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Forrest: Howell Campaign is 'Freaking Out'

Gov. Bob McDonnell joins Republican state Senate candidate at Arlington fundraiser.

Gov. Bob McDonnell joined fellow Republican and state Senate candidate Patrick Forrest at an Arlington fundraiser Wednesday and said winning seats in Northern Virginia was key to turning the entire General Assembly over to the GOP.

Forrest, a former Homeland Security official, is seeking to oust incumbent Democratic state Sen. Janet Howell in the left-leaning 32nd Senate District.

“We’ve been making traction on her,” Forrest said. “And I know we’ve been making traction, because she’s been freaking out. She’s started to engage in some pretty unsavory, underhanded, old school political tactics. And we’re just not going to let her do it.”

Forrest’s campaign manager, Buck Cram, said it more plainly.

Cram accused Howell of spearheading a whisper campaign to discredit Forrest, telling people Forrest would push “the homosexual agenda.” Forrest is openly gay.

Cram said Howell was trying to tap into what she thought was Republican bigotry and it backfired.

The accusations have been flying for at least two weeks.

Earlier this month, Howell told the Washington Blade, “The only one who seems to be making (Forrest’s sexual orientation) an issue is Mr. Forrest himself.”

Howell Campaign Manager Nick Kowalski said in a phone interview that he wasn’t surprised the accusations were still being made.

“As far as what they are saying, we are not doing that. The 100 percent truth is we’re not talking about Patrick Forrest – period – whether it’s his sexual orientation or anything else. We’re talking about the issues we’ve heard people care about,” Kowalski said.

“Janet’s got a sterling record of supporting GLBT issues throughout her career, and that’s just not the kind of campaign that I run, and that’s not the kind of campaign that she runs.”

With low voter turnout expected, both camps will have to rely heavily on get-out-the-vote efforts. Forrest said Wednesday his team had knocked on 45,000 doors.

Forrest, in interviews and in front of crowds, paints himself as part of a wave of new energy that’s necessary to wipe out the old guard that engages in “politics as usual.”

“I’ve been incredibly open about my sexuality,” Forrest told Patch. “I’m running because we don’t have to be defined by that one issue. People try to define us by that one issue all the time. And that’s not the reason I decided to run in this race.”

He added: “The reason I decided to run is because I saw a politician in office in my opponent who has been a divisive member, who has not stood up for Northern Virginia. That’s why I got in. That’s what I’m still talking about. Is it the most politically beneficial strategy for me? Maybe it’s not. But that’s what it’s about for me. So if I make it about something else, then I’m becoming an opportunist.”

When asked, McDonnell – a potential running mate for the GOP’s eventual presidential nominee – said he didn’t think supporting an openly gay Republican would hurt him among social conservatives. The two .

“Patrick Forrest is all about creating jobs, controlling government spending, he’s a fiscal conservative. He has his finger, I think, on the pulse of what’s going on in the Fairfax and Arlington communities. And he’s, to me, a great messenger for the fiscal conservative message. And that’s what people care about right now,” McDonnell said. “So, I’m glad to be here supporting Patrick. He’s clearly energized the base up here. And in an election like this, grassroots means more than money and media.”

But the symbolism wasn’t lost on everyone.

“For the governor to make an appearance for a gay Senate candidate, that tells me the party is heading in the right direction,” said Larry Yontz, a former State Department employee and officer in the Virginia chapter of the Log Cabin Republicans.

“In Arlington, I feel like I have to be more of a closeted Republican than a closeted gay. I just really find that unacceptable. My basic political philosophy has two prongs: Stay out of my pocket, and stay out of my bedroom.”

R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of the national group of gay and lesbian Republicans, also attended the fundraiser.

Organizers estimated the event at the home of Ward and Debbie LeHardy in Arlington’s Woodmont community brought in between $20,000 and $30,000.

Republicans are hoping to build the momentum that began with McDonnell’s win two years ago in the state and local races that will be decided Nov. 8. Such momentum could help the GOP heading into next year’s presidential contest.

During his remarks, McDonnell looked out across a crowd just shy of 100 people and said he was glad to be a part of the “Occupy Arlington” movement.

“Boy, you guys look a lot better than you do on TV,” he said.

Afterward, Forrest said he appreciated the governor’s support but pointed out the two don’t see eye-to-eye on everything.

“I’m a Northern Virginian. I’d like to see a lot more revenue staying up here for our schools, for our transportation systems. His priority is an entire state,” he said.

“If I’m elected, and go to Richmond, we’ll probably butt heads, and I’ll butt heads with the Republican Party a little bit, because I’m going to be a tireless fighter for Northern Virginia. And that may not go well with some of the party bosses. But I’ve always been open about that fact. And I’m looking forward to going down there and being a strong voice and stirring it up with them.”

