Thad Gerardot has already made history as Indiana's first openly state rep candidate. Now, Gerardotwho previously worked for the Freedom Indiana campaign that successfully kept an anti-marriage equality referendum off of Indiana's ballot this Novemberhopes to be the first out state rep in the state's history come election day Nov. 4.
Gerardot took a few moments to talk with Windy City Times about Fort Wayne ( which he represents ), coming out ( as a Democrat and as a gay man ) and his platform.
Windy City Times: Tell me a little about Fort Wayne.
Thad Gerardot: It's about three hours from Chicago, and most people who live here travel there quite a bit. It's the second-largest city in Indiana, after Indianapolis, and it has about 250,000 people; also, it's in northeast Indiana. It's a great town.
WCT: Would you describe the people as pretty conservative?
Thad Gerardot: In the city, it's pretty moderate, but the northeast part of the state overall is pretty conservative. Typically, it's dominated by Republicans.
WCT: I read that you come from a large Catholic family so I wonder if it was harder coming out as gay or Democrat?
Thad Gerardot: [Laughs] Well, I actually came out as gay before Democrat. Even though it was interesting at first, my family has come a long way on evolving on the issue and, yes, they support me as both even though most of them are Republican. My family was very conservative; my great-uncle was a former bishop of the diocese here and my aunt is a nun.
I let some of them know that I was running and what was going to happen; I got support from my family, and it's really nice to get that.
WCT: I'm sure it was; it's nice to have a support network.
Thad Gerardot: Yes. When you're running as a gay candidate, a support network is essential.
WCT: Also, I read that you went to IPFW ( Indiana-Purdue/Fort Wayne ), but you're a big fan of Notre Dame.
Thad Gerardot: [Laughs] Yes. IPFW actually has about 14,000 students but we don't really don't have a football team. Fort Wayne has a lot of Notre Dame fans. I remember when I was 4 my grandfather would take me to the spring Blue-Gold Game, and I just fell in love with Notre Dame football. It's a tradition in my family, and it has a pretty big fan following.
WCT: It does have a pretty big following.
Thad Gerardot: And a pretty lucrative NBC contract. [Laughs]
WCT: What is your platform?
Thad Gerardot: There are three main issues that are the biggest concern to people in my district. Obviously, there's the economy. We're definitely improving; we're leading the Midwest in minimum-wage jobs, so a lot of our jobs haven't been paying very well.
They're also concerned about keeping college graduates, too. One in three college graduates is leaving the state, so that's a big concern as well.
Also, there's our education system; we've actually created our own standardsand that's been causing a lot of issues for Indiana. We've had budget cuts to our educational system over the past 10 years, but our state is actually sitting on a $2 billion surplus. So the big concern is why we keep cutting public schooling and sending money through vouchers to private schools. Also, we have a charter-school system that has been taking funds away from public schools, but we have [this] surplus. It doesn't make a lot of sense to me.
The third thing is our neighborhoods. Obviously, inclusion and diversity are big issues for me; I worked on the Freedom Indiana campaign. We were one of four states that didn't have a ban on gay marriage in our constitution; in Indiana, you have to pass a constitutional amendment in two separate re-elected assemblies and then it has to go a ballot, so it is a hard process. Year after year, we have had this extremely divisive battleand it makes LGBT people want to move from this state. And a lot of businesses got involved in the last campaign, like Cummins Engine and Eli Lilly, who are some of the biggest employersand they backed defeating the amendment.
WCT: What do you feel are your biggest advantage and disadvantage against your opponent, Republican Martin Carbaugh?
Thad Gerardot: Well, I'm connected in the community. I've been active for several years, I've gotten to know people and I'm out in the community every single day. I'm making sure I'm meeting everyoneI want to represent everyone so I go to every part of town and I meet as many families as I can. Inclusion is very important to me.
My biggest disadvantage is that it's my first time running so, obviously, he has more experience. Also, it's a Republican-dominated town so he has that advantage as welland he probably has a bigger fund base. So I have to work twice as hard.
WCT: Give me some idea of what a typical day is like campaigning.
Thad Gerardot: Well, the nice thing about the Indiana legislature is that it's a part-time thing. We have short session although we have per diem status so they can always call us back to the legislature. As well as campaigning, I work a normal job as well; it's a 40-hour-a-week job at an office in downtown Fort Wayne so I do most of my campaigning at nighttime and during the weekend.
I get up about six a.m. every morning. I go on a three-to-four-mile run. I then work until about five or six, and then go to headquarters a couple blocks away from where I work. ( My staff has just been fantastic. ) I then either go around the neighborhood or make phone calls for about three hours, and I go to bed around 10:30 p.m., and then do it again the next day.
Gerardot's website is www.gerardot4fw.com/ .