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Monday, April 22, 2013

UPDATED: Is Senator Algiere in trouble for supporting marriage equality? Not so much.

NOM, Chris Plante: bark is worse than their bite

UPDATE: The Providence Journal and Associated Press report today, April 23, that Algiere and all four of his Senate Republican colleagues have issued a statement in support of marriage equality. 
EDITOR’S NOTE: after speaking with Senator Algiere myself, I broke the news in Progressive Charlestown that Sen. Dennis Algiere (R-Westerly, Charlestown, So. Kingstown) would be voting “yes” on marriage equality. The Westerly Sun wrote about the pressure being placed on Algiere over this issue. On-line comments in the Sun are running overwhelmingly in Sen. Algiere’s favor. WC

NOM-RI’s Chris Plante is becoming increasingly desperate in his efforts to block marriage equality in Rhode Island. The Westerly Sun reports on Plante’s newspaper ads that contained unveiled political threats against Republican Senator Dennis Algiere:

If he ends up voting ‘yes,’ we will do what we can to unseat him. He will have broken with the Republican Party, and he will have also broken with the people who have elected him.

These are strong words. But does Plante actually have the ability to carry through with his threats? Plante points to New York and Iowa as places where NOM was influential in removing republican state senators and judges who voted for marriage equality.

NOM has a very good track record on unseating Republicans who vote against traditional marriage. The issue is job security, what every politician is concerned about.

I think it more likely that Plante’s job security is at stake: NOM-RI only exists as long as same-sex marriage remains against the law. When he loses this battle he’ll probably go back to selling dangerous, unscientific and discredited “abstinence only” sex education programs to gullible school administrations.

The Sun reports that Plante claimed, “Of the four Republican state senators who joined a Democratic minority to help New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo pass a same-sex marriage bill last year, one was defeated in a primary, another defeated in the general election after barely surviving a primary, a third opted not to run for re-election rather than face a primary challenge, and only one was re-elected.”

NOM Exposed, a site dedicated to refuting NOM’s lies claims, in a piece entitled NOM’s Empty Threats Against New York Republicans sees NOM’s influence a little differently, pointing out that “NOM Claimed It Would Spend $2 Million To Defeat Republicans Who Backed Marriage Equality In New York, But It Raised Less Than $50,000 And Spent Less Than $40,000.”

Mark Grisanti, the Senator Plante says was taken out during a primary was known to be “The Most Endangered Republican In The Senate.”

Senator Stephen Saland, defeated in the general election, lost because a third party candidate fielded by the Conservative Party split the vote, allowing his Democratic challenger to unseat him.

Senator James Alesi decided not to run because of personal problems and because of ongoing problems with the Republican Party: He only voted with his party 52% of the time. He was hardly a senator with Algiere’s record.

In every case NOM’s influence on these elections was minimal to non-existent. Plante is grossly exaggerating NOM’s political influence.

In a phone call with Kevin Nix of HRC, who heads up NOM Exposed, Nix expressed surprise that Plante mentioned Iowa because the judges in Iowa, though elected, are not party affiliated. Further, Nix points out that in the past NOM has made similar claims about Illinois, with equally weak facts to back up their case. MOM is “all bark and no bite” says Nix.

Locally, Plante’s threats sound even more hollow. Algiere is one of the highest ranking Republican politicians in the state. [Editor's note - he usually runs unopposed and when the rare opponent does come forward, Algiere usually wins in a landslide]. The Rhode Island Republican Party has nothing about marriage equality in its platform, and Republican Senator Dawson Hodgson is an almost certain yes vote on the issue. 

Plante’s suggestion that a yes vote from Algiere means the Senator has “broken with the Republican Party” is hyperbole at best. Polls show that most Rhode Islander’s want marriage equality and the idea that anger over the issue will still resonate with even the most conservative voters through the next election cycle despite Algiere’s conservative track record is silly.

As usual NOM-RI and Christopher Plante are engaging in bluster and bullshit.

Thank you to Charles Joughin of HRC for help in researching this piece.

Steve Ahlquist is a writer, artist and current president of the Humanists of Rhode Island, a non-profit group dedicated to reason, compassion, optimism and action. The views expressed are his own not necessarily those of any organization of which he is a member.