Running from Office
Can a Staffer for an Anti-Gay Senator Get Elected in Seattle?
Two months after Paull Shin became one of only three Democratic state senators to vote against marriage equality in Washington State, Shin's legislative aide, Evan Clifthorne, is mounting a run for the legislature—in Seattle's 36th District, one of the most gay-loving, über-liberal spots in Washington.
Will the voters of this lefty district view Clifthorne's work for an anti-gay senator as a deal breaker?
"It's a very interesting question," says Democratic representative Reuven Carlyle, who's been representing the 36th since 2008 and hasn't yet endorsed anyone in what is currently a seven-person race for the seat being vacated by retiring representative Mary Lou Dickerson. "In a race like this, in the most educated district in the state, obviously every single nuance is incredibly important."
Clifthorne, 28, says that he hopes working for Shin won't hurt him: "I hope that people in the 36th District will be able to understand that I took a job with Senator Shin because I'm passionate about public policy. And while I disagree with him on certain social issues, the vast majority of our beliefs and ideals lined up."
Did Clifthorne try to convince Shin, who represents the 21st District around Edmonds, to vote for gay marriage?
Clifthorne declines to answer, citing confidentiality between the lawmaker and his staff, but he will say that he personally has "always" supported marriage equality.
That support for marriage equality didn't stop Clifthorne from signing on to work for Shin two years ago, after Shin voted against the 2009 "everything but marriage" expansion of domestic partnership rights.
"When I first started working for him, marriage equality and his record on the issue was not something that was at the forefront of my mind," Clifthorne explains. But this year, when it became clear Shin was going to vote against gay marriage, Clifthorne says he thought about resigning. In the end, he didn't.
Says Carlyle: "People understand that you can't make every single issue something that you fall on the sword for. But this is a pretty big issue... I think that it opens the door to a certain level of difficulty for him because it's easy for him to be somewhat trapped in a bit of perpetual motion of explaining the issue."