You might think campaign allegations of “cross dressing” are a transphobic anachronism in 2016.
Not in Colorado Springs.
According to a weekend story in The Colorado Springs Gazette, “A negative campaign mailer sent to supporters of Larry Liston paints the Republican state House of Representatives candidate as a cross-dressing liberal.”
The letter, from Republican state Sen. Kent Lambert, was sent to Liston’s donors. Lambert is supporting Liston’s opponent, current GOP Rep. Janak Joshi of Colorado Springs.
“One page of the letter includes two photos of Liston from Hummers, a skit put on by the minority party in the House chambers every year skewering the majority party,” The Gazette reported. The photos carry this cutline: “Undoctored, fair-use photos of Larry Liston. 2005, Larry Liston cross dressing on the House floor making fun of Rep. Carroll and again in 2009 making fun of another female legislator.”
Hummers is an annual end-of-session skit held on the floor of the House in which men in the legislature occasionally dress as their female colleagues, donning wigs, dresses and even fake breasts.
The tradition goes back decades in Colorado. Liston said the picture of him dressed as a woman was taken during one such Hummers skit about a decade ago.
“I was spoofing Senator Morgan Carroll,” he told The Colorado Independent. “She knew all about it, and she thought it was as funny as anybody. I wore a bright red wig. And that’s the tradition.”
What is not a tradition, Liston says, is someone using photographs from the Hummers skits as a campaign cudgel.
“There’s always been a bond or sort of a gentleman’s agreement between both parties that these skits are never to be used against any member,” he says. “And that’s always been the case.”
Some lawmakers in the past have taken issue with members of the press shooting photos during the skits.
The four-page Lambert letter sent to those who contributed to Liston’s campaign also included “a link to a story about criticism Liston faced” for calling unwed mothers “sluts,” The Gazette reported. Liston, who was a member of the House at the time, later apologized for the remarks he made during a caucus lunch, which at the time drew criticism from lawmakers in both parties.
Lambert didn’t return a voice message by the time this story was posted, but he told The Gazette, “I thought it was a very polite letter, saying we greatly respect your opinions on this but you may not understand his record. It’s not intended to be a threat and it’s not a threat.”
Liston says he thinks the letter might have backfired. Some of his contributors who got the letter have already given more to his campaign after receiving it, he says.
Says Liston: “If they want to accuse me, quote, of being a ‘crossdresser,’ fine. I don’t care. But to go after somebody’s donors, that’s what’s never been done before.”