12:45 PM 08/23/2018

Pete Holmberg | Candidate, New York State Senate


If all the thoughts racing through my mind as I sat there watching the results on November 8th, 2016, becoming the 2018 Republican Candidate for New York State Senate in Trump’s district wasn’t among them. As I sat there with my friends, all of us gay men, all of us registered Democrats, all of us traumatized, I have to say, that thought never occurred to me.

I learned early on that Democrats didn’t have a monopoly on compassion and Republicans didn’t have a monopoly on bigotry.

The one and only time in my life an AIDS joke was told in my presence, it was by a staunch Democrat in a living room filled with other staunch Democrats. I was 21 and that one incident kept my much-questioned young Republicanism firmly in place until I moved to New York City at the age of 25 and decided to vote in relevant primaries.

My journey back to the GOP began just a few hours after Secretary Clinton conceded. Still traumatized, but still grateful to live in a country where at least one person had voted for the leader, I posted the following at 3:20 a.m. on Facebook:

“For months now I was really hoping that Trump supporters would honor democracy and accept Hillary Clinton as their President in the event that my candidate won. Now that our democracy has spoken, I will do unto others and simply say congratulations President Elect Trump on your hard-won victory. You are my President and you have my prayers and my support. God bless America!”

 The online response was positive, and the offline response was vicious. Within minutes, a woman I hadn’t heard from in more than seven years called. She was drunk, enraged, and demanding to know how I could possibly support someone so morally depraved. I was reeling from the hypocrisy as this woman’s morally depraved greatest hits flashed through my mind. I settled in on the one that had yielded her the biggest payoff and casually asked her, “Remember that time you faked a pregnancy?”

A few seconds after she hung up me, she became the first of many to block me on Facebook.

Nature teaches us that beauty is born from ugliness, so I fought to remain optimistic as the new reality set in. I have experienced a lot of failure in my life and the most painful failure has always led to major growth. So I had high hopes for The Democratic Party. There would be one heck of a rigorous audit, mistakes would be owned, and a radical purge of elitism and money-grubbing dysfunction would follow. It would be great!

What happened instead? Democratic leadership claiming victimhood and almost everyone I knew responding in lockstep compliance.

By mid-January, the mass misery was too much to bear, and I simply wanted to witness at least one person being happy, so I reached out to my friend Pax Hart. Given all the Facebook photos of him and Ann Coulter, it was safe to assume he’d voted for Trump. We sat in a diner for hours with zero judgment and endless questions. Our conversation touched on the economy, immigration, and the First Amendment. He made the case that Donald Trump was the most pro-gay President ever elected and we were able to peacefully disagree on a number of issues. That dinner would later be referenced as my “red pill” experience, but in the moment it felt like coming home.

Despite what my teachers wanted me to believe, I knew Jimmy Carter was a horrible President. So, as a thirteen-year-old boy in Winnetka, Illinois, I volunteered for George H.W. Bush’s 1980 primary campaign. I happily made calls, stuffed envelopes, and canvassed door to door.

But back then the reality was pretty clear: Politics was no place for gay people, and certainly not the GOP. So I turned to the world of theatre, where boys like me were safe.

After my dinner with Pax, 2017 proved to be a transformative year. I read a lot. I bought conservative books with the same excitement and terror I felt when I bought gay porn in the 80s. I expressed my “curiosity” to every conservative I could find. And I officially registered as a Republican again.

In March of this year, I was in a rather animated conversation about Lyme disease at a Log Cabin Republican event when a gorgeous blonde woman interrupted. She insisted I was a natural-born candidate and wanted to know who I was and where I lived. I was thrown. I never thought I would hear those words, and certainly not in a Republican context. It had to be joke. The woman was young enough to be my daughter. I was gearing up to gently laugh off the compliment when she gave me her business card. Andrea Catsimatidis. Chairwoman of the Manhattan GOP. She wanted to talk.

I have always been a person who has derived a great deal of power by not taking myself too seriously, and that power was seriously diminished when I hit the streets of Manhattan as a candidate and met people who looked to me with hope.

The people who looked to me with anger were a walk in the park. I expected them; I’ve spent a good deal of my life wading through hostility, and I was more than ready for them. But the total strangers who shared their fears with me and listened intently as I told them exactly who I was and then trusted me to help? Those people floored me. They have changed who I am as a person and basically defined the core of whatever identity I may have as a politician.

I got into this race because I thought that maybe — just maybe — after everything I have been through in my very blessed and challenging life, I could pave the way for some interesting solutions and bring some unexpected people together. With every person I meet, I feel less audacious for making that decision.

My evolution on President Trump was initially prompted by my rejection of all the self-righteous hatred I saw being directed toward him, those around him and his supporters. Hate is not a virtue, and it forced me to see many of my liberal friends in a different light. Watching President Trump fearlessly bulldoze through the avalanche of that hate has helped to give me a perspective on disapproval that would have been useful when I was thirteen. But I’m grateful to have it now as a GOP Candidate in 2018.

From strangers to close friends, I’m getting the standard attacks that all Republicans experience: Fascist, disgusting, ragingly narcissistic. But in Trump’s America, insults are fuel if you’re confident in what you’re doing.

I can do this job. I’ve raised less than fifteen grand, I’m not owned by the lawyers or the unions, and I’m not afraid to be hated.

New York State is greatly handicapped by some of the most nonsensical laws in the country. We are the only state in the union where construction companies retain 100 percent of liability, even if an injured worker is drunk on the job. “Scaffold Law” is one of the main reasons construction costs more in New York State, it’s killing the subway system, and it’s just one of many issues I’ll be able to confront head-on once I’m a State Senator up in Albany.

I came out at age 17 during a time when AIDS was driving many gay men back into the closet. Now, in running as a Republican Candidate in the age (and district) of Trump, I’m once again being accused of bad, self-destructive timing. But as I learned back in 1983, there’s never a bad time to embrace the truth about yourself.

Pete Holmberg is the Republican Candidate for New York State Senate in District 28 of Manhattan. He can found on Twitter @PeteHolmbergNYC and online www.HolmbergForNewYork.com 

Posted on 28 Aug 2018, 7:55 - Category: 2018 Election

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