By: Mark Fitzgerald
Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are battling it out for the Democratic Party presidential nomination at debates, luncheon speeches, bowling alleys — and now, in the pages of gay and lesbian newspapers.
Obama was the first to turn to the gay press in the campaign, and — according to his lead volunteer in outreach to the so-called LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community — the first presidential candidate ever to buy a campaign ad in a local gay paper.
“The campaign bought full-page and full-color, in some circumstances, ads in some of the LGBT publications in Ohio and Texas,” said Eric Stern, co-chair of the National LGBT Leadership Council of Obama for America. “It was the first time a presidential candidate had bought ad space in local LGBT publications for the express purpose of asking for the support and the vote of LGBT voters statewide.”
In the 2004 primary season, then-candidate Howard Dean bought an ad in The Advocate, the national gay-oriented news magazine, Stern said.
The Obama ads, which made reference to the Stonewall riots of 1969, said in part: “Too often, the issue of LGBT rights is exploited by those seeking to divide us. But at its core, this issue is about who we are as Americans.”
The ads, timed just before the March 4 primaries in Ohio and Texas, appeared in four papers, including the Dallas Voice and the Gay People’s Chronicle in Cleveland.
Now that the campaign has moved on to the critical state of Pennsylvania, which votes April 22, the Clinton campaign looks ready to make some gay newspaper ad buys as well.
“We’ve been told by the campaign that (Obama) is going to buy — but we haven’t gotten an insertion order,” Philadelphia Gay News Publisher Mark Segal said Thursday. “We’ve also been told that Hillary Clinton is going to, likewise.”
Segal described himself as “exhausted” after putting to bed a special issue that comes out this Friday with an exclusive interview with Clinton.
Conventional wisdom is that Clinton is faring better among gay voters, and that’s probably true in Pennsylvania, says Segal.
“I think Obama is going to have to pay catch-up — especially once this interview is published,” he said. “He’s going to have to be proactive.”
The newspaper offered to interview both candidates, offering the same questions in the same order with no follow-up to each. “Obama did not take up that request, Hillary Clinton did,” Segal said.
The LGBT vote could make up as much as three percent of the electorate this time around, Segal said, and the newspaper is well-positioned to influence the vote. Demographic studies of its readers, who stretch across Pennsylvania, show that 90% are registered to vote, he added.
The paper will come out with its presidential endorsement on the Friday before the primary, Segal said.
The 20,000 free-distribution Philadelphia Gay News is the state’s only weekly LGBT paper. In Pittsburgh, the monthly publication schedule of Out worked against getting ads from the candidates, co-owner and Co-Publisher Tony Molnar-Strejcek.
“We had contact with the Obama campaign, but they couldn’t get the ad in by our deadline,” he said.
Molnar-Strejcek said he was “shocked” that the Obama campaign did not move quicker. He also said he hadn’t expected to hear from the Clinton campaign, whose candidate until very recently had been running well ahead of Obama in the polls.
“I don’t think they were very concerned with print advertising to the LGBT community,” he said.