LGBT voters in California will find a new voters’ guide in their mailboxes this fall.
A trio of Los Angeles-based political operatives is aiming to send 350,000 LGBT and ally voters their nonpartisan California Pride Voters Guide ahead of the November election. It will include recommendations on statewide races and ballot measures, as well as endorsements in congressional and state legislative races targeted to specific areas of the state based on voters’ ZIP codes.
HIV activist and independent political fundraiser Chris Richey, who lives in Los Angeles, will serve as editor of the guide. West Hollywood resident Scott Schmidt , well known in gay Republican circles, will serve as publisher.
“This is really about giving a voice to those candidates and those issues that support our community, regardless of who they are or what letter is after their name,” said Schmidt, referring to a candidate’s political party affiliation.
Serving as the guide’s political consultant is Allan Hoffenblum, a former state Republican Party official who publishes the California Target Book, which tracks and analyzes all federal and state legislative races in the state.
“We saw a need in reaching LGBT voters specifically,” said Schmidt. “If you are a registered Democrat, you will get a Democratic slate card with whoever the state party has endorsed or the AFL-CIO thinks you should support. If you are a registered Republican, you will only get Republican Party slate cards.”
For those voters, said Schmidt, who “want to vote in their best interest, neither party is going to give you candidates or recommendations on initiatives that you want.”
The idea for the LGBT statewide slate card came to Schmidt after he voted in the June primary. His ballot was “all over the place,” he said, and did not skew to one party line.
“I may have been the only person to vote for Neel Kashkari and Sandra Fluke ,” said Schmidt, referring to the GOP gubernatorial candidate and a Democratic activist seeking an L.A.-based state Senate seat. “I wanted candidates who believe in my philosophies of freedom and fairness and a free market.”
The three are just now beginning to review candidates and reach out to campaigns, which will be asked to pay to be included on the slate card. Schmidt estimated they will need to raise at least $150,000 to mail out 340,000 of the voter guides.
“If a candidate pays to be on slate card, by law we will indicate they paid to be on the slate card. In that regard, it will be an open book,” he said. “At the same time, we want to maintain our integrity. If candidates flew in the face of our principles of freedom and fairness and LGBT rights, we wouldn’t take their money.”
In a press release announcing their slate card, the trio claimed it would be “the Golden State’s first nonpartisan slate mailer targeting LGBT voters.”
Equality California, however, has in the past sent out slate cards to voters in the state and intends to do so again this fall, said Steve Roth, a spokesman for the statewide LGBT advocacy group.
EQCA, though, predominately endorses Democrats. In fact, its endorsement this year of Glenn Miller, an Indio city councilman seeking a state Senate seat, marks the first time EQCA has endorsed a Republican.
“The short answer is EQCA does produce voter guides. We did do one for the primary that was statewide,” said Roth. “It was a digital one, so we distributed it electronically.”
Roth was referring to the list of 60 endorsed candidates EQCA’s political action committee listed on its website at http://tinyurl.com/kvd7fh3.
“We have a really comprehensive endorsement process in place for that,” said Roth. “For incumbents, we look at their voting record on EQCA-sponsored legislation. For non-incumbents, it is a whole evaluation process and questionnaire.”
Unlike with the new voter guide, EQCA does not ask candidates to pay to appear on its guide mailed to voters, said Roth. The group is still determining how many of its slate cards it will mail out this fall.
“For the general election, we will do both the digital again and then, in certain targeted areas, we will do an actual hard copy,” said Roth. “We haven’t determined how many yet or where it will be mailed.”
Schmidt stressed that the group behind the new LGBT voter guide isn’t out to make money but wants “to give a voice” to those candidates supportive of the LGBT community.
“Folks should be on the lookout in the mail for a slate card with the rainbow flag and take a look. Hopefully, they will find something that surprises them,” said Schmidt. “If people learn about a candidate they wouldn’t have otherwise known supported LGBT rights, I think that is a good thing.”