change of heart did not sit well with the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), which promptly initiated a two million dollars campaign to defeat him and the other senators who voted in the affirmative.
Enter Kitty Lambert-Rudd, president of Blossom Out, an organization dedicated to legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide. When Kitty saw the billboard NOM erected on I-190 in Buffalo warning “Mark Grisani You’re Next” she remembered something her father liked to say: “If you can’t beat them, join them, then take then take them over from the inside”. So she took Dad’s advice.
Without the Conservative Party endorsement it would be almost impossible for Grisanti to retain his Republican seat. So on her own initiative, Kitty led a drive to register gay and lesbian voters as members of the Erie County Conservative Party. They will try to affect change from the inside by casting a “thank you” vote for Grisanti, with perhaps a hint of “up yours” to the anti-gay faction that has targeted him. The extra motivation may be required. It can get blustery in Buffalo come Primary Day.
Kitty and her partner were the first couple married under New York’s new law, which may have been a factor in why she felt moved to thank Senator Grisanti. However, in the end, Kitty couldn’t bring herself to switch her own registration, which would have prevented her from voting in the NY Democratic Primary. Even without her, Kitty’s plan seems to be working, as Conservative Party Chairman Ralph Lorigo unhappily reports some 250 new members from Erie and another 50 from adjoining counties have made the switch and are eligible to vote in the district’s 2012 Conservative Primary.
Will this new constituency be a factor? Will the influx of gay and lesbian Primary voters allow the Republicans keep that seat? Or will they be able to give Senator Grisani his party’s nomination, yet defeat him in the General when those voters come home to the Democrat? So many possibilities, and me without my crystal ball. But should this “change them from within” strategy succeed in Buffalo, perhaps we could use it other places, not just to support moderate candidates, but to move the entire Republican Party back toward the center. Dare to dream….
Stay tuned. As Bette Davis said in All about Eve, “Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy ride”. So pass the popcorn, and join me in raising a glass to more speed bumps like Buffalo’s gay Conservatives.