TV & Radio
The New York Times
An Openly Gay Candidate Is Openly Paired in an Ad
By JIM RUTENBERG
Published: August 29, 2005
Brian Ellner, a candidate in the crowded race for Manhattan borough president, has created what he believes will be the first televised campaign commercial in New York City's history in which an openly gay politician appears with his partner.
Gay activists in Washington, New York and California said in interviews on Friday that they could not say the commercial was a first in the nation, but that it was certainly the first they had heard about featuring a gay candidate with his or her lover. Homosexual candidates have been appearing more often with their partners in mailings, they said.
Mr. Ellner's campaign has spent $250,000 to begin running the advertisement on local cable and broadcast stations this week. It is likely to cause a stir for reasons other than the appearance of Mr. Ellner's partner, Simon Holloway.
The commercial opens with a shot of President Bush's face and then pulls back to show his head attached to a man's bare torso, as Mr. Ellner declares, "The emperor has no clothes."
Mr. Ellner critiques Mr. Bush, saying, "He promotes life but sends our soldiers to die," and "promises to leave no child behind but won't fund our public schools," then the advertisement switches to an image of the candidate speaking directly to the camera while walking down a street.
"I'm Brian Ellner, and I'm running for Manhattan borough president to stand up for our progressive values, and it starts here," he says.
At the end of the commercial, he stops at a stoop where he meets a group of people, then puts his arm around a man - Mr. Holloway - and says, looking into the camera, "I'm Brian Ellner, and this is my partner, Simon."
In an interview Mr. Ellner, 35, said he had decided to feature his partner in his ad because he believed it was time for gay politicians to do what straight politicians have always done.
"Just like everybody from Speaker Miller to President Bush to everybody else in between, I wanted to introduce the person I share my life with," he said. (The president and Gifford Miller, the City Council speaker, have appeared with their wives in political advertisements.)
"I think it's important to break down this barrier as we continue to break down other barriers," he said.
Mr. Ellner acknowledged that his commercial was intended in part to help him to stand out in the crowded field of nine Democrats competing in the Sept. 13 primary for the relatively obscure office.
Mr. Ellner is certainly less well known than many of his opponents, among them Scott Stringer, a longtime assemblyman from the West Side, Councilwoman Eva S. Moskowitz, and Councilwoman Margarita López, who is also openly gay.
Mr. Ellner is a lawyer who has dabbled in politics, working, for instance, as a policy adviser to Mark Green during the 2001 mayoral campaign.
His campaign has aggressively focused on gay and very liberal voters, and he argued in an interview that with so many people running for such a low-profile office, it could be anybody's race to win.
He acknowledged that some might criticize his advertisement as a distraction, but added that a gay couple appearing in a political ad would surely not scandalize Manhattan.
"I don't think it will be shocking," he said. "People will be more shocked that it's the first time it's ever happened."
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