Laurie Dodd October 27, 2011 at 01:02 PM
I look at the candidates' stands on the issues and effectiveness in office before I vote; their sexual preference is simply not relevant. Janet Howell has been a most effective senator and holds key positions on the budget committee and public safety subcommittees in the Senate. The American Academy of Pediatrics named her National Child Advocate of the Year. I have seen her effectiveness throughout her years of public service. Her opponent, Patrick Forrest, has never held an elected position; his public service on the Fairfax County Textbook Review Committee of complaining that a Virginia textbook has "too much Marx" in it cannot compare to Howell’s track record. He claims that he will be an "independent" voice in the Senate, yet he walks in lock-step with the Republican Party establishment that has stonewalled Virginia's budget discussions. He does not belong in the Virginia Senate.
Catherine S. Read October 27, 2011 at 01:21 PM
The tactics being used here are standard GOP crap. The fact that the Patch would run such a lengthy story about it says more about titillating headlines and a quest for eyeballs than it does about journalistic investigative reporting. It's going to get ugly leading up to Nov. 8th and what Patrick Forrest lacks in political bona fides is going to be deflected by this red herring. I'm not impressed by what people "say" especially when what this entire article is base on is in fact "hearsay." Look at Janet Howells track record in the Senate and you will see where she stands on these issues. It's not about what people say, it's about what they DO! The Patch has done nothing more than to elevate a whisper campaign to National Enquirer style "news."
Richard Holmquist October 27, 2011 at 01:49 PM
That fundraiser sounds like the setting for a joke. "A man walks into a bar... there's a governor, a Mormon and a gay guy." In all seriousness, I would be a lot more comfortable with a Republican party that was so open and diverse. But it's not. Support for Forrest is support for the VA Republican hard-line conservatives. Janet Howell has a bulletproof record on these issues. Her seniority and leadership in the senate give her the extraordinary ability to prevail on the issues that are important to Restonians. If it's GLBT issues that are important to you, defense of women & children, or the hot topics of the day like keeping the tolls down on Rt. 267, Janet's the one who'll come through for you like she always has, not this newcomer.
Private Person October 27, 2011 at 02:11 PM
One ought to look in the mirror when one confronts intolerance. A certain, herein unnamed, "bleeding-heart liberal" has been known to be shamelessly intolerant of anyone who dares question the noted liberal's approach to spending others' money -- particularly when the majority of those opposed the liberal's self-serving agenda. Shame on the self-serving bleeding-heart liberal!
Steve Henderson October 27, 2011 at 04:43 PM
What would you expect from a desperate career politician like Janet Howell? This is a person who gerrymandered every district in the state just to avoid Caren Merrick. As a result, localities have to pay tens of thousands of dollars for split precincts. This is nothing more than business-as-usual, win-at-all-costs politics. This voter is happy to throw Janet out on November 8th.
Megan Zerfas October 27, 2011 at 06:13 PM
To me, the attacks towards Patrick Forrest and his campaign have been nothing more then the typical Democrat tactic of 'change the subject and attack'. As painfully shown in their debates, Senator Howell is ignorant on many issues facing Northern Virginia. This is unacceptable. For someone who has been in her position, as long as she has, she should be aware of what her District needs and how her decisions will effect everyone. Instead of being prepared to defend her actions and opinions, she and her campaign, have lowered themselves to using gutter political tactics and attack a good man's personal life. I find it severely hypocritical of a Democrat to be attacking someone for their sexuality and trying to make it a campaign issue, when they tout themselves as the party of 'Acceptance and Civility'.
Private Person October 27, 2011 at 06:58 PM
And you will have a lot of company helping you throw them out of office. Enough is enough!
Private Person October 27, 2011 at 07:00 PM
Her behavior has been embarrassing to all -- absolutely disgusting and shameful.
Barbara Glakas October 27, 2011 at 08:03 PM
I recommend that people do read the article in the Washington Blade entitled: “Gay Republican Accuses Dem of Gay-baiting in Va.” It sounds like that’s all this is – an accusation. Janet Howell has a strong record on civil rights, including gay rights, and is endorsed by gay organizations, such as Equality Virginia. The Washington Blade article sheds a lot more light on these accusations then this Patch article and its subsequent comments do. My take is that Mr. Forrest seems to be the one fanning the flames here.
Jason Spencer (Editor) October 27, 2011 at 09:12 PM
Just so it's clear, the link in the story that references the Washington Blade takes you to the Blade article that a few readers have mentioned in their comments. You can also find the Blade story here: http://tinyurl.com/3we8tpg
Laurie Dodd October 27, 2011 at 09:47 PM
