The much more vocal (and typically vitriolic) tea party might be better at grabbing headlines, but Log Cabin Republicans — the original “fringe” wing of the modern GOP operation — remain confident they’ve got a better grip on how to win the hearts and minds of voters moving forward.
The group, which works to promote gay candidates who tend to embrace the conservative outlook on everything except social issues, has remained loyal to the broader party even as the GOP has closed ranks around its most combative constituency: the hyperpartisan, deeply religious tea party.
Still, Log Cabin Republicans Executive Director Gregory T. Angelo believes that uniting forces need not be as difficult as some might think.
“At its core, the Tea Party movement is about conservative fiscal policy — something Log Cabin Republicans [fight] for as well,” Angelo said via email, adding, “If we consider each other allies against the Democrats instead of 'factions' in a party fighting each other, we'll thrive.”
Angelo has made it his mission to foster as many open channels of communication as possible, courting support from grass-roots groups as well as those on Capitol Hill.
And his persistence appears to be paying off.
“Wednesday wasn't about lobbying — the Congressman is well-aware of our portfolio of issues including passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and Obamacare repeal,” Angelo said about his ongoing relationship with Issa. “I simply relayed that the door was always open to him. It's a courtesy his office extends to Log Cabin Republicans as well.”
An Issa aide confirmed that the California Republican has huddled with the LCR in the past, a pattern of support Angelo said extends from coast to coast. “He's come to LCR national events ... as well as to LCR events in California,” Angelo stated.
The most popular pol at the gathering, though, had to have been ex-Rep. Connie Morella, whom everyone (including Issa) just had to talk to.
“Great to see you! I’m your biggest fan,” one attendee announced as he swooped in to hug the tiny Maryland Republican.
Following a patriotic one-two punch of a somber pledge followed by a heartfelt rendition of the national anthem, Angelo regaled the crowd with the state of the gay union, pausing to praise three prominent gay candidates in the hunt for congressional seats in 2014.
He called out Dan Inniss, who is running in New Hampshire’s 1st District, Richard Tisei, the Massachusetts Republican vying for a rematch with Democratic Rep. John F. Tierney, and Carl DeMaio, who is looking to claim California’s 52nd District, for their collective courage and encouraged others to follow their lead.
“It’s been a while since we’ve had a gay Republican in Congress. But something tells me, after this year, that wait will be over,” Angelo assured the crowd.
The last openly gay Republican to serve in Congress was Rep. Jim Kolbe of Arizona; he retired in 2006.
Ridge littered his keynote address with enough gay rights buzzwords (“evolved,” “Judge not, lest ye be judged,” “together,” “room enough for everyone”) to fill up a rhetorical Bingo card.
“We do not have to agree on every agenda item, every policy or every talking point to be a good Republican,” he advised the perennial outsiders.
That must have been music to Pennsylvania Republican Mike Fleck’s ears.
The state representative, who skyrocketed to national prominence after being profiled in The New York Times by op-ed columnist Frank Bruni, said he couldn’t wait for Republicans to stop cannibalizing themselves.
“I will be excited when we put sexual orientation behind us as a party and we can move on,” he said. If not, Fleck noted, the fight for the future will only become bleaker.
“If we don’t get it right on this issue, I’m really concerned about the younger generations coming up,” the self-described moderate Republican warned.