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January 5, 2007
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Volume 35
Issue 01
 
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Log Cabin Republicans appoint new leader, Seattle native, to top post
Log Cabin Republicans appoint new leader, Seattle native, to top post
"I am humbled and honored to leading the Log Cabin Republicans during this important time," said Patrick Sammon.

Patrick Sammon, a 32 year-old Roman Catholic and Seattle native, assumed the post as president of Log Cabin Republicans and the Liberty Education Forum last month after having served in the position on an interim basis since September 1, 2006. The appointment was made after a lengthy nationwide search by the Log Cabin Board of Directors

"Log Cabin is fortunate to have someone with Patrick's skills and experience leading this organization," said Log Cabin National Board Chairman Tim Schoeffler. "We conducted an expansive nationwide search. We interviewed many highly qualified people, but at the end of the day, it became clear that Patrick was the best person for this job. Over the past three years, we've come to know and appreciate his work for this organization. We know Patrick will do an excellent job."

Sammon graduated Summa Cum Laude from Syracuse University in 1997. For six years he worked as an award-winning journalist. He also worked as associate producer at a documentary production company. In 2002, he received an award from the Tennessee Associated Press Broadcasters Association for Best News Writing. He also received awards from the New York Associated Press Broadcasters Association for best feature reporting and the Syracuse Press Club for best investigative reporting.

Sammon joined the LEF, a non-partisan educational foundation that is associated with the Log Cabin Republicans, in January 2004. As executive vice president, he developed and implemented many LEF initiatives, including the organization's Reaching the Heartland Program, which aims to gain new allies among conservatives and people of faith.

"Patrick's background in media and politics gives Log Cabin a powerful conservative voice for traditional Republican principles," added Schoeffler.

The organization's former president, Patrick Guerriero, stepped down after four years at the Log Cabin Republicans to take the position of executive director at the Gill Action Fund, a new organization that advocates for LGBT equality and supports key political organizations across the nation.

Before coming to the Log Cabin Republicans, Guerriero had served three terms in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, served as Mayor of the City of Melrose, MA, and, later, became deputy chief of staff to Governor Jane Swift (R-MA), who selected him as her running mate in 2002.

Republican Senator Gordon Smith from Oregon said he believed the "Log Cabin Republicans provide an important voice in Washington [D.C.] for the Gay and Lesbian community."

"I look forward to working with Patrick Sammon on many key issues before the new Congress," he said in a written statement.

This week the SGN spoke with Sammon about his appointment, the lessons for Republicans in the wake of the November elections and his strategy to gain new allies within the Republican Party.

Seattle Gay News: I understand that you hail from this area?

Patrick Sammon: I did. Yeah.

SGN: When did you live in Seattle?

PS: I was born there in 1974 and I moved away for college. So, I lived there until that point. I have frequently returned and still think of it as my home. My family all still lives there.

SGN: Were you involved in any groups or are there things here in Seattle that people may remember you for?

PS: No. I moved away when I was 18. I didn't come out until I was 23. So, I was not involved in any groups when I was there.

SGN: I understand that you have had this position on interim basis since September 2006, so, you have had some time to adjust. However, do you feel that you have had some big shoes to fill?

PS: I greatly respect Patrick and he's a good friend of mine. Certainly, we miss him. However, I don't think of this as me trying to fill his shoes. I see this as me wearing different shoes. We bring different strengths to the position and so I look forward to building on the great things he did here.

SGN: You have a background in journalism. How do you think that helps you in this position and what do you think that brings to the organization that it had maybe not had previously?

PS: I don't think it is a matter of not having had previously, because I think Patrick was an excellent communicator and did an excellent job in spreading the word - if you will - through the media. However, I do think my background in the media - as a journalist - has given me a really solid foundation to continue looking for ways to communicate our message to Republicans and independents around the country; communicating why it is so important for the Republican Party to become more inclusive in the future. So, I think my media background is a solid asset for the organization because I think I understand how to communicate effectively and how to connect with audiences who may not currently be allies for us.

SGN: As you mention, Patrick Guerriero was the former president. He visited Seattle several times during his tenure. What role do you think Seattle plays in the life of the Log Cabin Republican organization and the Liberty Education Forum?

PS: First of all, I think one of my priorities as president will be continuing to invest in and strengthen the grassroots chapters across the country - including in places like Seattle. I look forward to working with our chapter members out there to help them make the chapter stronger. In general, I think Washington State is a really pivotal state in the coming years in the fight for equality. I think that there is great potential to move forward with some affirmative legislation that expands basic protections for Gay and Lesbian people. I think what we saw last year with the nondiscrimination law out there really exemplifies why Log Cabin is so important. It takes Republicans and Democrats working together to advance legislation that provides basic fairness for Gay and Lesbian people. Equality will be impossible to achieve without Republican votes. I think that is as true in Washington State as any other state around the country but I think that there is a lot of potential in Washington. For the Republican Party in Washington State to do well, they need to support policies that are inclusive and attract independent voters. So, I think there is some real potential there to build inroads within the party and to advance an agenda that attracts voters from the middle and the right. Also, there is an opportunity to make the Republican Party more inclusive in a place like Washington.