Yes, just an accusation, saying that someone who claimed to be acting in Howell's behalf mentioned Forrest's same-sex relationship as a reason not to support him. There is nothing to show that Howell knew or approved of this communication. That claim is not enough to convince me that Howell has done anything wrong, in light of her record of support for civil rights for all. Candidates cannot be held responsible for all who claim to be working on their behalf.
Sharron Wubbels October 28, 2011 at 12:28 AM
This entire accusation is out of character for Janet Howell. It's a sorry thing when you put your sexual orientation out there to win an election. If that is all Forrest has a claim to fame, it is sad.
Judy Barton October 28, 2011 at 09:01 PM
Are you kidding me? Shame on Mr. Forrest? It takes courage to stand up homophobes. While I expected homophobia and hate from Republicans, I cannot stand by and allow Senator Howell's promotion of homophobia as a tool to get elected to be rewarded. She should be ashamed of herself. Why would she tell Sen. Obenshain that Mr. Forrest has a same sex partner if not to try to keep the Senator from supporting him? It took decades for the Democratic Party to truly deliver for Gays and Lebians, and the fact that Patrick Forrest is showing the courage to take up this fight is commendable.
Judy Barton October 28, 2011 at 09:07 PM
If you read the article in the Wahington Blade you will see that there is the recording that makes it very clear that promoting homophobia as a tactic for reelection was being used. Then the question we must all ask Senator Howell is why did she tell Senator Obenshain that Mr. Forrest has a same sex partner? If this is unimportant then why approach one of the most conservative senators and tell him that. She proves that tis tactic was being used and it is shameful!
Private Person October 28, 2011 at 09:11 PM
It's not an accusation --- read the article in the Blade: If you read the article in the Washington Blade you will see that there is the recording that makes it very clear that promoting homophobia as a tactic for reelection was being used. *** Then the question we must all ask Senator Howell is why did she tell Senator Obenshain that Mr. Forrest has a same sex partner? ***
Will Radle October 28, 2011 at 10:04 PM
Our community stands united for equality. Sexual orientation is not an election issue. I stand today to give voice to our community's highest values and to invest in our highest priorities. Vote on Tuesday, November 8. A. Will Radle, Jr. Independent Candidate for Chairman, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors FairfaxAdvocates@gmail.com http://YouTube.com/WillRadle1
Ann H Csonka October 28, 2011 at 10:20 PM
Why would these Republicans contend that Janet Howell is conducting, or condones, a whisper campaign against a challenger? . . . or would be “freaking out”? This is simply not her style! Are these folks from another planet? Do Mr. Forrest’s implausible accusations come from a “Homeland Security mindset”? …from ignorance of Richmond realities? …or from just not knowing Howell? We’ve known and voted for Janet Howell for 20 years because she cares about the WHOLE community, including championing issues important to LGBTQs. She is noted for competence, persistence, honesty and working with others, including across the aisle in Richmond! Her effectiveness is enhanced by influential committee assignments in the Senate. Sen. Howell has been divisive? Wow! ...only in some Republican (or gubernatorial?) fantasy that resents a strong Democrat who stands her ground against extremism. Yontz said “For the governor to make an appearance for a gay Senate candidate… the party is heading in the right direction.” Really? or is it Gov. McDonnell's typical crafty politics to disguise a regressive agenda? Janet is dedicated to people, education, health & safety and the environment that Virginia’s economic vitality depends upon. She has no time to attack individuals. Senator Howell doesn’t have “new energy”—but she definitely has PROVEN ENERGY and is a force for rational decision-making and progressive values. AHC & John M. De Noyer, Herndon
Will Radle October 28, 2011 at 10:33 PM
If Senator Howell supports progressive values, does she oppose lowering our investment in education, increasing classroom sizes, shrinking the number of affordable homes, and decreasing library hours? Does she oppose reducing the take home pay of teachers, firefighters, paramedics, police officers and sheriff deputies every year for the past three years? I do. I stand today to give voice to our community's highest values and to invest in our highest priorities. Vote on Tuesday, November 8. A. Will Radle, Jr. Independent Candidate for Chairman, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors FairfaxAdvocates@gmail.com http://YouTube.com/WillRadle1
Private Person October 28, 2011 at 11:05 PM
OPEN your EYES; stop with the moronic, defusing rhetoric; and READ the article in the Blade. The senator did what she did: ...Then the question we must all ask Senator Howell is *** why did she tell Senator Obenshain that Mr. Forrest has a same sex partner? ***
Will Radle October 29, 2011 at 01:32 AM
Presume you are replying to Ann. I am listening and taking responsible action. Sadly, there are bigots in both major political parties and we all know it. Together we will confront it when we see it. Shame. I stand today to give voice to our community’s highest values and to invest in our highest priorities. Vote on Tuesday, November 8. A. Will Radle, Jr. Independent Candidate for Chairman, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors FairfaxAdvocates@gmail.com http://YouTube.com/WillRadle1
