Gay GOP presidential candidate Fred Karger was in Greenville last week, hoping to draw some attention to his long-shot campaign. Karger believes that the conversation about the pink elephant in the room tends to be in a different tone when that pink elephant is, in fact, in the room.
Prominent Charleston Democrat Linda Ketner is leading a charge of her own to get gays and lesbians to sit down at the political table. As a member of the finance committee for Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr.’s re-election effort, Ketner is trying to raise $10,000 for the campaign from the gay community. She believes these contributions will help their voices be heard.
Back in 1991, Ketner was a fundraiser for Riley’s gubernatorial campaign and led a successful effort to collect a large group donation from women. This year, she’s more than halfway toward her goal and the result will be important for a few reasons. “A lot of people say, ‘Why give to Joe Riley, he’s going to win anyway?'” Ketner says. “First, that’s a dangerous assumption. Second, this man deserves our support.”
The mayor not only opposed discriminatory hiring practices in the city, but two years ago he also led the fight for a ban on discrimination in housing and public accommodation.
But that $10,000 won’t just be a recognition for what Riley has done for the community. It also sends a signal to other fundraisers and candidates about the power of gay donors. “It’s a ‘gasp’ kind of number,” Ketner says. “When the other members of the finance committee see that, they’ll say, ‘Oh my God, the gay community can make that big number happen.’ They’ll take you a lot more seriously than they took you yesterday.”