SGN: In the last election, American voted to give the Democrats the balance of power in the other Washington. What message does than have for the Republican Party?

PS: Republican lost the election in November because independent voters abandoned the GOP. In 2002, Republicans won 48 percent of the independent vote and Democrats won 45 percent. In this last election, Democrats won 57 percent of independent voters and the Republicans only 39 percent. Independent voters made up - I think it was- 20 percent of the electorate. So, that swing that I just pointed out - that 10 percent swing - is really significant when you look how large a percentage the independents make up of the electorate. We had many close races and had Republicans done a better job in reaching out to independents, then, they would have won the election. So, I think-hopefully -- the lesson that the Republicans should take from the elections is that they should pursue policies that attract voters from both the middle and the right. I think, unfortunately, in recent years, the party in Washington D.C. has too often catered to the extreme social conservative wing of the party. So, I think that the lesson for Republicans is that over the next two years is that they need to do more to reach out to independent and mainstream voters. Until they do that, then, they are not going to win back the majority. I think Gay right is an area where Republicans would be wise to support policies that appeal to independents. You look at hate crimes and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and each of them has support, in the polls that I've seen, from about 80 percent of the public. It is something that has broad popular support and I think would help gain new allies in the party among mainstream and independent voters.

SGN: Does the Democrat controlled congress change the way the Log Cabin Republicans and the Liberty Education Forum does business?

PS: No. I think that for the last several years we have been saying that if you pursue a divisive agenda, you are going to alienate swing voters that determine the outcome of the election. Unfortunately, that's what happened. We sort of, unfortunately, predicted what was going to happen if you kept pursuing an agenda that only catered to the narrow base of your party. There were six candidates that we endorsed - incumbents - that were not reelected. Unfortunately, the way the elections turned out, there were a lot of good Republicans who lost in November but moving forward we will be looking toward educating the Republicans on the issues that are going to come up in the next Congress related to Gay rights. A lot of Republicans on Capitol Hill will be looking for ways to come back toward the middle and figure out how our party can get back into power. So, I think there is a lot of potential to connect with some Republican members of Congress who may not have previously been supportive of our issues.

SGN: Some of the Republican lawmakers had been supportive of our issues. Do you see that as a loss for the Republican Party?

PS: Certainly. There where so many Republicans who lost that they really were from across the ideological spectrum. I think a total of 20 incumbent Republican incumbents lost. That was in the House, in addition to how many there were in the Senate. I think there were 5 incumbents who lost in the Senate. Unfortunately -- as you point out - some of those where people who were inclusive on our issues. I know that Senator Lincoln Chafee was one of only four advocates of marriage equality in the U.S. Senate. He lost his race. Also, there were five incumbent Republicans who we endorsed. We were disappointed that those folks lost, but we will continue working to gain more allies in the new Congress. Those folks will be missed, but we will continue to move forward and, hopefully, the Republican Party will understand that they lost this election due in large part to their failure to connect with independent voters.

SGN: Do you think the media attention around the death of President Gerald Ford will remind modern day Republicans of a different time, perhaps when there was a more bipartisan philosophy in D.C.?

PS: If you look at President Ford and the things he talked about toward the end of his life, he was someone who understood that all Americans - regardless of sexual orientation - deserve to be treated with basic fairness and common decency. So, he was a great man who took our nation through challenging times. One of the interesting things about President Ford is that he actually vetoed 56 bills in his 29 months as President. So, while he rightfully had the respect of both parties, he also had some very strong beliefs and he wasn't afraid to act on them. I think the same can be said for today, but - as you point out - the distinction was that the parties had a better working relationship. My sense is that back in those days, they might argue about politics but at the end of the day they would go have a drink with one another and they were friends. They worked together to reach compromises. I think the problem in Washington today is that the relationship is so toxic that finding compromise and common ground is a lot harder.

SGN: As you mentioned, President Ford later in his life expressed support for federal benefits for same-sex couples, workplace protections and even the repeal of sodomy laws. What impact - if any - do you think that had on the debate surrounding Gay and Lesbian people in the life of the Republican Party?

