Radio talk show host Kevin James wants Los Angeles voters to know that he's a registered Republican who wants to be the first openly gay mayor of L.A.
“There's no doubt that if I became the first openly gay mayor of Los Angeles,” James tells L.A. Weekly, “it would help [the gay community] enter the mainstream in America even more.”
James rarely discusses his sexual orientation on the airwaves.
James says he's been openly gay for years, but has only mentioned his sexual orientation on his former radio show on 790 KABC AM a few times.
On his current, late night show on 870 KRLA AM, James says his homosexuality is “not discussed much.”
KRLA bills itself as “Los Angeles' Conservative Talk Radio Station” and features such conservative voices as Glenn Beck, Dennis Prager, and Bill Bennett.
“My sexual orientation has not defined the show,” says James. “The issues of Los Angeles have defined my show.”
Now that he's declared his run for L.A. mayor, he expects more media attention will be given to the fact that he is a gay registered Republican who is featured on a conservative radio talk show station. James says his bosses at KRLA know that he's gay.
In gay-friendly Los Angeles, where gay Republicans are not always welcomed with open arms by other gay folks and their straight allies, James and his campaign team want voters to know exactly where he stands on gay rights.
“People may jump to the wrong conclusions if they only know his party registration,” says John Thomas, a political consultant for James, “and that's why we wanted to get his record out there.”
James discussed his stance on gay rights at length with the Weekly during an hour-long interview on Tuesday afternoon.
James, who's also an entertainment lawyer, says he's never taken anti-gay stands on his radio shows, and gay rights groups have never complained about his work. In fact, James says he has a solid pro-gay rights record.
The radio talk show host says he's been closely involved with AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA) since 1988, raising enormous sums of money as a one-time board member between 1995 and 2000. He also takes credit for helping to bring the AIDS Marathon to APLA, which is a major fund raising tool.
James currently serves on APLA's “Ambassador Council” with other major names in the Los Angeles gay community such as Hollywood public relations guru Howard Bragman and The Abbey founder David Cooley.
In 1992, James worked with Access Now for Gay and Lesbian Equality (ANGLE), a political fund raising group. “Kevin was instrumental in organizing us and raising money for Bill Clinton,” says former ANGLE member and current West Hollywood City Councilman John Duran, referring to Clinton's presidential campaign.
The radio talk show host also supports the repeal of the ban on gays and lesbians serving in the military as well as the repeal of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, an anti-gay marriage law. He also backs anti-discrimination protections in the workplace for the LGBT community.
“I think that protection is needed,” says James. “I'm not asking for special rights. I'm asking for equal rights. I'm also looking forward to the day when we don't need such protections, but we're not there yet.”
James says he was a vocal opponent of Proposition 8, the successful 2008 ballot measure that banned same-sex marriage in California.
“I unequivocally support gay marriage,” says James, noting that it encourages the kind of moral values that social conservatives support.
“[Gay marriage] promotes monogamy,” says the mayoral candidate. “It promotes commitment. It promotes accountability. It promotes family. And the list goes on.”
James, who describes himself as a “fiscally responsible, socially moderate Republican with a real streak of independence,” adds, “It's important for people like me to talk to conservatives and explain our argument [for gay marriage].”
The mayoral candidate became a registered Republican in 2007 — the same year he started working for KRLA.
James voted for U.S. Senator John McCain in the 2008 presidential race — McCain has been a vocal supporter of the ban on gays in the military. Before that, the talk show host had been both a registered Democrat and a “decline to state” voter, also known as an Independent.
James says he made the switch to the GOP due to “fiscal responsibility” issues and he wanted to “make a difference on social issues in my party.”
“I have a record in our [gay] community,” says James, who lives in Laurel Canyon, “but that doesn't mean I'm not representing all of Los Angeles… I'm going to be a mayor for all of Los Angeles.”
James is largely considered to be a long shot candidate in the 2013 L.A. mayoral race, and it wasn't too long ago that being openly gay was considered to be a major political liability.
James and his advisers seem to believe his homosexuality only adds a new, interesting wrinkle to his dark horse campaign.
Contact Patrick Range McDonald at email@example.com.