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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, September 24, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 39
GSBA & ERW host 2010 candidate forum
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GSBA & ERW host 2010 candidate forum

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

On September 22, the Greater Seattle Business Association (GSBA) held their annual LGBT Candidate Forum at the Grand Hyatt. The annual event is the only LGBT candidate forum in the Pacific Northwest. Attendees got the chance to meet with the candidates and hear firsthand how they would respond to issues of concern to the Gay community.

Deborah Brandt, former morning show host at KUOW, was the event's emcee. The 2010 GSBA Candidate Forum was co-sponsored by Equal Rights Washington (ERW) and QLaw, the LGBT bar association of Washington state.

This year's featured races include some of the most contested and important races for the LGBT community. The rules were simple: Each candidate got two minutes to open, one minute to close, and 90 seconds to answer a question - vetted and prepared by the GSBA Public Policy Task Force - with no rebuttals allowed.

Throughout the two-hour forum, marriage equality emerged as the main theme, with the state's budget falling closely behind.

GSBA Executive Director Louise Chernin read the opening announcements and reminded the audience to "get out the vote." Speaking in agreement with Chernin, ERW Executive Director Josh Friedes asked that everyone at the forum dedicate time to phone bank at the ERW office to help get LGBT-friendly candidates elected.

Richard Sanders and Charlie Wiggins, running for State Supreme Court Position 6, were the first two candidates to answer questions. The two judges were asked a series of questions that focused on LGBT equality. Judge Wiggins said, "We must demand and accept impartiality. It's what we have to have in a judge."

Running for State Representative Legislative District 34 (West Seattle) Position 2 were Joe Fitzgibbon (D) and Mike Heavey (D). For these two candidates, transportation and marriage equality were the points of focus. Heavey, a former Human Rights Campaign volunteer, declared, "The civil rights movement of our time is the Gay rights movement."

State Senator Randy Gordon (D-41), representing Legislative District 41 (Bellevue, Mercer Island, Newcastle, west Issaquah, and northeast Renton), spoke at length about budget issues and equality. "Equal rights for our citizens means just that: equality for everyone," he said. Sen. Gordon's opponent, Steve Litzow (R), was a no-show.

Competing for State Senator Legislative District 45 (Greenwood, Northgate, Lake City and Laurelhurst) were Andy Hill (R) and Senator Eric Oemig (D-45). Hill was a no-show. Sen. Oemig (who used to belong to the GOP) promised to help small businesses and families. "My job is to stand up for equality," he said. "Equality in business and equality for individuals."

State Representative Marko Liias (D-21) is campaigning against Elizabeth Scott (R) to keep his 21st Legislative District (Snohomish County) seat. Scott was another GOP no-show. Sen. Liias, an openly Gay legislator, said that if elected again, he would "Cut state spending, invest in education, and put people back to work."

Suzane DelBene (D) is running against GOP incumbent Dave Reichert for U.S. Representative Congressional District 8 (east King and Pierce County). Congressman Reichert did not participate in the forum. DelBene said, "There is a need for real business experience in Congress." DelBene also said she is pro-LGBT equality.

In addition to meeting and listening to the candidates, the GSBA Candidate Forum also served as an opportunity for the Gay chamber of commerce to issue their 2010 GSBA Voter's Guide. The GSBA, as a matter of policy, does not endorse candidates for elected office. They do, however, endorse initiative and referendum campaigns.

The GSBA urged members to vote "Yes" on Initiative 1098, a measure that would create a "high-earner" income tax to be paid by single Washingtonians with an adjusted gross income over $200,000 and couples (including domestic partners) with a joint combined income over $400,000. The GSBA also recommends that voters approve Referendum 52, Engrossed House Bill No. 2561 that authorizes the issuing of bonds and finances construction and repair projects to increase energy efficiency in public schools and higher education buildings, and continue sales tax on bottled water which otherwise expires in 2013.

The GSBA urged members to vote "No" on Initiative 1053, a Tim Eyman-sponsored initiative that seeks to impose supermajority requirement on lawmakers whereby two thirds of the legislature must vote to approve any measure that would increase taxes or fees; Initiative 1082, a measure that would allow private insurers to offer a replacement program to employers that would eliminate the employee-paid portion of medical benefit premiums; and Initiative 1107, a measure that would remove the new, or temporary, taxation of luxury items.

In their 2010-2011 Legislative Agenda guide, the GSBA pledges to support and fight for LGBT civil rights, equitable taxation, healthcare, economic prosperity, education, immigration reform, public safety, and infrastructure.

The GSBA, created in 1981, seeks to combine business development, leadership, and social action to expand economic opportunities for the LGBT community and those who support equality for all. The GSBA is the largest business chamber of its kind in the United States, and the second largest business chamber in Washington state.

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