PS: I think President Ford provided an important voice that other mainstream Republicans also support - the notion that our party can be true to its principals. Being supportive of Gay rights is completely consistent with everything that the Republican Party - with its core principles of personal liberty and personal responsibility and empowering people to take control over their own lives. So by being more supportive of those issues, the Republican Party is being completely consistent with our true Republican values. So, I don't think that the politics of division and exclusion is in the finest history of our party. Hopefully, good Republicans can look at what President Ford -- the way he spoke about these issues -- and use his courageous words as leadership for their own views.

SGN: I know that the Liberty Education Forum has undertaken a major effort to reach out to middle America and the South. Why is that work important and why is reaching out to allies important?

PS: I think our movement will never achieve equality if we speak to only those who agree with us. I think we have seen over the last three decades that we have made progress by engaging in dialogue and discussion and by having conversations about our lives. I think it is important for us to continue that process and continue reaching out to gain even more allies in the fight for equality. It is hard work and it takes a long time. It takes courageous folks around the country who are stepping forward and talking to their friends, family and neighbors about their lives and why they deserve to be treated with basic fairness. So, I think that is vital to the future success of our movement.

SGN: Do you think the Lesbian and Gay community and its organizations have largely ignored the red states?

PS: No. I think that starting after the 2004 election that there was a recognition that there needs to be an additional investment in engaging folks in those communities. I was just reading an article last week about efforts in Kansas that are taken hold and more people stepping forward. So, I think you see progress being made. As I said, it will be a long process. More and more people have come to understand that the GLBT movement needs to invest and continue investing more in red states where there isn't much support for our issues.

SGN: In what ways will Log Cabin Republicans and Liberty Education Forum continue to reach out and educate Republican lawmakers?

PS: In three areas really. You will see continued development of LEF's Reaching the Heartland Program, which aims to connect with conservatives and people of faith. Of course, LEF is non-partisan so those discussions are aimed less at politicians and more aimed at the general public. We have different folks that we have trained who are able to give speeches that are aimed at connecting with conservatives. At the state level, it involves grassroots training and an investment of resources in strengthening chapters; to help them to reach out to their fellow Republicans. Here in Washington, again, we will continue looking for ways to engage more conservative Republicans on these issues. I think, fundamentally, our strongest tool continues to be our ability - as a movement - to move public opinion. Unfortunately, politicians make political decisions. They don't do the right things sometimes even though they know whats right because they rely too much on polls. So, our challenge - as a movement - is to continue to move the polls in our direction. In the very near future, being wrong on Gay issues will be harmful at the poll. I know that is already the case at some places, but our job as a movement is to continue expanding areas where it is going to hurt a politician if they aren't supportive of basic fairness for LGBT people. So, it's about moving public opinion. It's about reaching out to elected officials. And, it's about training and encouraging GLBT people around the country to step forward as voices in the fight for equality.

SGN: As an insider in the other Washington, what are the issues that you are watching for 2007?

PS: The main ones are - from a national perspective - I think there is every indication that the new Congress will vote on a hate crimes bill and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Those on are on the top of our list in terms of engaging Republican members of Congress on those issues. Of course, the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy continues to be one of our top priorities and I expect that there will be hearings, possibly, in the House and Senate in the months ahead. So, we will be continuing to education Republicans lawmakers about why this policy is harming our nation's security and why it is so critical to allow competent and qualified people to serve in the military - regardless of their sexual orientation.

SGN: What else do you want our readers to know?

PS: I am humbled and honored to leading the Log Cabin Republicans during this important time. I will provide a strong voice for those in our party who believe the GOP can return to power by pursuing a unifying and inclusive conservative agenda. I think it is important for us to understand that the mission of Log Cabin is more important than ever before because equality will be impossible to achieve without Republican votes. I think it is really critical to have courageous folks working from inside the party to make it more inclusive and we will remain committed to standing up for the values that our organization represents. We will stand up with integrity and challenge those in our party who might want to use Gay and Lesbian people to score political points. I am also very much an optimist in the path of our mission and in the path for the fight for equality. I think that if you look at the long sweep of history, we are making amazing progress. If you look across the country, there is a growing support for all sorts of Gay rights legislation and more and more Americans understand that LGBT people deserve to be treated with basic fairness. I think the strength of our movement is due in large part to the courageous folks - of all political stripes - who step forward every day to courageously share their story with family, friends, neighbors and co-workers. So, I am humbled to be leading this organization, because I understand that the strength of our organization comes from the grassroots members around the country who step forward every day as advocates within our party for a inclusive vision that provides basic fairness and common decency for all Americans - regardless of sexual orientation.

SGN: If our readers wanted to get involved with the Log Cabin Republican organization or the Liberty Education Forum, how you recommend they do that?

PS: The best way to learn about LEF is to visit their website at www.libertyeducationforum.org. They can also join the Log Cabin chapter in Washington State, their website is www.logcabinwa.com.

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