by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
Bonney Lake Republican Pablo Monroy, an openly Gay and small Tacoma business owner, announced February 1 that he is challenging Rep. Chris Hurst in a 2016 race that could help decide the balance of power in the House that Democrats control by a narrow 50-48 margin.
Hurst is an Enumclaw Democrat, who voted against marriage equality in 2012, states his party preference as 'Independent Democrat.' That could be attributed to a need to distance himself from the Democratic Party in the Republican-leaning, suburban-to-rural 31st District of east Pierce and southeast King counties. At any rate, Hurst has not been too good a friend to LGBTQ Washingtonians. Monroy, on the other hand, has been.
Monroy, 27, was born in Othello, Washington where he lived with his family until high school, and the family moved to Pasco, Washington. He would graduate from Pasco High School in 2006. While attending classes throughout the four years at Pasco High, a young man caught his eye. The handsome, well-dressed boy was named Derrick and although he says the two wouldn't officially meet on the dance floor at Seattle Gay bar, R Place, until a few years after they both graduated - Derrick is now married to Pablo.
Aside from being a Gay man, which Monroy readily admits does inform political decisions that he might make, he is also Mexican American, a practicing Catholic, a veteran of the Iraq War and Global War on Terrorism, as well as a small business owner. And he also just so happens to be - Republican.
Monroy insists that Republican is not a dirty word. He doesn't believe that conservative values, small government, and family values mean what some people claim that they do. Monroy maintains that he is Gay and Republican and, given the intersections of race and religion and military service and more, he can speak to a lot of issues that some Republicans can't. He readily admits that diversity is something the party is in need of. Which is why, he says, he has decided to run.
Monroy enlisted in the Navy in 2006, just after graduating high school. Only six months after enlisting he was ordered to serve on the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis in Bremerton, Washington. He was later deployed to the Arabian Gulf to support Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom during the war on terror where he earned a number of medals including some that recognize the war on terror and others for good conduct. And, unlike certain Republican politicians that had to resign their seat amidst accusations of a falsely beefed up awards resume, Monroy's service records are intact, up to date, and reflect his achievements while he was in.
By most standards Monroy was a very good sailor. He told Seattle Gay News he enlisted as a Religious Petty Officer, which is a job in the U.S. Navy that would translate into the civilian world as an executive administrator to the Chaplain (Priest, Rabbi, Preacher, etc.), event planner and promoter (setup and teardown of Church services and ceremonies), body guard (to protect the Chaplain in a war zone), and work center supervisor (he was the leading Petty Officer for the ship's Chaplain). Monroy rose through the ranks pretty fast. In just three years he went from E-1 to E-5 (Seaman to Petty Officer 2nd Class) before receiving an honorable discharge from the U.S. Navy in June of 2010, just one day before the annual LGBTQ Pride celebration.
Military service gives you a unique perspective on crisis management, on the job training, and how to develop the thick skin that is needed to perform under pressure. You are battle tested again and again and regularly accomplish goals with other service members in your unit that seemed impossible. Monroy liked the camaraderie of the military and wanted to continue his service to the country but in a different capacity. While he was serving in the Navy it was under the watchful and bigoted eye of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' which barred open service of Gays and Lesbians. It was tough on him, as it was for so many LGBTQ veterans of that time in U.S. military history where more than 14,000 people lost their benefits and careers after being kicked out for having been accused or found guilty of violating the policy. Derrick was now his boyfriend and the two young men were in love, but nobody could know.
In this case, it is important to note that Monroy knows what it is like to be oppressed and judged by race or ethnicity, because his skin is brown and he is Mexican. Additionally, he remembers very vividly the hurt of being asked to defend the nation during a time of war, but being forced to lie or lose his livelihood if he ever disclosed his relationship with the man he loved. But, due to the actions of many activists and lobbyists sympathetic to the cause, 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' was repealed in December 2010 and Monroy enlisted in the Washington Army National Guard as an openly Gay man. He currently holds the rank of Sergeant in a Calvary Army National Guard unit and Derrick, who was upgraded from 'boyfriend' to 'husband' when the two men were legally married in Washington state, was the 2015 recipient of Washington Army National Guard Volunteer of the Year because he organized meals for the troops as they shipped off to training and provided support for his husband's unit through other programs and projects. In fact, Monroy proudly says that his husband impressed the other guys in his unit so much that he didn't know Derrick had been nominated for an award; his fellow soldiers nominated him on their own and Derrick and Pablo found out about it together.
