Gay Republican challenges out R.I. House Speaker
A young gay Republican is challenging one of Rhode Island's most powerful politicians: out House Speaker Gordon Fox (D-Providence.)
Erich Sturn, 24, is hoping to unseat Fox, who was elected to succeed state Rep. William Murphy (D-West Warwick) in February. He is a political novice, but he told EDGE he feels the time is right to throw his name into the ring due to the state's double-digit unemployment rate and dire economic conditions.
"I feel like I could do a good job," said Sturn. "I feel like we need people (in state government) who actually believe in trying to fix things. It seems what they've been doing lately isn't exactly changing anything for the better."
Sturn wants to bring jobs back to the state, as well as reducing the number of what he described as unfunded mandates state lawmakers issue to cities and towns. He said this plan would help alleviate Rhode Islanders' property taxes. He said the rates are "almost breaking his [father's] back right now" in Coventry.
Gubernatorial candidate John Robitaille and Congressional contender Mark Zaccaria are among the Rhode Island Republicans who have endorsed Sturn.
"So far it's been pretty positive," said Sturn. "People have been offering help. They've been saying 'if you need advice give me a call.'"
The New Jersey native has spent time in California and Seattle, but calls Rhode Island home; noting he particularly enjoys the state's beaches. And he said he had a desire to change the environment around him when he was a child.
"Growing up I always wanted to make a splash on the world and leave it better off than I found it," explained Sturn.
He said speakers at a recent Tea Party rally he attended inspired him to challenge Fox.
"I've always been a Republican since I was eligible to vote," said Sturn. "Both parties have their good points and their bad points. It seems like the (Republicans') stance on a lot of the economic issues make more sense to me."
The fight to pass a marriage bill in the General Assembly is ongoing.
Fox has disappointed some LGBT activists by stating it was not a top priority for him, but Sturn offers a more nuanced position. He acknowledges those who use their faith to oppose marriage, but he said he believes everyone should receive equal treatment under the law.
"I don't see why, in today's society, people couldn't have the same rights," Sturn said.
He added the GOP accommodates gay conservatives; and he dismisses charges from some LGBT activists out Republicans hate themselves.
"I don't see it as self-loathing at all," Sturn noted. "To me if they were so for gay rights, we would have more of them by now. It boils down to economic issues and that's the most fundamentally important thing to me."
Sturn said with a booming job sector and lower taxes, all Rhode Islanders would benefit. And he added he feels the time has come for voters to elect leaders who are not career politicians. Sturn applauds anyone who is willing to step up and change things for the better.
"You need to be honest; You need to have your heart and your head in the right place," he said..