GAINING: No on Prop 8 Campaign bounces back
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GAINING: No on Prop 8 Campaign bounces back
by Mike Andrew - SGN Contributing Writer

With 11 days to go before the November 4 election, the No on Prop 8 Campaign appears to be gaining on opponents of marriage equality. "There's been quite a turnaround," No on Prop 8 spokesperson Kate Kendell told SGN. "We have a chance of winning now."

Polling released last week shows only a statistically insignificant lead for Prop 8, the California ballot measure intended to reverse the California State Supreme Court's historic decision in favor of marriage equality. In a SurveyUSA poll taken October 15-16, Prop 8 is ahead by only three points, within the poll's margin of error.

Even more encouraging is polling done in the Asian American community, a politically important segment of California's population. A poll released on October 15 by the National Asian American Survey found that 57% of Asian American likely voters are opposed to Proposition 8, and only 32% support it, with 11% are undecided. Asian Americans make up 14% of California's population.

California's LGBT community and allies nationwide were stunned by early October polling showing Prop 8 winning by five points. SurveyUSA polls done in September showed the ballot measure going down to defeat by five points - a net swing in public opinion of 10 points. The No on Prop 8 Campaign also announced that their opponents - a coalition of right-wing anti-Gay and religious groups - had established a $10 million fundraising advantage.

The bad news prompted a shakeup of No on 8 Campaign staff and a public call for financial support. Former Log Cabin Republican President Patrick Guerriero was hired as campaign director. "We recognized that in Patrick we really had a campaign veteran and someone who really had the ability to come in at a high leadership role and help pull together all the other pieces, which is what we've done," Kendell said.

Since the No on Prop 8 Campaign went public with its fundraising deficit, its parent organization Equality California has received more than $3 million from California donors, including $1 million from the California Teachers Association. The California Secretary of State's public disclosure records also show many substantial out-of-state contributors including Grey's Anatomy actor T.R. Knight and personal finance maven Suze Orman.

"In the last two weeks, there has been an outpouring of support," Kendell said. "We've raised $10 million. Online alone we've raised $300,000 - $500,000 per day. Most has come from smaller donors, $25-$100 donations. We've had donations from people all over the country who have never given to an LGBT organization before. It was the most gratifying, most wonderful thing."

According to Kendell, the No on Prop 8 Campaign has now raised a total of $26 million - including about $4 million pledged but not yet collected - compared to the pro-Prop 8 coalition's $29 million. Fundraising is crucial to the No on Prop 8 Campaign because, as Kendall told SGN, "in California, for statewide initiatives, money equals media time, media time equals messaging, and messaging equals votes."

SGN also asked Kendell for comment on the controversial No on Prop 8 ad campaign. Many LGBT activists have been critical of the ads, which seemed to exclude Gay or Lesbian couples. Some community activists even described the No on 8 ads as "homophobic." In a TV interview with CBS 5 political editor Hank Plante in San Francisco, Kendell called Gay and Lesbian couples "the heroes of this campaign," but said "those images are not the best images to move people."

In her statements to SGN, Kendell seemed to back off somewhat from that position. "The people we need to move are a small slice of undecided voters," Kendell explained. "We will use any messenger - politicians, same-sex couples, straight people - who will move our target audience."

While she doesn't agree with critics of the campaign ads, Kendell says she understands their point of view. "If I were in their shoes I would raise the same criticisms myself," she said. "I, as a Lesbian lawyer, parent, and partner, see these messages. Some will resonate with me, some will not, but I'm not the target. All our media experts - and we have lots of experts working on the campaign - say these are the messages that are likely to move the electorate."

Kendell says she is growing more hopeful for a positive outcome on election day. "I'm more optimistic every day, more hopeful that we will wake up on November 5 having beaten back the most devastating, most hurtful attack on our community."

"In a real sense, this is the biggest fight our community has faced," Kendell said. "I know that in Washington State, you've been through some of these fights. The support we've gotten from our neighbors is the reason we are where we are. SGN readers should know that if we win it's their victory, too - it's a national victory."