When Daniel O'Donnell announced his bid for the New York state senate in late April, he was deluged with telephone calls from media outlets across the country. The reporters' interest was not just because he is one of three candidates hoping to become the first openly gay man to serve in the state legislature. O'Donnell also happens to be the brother of well-known entertainer Rosie O'Donnell.
"Being Rosie's brother is a double-edged sword," O'Donnell said from the New York City office where he runs his own law practice. "On one hand, it means that I begin with a certain name recognition that other candidates might lack. On the other, people might overlook the fact that I have credentials of my own."
O'Donnell's credentials include a stint in the New York City public defender's office from 1987 to 1992. He has also donated his time to the New York City Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project, among other nonprofit groups. "It's important that gay and lesbian candidates have well-rounded backgrounds so we are not pigeonholed as single-issue candidates," O'Donnell said.
O'Donnell is seeking to replace Franz Leichter, who is retiring after 24 years, in a district encompassing most of Manhattan's heavily gay West Side. Despite his name recognition, O'Donnell may not even be the gay candidate most likely to achieve the "first in the senate" milestone. That distinction belongs to openly gay city councilor Tom Duane, who is the only candidate for a seat representing another Manhattan district. Longtime gay rights activist Ed Sedarbaum is running in a Queens district.
"All three candidates have good shots, and we are fortunate to have such excellent candidates," says Matt Foreman, executive director of Empire State Pride Agenda, a gay lobbying group based in New York City. "Tom is so popular that no one has even announced to oppose him [in the September primary]. It will be enormously helpful to have the legislature deal directly with gay people on gay issues."
The legislature does have one female gay member, in its other house. Deborah Glick, an out lesbian who was elected to the state assembly in 1990, is seeking reelection.
As for O'Donnell's famous sister, she is scheduled to begin shooting a film in Ireland this summer and will be unavailable to campaign for her brother. But in a statement faxed to The Advocate, she made her endorsement clear with characteristic humor. "Since we were kids, we all knew that Danny would devote himself to public service," she said. "I think the tip-off came when he was 8 years old and he founded a free legal clinic for the dolls he claimed I illegally evicted from my Barbie Dream House."
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|Title Annotation:||Rosie O'Donnell's brother Daniel O'Donnell enters race for New York legislative seat|
|Publication:||The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)|
|Article Type:||Brief Article|
|Date:||May 26, 1998|
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