Another thing that has changed, because of the repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' Derrick now accompanies Pablo to the annual Military Ball events for the Washington Army National Guard, which is something he couldn't when 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' was still the law of the land and Monroy Pablo was a sailor.
They do most things together and their bond is strong. Monroy admits that they have their regular disagreements like any married couple, but that after six years together as a couple, and nearly three of those legally married, he has learned more about himself and how to treat people you truly care for more than ever before.
After studying business at Highline Community College and later attending the University of Washington, Monroy went into business for himself. He is now the founder and part owner of the Odd Otter Brewing Company in Tacoma, where he creates not only craft beers, but also jobs in Pierce County. Derrick is there to help every step of the way. Both men work full time jobs aside from owning the brewery - Pablo works 40 hours as a sales and merchandiser for Pepsi and is a member of the Teamsters Union 3131 and Derek works in real-estate.
Their small business is a success. Odd Otter Brewing Company has won several awards such as Veteran's Business of the Year, several brewing event awards around the state, and the KING 5 Best Brew Pub 2015 - beating the likes of Elysian and Pyramid breweries, despite only having been in business for one year. Their secret, says Monroy, is hard work and 'fun.'
As a small business owner and job creator, Monroy says he has seen first-hand the negative effects of a Democrat-run government. If elected as the 31st District State Representative Monroy says he will fight to ensure that Republican values are heard, and that the issues that matter to them the most will have strong representation in Olympia. Monroy is not bashing Democrats in Olympia just for the sake of political fodder he says. 'If you look at the issues that we face in our state right now you will not see job growth, our schools are terrible, the roads are bad, and so much more. The Democratic majority has been in charge in Olympia for decades so that kind of tells you who is at fault.'
However, Monroy admits that partisan politics is not something he is interested in as his voting conscience. He will follow what he believes is best for the people in his district and what he believes is right in his heart. Case in point - Referendum 74 for marriage equality campaign in 2012. While many Republicans voted against the measure to legalize same-sex marriage in Washington state, Pablo worked directly with the mainstream campaign to represent not only Gay veterans, but also Gay Latinos who were calling for the popular vote to affirm marriage equality at the ballot box.
Granted, this might cause some friction within the Republican Party one could argue. But Monroy says that when he introduces himself to Republican lawmakers in Olympia, they encourage him to run and support him through mentoring.
In addition, Monroy is a Bonney Lake Park Commissioner, and serves on the executive board for Pierce County Veterans Advisory Council.
'Veterans face a high rate of unemployment, medical issues, and the loss of their sense of pride,' Monroy told SGN. 'Any way that I can help veterans, I will do it.'
Monroy says he understands that some people will have questions to ask because being a Gay, Mexican, Veteran, small business owner running for elected seat can be polarizing. He invites you to reach out to his campaign at www.electpapblomonroy.org.
'House representative should be of the people,' he told SGN. 'Firefighters, soldiers in the guard, people starting businesses, families, LGBTQ people, etc. are a part of our society and communities. And they deserve to be heard at the Capitol.'
If you want to contribute to the Elect Pablo Monroy Campaign you can do so by going to www.electpablomonroy.org/donate. Monroy says he's already raised a few thousand dollars but obviously, will need quite a bit more in his war chest if he is to be successful in his attempt to be elected. His personal goal is to have 17,000 donation contributions by the time the election rolls around this November. Seattle Gay News will keep you updated on the campaign for the 31st State Representative Seat and other statewide campaigns as they progress in this important election year.
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