Louisville Metro Council candidate Ray Barker is defending a hefty contribution from anti-gay activist Dr. Frank Simon as a moral decision, arguing that his opponents are trying to make political hay for special interest groups.
Earlier this week, WFPL reported Barker accepted a $1,000 donation from Simon despite distancing himself from the American Family Association leader last year when it backed his appointment to the council’s District 1 seat. Barker tells supporters his opponents are “suggesting” Simon’s organization is a hate group, but the Southern Poverty Law Center has the American Family Association listed as such in its intelligence report.
In a telephone interview, Barker told WFPL Simon has the right to support his campaign, but that the two do not agree on all issues.
“I never have nor will I ever exclude anyone based on race, sexual orientation, religion or gender. I have represented this entire community on the platform of love, equality, empowerment and education. And that still rings true today,” he says.
Barker is one of five Democrats vying for the seat in the May 22 primary, including Councilwoman Attica Woodson Scott, D-1, who was appointed to the seat last fall. She has called on Barker to return the funds and reject Simon’s support.
In statement on his website, Barker alludes to Scott’s endorsement from the Fairness Campaign’s political action committee, saying the incumbent is making this an issue to satisfy special interests.
From Barker’s site:
They are acting out of political necessity because of the pledges they have made to C-FAIR and the activists of the Fairness Campaign. I am a Democrat looking to represent you and not special interests. It’s about service, not politics.
I am a leader who seeks to find common ground in a community of diversity. Mr. Simon has my ear, the Fairness Campaign has my ear, and more so, the everyday residents of West and Southwest Louisville have my ear. In the end, as your representative in City Hall, I will have to make tough decisions that represent the best judgment of all of us. Consider my 30 years of community service which includes no history of discrimination. It’s relevant to note that my service included enforcement of the Fairness Ordinance.
When asked to elaborate on his views, Barker told WFPL that highlighting the Simon contribution is bias and that the radio station should look at other candidates’s donations.
“I don’t feel that I’m obligated to answer any question because your radio station is bias. You gave financial report on one candidate, but there’s five of us in the race. And until you show an un-bias approach by releasing financial information on all of the candidates,” he says. “The issue is that your totally bias in your opinion sir.”
No other candidates in the primary have accepted donations from the leaders of organizations that are classified as hate groups.
Other candidates in the race have refrained from calling on Barker to return the funds, however, they have said Barker should explain his positions further.