Gay Republican Scott Herman Takes on Democrat Minority Leader Perry Thurston
Scott Herman likes to defy stereotypes. He's not your typical gay, liberal leaning, democrat activist. Instead he's a war veteran, a republican and openly gay.
But just because he's gay doesn't mean the LGBT community is throwing their support behind him for state House District 94, which includes Wilton Manors. And while the gay vote might not be in his pocket, another unlikely group did endorse him - The South Florida Tea Party.
Herman believes that it will take a gay Republican to have LGBT issues seriously considered in Tallahassee. Right now Republicans hold a veto proof majority in the House and Democrat voices have become marginalized.
"I know I can get more done for the LGBTQ Community because I will have the seat at the table as member of the majority party and have the respect of others due to being a combat veteran," he said.
But others aren't so sure or confident in Herman's ability.
"As a former Republican myself, while I commend Scott Herman to stepping forward in an attempt to reform Florida's extreme Republican Party, he will fail miserably given the Republican Party continues to engage in a culture war against LGBT-Floridians," Democrat activist Michael Rajner explained.
Herman, though, is quick to blast his opponent Democrat Perry Thurston on his lack of leadership regarding LGBT rights. He points out that Thurston didn't even fill out Equality Florida's scorecard while Herman did so where he acknowledged that he supports non-discrimination, domestic partnerships, repealing DOMA, adoption equality, safe schools, reproductive choice and sex education. Additionally Herman has said he supports marriage equality.
Thurston may not have answered Equality Florida's questions, but he has told SFGN he supports marriage equality and campaigned against the amendment that banned gay marriage in Florida in 2008.
"I took a lot of flack about that in the community," he told SFGN in July. "I was in staunch opposition of that amendment. I've been for gay marriage as far back as 2008."
Rajner agrees that Thurston has been a big supporter of LGBT equality.
"Back in 2008, Representative Thurston continuously dialogued with Black community and church leaders on the importance to oppose Florida's Marriage Protection Act. Thurston included his opposition to the Florida Marriage Protection Act on his palm card widely distributed among Black voters," he said.
But Thurston has also donated money to anti-gay churches.
Records show Perry's campaign has spent more than $2,500 in donations and on advertisements. The bulk of the money was given to Mount Calvary Baptist Church in Pompano Beach.
The Sun-Sentinel reported that the pastor of that church, Anthony Burrell, was active in the 2008 effort that added the ban on same-sex marriage in Florida. Another, arguably more disturbing donation, was made last year to Rev. O'Neal Dozier Ministries. That donation, however, was a mere $250, which paid for an ad celebrating the pastor's anniversary and birthday.
Dozier is well-known for his anti-gay rhetoric. In January, liberal magazine Mother Jones reported that Dozier referred to homosexuality as "something so nasty and disgusting that it makes God want to vomit."
Thurston explained that just because some of his campaign's money has made it into the hands of anti-gay pastors, he is not anti-gay.
"My record speaks for itself. I'm behind anything that expands people's rights. I try to maintain that position as often as I can," he said, and then referred SFGN to his voting record.
As for Dozier, he said "I don't agree with Dozier on much." And as for the other church mentioned above, Mount Calvary, that's been Perry's home church for the past 52 years. "I've been through four ministers at that church. They don't control what I vote for. These ministers are in the community."
Rajner isn't concerned with those donations.
"He was in a faith-based community. Those were his constituents," Rajner said.
Herman, however, used the donations to attack his opponent.
"Perry Thurston has put his money where his mouth is on LGBT issues. Thankfully the press has done its job in uncovering the truth about Thurston and his anti-LGBT allies before he may take over as the voice for the Democrats in the Florida House," Herman said in an e-blast to supporters. "What kind of Democrat stands against inclusion? With bigoted leadership like this in the Democrat Party, I'm truly afraid for the bipartisan fight for progress and equality in Florida."
Herman moved to South Florida from North Carolina in 2009. In N.C., he served a four-year term as a commissioner for Cabarrus County. While in office he solicited and received bipartisan support for a law requiring employers to adopt more stringent non-discrimination policies for sexual orientation.
He believes that because he's held public office as an openly gay man in a conservative state, he knows how to win over the other side.
"I used the political experience of over 16 years of being elected and appointed to even win over the far right group such as the South Florida Broward Tea Party for an endorsement and I am not even a member of the group," he boasted.
And because Democrats have so little power in the House he believes he can be an effective legislator.
"So let's truly examine why I know I can get more done for the LGBTQ community. I will point out that since 2006 till 2012 my opponent has not introduced even one bill of Legislation to help our community and he's a Democrat," Herman said. "So we have to face the cold hard facts that just because one is a Democrat does not make him or her pro equality."