U.S. Senate candidate John Dougherty has accused fellow Democrat Rodney Glassman of being homophobic, and said he needs to address a comment he made about openly gay Tucson Councilwoman Karin Uhlich.
Dougherty and candidate Randy Parraz also criticized Glassman for having once been registered as a Republican, which Glassman acknowledges he was when arrived in Tucson as an 18-year-old student in 1997. He said he changed registration shortly after that.
"I respect Karin Uhlich and was proud to sit next to her," Glassman said in a written response to the Star about Dougherty's homophobia accusation. "Obviously, if I had said anything disparaging about her, she would not have promised to support my campaign in the fall," Glassman wrote.
But Uhlich said the political blog from which Dougherty got the information was accurate in recounting that Glassman said at a gathering he didn't want to sit next to an openly gay person. She said Glassman didn't deny making the comment when she talked to him about it.
She talked to Glassman in 2007 about the comment because she was concerned about how it could affect the local lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
Uhlich said she is supporting all four Democrats in the U.S. Senate primary to see who will take on the Republican nominee, likely incumbent John McCain.
The criticism of Glassman highlights a shift in recent weeks by the other three candidates in the race, from focusing on anti-McCain platforms to exposing what they see as concerns about Glassman, who has been in the race the longest, has the most campaign money and leads in the polls. Cathy Eden is the fourth candidate in the race.
Dougherty distributed the blog entry about Glassman on Facebook and Twitter this week. In an interview, he said it is a homophobic statement and Glassman needs to respond to the reported information publicly.
"If he said that, I'm appalled. I think it disqualifies him as a legitimate candidate if he's that hostile to other people," Dougherty said.
Parraz said the shift in the focus of the campaign is a natural progression.
"In the beginning we have to define ourselves in relationship to McCain, and now polls are showing people don't know much about us. We have to differentiate between ourselves," he said. "We can't differentiate if all we talk about is McCain."
These issues are important because party values matter in the primary, Dougherty said.
"I think people want to know who is really representing the Democratic principles," Dougherty said. These issues indicate Glassman is a "Democrat in name only," he contends.
Parraz also pointed out Glassman and his family have donated to Republican campaigns.
"At 18, I registered as Republican because my mother was a Republican. By age 20, I started to learn what it really meant to be a Republican. Republicans didn't address the issue of choice. At the age of 20 I became a pro-choice Democrat, and the more I learned about the party the more I realized that I shared the party's core values, including organized labor, sustainability and social justice," Glassman wrote in his e-mail response.
The only Republican campaign Glassman donated to was $500 to U.S. Rep. Jim Kolbe in 2004, although family members have donated to other Republicans.
Glassman said Kolbe was a moderate Republican who treated him well when he went to Washington, D.C., to work for Rep. Raúl Grijalva.
"Ironically, I am being attacked simultaneously for donating to an openly gay congressman and accused of not wanting to sit next to an openly gay City Council member," he wrote.
Debate at 6 p.m.
See the the four Democrats running for U.S. Senate in a debate tonight on KUAT television Channel 6 at 6 p.m.
Contact reporter Andrea Kelly at email@example.com or 807-7790.