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It’s Gay GOP Leader vs. Gay-Friendly Mormon for Utah State Senate Seat

by Kilian Melloy
Friday Sep 3, 2010
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A gay-friendly Utah state senator who stepped in to finish the term of a fellow Democrat who left office early now faces an openly gay Republican opponent for his seat in the state’s legislative body. In a further twist, the Democrat who left office early was also gay.

The saga began when Utah’s first openly gay state senator, Scott McCoy, stepped down late last year. His successor is state Sen. Ben McAdams, 35, who now faces a gay Republican, Melvin Nimer, 60, who is also the head of the state’s branch of the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay GOP group.

McAdams was initially expected to face a different Republican opponent, Nancie Lee Davis; however, Davis missed a filing deadline and was disqualified. It was at that point that Nimer stepped in, reported Utah news publication the Deseret News on Sept. 2.

Nimer expressed no intention of playing down his sexuality; quite the opposite, in fact. "Definitely, I’ll have that [gay] card to play, if you will," Nimer told the media. "Luckily, it’s a fairly liberal district." Questions of sexual orientation aside, Nimer opined that a GOP lawmaker would be able to relate more readily to colleagues in state government. ""As good as Sen. McCoy was and Sen. McAdams is, being Democrats, they don’t have as much influence as a Republican would have," Nimer told the media.

Though not gay himself, McAdams, who is Mormon, has won the support of the state’s GLBT community, and is seen as friendly toward the cause of GLBT equality.

The match-up has excited interest from pundits. Wrote news blogger Jesse Fruhwirth at Salt Lake City Weekly.net, "[I]f McAdams weren’t interesting enough all on his own, now he’s being challenged by a gay man, a Gay Republican, no less, and they’re always interesting."

Nimer’s selection was almost literally a last-minute choice, Fruhwirth noted. Because of a federal law regarding absentee ballots, there was an extremely short window to choose a new GOP contender once Davis became disqualified; the state’s Republican party had only one day to find a replacement and get the candidate’s name to county clerks.

McCoy contemplated running for Congress last November, posting a message on Facebook that indicated he might challenge incumbent U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson, also a Democrat, because Matheson voted with Republicans against health care reform. However, McCoy ended up leaving office, media reports said, in order to focus on his legal practice.

An openly lesbian Utah state lawmaker, Democrat Christine Johnson, gave up her seat with the state legislature in July. Johnson accepted a position with GLBT equality group South Carolina Equality.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network’s Assistant Arts Editor, writing about film, theater, food and drink, and travel, as well as contributing a column. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association’s Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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