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Chris Porter - Seattle Gay delegate to the Democratic National Convention
Chris Porter - Seattle Gay delegate to the Democratic National Convention
by Mike Andrew - SGN Contributing Writer

Chris Porter won his seat as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in a coin-toss at his 7th Congressional District Caucus. The outcome was not as random as it sounds, however.

Like thousands of other Democrats, Porter attended his precinct caucus last February, where he spoke on behalf of his candidate, Barack Obama. "That was the easy part," he says. In that caucus, the margin was three-to-one for Obama and Porter was elected as a delegate to the 34th Legislative District caucus.

At his District caucus, Porter won a majority of the votes for the male delegate to the Congressional District caucus. According to Democratic Party rules, there must be equal representation of men and women in selecting delegates to the National Convention.

With about 300 people in attendance at the Congressional District caucus, Porter ended up in a tie for election to the sixth of the six seats allocated to the 7th District. Hence the coin toss to break the tie, and Porter found himself one of three openly LGBT delegates from Washington State. The others are artist and Registered Nurse Pam Keeley and State Representative Dave Upthegrove (D-33). The Obama delegate left Seattle for Denver on Thursday, planning to attend the Stonewall Democrats National Convention before the party's nominating Convention on the 25th through the 28th of this month. The Stonewall Democrats are the national LGBT organization of the Democratic Party. Porter wants to attend their Convention "to see what issues they're talking about and how I can help push those issues forward."

Unlike many of his colleagues in the Washington state delegation, Porter has not been a political activist. "I've been a poll worker," he says, "and of course I've voted every time. But no, I wasn't particularly active until this time."

For Porter, the motivation to political action was his favored candidate, Barack Obama. He decided early on that Obama was his pick for the presidency. "I read The Audacity of Hope even before Obama declared," Porter says. "I was overwhelmed. I thought, 'this is someone I need to listen to and someone I need to get elected.'"

Obama impressed Porter by "redefining issues that had been defined for us by the other side. Bringing clarity. I realized that it's as simple as having a desire to change that will bring us what we want," Porter says.

Porter also admires "Obama's character, as it came through in his writing," he says. "He writes personal stories about grassroots change. It's a lot different from the way things are usually done. You might see all these earmarks for parks everywhere, and you assume there actually will be some parks. But then you look around and where are they?"

Porter believes Obama's career illustrates that "you don't start like some politicians, from the top and work down. You start at the ground level and work up. You start with issues that people really care about in their everyday lives."

As a nurse practitioner specializing in infectious diseases, one of the issues Porter cares most about is health care, "especially equality and access," he says. "We have to have a system where even the least able and least wealthy can afford care." Although a strong Obama supporter, Porter acknowledges Sen. Clinton's contributions to health care reform. "Sen. Clinton's plan as First Lady was the best I've seen," he says, but he doesn't see big differences between the plans put forward by either of the Democratic candidates in this year's campaign. "But huge differences with McCain," he adds.

On marriage equality Porter confesses he is "disappointed that Obama still talks about a man and a woman, but still encouraged that he's gone further than any other candidate in promoting equality. Civil unions on par with marriage, with matching rights."

Another issue Porter cares deeply about is the war. "The war in Iraq has to come to an end," he says unequivocally. Obama's early opposition to the war was one of things that attracted him to the candidate.

In Denver, Porter hopes to see "an overwhelming majority uniting behind Obama, changing allegiance from Sen. Clinton to Obama." From Obama himself he wants to see "an outline of where he plans to take the country."

Porter confesses to being somewhat worried by Obama's apparent slip in national polls, but "we still have 75 days to go in the campaign. We haven't even had the convention yet," he says. "It's like the weather. It swings by so much every day. Polling is most accurate in the final weeks of the campaign."

"Still, it's difficult to read," he admits. "I'm not sure who is getting polled. Many polling services only call landlines. I've never gotten a poll call."

Contrary to the reputation of political conventions as occasions for extended partying, Porter says he is "amazed at the number of conferences and lectures" available for delegates. After the convention, he plans to spend some vacation time with his partner of six years. The two married in Canada a year ago, because his partner is Canadian, but they live in the US.

Porter's experiences thus far have inspired him to take a more active role in Democratic Party politics. He is now a precinct committee officer and vice chair of his legislative district organization.

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