[Guest post by DRJ]
Republican North Carolina Senator Elizabeth Dole’s term expires in 2008 and she is currently favored to win re-election. Jim Neal, a wealthy former Wall Street investor, has announced he will run for her seat in the Democratic primary. Sen. Charles Schumer, head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, is lukewarm on Neal’s candidacy.
“Former Wall Street investor Jim Neal of Chapel Hill announced he was running for the U.S. Senate. N.C. Sen. Kay Hagan of Greensboro declared a week later that she was not running for the U.S. Senate. Both are Democrats. Guess which one received a phone call from U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, who heads the Democratic Party’s efforts to recruit Senate candidates?
Schumer and the national Democrats, who boast of their party’s inclusiveness, effectively ignored Neal, who is openly gay. After he announced his campaign in October, he telephoned Schumer. The call wasn’t returned. Neal was the first Democrat to step up to challenge Republican U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole. Instead, Schumer, of New York, called Hagan, who had taken herself out of the race, and encouraged her to jump back in. She later did.
Schumer’s action could be explained by the fact that Hagan, 54, is a known quantity, a nine-year veteran of the state Senate and co-chair of the powerful appropriations committee. Her gender likely would help her in a contest against another woman, Sen. Dole.
Neal, however, falls into a coveted category of candidates: self-funder, someone who will sink a chunk of his own wealth into the race. Such candidates typically get at least a courtesy meeting from their party’s national political committees, particularly in the state where former U.S. Sen. John Edwards showed that an unknown with a lot of money can succeed.
Neal, 50, and others suggest that the fact that he is gay drove the actions of the Democratic Senate committee and other leaders of a party that criticizes Republicans for their anti-gay rights platform.
Schumer and the Democratic senatorial committee declined to comment for this story, spokesman Matt Miller said.”
Schumer apparently wouldn’t even meet with Neal:
“A former staffer at the national Democratic Senate committee said he was surprised Schumer didn’t at least meet with Neal. The gay community has reliably contributed to Democrats, said the former staffer, who asked not to be identified because he still deals with committee staff.
“The knee-jerk reaction is — and probably is the right reaction — that an openly gay person running for statewide office in North Carolina, even in the 21st century, is likely problematic,” the former staffer said.”
Sometimes politics and ideology are at odds. In the Senate, politics usually wins.