the LA gay & lesbian center’s virtual town hall meeting

Queerty tees up some pointed questions about this evening’s Town Hall Meeting being sponsored by the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center, and references some articles here and here about the ongoing criticism of the No on 8 campaign.

13829Queerty also points out that LAGLC’s Lorri Jean has posted her own Q&A on the Center’s web site going through what happened and where we should go from here. I found this passage interesting:

Why didn’t you use any LGBT people in your ads until the last week?

The campaign actually had prepared an ad to be launched early in the advertising schedule featuring a lesbian in a long-term relationship and addressing the issue of why domestic partnerships are not the same as marriage. We had planned to run it after the inaugural ad featuring Sam and Julia Thoron talking about their lesbian daughter (which tested extremely well with undecided voters, particularly women, and was shown by tracking polls after it was running to be effective with them). 

Once the Yes on 8 forces began their advertisements falsely asserting that if Prop 8 didn’t pass, schools would be required to teach kids about gay marriage, it became critical to use the available advertising slots for an ad responding to that attack rather than the lesbian ad. It wasn’t until the last week of the campaign that a new ad aired showing images of LGBT people.

That doesn’t exactly line up with what No on 8 campaign director Patrick Guerriero said on Nov. 13 at the Williams Institute’s “Election 2008: A New Administration, the LGBT Vote, & Proposition 8” panel held at UCLA’s School of Law. Keep reading below…

images-31Guerriero noted No on 8 leaders struggled with the idea of featuring a same-sex couple, and didn’t go that route until the very end of the campaign because of what they learned from campaign analysts and political consultants. He said that one of the things the campaign found out early on was that 40 percent of the electorate were totally opposed to the idea of same-sex marriage, 40 percent were with No on 8 forces, and the 20 percent in the middle were undecided. Guerriero said he “had difficult news” to share with the audience, but “the majority of that (undecided) group did not support same-sex marriage.” Guerriero admitted that was a “tough reality” for marriage equality supporters, but it was a sign of a “whole lot of work to do.” 

A link to the video is here. Go to the 58 minute mark. And I’m the asshole breaking the rules and yelling out the question.

I’m not questioning the choices the campaign made here. Uncomfortable decisions and facing hard truths are realities in American politics. I also know many people vehemently disagree with this approach. But what I find interesting is Jean’s take on what went down is so different from what Guerriero says here. What really happened? It may seem like I’m picking through the bones of the charred remains of a failed campaign, but until people start talking honestly about how decisions were made, marriage equality forces won’t be able to go forward and be successful in the next campaign.

That means we all might have to kill a few sacred cows–even though many in the community wanted to see the smiling faces of happy lesbian couples on the teevee, was that in No on 8’s best interest? Conversely, were campaign analysts reticent to include gay couples in ads because of predisposed opinions or unreliable data? There are no easy answers there, and will require a lot more study to come up with something definitive, if it’s even possible to do that. 

Now back to Lorri Jean’s Q&A. Here’s what she had to say about the No on 8 campaign’s public polling:


What did the campaign’s internal polling show?

Celinda Lake and her firm did extensive polling for us throughout the campaign. From the very beginning her polling showed that we were significantly behind. Not as far as we had been with Prop 22, but significantly nonetheless. In preparing the answer to this FAQ, I consulted with lead campaign consultant Steve Smith and he reminded me of the following chronology: By the beginning of August, after 6 weeks of legal marriage, our polling (after being adjusted for phone bank differentials) showed that we were down by 13 points. This was very different from the public polling which inexplicably showed us ahead, but we believed our polling to be much more accurate based in part on the turnout models being used (our models were confirmed by the ultimate result).

Now at the Nov. 13 Williams Institute event an attendee yelled out and asked why these internal polls were not publicized if the campaign had trouble generating enthusiasm and early cash.


images-4Equality California’s Geoff Kors explained that the No on 8 campaign tried to refute the public polls showing the proposition was destined to fail, but when they went to the media and said their polling showed them losing or tying, they struggled to get any traction

Until an independent public poll came out showing Proposition 8 was down, only then did people get really engaged, Kors said. Before that, No on 8 got push back from many potential donors who were accusing the campaign of just trying to raise money. 

You can check out the video at about the 54-minute mark. I don’t why Jean didn’t communicate that in her Q&A. Maybe she is concerned about coming off as giving too many excuses. Hopefully this issue comes up tonight.

There has been plenty of criticism going around about this campaign (I’ve certainly done my part in talking up different people’s opinions and frustrations) BUT it’s clear we all have to be willing to hear the ugly truths about our own apathy and misjudgments if we want to autopsy all that went wrong in the No on 8 campaign offices. 


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