A couple of days ago rumors started circulating around the interwebs that CA36 Congressional candidate Debra Bowen was against marriage equality. Things came to a head on Monday when Chad Molnar, Councilman Bill Rosendahl's LAX-Community Liaison and one-time staffer to Congresswoman Jane Harman, posted this comment on Venice Patch.
Yesterday, Bowen's campaign released a statement to correct the record.
Bowen's campaign said Tuesday that information listed on Project Vote Smart's 2002 National Political Awareness Test is incorrect. Campaign spokesman Steve Barkan said her record and actions put her firmly in the camp of those in favor of same-sex marriage.
As a state senator, Bowen twice vote in favor of same-sex marriage: in 2004 on Assembly Joint Resolution 85, which opposed the federal marriage amendment, and in 2005 on Assembly Bill 849, which would allow same-sex couples to marry in California.
Bowen has even officiated some same-sex marriages, including the wedding of Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Zeke Zeidler and his husband Jay Kohorn, Barkan said.
Montana-based Project Vote Smart sends its National Political Awareness Test – now known as the Political Courage Test – to candidates in state legislative, congressional, gubernatorial and presidential races, asking for their views on a variety of issues, including hot-button topics such as abortion and gun control.
In 2002, Bowen was running for re-election for a state Senate seat and filled out the survey. She was elected as Secretary of State in 2006, after being term limited out of the state Senate.
Project Vote Smart national director Kristen Vicedomini said her organization sends the surveys to candidates, who fill them out and return them. In some instances a campaign worker or representative can fill out the survey, but the candidate herself must sign off on it. Three different Project Vote Smart employees check the information before putting it online.
Barkan said he doesn’t know how it came to be that Bowen’s 2002 survey said she was against gay marriage.
“It could’ve been an error on the part of her. She didn’t have a campaign staff in 2002. … More likely it was an error by a volunteer,” Barkan said. “What’s more important is her record.”
Gay rights organization Equality California, which has put out a legislative scorecard every year since 2004, has given Bowen consistently high marks for voting in favor of gay-friendly legislation as a state senator. In 2004 and 2005 she had a 100 percent rating, and in 2006 she scored 93 percent.
"She voted for the marriage bill in California and has been a strong and vocal supporter of marriage equality," Equality California spokesman Vaishalee Raja wrote in an e-mail.
Vicedomini said Project Vote Smart allows candidates to update their answers if their positions have changed, but since Bowen's survey is from 2002, “it’s a little bit past the window to update that.”
Bowen also responded directly to the concerns on a local listserve.
This issue is very personal to me - I have long told people that I am an automatic aye on any civil rights issue, and if voters don't like that, they will have to find another rep. I have no room for compromise on this issue. I've talked to new members about finding their own such bottom line issues. This is one of my key no-room-for-negotiation bottom lines.
Apparently, none of this satisfied Mr. Molnar, who posted this comment on Venice Patch in response to the story.
According to Rosendahl's city website, Molnar is:
experienced in understanding and addressing constituent concerns with large transportation hubs, having previously served as Congresswoman Jane Harman's District Director and top advisor on issues surrounding the Port of Los Angeles. He is a political veteran, having managed several campaigns for Congress and the state legislature.
His biography would suggest he's worked closely with Janice Hahn, a council ally with Rosendahl's office on many controversial LAX issues. And, of course, Hahn's council district includes the Port of Los Angeles.
Campaign records show Molnar donated $250 to Hahn's campaign in 2008.
Responding to inquiries at his office if he was the same Chad Molner who posted on Venice Patch, Molner had this to say.
Whatever happened to the first amendment, Marta? I respect your right to express yourself, and you should respect mine.
In 2002, Debra said she believed marriage should be between a man and a woman. That's all I've said. And that's all I will say.
I am gay, and I am proud. And I won't let you bully me into silence.
I contacted Cory Allen, the president of the Long Beach Lambda Democratic Club that Chad Molnar referenced in his original comment to Venice Patch. Mr Allen confirmed that Bowen wasn't present for the endorsement meeting, but disputed the characterization that Bowen "snubbed" Lambda.
Allen said officers from the club had attempted to contact Bowen through Facebook and the candidate's website, but was not able to get a hold of her in time for the meeting.
Although Long Beach Lambda ultimately endorsed Janice Hahn, Allen believes Debra Bowen is a strong supporter of equal rights.
"It's clear she's an ally for our community."
I also contact Bill Rosendahl, but he declined to comment for this story.