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LGBTQ, and in the running

October 7, 2018

BETHEL — For a host of reasons, it was repeatedly suggested to Raghib Allie-Brennan that, maybe, he shouldn’t run.

But Allie-Brennan, 27, is campaigning for state representative for a second time. He’s a community organizer with a passion for energy policy and an exuberance punctuated by a constellation of freckles. He is also a gay man.

“We are not gay candidates, we are candidates that happen to be gay,” Allie-Brennan said at an LGBTQ Day of Action in Bethel on Saturday.

Allie-Brennan is one of 10 LGBTQ candidates running for Connecticut’s General Assembly in 2018. Notably, six LGBTQ Republicans are now seeking spots in the General Assembly, whereas the GOP currently has no openly gay state legislators.

Connecticut has only two openly gay lawmakers, state Sen. Beth Bye of West Hartford and Rep. Jeff Currey of East Hartford, both of them Democrats who are seeking re-election. Allie-Brennan is the only LGBTQ Democratic challenger.

State comptroller Kevin Lembo, also a Democrat seeking re-election, was Connecticut’s first openly gay statewide official and is the only LGBTQ statewide candidate.

LGBTQ Republicans seeking office include Senate candidates Mary Fay of West Hartford and Robert Smedley of New Britain, as well as House candidates Shaun Mastroianni of Stonington, Ken Richards of Groton, John Scott of Mystic and A.J. Kerouac of Brooklyn, Conn.

“The fact that I am a gay man is old news. My husband and I have been members of this community for 20 years,” said Scott, who was a state representative from 2014 to 2016, when he lost his seat. “We’ve never been discriminated against.”

Scott and Richards spent Saturday campaigning together at the Groton Fall Festival. They agreed that their sexuality was not a deciding factor behind their run for office — their primary concerns was the economy.

“My taxes kept going up, and it was harder and harder for my husband and I to stay here,” said Richards, an ambulance administrator, whose husband is in the U.S. Navy.

Some of Richards’ LGBTQ friends back his campaign, but others can’t stomach the Republican party, he said.

“It’s the stigma of the Republican party: that we’re anti-gay, anti-women, anti-everything,” Richards said. “One of the parts that I am trying to push as a candidate is that times are changing. We have to change (the GOP) from within.”

According to the LGBTQ Victory Fund, a nonpartisan group that tracks, supports and trains LGBTQ candidates and allies, there are 577 LGBTQ elected officials total nationwide. This year, 425 LGBTQ candidates are seeking office at the local, state and national levels — an increase from previous years — the group said.

“LGBTQ people are severely underrepresented at every level of government - holding just 0.1 percent of elected positions nationwide - and there are only five known LGBTQ elected officials in all of Connecticut,” said Elliot Imse, senior director of Communications at the Fund. “While Connecticut is largely supportive of its LGBTQ population in terms of attitudes and laws, it remains important to have LGBTQ voices in the halls of power to ensure our perspectives are part of the conversation.”

When Lembo ran for comptroller in 2010, he conducted polling to see if voters would support a gay candidate, he said.

“The results came back and they were so heartening, because it did not matter a lick to people,” Lembo said. “What really mattered — to the vast majority of people, not people on the fringe, but I don’t spend too much time thinking of them — was what is your experience, what is your credential and what is your plan.”

In Bethel Saturday, he and Currey rallied support for Allie-Brennan before a day of phone-banking and door-knocking began.

“When you meet someone who has been through struggle and they come through on the other side, you know they are willing to work through and struggle on your behalf as well,” said Lembo.

emunson@hearstmediact.com; Twitter: @emiliemunson

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