Just over two years ago, when I first read that Patrick Guerriero was talking over Log Cabin, I contacted my friends who were still involved in the organization and asked about LCR’s new leader. To a person, they replied that he was personable and engaging and that he was making an effort to reach out to the leaders of the various clubs across the nation. I heard the same thing from those who had supported his predecessor as well as those who had criticized him.
Meeting (and observing) Patrick this weekend in New Orleans, I confirmed the comments of my friends. Before we met, I watched him interact with the people at the convention. He shook their hands enthusiastically (or hugged them warmly) and looked into their eyes when he spoke to them.
I introduced myself to him Saturday afternoon at a fundraising reception for LCR members running for office. Earlier in the day, this blog had broken the story of the lawsuit against him. And yet, when he heard my name, he knew who I was — and still greeted me warmly. He did not fault (or otherwise show any disregard for) me. I was impressed how he maintained his cool while talking to someone who has frequently criticized his leadership. He came across as a genuinely nice guy who seemed to take criticism in stride.
From that point on, I became impressed with his political savvy, indeed, found him to be one of only a handful of gay leaders with such impressive political skills. In his remarks, he acknowledged club leaders as well as the LCR staff, making clear that he knew he could not accomplish his goals without their efforts.
That said, he appears to be an “organization man,” working to build his organization, but careful not to ruffle any feathers. He is not a risk-taker, one who would be willing to challenge some of the silly nostrums spouted by other leaders of gay & lesbian organizations. I fear he will not lead the effort to consider whether there is a conservative view on gay issues which differs from that of the “mainstream” gay groups.
But, because this “organization man” does recognize that his organization is more than just the national board, he has worked with clubs to a degree club presidents only dreamed about when I was one. Since 1998 at least, club presidents had been clamoring to create the position of National Field Director (or something similar) to promote club development and to help establish new clubs. In selecting Jeff Cook for this post, Patrick has delegated an important task to a very competent individual.
I was impressed on Saturday when Patrick interrupted the session to announce the death of Pope John Paul II. Other gay leaders might balk at asking for a moment of silence for a man whose stance on homosexuality is troubling (to say the least). But, Patrick recognized that despite the Pope’s flaws, many at the convention, including your humble blogger, recognized his many accomplishments and would want to know his fate.
While I was impressed with how Patrick delegated many convention responsibilities — and honors — to LCR staff and club leaders, I was, however, concerned that he never praised President Bush. He did not acknowledge the president’s mixed record on gays nor praise him directly for his leadership in the War on Terror.
I wondered if his political education in Massachusetts where politics differ greatly from those of most other states, especially those where our party is strong, muted his enthusiasm for the GOP’s standard bearer.
I come away with New Orleans with a largely positive view of Patrick Guerriero. He is a genuinely nice guy who clearly has the leadership skills and political savvy to run a membership-based gay organization. He has, however, not yet proven to me his commitment to the GOP, nor shown a willingness to take on the hate-filled anti-Bush and anti-Republican rhetoric which prevails in many gay circles, nor to consider a new direction for a gay activism.
LCR should be grateful that HRC’s executive director selection committee included only one Republican (but a Republican who contributed only to Democratic candidates). Else, they would have realized that Patrick Guerriero is better suited to head their supposedly bipartisan organization than a Democrat who, for the past twelve years, worked to elect pro-choice Democratic women to office. Patrick has proven that he can work with sympathetic Republicans as well as Democratic gay activists. Now, he needs to show that he can work with a broader base of Republican activists, leaders and elected officials.
-Dan (AKA GayPatriotWest): GayPatriotWest@aol.com