A race for the Governorship of Maryland has turned sour after a Democratic challenger was accused of using “dog whistle” homophobia to refer to an opponent.
Alec Ross, a tech entrepreneur running for Governor of Maryland, made the comments about primary opponent state senator Richard Madaleno, who has led the way on LGBT rights in the state and is bidding to become the state’s first openly gay Governor.
In a speech Mr Ross suggested he would get things done as governor, unlike a state senator who “prances around Annapolis talking.”
LGBT activists challenged Ross over the remark, which was interpreted as an insinuation about Madaleno’s sexuality and work on LGBT rights.
Sean Meloy of Victory Fund, an LGBT group that is backing Madaleno’s campaign, said: “Our candidates constantly face homophobic dog-whistle attacks, but it is especially infuriating when a gubernatorial candidate in the Democratic primary in a blue state uses them too.”
Sen. Madaleno had a classy response.
He wrote: “I’m proud of my extensive record of accomplishment in Annapolis.
“As an elected official I have pranced my way to victory with: the assault rifle ban; marriage equality; the fracking ban; free community college tuition… And I will keep delivering results by fighting in the Senate for all Marylanders.
“Trust me to prance my way to the Governor’s mansion this November.”
Mr Ross has denied his comments were about his opponent’s sexuality.
He said: “I was not talking about Rich’s sexuality — he is the one doing that.”
Mr Ross added that his phrasing was “poorly chosen”. His running mate Julie Verratti, who is also gay, hit out at the “sad and pathetic” state senator for raising objections publicly.
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Ms Verratti said: “As Alec’s friend and running mate I know that he is a good + decent person who made a poor language choice. He would never intentionally use a word that would hurt an LGBTQ person, or anyone for that matter.
“This is not ‘Dog Whistle’ politics. Straight people don’t always realize certain words have connotations that impact LGBTQ people.
“Rich, you are making this about you and not about the people of Maryland. This type of smear campaign is sad and pathetic. And it’s a losing strategy. You are not demonstrating leadership, and Maryland voters deserve better.
“Our leaders should show empathy and not assume the worst in others. We should bring people together, not drive wedges.
“I’m proud to be 1 of only 2 LGBTQ candidates in this field, + I’m disappointed that as the other LGBTQ candidate you are being so opportunistic and pugilistic.”
Elsewhere this week, Sen. Madaleno’s bill outlawing gay ‘cure’ therapy in Maryland passed the state senate.
SB1028 was introduced in the Maryland State Senate by Senator Richard Madaleno and cosponsors include Senator Bill Ferguson, Senator Guy Guzzone, Senator Cheryl Kagan, Senator Susan Lee, Senator Roger Manno, Senator Paul Pinsky, Senator Craig Zucker, Senator Will Smith, and Senator Ronald Young.