Gay Republican Victory in New York

Mayor-Elect Dan Stewart of Plattsburgh Makes History as First Openly Gay Mayor in Empire State – Had Strong Backing of Governor George Pataki

November 3, 1999 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Blogger Tumblr

(WASHINGTON, DC) – In a major upset, openly gay Republican Dan Stewart defeated 10-year Democratic incumbent Clyde Rabideau to become Mayor of Plattsburgh, New York – the first openly gay mayor in the history of New York State.

At a raucous victory party at the American Legion headquarters in Plattsburgh, Stewart thanked his supporters for helping him make history, reminding the voters that his campaign was about their concerns: "The theme of my campaign was about bringing in new ideas," he said. "We won because we dealt with the issues."

Stewart has trailed Rabideau earlier in the campaign, but steadily hammered away at the incumbent, closing the gap in the final weeks, while stressing his own plans to reform the city government. He won by a margin of about 100 votes, with over 5,000 cast. Between 100 and 130 absentee ballots remain to be counted, but are not expected to change the outcome, leading Rabideau to concede defeat and congratulate Stewart.

Stewart also had the strong support of Republican Governor George Pataki, who made a high-profile visit to Plattsburgh last week to campaign for the openly gay candidate. Stewart had the strong financial backing of both the Log Cabin Republicans and the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund.

"We are very proud of Dan Stewart, and everything that his campaign and his victory represent," said Rich Tafel, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans. "He is an honest man who ran a good campaign, and he sent a message to Republicans across the nation that reaching out to gay Americans wins elections. We applaud Governor Pataki for his strong support for Dan in this important race, and for setting a positive example for other Republican leaders to follow."

Stewart's victory may also have helped overturned the Democratic majority on the city's Common Council. One Republican challenger defeated a Democrat incumbent, and another GOP challenger may win a razor-thin victory on absentee ballots. Should the GOP pick up both seats, the Republicans will have elected a Republican mayor and captured a 4-2 majority in this previously Democrat-dominated city. The Stewart-led GOP ticket's gains in Clinton County were a key indicator for Republicans looking to win statewide in the critical 2000 elections, and sent a message to Republican presidential candidates who want to carry New York that gays play a significant role in the state's electorate, even in the farthest upstate communities.

Voters also made it clear that being openly gay did not hinder, and may have helped Stewart's winning campaign. One woman with two small children leaving a voting booth told the Plattsburgh Press-Republican: "I like the things he said and the way he's handled the gay issue." A middle-aged Republican man who voted for Stewart praised his honesty: "Dan tells it like it is, and he will be dedicated to the job."

Stewart stressed that his support from national gay organizations, and the network of political contacts he has built through it, will actually help Plattsburgh in the long run while he's at the helm: "I think it will bring something because my access at the state and federal level is very extensive."