BC Liberal candidate Mary Polak’s gay campaign manager resigned May 7, a week before the provincial election, saying he could no longer deal with the “hateful attitudes” of the people who make up his candidate’s voting base.
“I cannot in good conscience support a campaign made up of people who think of me as less of a person because I am gay,” Todd Hauptman wrote in the resignation letter that he released publicly.
“I have had enough of being marginalized, and I am tired of politicians making endless excuses for political gain.”
Hauptman had been working on the campaign of the former chair of the Surrey school board, which fought a six-year battle to ban gay-friendly books from its classrooms. The battle eventually reached the Supreme Court of Canada, which ordered the school board, then under Polak’s leadership, to reconsider the books based on the same secular, curriculum-based criteria it would apply to other books. The board still refused, though later relented on a different set of gay-friendly books.
Though Hauptman says Polak has always been supportive of him personally, he says he’s felt “conflicted beyond words these past weeks.
“You see, the very base of voters who will likely help Mary get reelected in just one week’s time are made up of individuals who hold hateful attitudes towards the community I am a part of,” he says.
“It is for these reasons that – after considerable thought and deliberation – I have decided to step down from Mary’s campaign effective immediately.”
Hauptman urged politicians of all stripes, including Polak, who is running in Langley, to speak up for the gay community.
Hauptman initially agreed to an interview with Xtra but was then unreachable. He later told Xtra he would be available for an interview May 8.
Polak was also unavailable but told CKNW radio that she had concerns about Hauptman’s work on the campaign.
“It came to my attention that he had a very close friendship with an individual who is involved on the campaign of my NDP competitor here – that they were spending significant time together, and that in fact, some information from our campaign had been shared,” she alleged.
Liberal Party spokesperson Sam Oliphant did not reply to Xtra‘s request for comment.
Gay Vancouver-West End NDP candidate Spencer Chandra Herbert applauds Hauptman’s decision to stand up for himself.
“I thought we’d get through this campaign without homophobia rearing its ugly head,” Chandra Herbert says.
“I think it’s obviously a blow to the Liberals. They’re seeming to revert to their social conservative tendencies,” he says.
In his resignation letter, Hauptman says he expects people to be angry or shocked that he quit so late in the campaign for the May 14 provincial election.
“To them I say, please know I have wrestled with this decision for some time and simply cannot ignore my feelings or convictions any longer,” he writes. “How can I live a life of integrity if I won’t speak up for myself and my community? How can I be in a position of leadership and influence and yet not do what I know to be right? The answer is, I cannot.”
Hauptman says he expects many will just take away from the situation that he is gay: “Know that I am many other things. I am a Christian. I am the recipient of a kidney transplant. I am a passionate, thoughtful person who cares for others. I am a loyal friend. I am educated. I am an active member of my community. I am the same Todd I have always been.”
Hauptman’s LinkedIn profile shows he spent two years as Polak’s social media manager and also worked as a research assistant for Langley’s federal Conservative MP, Mark Warawa, who voted against gay marriage in Parliament.
Hauptman’s profile also shows that he was employed by Langley-based Power to Change Ministries.
The Power to Change website says homosexuality is wrong and encourages gay people to leave a lifestyle that is “not right.”
“You are making choices about sexual preference which run against the grain of societal norms, and might I say, the very nature of how God made you,” the site says.
BC Liberal caucus outreach director and former MLA Lorne Mayencourt told the CBC May 7 that Polak is not homophobic.
“I know that Mary’s in a little bit of a conservative riding, and so I can appreciate, sort of, the delicate balance that she has to maintain when she’s in a candidates’ meeting,” said Mayencourt, who is gay.
“I think that what we’re talking about is Mary had to talk about what had occurred for her something like 10 years ago. Certainly she and other members of the Surrey school district were under great pressure because of the three books in question,” he said.
“She was in a situation in an all-candidates’ meeting, which was probably a little bit on the hostile side, and she gave a measured response, and it just didn’t meet [Hauptman’s] standard. Doesn’t mean that it was wrong; it just means that it didn’t hit his expectations.
“I think he’s a very dedicated young man who appreciates who Mary is and what she’s accomplished,” he said. “So I think that we’re just going to move forward. We’re going to be very conscious of the fact that the gay and lesbian community and different ethnic groups and different genders all have these rights, and they expect us to stand up for them.”