But in Californias 45th district, Steve Pougnet, the openly gay mayor of Palm Springs, has been selected to participate in the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committees Red to Blue program. In his bid to unseat Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R), he finished the last quarter with more than $878,000 on hand compared with Bono Macks $1.2 million.
Back in Rhode Island, Cicilline is the best-funded of four Democrats running for Kennedys seat; he finished the last quarter with more than $900,000 in the bank and is widely considered the frontrunner to face Republican state Rep. John Loughlin in November.
Loughlins campaign declined to comment when asked to discuss Cicillines sexual orientation for this story. The issue has largely become something that is known but not often talked about publicly by the other candidates.
While Cicilline doesnt hide his sexual orientation, its not something he usually confronts on the campaign trail. He said hes running as a well-qualified mayor who just happens to be gay.
Its been reported pretty widely for eight years. Its hard to imagine they dont know, Cicilline said of voters. I think most voters do know, and theyve concluded that its irrelevant. I think they care about what youre going to do to bring new jobs to the state.
But insiders think Cicilline could have problems in the states northern region, known as the Blackstone Valley, where the districts population is largely centered in working-class neighborhoods.
Come November, that race will be won and lost in the Blackstone Valley, the veteran strategist said. Thats where the people are. Thats where the votes are.
Cicillines sexuality, however, may not be his greatest challenge.
The strategist noted that no Providence mayor has been elected to higher office in more than a half-century.
Cicilline has also been plagued by questions about his brother, a former attorney recently released from prison after serving time for extorting money from drug dealers. There was also a high-profile dispute with the citys public-sector unions, not to mention the corruption scandal recently unearthed in the Providence Police Department.
And while Cicilline doesnt believe his sexual orientation is a political liability, he said it is important to have a more representative government.
To the extent that qualified good candidates who happen to be gay or lesbian are elected to positions of responsibility in government, and do a good job, I think that is good not only for them and the LGBT community, but good for society because good, qualified people are in office, he said. And I think anytime that happens, it is one more step toward equality.
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., takes a selfie with his cut-out head during the Hoops for Youth 16th annual charity basketball game held at George Washington University's Smith Center, September 8, 2014. The members of Congress team beat the lobbyist team 46-40. Buy photo here.