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It's Not a Gay Thing

LeFavour passes on Senate run

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Idaho's only openly gay lawmaker will not seek to replace Idaho's most not-openly-gay U.S. senator in 2008.

But the gay thing does not have much to do with it.

State Rep. Nicole LeFavour has been pondering a run for Larry Craig's Senate seat since before the Craig airport bathroom sex story broke, back when rumors of Craig's sexual orientation were still confined to Boise cocktail parties and the blogosphere.

As the Craig story unfolded, LeFavour was thrilled that the dominant storyline became, "I don't care if he's gay—I just don't like that he's been so dishonest."

That attitude, and a decade of working on gay and lesbian issues in Idaho, encouraged her: Maybe Idahoans were willing to elect an openly gay politician. But a statewide poll she fielded during Thanksgiving week convinced her not to run. "This is a really tough race," LeFavour said.

Lt. Gov. Jim Risch and Democrat Larry LaRocco are already campaigning for Craig's seat. Risch is a well-known candidate across the state, but LeFavour said LaRocco has a shot and has been putting in the time and raising money.

She called LaRocco a week ago to tell him she was not going to enter the race. But the poll confirmed much of what LeFavour has been saying for months: Idahoans really don't care if Craig is gay.

Sixty-six percent of respondents agreed that they were much more upset that Craig was dishonest than that he may be gay. And only 15 to 18 percent said that the Craig situation had an effect on their view of gay people, either more or less favorably.

"They do not see Larry Craig's situation as a reflection on gay people generally, either positively or negatively," LeFavour said.

Andrew Myers of Myers Research and Strategic Services, a Virginia-based Democratic polling firm, put a series of questions to 600 likely Idaho voters. Along with questions about partisan politics and LeFavour's statewide name recognition, the poll also measured whether homosexuality should be accepted or discouraged by society. While 44 percent of respondents went for "discouraged," 38 percent said it should be accepted.

LeFavour said that while voter opinions of her were affected by a statement that she was "Idaho's first openly gay elected official," it was not by a large margin and actually helped her in some parts of the state.

Questions designed to paint her as a radical on issues like abortion and the war in Iraq were tougher for people to swallow, she said.

The poll also found that younger voters and baby boomers are more open to voting for gay candidates; that the more frequently one attends church, the more negative views one holds of homosexuality, and that voters with higher levels of schooling are more accepting of homosexuality.

LeFavour shared portions of her poll with BW this week, saving some of the more partisan data for her partisans.

She said she is happy to continue to serve in the state Legislature for the foreseeable future: "I still have goals to fix things."

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