House District 52 candidates seek GLBT vote

Nashville voters will go to the polls beginning July 18 (for an August 7 election) to elect, among many of the spots on the ballot, a new representative for the Tennessee House to represent District 52.

District 52 stretches from Madison/Inglewood/East Nashville and runs along the east side of downtown to Green Hills, then jumps deep into South Nashville. It’s a large district with a heavy GLBT population (covering zip codes 37206, 37216, 37204, 37215).

Eric Stansell and Mike Stewart – both Democrats – have run a good race for the seat of former state representative Rob Briley.

Both candidates have sought the GLBT vote and appear that they will well represent our community.

Out & About Newspaper has taken the unique stance of endorsing both candidates. We think our readers will be well served by either candidate and we encourage you to read their answers to questions we submitted, talk with the candidates and make an educated vote.

O&AN: What do you want the GLBT community to know about you?

Stansell: From the very beginning of my campaign, I have expressed my desire to represent everyone in the district as best as I can, regardless of their geographic location, socioeconomic status, race, sex or sexual orientation.  The central message of my campaign has always been that I want to start the process of restoring the People’s faith in government by giving average citizens a voice, rather than just listening to a few wealthy individuals and corporate interests.  I have promised to listen to and work with those who feel that they have not been heard in the past and feel marginalized.  Ultimately, I think that my desire to make certain that everyone is heard should be very desirable to the GLBT community and exactly the kind of representative that is needed in our state legislature.
I would also note that I was the only candidate for public office or current officeholder who had a booth at the Nashville Pride Marketplace last month.  Some who are seeking office have suggested that they, too, were in attendance, but I was the only person who went so far as to actually set up a booth and make myself available to speak with anyone who wished to come by and talk with me.  I think that this should evidence my commitment to listening to and working with the GLBT community to improve our district, city and state.

Stewart: I have walked door to door speaking directly with voters in the 52nd district almost everyday since early April. My campaign has about 500 yard sign locations and support for my candidacy is growing. I have received endorsements from CWA and MNEA publicly, with others committed privately. The campaign team has held coffees in all parts of the district in an effort to connect with voters who may wish to speak with me (no fundraising at these events). My campaign has raised about $75k to date. I have a campaign manager and a data professional. I have numerous supporters including five district council members that know my dedication to this district, good public policy, and care for people from all walks of life. I have voted consistently for Democrats for many, many years and given time to Democratic candidates (including travel to Florida and Iowa for John Kerry and Al Gore). Both my campaign manager and I spent time talking with attendees at the recent Pride Festival at Centennial Park.

How do you feel about a ban on gay couples from adopting children?

Stansell: In my mind, the only question that should be asked when discussing the adoption of any child is “What is in the best interests of the child?”  Presently, there are more children waiting to be adopted than there are couples wishing to adopt such children, and there is no doubt that permanent placement in a loving home—whether with heterosexual or homosexual parents—is preferable to temporary placements or staying in a state facility.  As such, I would strongly oppose any attempts to ban unmarried, cohabitating couples from adopting children in the State’s custody.

Stewart: I would have strongly opposed the 2008 legislation to ban adoption by gay couples. I believe that all loving families should be able to adopt children in need of care. I, myself, am adopted and my wife and I have one adopted son.

Would you support a hospital visitation bill that would allow a person to be a part of what the hospital considers “part of your family”?

If the question is whether or not an adult should be able to designate an individual not legally related by marriage or blood to be considered an immediate family member, then I would definitely support such legislation.

Stewart: Yes.

What would you do to strengthen laws to protect the GLBT community from hate crimes?

Stansell: Before strengthening laws to protect the GLBT community from hate crimes, I would seek data to see whether or not the present laws were being properly enforced.  In my mind, there is little need to “strengthen” laws if the laws are not being properly enforced.  If the empirical data and anecdotal evidence should suggest that enforcement might not be adequate and/or relatively uniform law enforcement were not enforcing the statutes statewide as intended by the legislature, I would seek legislation the would require better enforcement by tying future funding to metrics that measure proper enforcement.
If/when I were satisfied that the present laws were being enforced properly and sentencing being carried out according to the law, I would work with the GLBT community to identify areas in which the law might need to be changed and work to affect changes where needed.  For instance, it has come to my attention that there appears to be a need to pass legislation that would add the category of gender identity for sentencing enhancement in Tennessee’s hate crimes statute, and I would vote for such legislation if it comes up for a vote.

Stewart: Crimes based on personal qualities are an extremely serious threat to our society and should be specifically addressed in our criminal code. I would be very open to discussion on legislation to address this problem.

Would you support a move by the state to add a non-discrimination policy to protect GLBT state employees?

I would vote for legislation that would add a non-discrimination policy to protect GLBT state employees.

Stewart: Yes.

Do you want the endorsement of Out & About Newspaper?

Stansell: Yes.  I would appreciate the endorsement of Out & About Newspaper, as I believe that it would show those within the GLBT community, as well as those not directly associated with the community, that I am the kind of person who would work to represent every person in the district, regardless of their respective backgrounds.

Stewart: Yes. I would appreciate your support very much.

In what part of town do you live and how long have you lived there?

Stansell: I live in East Nashville on Cahal Avenue, near the Nashville Auto Diesel College.  I have lived in my present home for almost four years, and I lived in the downtown area for two years before moving to my present home.

Stewart: East Nashville. We have lived on 16th Street since 1994.

Additional information offered optionally:

Stansell: I am presently single and have no children

Stewart: I am married to my wife, Ruth, and we have three children – Will (13), Joseph (4) and Eve (2). Will attends public school and we are members of East End United Methodist Church. Ruth is a family physician at Meharry Medical College and VU. I am a UT law grad and practicing attorney, veteran, and former neighborhood association president. I am a long-time resident of District 52 and very dedicated to our city and state. I hope to continue to work for our city and state as a state legislator.

urges readers to head to the polls.Early voting runs July 18 through August 2 at Davidson County Election Commission Metro Office Building (Next to Howard Office Building) 800 2nd Avenue South.

Friday, July 18 - 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Saturday, July 19 - 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Monday, July 21 - 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Tuesday, July 22 - 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Wednesday, July 23 - 8 a.m. To 6 p.m.
Thursday, July 24 - 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Friday, July 25 - 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Saturday, July 26 - 9:00 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Monday, July 28 - 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008 - 8 a.m.  to 8 p.m.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008 - 8 a.m.  to 6 p.m.
Thursday, July 31, 2008 - 8 a.m.  to 8 p.m.
Friday, August 1, 2008 - 8 a.m.  to 6 p.m.
Saturday, August 2, 2008 - 8 a.m.  to 3 p.m.

The following early voting sites will be open for the last five (5) days, July 29 through August 2.

•    Belle Meade City Hall, 4705 Harding Road
•    Bordeaux Library, 4000 Clarksville Pike
•    Edmondson Pike Library, 5501 Edmondson Pike
•    Madison Library, 610 Gallatin Pike South

Those sites will be open the following dates and times:
Tuesday, July 29 - 8:00 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Wednesday, July 30 - 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Thursday, July 31, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Friday, August 1, - 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Saturday, August 2 - 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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