Same-Sex Marriage Group Key in Rep. Hanna's GOP Primary Win

Saturday, 28 Jun 2014 10:45 PM

By Todd Beamon

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A super PAC formed by multimillionaire same-sex marriage advocate Paul Singer played a key role in helping New York Rep. Richard Hanna win his Republican primary this week over conservative state Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney.

American Unity PAC, which was established in 2012, spent $500,000 on television and radio ads supporting the two-term Hanna over Tenney, who got support later in the campaign from the tea party and other conservatives, Time magazine reports.

Outside groups poured as much as $700,000 into the race.

However, not one of American Unity's ads for Hanna mentioned gay marriage — and the strategy was deliberate, the PAC's senior adviser told Time.

Hanna, 63, is a member of the LGBT Equality Caucus in Congress who also supported the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that President Barack Obama signed into law last year.

He is among five Republicans in Congress supporting gay marriage, along with Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Mark Kirk of Illinois, Alaska's Lisa Murkowski, and Rob Portman of Ohio.

American Unity focused its ads on Tenney's negatives, being soft on jobs and tax issues, while ignoring her conservative stances on such social issues as gay marriage and abortion, Time reports.

Those issues would not have helped the super PAC in the upstate New York district, Jeff Cook-McCormac told Time.

"We needed to understand her vulnerabilities and also Richard’s vulnerabilities," he said. "We found that her votes on tax policy weren't in line with a majority of Republicans in Albany.

"She had refused to support the budget, which had included tax relief for the middle class."

Other efforts included attacking Tenney for voting against a $1.5 billion Nano Tech project that was projected to bring in 1,500 jobs, Time reports, and saturating voters with television and radio ads, along with robocalls and direct mail.

Then when House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost his GOP primary in Virginia on June 10 to little-known, tea party-backed economics professor Dave Brat, American Unity was ready.

The Tenney campaign brought in such high-powered endorsers as Pennsylvania's former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum and conservative talk-show host Sean Hannity, but American Unity recruited former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who endorsed Hanna in an ad, Time reports.

Hanna won on Tuesday by just 1,632 votes, 52.8 percent to Tenney's 47.2 percent.

"If we hadn’t done the initial investment earlier on, it would have been a different outcome," Cook-McCormac told Time.

American Unity also plans to support other Republicans in re-election bids this fall, including Collins, who announced her support of gay marriage last week, and Rep. Ileanna Ros Lehtinen of Florida.

"The ability for anti-gay politicians to use this as a wedge issue has evaporated over the last couple of years," Cook-McCormac said. "What candidates now know is that there’s a network of donors who have their back and are willing to go to bat for them."

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