Pataki Hails Victory of Gay Republican Mayor
Matt Smith, Ottaway News Service
(ALBANY, NY) – Gov. George Pataki on Wednesday called the election of Dan Stewart a "great win" that signals social progress within the Republican Party.
And gay activists called Stewart's victory a "historic milestone" that could play a significant role in "shattering stereotypes."
Tuesday's mayoral victory in Plattsburgh by an openly gay Republican candidate over a 10-year Democratic incumbent is causing waves far outside the city limits.
On a statewide level, it was viewed Wednesday by high-ranking Republicans as one of the more impressive Election Day victories for the GOP party.
"Tremendous!" is how an elated state Sen. Ronald Stafford (R-Plattsburgh) characterized the win.
And on a national level, lesbian and gay activists say Stewart's victory shows that sexual orientation is no longer the barrier to community acceptance that it once was in conservative small-town America.
In other words, Stewart's win over Mayor Clyde Rabideau is not only about politics, but progress, too.
When Stewart takes office on Jan. 1, he will become the state's first openly gay mayor.
"I think it was a great win," the governor said Wednesday. "Dan has a great vision for Plattsburgh. He understands not just the future, but he also has a sense of Plattsburgh's history.
"When you think about the incredible history of Plattsburgh, it's a positive thing that they can build on, and I am just very pleased that he won."
Pataki said Stewart's win may be "a real surprise" to people who weren't keeping an eye on his mayoral campaign.
"But to those of us that we're following the race, we knew that Dan was working hard. He had a credible record on the City Council. I thought he had a real shot."
And, Pataki said, it was an important win for the GOP in terms of moving the party forward socially.
"I've been saying all along that the Republican Party is an inclusive, open and tolerant party," the governor said. "The fact that Dan is openly gay, I think, is not going to affect, in any way, his ability to govern the city.
"He is going to be an effective mayor because of his understanding and commitment to the people of Plattsburgh," Pataki said. "But it does send a message also that this is an open, tolerant and inclusive party."
The governor said Republicans now need to build off Stewart's win and work even harder to reach out to minority groups.
"We did that very successfully across the state this year, and it yielded tremendous results," said Pataki, pointing not only to Stewart, but also to the victories of African-American and Hispanic GOP candidates downstate.
Meanwhile, Sloan Wiesen, spokesman for the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, said Stewart's "historic" election is a "huge victory for merit triumphing over prejudice."
Wiesen said his group is especially happy that Stewart's victory took place in a small, "middle-America type town," rather than in a large city.
"It's a huge sign of progress," Wiesen said. "And it should go a long way toward shattering stereotypes."