The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) put out its first wave of endorsements as it touts its Election 08 website, where voters can

gauge the political landscape of each state, donate to candidates, access the latest news and information on LGBT issues in the campaigns and view a report card on where the candidates stand on key issues in the race for the White House.

Curiously, HRC has decided to keep its powder dry on the U.S. Senate race here in NC, not endorsing either Jim Neal or Kay Hagan. I think it’s unfortunate based on the clear differences between the candidates in their approaches to LGBT issues in this campaign. First, what Joe Solmonese and Paul Begala said about this year’s races:

Democratic strategist Paul Begala joined Solmonese on the call and discussed the state of the national electorate and stressed the importance of electing pro-civil rights leaders.

“The political tides have shifted in our direction but were not taking anything for granted this year,” Solmonese told reporters. “Since 2004 we’ve held key votes in employment non-discrimination and hate crimes legislation. HRC working from the ground up to increase our margin of pro-equality leaders in Washington.”

Begala said the tide in favor of LGBT equality is being pushed by an “all out rejection” of the Bush Administration and its failures. He claims Sen. John McCain is following right in Bush’s footsteps.

What do people think of when they think of the word “change,” Begala asked. “Is the mental image you conjure up a 70-year-old white man who’s been in Washington for 30 years?”

OK. Pro-equality. That would suggest someone who is ready, able and willing to tell voters how they would advance LGBT rights in the Senate. Kay Hagan’s campaign hasn’t done that despite repeated polite public attempts to get her on the record on legislation. Not just me, mind you, but the LGBT press here.Even when I saw Hagan’s communications coordinator Colleen Flanagan in person at the BlueNC blogger gathering yesterday (many pro-LGBT candidates were there, including Jim Neal), she didn’t say when or if Hagan would issue any positions on:

1. Federal hate crimes legislation.

2. Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).

3. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal

4. The Uniting American Families Act (H.R. 2221, S. 1328)

5. The federal Defense of Marriage Act

6. Whether her view that the definition of marriage should be left up to state law can be reconciled with 1967’s Loving v. Virginia, a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that invalidated state bans on interracial marriages and whether that should have been left a state matter.

This is basic stuff. Sen. Hagan has in fact sponsored anti-discrimination measures at the state level, but for whatever reason, she can’t manage the gumption to state her positions on the above for publication. A simple “Yes” or “No” would have been clear. Follow up questions to the campaign were not only not answered, but not acknowledged in any way, as I said above.

If HRC is looking at who would be the best candidate on our issues, we already have a non-responsive fossil sitting in that seat right now — Elizabeth Dole. No matter what you think of Jim Neal, he has been both responsive and clear on our issues, and Kay Hagan has been MIA.

It’s not as if NC politicians have been running away from LGBT issues in this cycle to play it safe, in fact, I’ve found the opposite to be true —  candidates for statewide office are ready and willing to be interviewed on LGBT issues for the Blend, including Lt. Governor candidates Dan Besse, Pat Smathers and Hampton Dellinger. (Besse‘s appeared recently, Smathers is slated for this week, and I hope to get to Dellinger soon). I think there are some myths that need to be broken down about this state — candidates in NC don’t need to campaign from the LGBT support closet.

Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding