In Turnaround, Bush Says He'd Meet With Gay Republicans

'Log Cabin' group open to 'positive' overture

Carla Marinucci and Marc Sandalow, Chronicle Political Writers, San Francisco Chronicle
March 6, 2000 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Blogger Tumblr

Stockton – Texas Gov. George W. Bush – who previously declined a meeting with the gay Log Cabin Republicans group because he said it would create a political "nightmare" – said yesterday he is now willing to meet with them.

"I welcome their support," Bush said in an interview with The Chronicle. "I've got Log Cabin Republicans supporting me all across America."

Log Cabin spokesman Kevin Ivers said yesterday that no meeting had been scheduled, but that representatives of the group and the Bush campaign had discussed the possibility in the past several days.

"Some signals have been yes, some signals no," Ivers said. "If Governor Bush wants to reach out to our organization it would be a very positive development."

Bush made the statements during a stop in Stockton – where he was met by an enthusiastic crowd of 2,000 – during a final barnstorm of the nation's most populous state before tomorrow's primary.

The Texas governor, looking relaxed and confident, said he was upbeat about his California prospects. But he expressed tangible anger and outrage at yesterday's criticism from Vice President Al Gore, who accused Bush of being "in the pocket of special interests" after it was revealed that Texas supporters had spent millions of dollars in soft money on advertising attacking John McCain's environmental record.

"For the Democrats, and for Al Gore, to talk about campaign funding reform when they have violated every standard, it's beyond me," Bush told The Chronicle. "Maybe that's the way this guy's gonna run the campaign: hope people forget the last seven years," he said. "But we're not going to let 'em forget."

But Bush's most surprising comments came regarding the Log Cabin Republicans, the organization that has been running radio ads in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York, accusing the governor of "pandering to the right" for refusing to meet with them.

Arizona Sen. John McCain – who, like Bush, opposes most of the group's legislative agenda – met with the group in November. At the time, he told them he is "unashamed, unembarrassed and proud to work with you."

Bush surprised Log Cabin officials last fall when he said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that he would "probably not" meet with them.

"It creates a huge political scene," Bush explained at the time. "I am someone who is a uniter, not a divider. I don't believe in group thought, pitting one group of people against another. And all that does is create kind of a huge political, you know, nightmare for people."

Bush later explained that he regards homosexuality as a "personal" matter that he did not wish to "politicize." Asked why he would meet with Jewish Republicans but not Gay Republicans, Bush responded: "I meant to say personal and private. It's private as far as I'm concerned. I don't want to politicize someone's private life."

The organization leaders said yesterday they now consider Bush's words to be a verbal commitment for a meeting. "I think he realizes his comments were a mistake," said Log Cabin executive director Rich Tafel.

Yesterday, Bush noted that "these are people who have made up their mind to be for my opponent," – since they have endorsed McCain. But Bush added, "I've got Log Cabin Republicans throughout my campaign. I do. There's a lot of gay people who are supporting me. And I welcome their support."

Informed of their ads appealing for a more diverse Republican Party, Bush said, "Surely, they need to save their money."

"What I don't want to do is make meetings so darned political."

Asked whether he would vote for Proposition 22 if he were a state resident – as John McCain has said he would – Bush said, "I don't get involved in propositions in states. It's up to the people of California. I will just tell you I happen to believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman. I believe in the sanctity of marriage."