I went out and grabbed the latest issue of the Renton Reporter from outside the post office last night, and WOW... who knew the Cheryl Haskins controversy was going to get so much ink? While I'm disappointed that Dean Radford (the editor) chose to portray Cheryl Haskins as a victim in his article and editorial piece, at least my research on her political background and funding has finally been validated by the media.
Where to begin?
I guess the biggest problem I have with the article, editorial, and the three pro-Haskins letters to the editor is that they completely trivialize the concerns of people such as myself, who feel that Cheryl Haskins needs to be held accountable for the divisiveness and hurt her political activities have fostered. She has devoted her recent career to fighting any attempts to provide gay people with even the most basic legal protections. She herself testified against our state's domestic partnership bill, which now provides such things as hospital visitation privileges to gay couples and unmarried seniors. Under her watch, a representative of her group testified against the bill that added sexual orientation to our state's anti-discrimination law, the one that finally made it illegal to fire someone just for being gay. Why in the world would a group devoted to "defending marriage" be so concerned with that particular issue?
What I'm hearing from Dean Radford and Cheryl's supporters is that all this "gay stuff" isn't an issue in this campaign, because gay issues aren't relevant to the city council (which, of course, is not necessarily the case, as the Reporter article even infers). In essence, what they're saying is that the questions raised about her divisive politics can be dismissed, because they're only important to a small number of people. To that I say, what if Cheryl Haskins had led an anti-illegal immigrant organization, or a group devoted to questioning the beliefs of Jehovah's Witnesses? Would the people she had spoken out against remain silent when she ran for city council? Would her activism not be relevant to the campaign?
It's easy to argue that many Americans hold the view that marriage should only be defined as the union between one man and one woman. I've never questioned that fact, and I've never made it one of my main concerns, either. What does concern me is that Cheryl Haskins doesn't just hold a particular viewpoint, she has politicized it and profited from it. Yes, even a "part time" Executive Director gets paid for her work. That says a lot about where her priorities lie, especially since she has demonstrated little interest in supporting community efforts within our city. She is a successful and articulate woman, but rather than focusing her talents on issues of great importance to our society, like poverty, health care, and crime, she chose to become a spokeswoman for the anti-gay lobby in Washington State. Rather than working to reduce the high divorce rate in our state, she chose to make the prospect of gay marriage the most serious threat to traditional families. Why is it unreasonable to question those choices?
As far as the supposed attacks on her religion are concerned, I challenge anyone to show how I (or anyone else) have denigrated Cheryl Haskins' personal faith. I respect and celebrate everyone's right to practice their religion. I have made it very clear that my problems with her candidacy are not about her personal religious views, but her public political activism. Were that not the case, wouldn't I have a problem with the other evangelical Christians running for Council? I do not, because they haven't chosen to make their personal faith a matter of public policy or a source of fundraising.
I think it's entirely appropriate to question why a great deal of Cheryl Haskins' money has come from members of a church where her husband is a pastor. We have very strict laws concerning politicking from the pulpit, and while I don't believe any such activities have occurred in this campaign, it's still an issue that people consider important. It is also appropriate to question whether Cheryl's candidacy is being supported by powerful outsiders with conservative political aims, which I believe to be the case. Why else would two leading figures of the state Republican Party be present at her campaign kick-off event, for a non-partisan office?
I'm very disappointed that Dean Radford tried to frame my concerns about Cheryl Haskins as representing "the politics of division." For some reason, it does not register with him that Cheryl herself is a perfect example of someone who has employed such politics, and is therefore unfit to serve on the city council. The only explanation I can think of is that Dean Radford has his own issues with gay people, or feels that his faith is somehow under attack. I can't really address those topics, but I will say that his editorial was far from unbiased, as was his article. He apparently didn't find it necessary to ask any gay voters in Renton to weigh in on Cheryl Haskins' candidacy, or ask people of faith who support gay rights for their opinions. I could have put him in touch with many such people.
If I only looked at what's in the current issue of the Renton Reporter, I could easily get the impression that I'm alone in my opposition to Cheryl Haskins's candidacy. I've never been in the public spotlight, and I'm really uncomfortable with the apparent hatred my efforts are resulting in. Of course, people have always hated what I am -- gay -- but they've never actually known me by name. But the fact is, if I hadn't drawn attention to Cheryl Haskins' background, no one would have. If I hadn't devoted the last several weeks of my life to informing people about her anti-gay career and her outside funding, a lot people would've unknowingly voted for someone whose views they strongly disagree with. I know, because I was once one of those people.
The good news is that I've also made a lot of new friends, who have provided immeasurable support and advice to me throughout this self-imposed ordeal. From city council members, to teachers, to city workers, to neighbors, I know that I've been speaking for a lot of you out there, gay and straight. In fact, straight men have been my most vocal supporters! I would've never in a million years guessed that one.
In less than a week's time, we'll see just what the people of Renton think of Cheryl Haskins. I have always feared that my public information campaign could backfire, but at this point, I hope that people will just want to avoid voting for such a controversial candidate. Of course, I'm sure many people will vote for her in reaction to the controversy, but what can you do? That's Democracy for you.
By the way, I've been told that there will be a big article in the Seattle Times about Cheryl Haskins tomorrow morning. After tonight's anti-Kevin Poole fest in the Renton Reporter, I'm curious to see how the Times spins the controversy. Either way, I'm no longer just "Renton Citizen"... I'm Kevin Poole, 35, of Renton. Oh, and don't forget: "gay." I'm told that fact will be in the article.
Here are all the pro-Haskins items from Wednesday's edition of the Reporter... hope you have a barf bag handy!
(click on each image to enlarge)