Despite the fact that the Anchorage Assembly—their city council—has long had “a dominant progressive bloc,” as Alaska Dispatch News columnist Charles Wohlforth wrote in a recent column assessing the city’s upcoming Assembly races, no openly gay person has ever been elected to the Anchorage Assembly. No openly gay person has ever been elected to public office anywhere in Alaska, ever:
Downtown a couple of progressive candidates are facing off for a seat that has never been lost by a liberal incumbent. Christopher Constant and David Dunsmore are splitting Democrats as their supporters, even within at least one political family. In Midtown, a young, gay, Hispanic candidate, Felix Rivera, is facing an old conservative, Don Smith, who as an Assembly member cast a critical vote against LGBT rights at the dawn of the municipality’s existence 41 years ago. Rivera said that if either he or Constant win, Alaska will gain its first openly gay elected official. We’re one of the last states not to have one, he said, citing research by the national Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, which tracks these facts.
But Constant and Rivera may not be the only gay men running for Anchorage Assembly.
Wohlforth briefly mentions another Assembly race—for a seat in South Anchorage—where the conservative candidate, an Iraqi war vet named Albert Fogle, is highly favored to win. Fogle isn’t mentioned along with the Constant and Rivera despite the fact that Fogle’s campaign filing forms indicate that he is married to another man. Voter registration information available online indicate that Fogle and the man listed as his spouse live at the same address in South Anchorage.
Fogle, a Republican, cited “moral character” among his qualifications to hold elected office in a Q&A with the ADN. It’s an odd phrase for someone who may be in a same-sex marriage to use. Gay people can have fine moral characters, of course, but conservative Republicans frequently use buzz phrases like “moral character” as anti-gay code. When a conservative candidate says he has a fine “moral character,” he usually wants voters to hear, “I am straight and I oppose LGBT equality.”
Fogle appears to be a Trump supporter. He posted a picture to his Facebook on election day showing him wearing an “I Voted Today” sticker along with the hashtag #TrumpTrain. Fogle also used some disturbingly Trumpian rhetoric in reference to immigrants at a public forum in Anchorage. Asked by the moderator if he thought the Anchorage Police Department should cooperate with federal immigration officers in rounding up undocumented immigrants, Fogle said he was “fully against making Anchorage a sanctuary city” and that he wanted the APD to “hand over any rapists, murderers, any type of criminals” to Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) agents.
There’s no mention of Fogle’s spouse on his campaign website but if you click on “ABOUT ALBERT” you’re taken to an information page with this photo splashed across the top:
The other person in the photograph is not identified. In fairness, neither is the fish.
The Alaska Dispatch News says there are two gay candidates running for Assembly. But it would appear there may be three. Voters in Anchorage go to the polls—and could make a little gay history—on April 4.
UPDATE: Albert Fogle and I just spoke on the phone.
Albert Fogle: I’m an openly gay guy, and I’ve got nothing hide. It’s what I am, but who I am is really more important to me. That’s just one facet of my life, it’s not the major thing. It’s just like being a son or a grandson or a brother. To me it’s not a big deal.
Dan Savage: You have supporters who have been vocal opponents of LGBT civil rights. I’m thinking of Amy Demboski, a member of the Anchorage Assembly and a rightwing talk show host, and Chris Birch, a former member of the Anchorage Assembly. They’ve both voted against protections for LGBT people, they both oppose marriage rights, and Amy Demboski in particular has said despicable things about gay men.
AF: They have, but things are coming around, and people are understanding that issue better. People’s minds change.
DS: Have their minds changed? Have Amy and Chris’s minds changed?
AF: Oh, no. I don’t know about their minds changing. Not all people are single issue folks.
DS: Do they know you’re gay?
AF: I have nothing to hide.
DS: That’s not an answer to my question. Do Amy Demboski and Chris Birch know you’re gay?
AF: No, I don’t believe so.
DS: So Amy Demboski did not know you were gay when she endorsed you?
AF: No, she did not. Because I didn’t lead with that. When people ask me, I tell them I’m gay. To me it’s just like being bald or having hazel eyes. It’s not what I am that matters, it’s what I stand for that matters.
DS: Do you have endorsements from any anti-LGBT organizations?
AF: I don’t have endorsements from any anti-gay associations.
DS: But you do have endorsements from some anti-gay politicians and individuals, like Demboski and Birch.
AF: Yeah, I do. We do disagree on that issue. But on the vast majority of other issues, we agree. Just because someone is supporting me doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything. I’m not really hiding from anyone. I just don’t want to lead with that one fact. ‘Oh, let’s elect him because he’s going to be the first openly gay person.’ I don’t want that. I want to be elected because of what I stand for and because of my ideas. I wouldn’t want to be recognized as the first female this or first Hispanic whatever. That kind of identity politics shouldn’t be used in our society. It shouldn’t matter whether you’re black, red, or blue, and it shouldn’t matter what we look like or who sleep with. It’s what we stand for.
DS: There was a long, drawn-out fight in Anchorage to create anti-discrimiantion laws that protected the LGBT community. Do you support civil rights protections for LGBT people in Anchorage?
DS: Have you supported those protections publicly?
DS: Your husband doesn’t appear anywhere on your campaign website and his existence isn’t mentioned.
AF: I was perfectly fine with him being on the campaign. But he wants to remain private because he’s a private person. He wants to remain behind the scenes. So he doesn’t want to be on the campaign website or in campaign materials. Me, I’m open at work, open in my private life, open in my professional associations. People who now me know I’m gay. But I don’t want people to say, ‘Oh, he did something really well because he’s gay.’ I want them to say, ‘He did something really well because he did a good job on an issue that’s important to us.’
DS: Do you support marriage equality?
DS: Adoption rights for same-sex couples?
AF: Oh, yeah.
DS: Do you oppose anti-trans ‘bathroom’ bills’?
AF: I think that transgender people are some of the most vulnerable people in our society. They should be allowed to use the bathroom that they identify with.
DS: You voted for Trump. Considering the anti-LGBT planks in the GOP platform, considering his selection of Mike Pence to be his running mate, and considering the appointment of so opponents of LGBT equality to his administration, how do you square your support for LGBT rights with your vote for Trump?
AF: Well, I’m not a single-issue voter. I feel that the government should stay out our private lives and that the government certainly has no place in our bedrooms. The bigger government gets, the more it gets into our lives. My vote for Trump was a vote for for less regulation, smaller government, a better business environment for Alaska and for Anchorage. I get that there are people in the party that don’t agree with gay or trans rights, but there are people in the Dem party who don’t agree with all the planks in Democratic party platform either.
DS: And, finally, because I’m curious: Who’s the woman on your campaign website with the fish?
AF: That’s my sister!