Alison Esposito, the Republican Party’s candidate for lieutenant governor candidate in New York, opened up in a new interview about being its first openly gay candidate, and steadfastly said, “It can happen.”
The former NYPD deputy inspector spoke publicly for the first time about her history-making run as Long Island Rep. Lee Zeldin’s Deputy Comrade.
“I honestly think Republicans are getting a bad line with that,” Esposito said when asked about the GOP’s previous opposition to LGBTQ causes and gay marriage.
“I’m gay and Republican – it can happen. It can happen. You know it is, and I keep saying this, this is not really just a red wave. This is a common sense wave,” she added.
Zeldin and Esposito sat down with host Dan Clark for PBS’s “New York NOW” show for the extensive interview aired Friday.
“It’s part of who I am. I’m a gay woman. I am very proud to be a gay woman. It’s part of who I am and it feels like I’m now in a position to be able to help the people of New York State, “said Esposito, who retired from the NYPD’s 70th Precinct as deputy inspector. She joined the force in 1994.
“I went away from a career that I loved and I threw my name in this hat, my hat in this arena.
“And as a woman, as a gay woman, as a resident of New York and as a cop, I will bring everything I can to this ticket to make sure we deliver back to the people of the state of New York, the state they deserve. , “she added.
She said that regardless of her sexual orientation, she wants the “same things as any other New Yorker.”
“I want security. I just want protection under the law. I want my nephews and nieces to be able to go to school safely,” she said. “I want to make sure criminals are prosecuted. I want my taxes low. I want to be able to spend my hard earned money in the state I love.
“And you know, I do not have that, I do not really have that, I mean, there will always be bad apples in every cluster that will not sway away from their beliefs and for whatever reason.”
Although Esposito would be New York’s first openly gay nominee for nationwide office, she would not be the first openly gay candidate to run across the country.
In 1994, Karen Burstein wrote history as the first lesbian, Democratic Party justice minister, primary candidate. Burstein beat the party’s favorite candidate, incumbent AG Gabriel Oliver Koppell, as well as Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes and then-lawyer Eliot Spitzer.
But she was then defeated by GOP candidate Dennis Vacco in the parliamentary election, where her sexuality suddenly took a role in the race.
“It was not an easy thing to say at the time,” Burstein, 79, told The Post Sunday. “I was a pioneer in that regard – not necessarily voluntarily.”
Although Vacco at the time claimed he did not take a problem with Burstein being gay, Staten Island GOP Borough President Guy Molinari claimed she was unfit for office, citing her sexuality.
She noted that she faced homophobic slander at the end of her campaign.
“There was an undercurrent of disgust,” she remembered.
Richard Grenell, meanwhile, said he was the first LGBT in the White House cabinet, having served as acting director of National Intelligence in the Trump administration and presidential ambassador to Germany.
“It’s not that weird anymore. “The gay agenda is not what the left is telling you it is,” he told The Post.
He said conservative LGBT Americans “want freedom, security and economic prosperity” just like other Americans.
“It becomes irrelevant. We are everywhere, “he said.” You can be gay conservative and be elected or appointed to public office. “
But a Democratic LGBT activist criticized Esposito for being “used” by Zeldin.
“How can she run with Lee Zeldin, who is undoubtedly homophobic. Just look at his voting record,” said Allen Roskoff, president of Jim Owle’s Liberal LGBT Democratic Club. “It’s an outrage for Esposito to be on the Zeldin ticket. She allows herself to be used to making Zeldin look like what he is not. She is being used to soften Zeldin’s image. “
As state senator, Zeldin voted against gay marriage, which the then government signed in 2011. Andrew Cuomo.
“It is my belief that marriage should be defined as between a man and a woman,” Zeldin said in a statement following the historic vote. “From tonight, in New York, that definition has changed. This legislation will have a profound impact on the lives of all New Yorkers. I voted NO, but despite my opposition, I am grateful to my Senate colleagues who fought so hard for to ensure important religious exceptions and other necessary amendments to the bill. “
In response to Roskoff’s criticism, Zeldin spokeswoman Katie Vincentz said he chose Esposito as his deputy “based on her enormous qualifications, while knowing she was openly gay.”
“Degrading Commander Esposito’s nearly 25 years of public service in the NYPD and enormous qualifications for a single facet of her life is as insulting to the gay community as it is to her,” Vincentz said. “The only thing Alison Esposito has ever been used to is removing criminals from our streets, something New York Democrats are far too unfamiliar with.”
Burstein, a former judge at family court in New York, praised Esposito for standing up as a proud gay woman.
“Has things changed for the better? It has,” she said. “A Republican woman running for office does not have to live in the closet.
“It’s good news that Esposito is willing to show his sexual orientation with pride and without discomfort.”
A group that has long advocated for more overtly gay members of the Republican Party said “visibility is important for gay conservatives.”
“We have come a long way in increasing the representation of eminently qualified candidates, electing officials and appointing over the years at all levels of government and party leadership,” said Charles Moran, president of the Log Cabin LGBT Republican Club.
“Lee Zeldin is a nationally recognized Conservative leader in America at a time when Republicans could sweep New York State House. Alison’s background and career in law enforcement is why she was elected – and for LGBT conservatives, we see this as a a sign that the modern Republican Party is ready to engage with our society. “