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Gay Man Elected Chair of Clark County Democratic Party

by Shaun Knittel

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Friday August 26, 2011

An openly gay man has been elected chair of the Clark County Democratic Party, making him the first gay person to run for-and win-the position.

Chris Miller, president of the Nevada Stonewall Democrat Caucus, won nearly 69 percent of the vote in the recent Clark County Central Committee election. The win is considered two-fold victory for Southern Nevada's LGBT community-Miller will hold real power in Clark County, which includes Las Vegas. 419,462 of Nevada's 563,801 registered Democrats live in the county.

"Miller campaigned on the promise of a new era of party fiduciary responsibility along with the long term goals of defending our majority in the state legislature, electing Democrats to Nevada's three open congressional seats, taking back Congressional District Three and electing a Democrat to join Majority Leader Harry Reid in the U.S. Senate," said Derek Washington, chair of the Stonewall Democratic Club of Southern Nevada. "The newly elected executive board represents the diversity of Nevada. Board members are African American, Asian, Jewish, Buddhist, Christian, LGBTQ and straight; as well as seniors, young people, veterans and students."

Washington stressed state Democrats have made it a goal to rapidly increase minority representation and participation in Nevada's electoral process.

"Nevada's minority population-including people of color, women and the LGBTQ community-is key to our making sure that Nevada stays blue in the years ahead," added Miller in an interview with EDGE.

Miller stressed that he is a "strong believer of new media and technology." And in fact, the newly elected chair has already set up a team to strengthen the CCDP's online and social media presence.

"Reaching out to voters through the use of Facebook, Twitter and You Tube will be another layer added to Nevada Democrats' already powerful and effective field operations," he said.

Currently, the CCDP has been diligently working to elect Kate Marshall through phone banking, canvassing and party members have even organized their own grassroots fundraisers. Marshall announced on May 4 that she would run in the special election in Nevada's Second Congressional District. Miller and company immediately announced they would support the bid.

Marshall is currently the Nevada State Treasurer and a member of the Democratic Party.

In addition to the Marshall election, the CCDP, in partnership with the state party and Organizing for America, has also been recruiting leaders for the 2012 presidential caucus.

"While our friends on the other side of the political spectrum focus on fundraising and candidate recruitment and haven't gotten around to organizing voters for the 2012 presidential caucus, the Clark County Democratic Party knows that organizing neighbor to neighbor, block to block and precinct to precinct is what wins elections," said Miller. "We proved that in 2008 and 2010. And as we head into 2012, that system is just getting stronger and more fine tuned."

The landscape for LGBT equality in Nevada has drastically changed over the past few years, as Miller's election would support. Although the state does not recognize marriage for same-sex couples, Nevada's domestic partnership law has been in effect since 2009.

Transgender Nevadans who have undergone sex-reassignment surgery will be issued a new birth certificate under a July court order. A Public Policy Polling survey in July also found that 45 percent of Nevada voters thought that nuptials for gays and lesbians should be legal, while 44 percent thought it should be banned and 11 percent were unsure.

A separate question on the same survey found that 77 percent of Nevada voters supported the legal recognition of same-sex couples, with 39 percent supporting marriage equality. Thirty-eight percent supported civil unions but not marriage, 22 percent favored no legal recognition and 2 percent were unsure. In addition, the number of same-sex couples sharing a home in Nevada nearly doubled from 2000 to 2010.

Shaun Knittel is an openly gay journalist and public affairs specialist living in Seattle. His work as a photographer, columnist, and reporter has appeared in newspapers and magazines throughout the Pacific Northwest. In addition to writing for EDGE, Knittel is the current Associate Editor for Seattle Gay News.