Colleen Murphy October 29, 2011 at 07:24 AM
I have a few questions: 1. Concerning sexual orientation, does Patrick Forrest hate women? 2. Maybe the real controversy is that in the land that is supposed to be "for Lovers," it is a real shame Patrick Forrest can only have a same sex partner. Instead, he should be able to have a same sex SPOUSE, legally married, with all the rights and privileges. 3. What does "We’ve been making traction on her" mean? Sounds violent. 4. Why WOULD the Virginia GOP support an openly gay candidate?
Barbara Glakas October 29, 2011 at 02:01 PM
Like “Private Person,” I also encourage people to read the whole Blade article because it will show that the recorded remarks that “Private Person” refers to is of an intoxicated campaign volunteer that Janet Howell doesn’t even know, not remarks by Janet herself. It will also show that Sen. Howell was not running around telling people that Mr. Forrest should not be supported because he is gay – something Mr. Forrest himself asserted in the article. Rather, when speaking with the Blade, Obenshain said Howell had said that the Republican Party seemed to be running a “Republican-In-Name-Only” candidate, based on several reasons. In Virginia it is well-known that the Republicans have taken many anti-gay stances. I am sorry that “Private Person” sees Ann Csonka’s opinion as being “moronic.” Both Ann and I know Janet Howell personally and have worked with her on a variety of issues and we know, first hand, that she is a strong supporter of civil rights, including LBGT issues.
Private Person October 29, 2011 at 02:14 PM
I am sorry that you, too, are diffusing and distorting the facts. Which, in this case, the fact is as stated at least six times now: *** why did she (Howell) tell Senator Obenshain that Mr. Forrest has a same sex partner? *** I know Howell, too, and, her act disgusts me.
Sharron Wubbels October 29, 2011 at 05:39 PM
Please take me off your mailing list for the time being. This is being used for a political forum and much of it is not based on fact.
Karen Goff October 29, 2011 at 06:32 PM
Sharron - only you can control that. Click the "Stop following" button at the bottom of the story and you will no longer get emails when people respond to the story.
Mark Blacknell October 29, 2011 at 09:31 PM
This is relevant to my interests. I would like to subscribe to your newsletter.
Eric John October 30, 2011 at 06:00 AM
It is very sad to me that so many of you are naive to the fact that homophobia exists and that people from both political parties use it for their gain. Sen. Howell did not stay in the VA Senate for 20 YEARS by always playing nice and staying above politics. Lets be all be honest for just one second...she is a political operative like the rest of them. I would be surprised if she didn't take advantage of this opportunity for her own political self interest. She is not a saint or a social worker...she is a politician! Wake up kids. I'm not saying vote for Forrest but we do see Howell for what she is... an operative who wins at whatever costs. For God sakes, she did the exact same thing when she redrew the entire State Senate drawing out her previous opponent Caren Merrick and McLean, to ensure her own reelection. This is not your grandmother. She is a seasoned pro who does what it takes to win. Is promoting homophobia this really beyond her? Ha! come on....
Barbara Glakas October 30, 2011 at 10:17 AM
Eric: I don't think we are naïve just because we disagree with your point of view. No one is claiming that homophobia doesn't exit (it certainly does) and no one is claiming that Senator Howell is a social worker or some kind of saint. But I also don't believe that it is true that any politician who has been in office for any length of time is inherently dishonest (or “a political operative like all the rest” as you say). Nor do I necessarily believe that all gay politicians are inherently saints or honest, just because they are gay. It cuts both ways. All I have to go on are my experiences with Senator Howell, and those have been good.
Judy Barton October 30, 2011 at 11:55 AM
Ok enough. Its clear that senator howell did it and its shameful. But we should be focused on issues and qualifications and I think we are lucky to have two genuinely highly qualified candidates. Neither of them is an extremist. I recommend we look at the rctv28 debate. After watching that debate, I have decided to back forrest based on his ideas and command of the issues. We should be discussing issues here. Part of the problem with politicians that stay in office so long is that although good people they end up Using these kind of tactics to stay in power. At least we are lucky to have a choice. Not a Jeff Frederick or a Tim mcghee option like our neighbors do.
Will Radle October 30, 2011 at 04:56 PM
Are you saying you do not trust Howell? To me, integrity remains the most important asset we possess in politics and in life. A. Will Radle, Jr. Independent Candidate for Chairman, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors FairfaxAdvocates@gmail.com http://YouTube.com/WillRadle1

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