- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 6, 2007

DENVER — The Log Cabin Republicans had cause for optimism at their annual convention over the weekend, something that hasn’t always been the case with the homosexual organization.

But a number of political trends appear to be in their favor. Former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who leads Republican rivals in polls, has endorsed homosexual rights. The Republican Party, smarting from the loss of the House and Senate in November, is reaching out to more-liberal voters, and Log Cabiners say Republican voters seem willing to look beyond social and religious issues in search of a candidate to lead the nation to a successful conclusion in Iraq.

“It’s been very encouraging,” said Log Cabin President Patrick Sammon. “Our theme is how our party can get back to its unifying, core issues — limited government, getting spending under control, a strong defense and making the president’s tax cuts permanent.”

Log Cabiners say that’s the key to victory in 2008. “We lost the last election because independents voted for Democrats in a way that they hadn’t in prior elections,” said Mr. Sammon. “The way to get them back isn’t to focus on divisive social issues.”

Echoing that sentiment was the keynote speaker, former Sen. Alan K. Simpson, Wyoming Republican, who told the gathering of about 200 that the party may have had its fill of platforms emphasizing social issues such as abortion and homosexual “marriage.”

“We’re shaking some of the goofies and zanies out of the trees,” Mr. Simpson said.

He also encouraged the Log Cabin members to remain active in the party. “Don’t be impatient. Stay in the party. Don’t leave, because you can change it,” Mr. Simpson said.

While the Log Cabin group doesn’t expect to make a formal endorsement, there was little doubt their hearts were with Mr. Giuliani. His were the only buttons and bumper stickers visible at the convention. At the same time, members said they were worried that Mr. Giuliani may be feeling pressure from the party’s conservative wing.

“Mainstream Republican voters and moderate voters are going to vote for you. Don’t tilt to the right,” said Frank Ricchiazzi, one of the group’s founders, who was wearing an “I Love Rudy” button on his lapel.

Although Mr. Giuliani has backed off some in recent months — criticizing New Hampshire’s recent passage of homosexual civil unions — he has a long record of pro-homosexual stances and has said “I’m pro-gay rights.” As New York mayor, he pushed through a domestic-partners bill that covered same-sex couples, and he had open homosexuals in his administration.

The group heard from an unexpected speaker in former Rep. Pat Toomey, Pennsylvania Republican, the staunch conservative who narrowly lost to Sen. Arlen Specter in the 2004 Senate primary. Now with the Club for Growth, Mr. Toomey addressed fiscal issues, which Log Cabiners say are the key to uniting the party’s conservative and centrist wings.

“We had been fierce rivals, so it was good to bring him here,” Mr. Sammon said.

Founded 30 years ago, the Log Cabin Republicans now count 20,000 members within 50 chapters. Their membership surged by about 200 percent shortly after President Bush came out in support of a constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman, said Mr. Sammon.

What worries Log Cabiners most is that the party will nominate a social conservative, which members predicted would ensure the party’s defeat in the 2008 presidential race.

“One of two things is going to happen: Either the party is going to go back to its traditional roots, or an extremist conservative will prevail and we’ll go down in flames,” said Truman Smith, president of the group’s South Carolina chapter. “Hillary Clinton would defeat a social-extremist candidate.”

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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