Gays Turn the Tide in Las Vegas Mayoral Race
Carolyn Goodman had it in the bag. There was really no need for a campaign. After all, the frontrunner in the Las Vegas mayoral race is the wife of the wildly current mayor, Oscar Goodman. Las Vegans know her and she knows them. Well, that is, if you are not LGBT.
Just one month ago Goodman enjoyed a 20-point lead after last month’s primary. Now, the polls tell a much different story. The reason? Goodman seriously crashed and burned at a recent Lambda Las Vegas event; she is now in a dead heat race to the finish line against Chris Giunchigliani.
"The LGBT community has absolutely thrown its support behind Giunchigliani," Derek Washington, chair of the Stonewall Democrats of Southern Nevada told EDGE. "For over 30 years she has been an activist for every type of equality. She’s helped write bills in our [LGBT community] favor and is 100 percent on our side."
Giunchigliani, a Clark County Commissioner for District E, does have a squeaky-clean record. Throughout the 1980s she worked in education. She was president of the Clark County Education Association from 1983 through 1987, and was president of the Nevada State Education Association until 1991. From then on she served in the Nevada Assembly until 2006, when she was elected to the Clark County Commission.
"Giunchigliani is a former Stonewall board member," said Washington proudly. "She served as treasurer when the organization first began because she felt it was so important that we were represented in Southern Nevada. There is no progressive issue that she is not on the ’good’ side of. Whether she is working to end homelessness, conserve energy, or further LGBT equality, she is on it."
Washington further described Giunchigliani as "my perfect Democrat."
Carolyn Goodman a "Total Failure" to LGBT Las Vegans
So just how bad is Goodman, whose only qualification for mayor would be that she is married to one, on LGBT issues?
"She is a total failure to the LGBT community," said Washington.
Her Lambda Las Vegas gaffe has become something of a local legend among LGBT Las Vegans.
Goodman struggled at the May 11 event. According to Washington and local news reports, she flip-flopped on her position on marriage equality; at first saying she supported domestic partnerships but later suggesting that, if she were gay, she’d move to a state where nuptials for same-sex couples were legal.
Goodman also referred to homosexuality as a choice rather than an intrinsic quality, referring to "individuals who prefer a gay or lesbian lifestyle" leading many in the audience of more than 100 to jeer at her characterization.
"She proved that she is a train wreck when it comes to LGBT issues," said Washington. Washington pointed out that Oscar Goodman has never been a strong supporter of the local LGBT community. "It was just brutal to watch. She didn’t bother to learn anything about us."
Washington said that, thus far, gays have become the Goodman campaign’s biggest stumbling block. "Up until a few year ago, gays and lesbians didn’t have a lot of political clout in Las Vegas," he told EDGE. "But then Proposition 8 happened in California and it galvanized the community here in Southern Nevada. We became energized. We are now important in the political realm-especially when it comes to the Democratic Party."
"The LGBT community is a group you have to deal with if you want to get elected," he said proudly.
Washington said LGBT Las Vegans’ beef with Carolyn Goodman is that she just doesn’t get it. There are issues, serious issues, that the community faces and she is not the person to move forward-in a positive direction-on behalf of the gay community because she is just none the wiser.
"She’s the type of wealthy lady who thinks she knows ’the gays’ because her hairdresser is gay," he halfway joked. "In all reality, gay subjects really fluster her. It is an odd thing you know. She is not a bigot. She just doesn’t know us. In her world it is still 1970s Las Vegas."
Gay topics seem to fluster Goodman so much that, when at the same Lambda event, her opponent Giunchigliani spoke, Goodman left halfway through her presentation.
"Not only was that bizarre behavior, it was just rude," recalled Washington. "The entire room was like, ’that is the rudest thing I’ve ever seen.’"
Giunchigliani, on the other hand, answered questions in a manner that left the room cheering her praises. She said the supports marriage equality and pushed to allow it in state Legislature. The candidate stressed her commitment to the gay community and named several LGBT events she has participated in for years. These include Aid for AIDS Nevada and the AIDS Walk in Las Vegas as examples.
"I walked the whole thing. I didn’t just pay $25 and walk part of it," she said.
"Giunchigliani is running against a brand, not a person," said Washington, referring to the Goodmans’ years-long love affair with Las Vegas politics. "When she wins it will be because all the grassroots people have come out in droves to vote for her and I am really hoping that happens."
Las Vegas residents will elect either Goodman or Giunchigliani to a four-year term as their mayor on Tuesday, June 7.