Interesting endorsement in Collins-Allen race

The Human Rights Campaign – one of the most influential national organizations working to advance/protect the rights of GLBT people – announced its “Year to Win” election-mobilization campaign yesterday. Part of the initiative includes endorsing candidates in 14 “targeted Senate races,” and assisting those candidates with get-out-the-vote efforts and fundraising.

            Maine’s incumbent Republican senator, Susan Collins, is the only Republican that got an HRC nod. The endorsement sticks out like a sore thumb, and induces no small measure of head-scratching. Why did the HRC choose to endorse Collins over her Democratic opponent, Tom Allen, when Allen’s voting record in the House has been more consistently aligned with HRC interests? And while Collins’ record isn’t shabby in this regard, her votes have been in line with the HRC only 78-88 percent of the time over the past few years (as opposed to Allen’s 100 percent).   

            In response to the HRC snub, Carol Andrews, communications director for the Allen campaign, said this: “Tom Allen is proud of his record of fighting discrimination on all levels and for standing up for equality. When he was on the Portland City Council, it led the state in nondiscrimination practices by banning bias based on sexual orientation for housing, credit and employment. As a Member of Congress, he has consistently supported fairness and equality measures while opposing discrimination. As a member of the Senate, he will continue to do what is right for all people. Specifically, he will not support judicial nominees like Sam Alito who don’t understand fairness and equal rights.” (Collins did vote for Alito.)

We’re not the only ones who think this endorsement is kinda fishy. But the HRC might just be playing realistic hardball politics – putting more value in a swing Republican senate vote than in the fall-in-line support of a solid Dem.

As Phoenix writer Tony Giampetruzzi wrote last August, with regard to Collins’ mixed messages on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell: “Perhaps she is playing politics, but those champing at the bit to repeal DADT may just consider the ranking Republican a better ally in the war against the policy than a senator-wannabe who has opposed the law from the very beginning.”

Seems like Giampetruzzi presaged the HRC’s strategy to a T.

[When we hear from the HRC and the Collins campaign, we’ll update this post.]

UPDATE: From Senator Collins: "I am grateful to have the endorsement of the Human Rights Campaign and will continue to work in the Senate to protect the rights of all Americans, regardless of gender, race, religion, or sexual orientation."

UPDATE #2: From Brad Luna, HRC Spokesman: "Successfully getting pro-equality legislation to the President’s desk for signature or veto requires partnerships with pro-equality lawmakers of both parties.  Sen. Susan Collins is a strong ally for the GLBT community, supporting a fully inclusive employment protection bill, a fully inclusive hate crimes bill, and funding for critical HIV/AIDS programs."

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