He knew he would be facing a bitter anti-gay campaign. Divine Fury. Chapter 26
February 7, 2013
HARRY BLOUNT HAD pondered exactly how Chapman’s forces would attack the gay issue. He figured they eventually would employ fear tactics. In his idle time, he’d already strategized a defense to what he viewed as the most likely line of attack – that the election of a gay governor would remove any final social taboo to homosexuality. There would be an epidemic of gayness and lesbianism. Gay vs. straight would be a casual choice, like wool vs. cotton, or sneakers vs. flip flops.
So, he was taken aback when he saw even before the primary election that would formally set Harper and Chapman onto a November collision course the first signs of a multipronged strategy that was both more subtle and, potentially, much more ruthless than he had expected.
The first indications were the photos of Harper that appeared on Chapman’s campaign website. The page was entitled: “Andrew Harper – Out of Step with California.” There were several paragraphs that covered Harper’s main policies on such topics as the state’s economy, environment, law enforcement and budget.
Beneath each topical paragraph were four to six photos. Half matched the theme of the paragraph: mountains and lakes for the environment; a line of police officers and a fireman’s hat for law enforcement, etc.
But the other photos were of Harper. They seemed to have no connection to the political topic. Each showed Harper in the company of other men – mostly young – or boys. There was Harper out on a mountain bike with a fellow rider next to him who looked to be in his 20s. There was Harper in a kayak with a young man seated behind him. Blount knew the fellow kayaker was a third-year associate from Harper’s law firm and the event had been a firm retreat at Lake Tahoe.
There was a photo of Harper with Blount, both wearing formal wear and emerging from a limousine. Blount recognized it as the annual San Francisco Symphony Ball. One photo was of Harper in a swimming pool holding an 8-year-old boy in his arms. Both were streaming with water and laughing. Blount recognized the boy as his own nephew, Jamie, and knew that seconds later Harper had tossed Jamie into the deep end of the pool. The photo was from the Maui trip he and Harper had taken last summer with Blount’s younger sister Suzie and her family.
When he finished viewing the photos, Blount’s heart was pounding. He was disgusted but nervous as well. It reminded him of how he felt in high school in the locker room minutes before the start of an important game during his undistinguished football career. He knew he and Harper would soon be taking some big hits and there was no guarantee what the outcome would be.
Then, there were the two initiatives. Petition drives had just started with the intent of collecting the several hundred thousand signatures to get both on the November ballot. The committees backing the initiatives had innocuous names and were headed by political neophytes. Blount knew, though, that Chapman and his supporters were behind them. And, with the use of paid signature collectors, getting measures on the ballot was really a check-writing exercise.
One measure was to guarantee gays and lesbians the right to civil unions by amending the California constitution The second was to give heterosexual couples priority in the adoption of any children in the custody of California or its county governments.
Both were ingenious.
The civil union measure was superfluous because such arrangements were already authorized under state law and court cases had made it clear the state constitution already guaranteed the civil unions. However, Chapman could oppose it saying the proposed constitutional change fixed a problem that didn’t exist. He could be neutral on the actual question of whether civil unions were good and just stick to the question of whether a constitutional amendment was overkill.
For Harper, it was similar to dealing with a second freedom of religion amendment. How could he oppose it even if it weren’t necessary? The measure wasn’t truly designed to accomplish anything other than to have a gay-related issue on the ballot in November with just enough controversy around it – even if it was an esoteric issue of more interest to legal scholars than the voting public – to force Harper to talk about gay rights at every campaign stop.
Similarly, the adoption measure had little significance. Almost all adoptions through the state or counties involved older kids or children with disabilities. They were kids that the state or county begged any eligible parent to adopt. Most healthy newborns were adopted privately or came from foreign countries where poverty, war or limits on family size made such children available.
Still, the adoption measure would be an emotionally charged topic even if it had no practical effect. And, having to address it would just remind voters again and again of the fact that Harper was gay.
Harper’s campaign was already reeling from the missteps and accompanying media scrutiny. Blount had spent more than 20 years managing campaigns ranging from small city elections to the U.S. Senate. His experience told him that the string of problems plaguing Harper’s campaign was more than coincidence.
The sophistication and deviousness of Chapman’s anti-gay strategy just confirmed Blount’s suspicion: Someone new and very formidable was calling the shots on the other side. What really worried Blount was that he had no idea who it was.
Chapters of the serial are published Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.
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