Politics

09.19.13

Inside Carl Sciortino’s Viral Campaign Ad

The campaign video of Carl Sciortino ‘coming out’ to his conservative father has gone viral. Gay? No problem. Liberal? Outrageous. By Ben Jacobs.

Yes, that’s really Carl Sciortino’s father.

In the viral campaign ad that has received national attention, Carl Sciortino Jr., the liberal Democratic state representative running for Congress in Massachusetts’s 5th Congressional District, goes back and forth with his father, Carl Sciortino Sr., an unabashed conservative and Tea Party member. The ad plays with the fact that not only is Sciortino Jr. a proud “Massachusetts liberal,” he’s also openly gay and struggling with the fact that he’s marrying his partner 10 days before the Democratic primary.

Video screenshot

In fact, Sciortino has always struggled more in his family with being a liberal than being gay. He told The Daily Beast that coming out to his father about his political views was almost more of an obstacle than coming out about his sexual orientation.
“I came out when I was 17 as openly gay,” said Sciortino, “and [my father has] always been supportive in that context and . . . coming out to him as liberal, it’s like, ‘Oh, no.’”

Sciortino, a 35-year-old who was first elected to the Massachusetts State House in 2004, comes from a family of Republicans. Although he proudly says “I’ve definitely converted my mother to be a Democrat,” that’s been canceled out by the fact that “my father has become more staunchly conservative in his older age.”

Sciortino told me that he’s lucky that his father doesn’t live in his district. “He’s unsure if he’d vote for me if he lived in the district . . . [He said] ‘I’d rather run against you.’” But his father is very supportive of his campaign, although he admitted the ad does perfectly capture how they interact; his father complains and criticizes his views. When Sciortino called his father and asked him to appear in the ad, “his reaction,” according to the candidate, “was, ‘As long as I can say I’m conservative, I disagree with what you’re fighting for,’” I’ll do it. Sciortino’s response? “Perfect, you’re hired.”

The response to the ad though has caught the campaign off-guard. “I did not anticipate it would go viral in the past couple of days,” Sciortino told The Daily Beast. “I knew it was a really strong ad, I knew when we were filming that he was a natural, so I knew it would be good, I didn’t know it would turn out this well.” As a result of the response, his campaign is planning on putting a significant monetary investment into the ad.

As the race approaches its last month, Sciortino is feeling relatively confident about his chances. After all, he’s staked out a space on the left of the field in one of the more liberal congressional districts in Massachusetts, as he describes himself, “I’m running as the strongest, most consistent progressive in the race.” In fact, the way he distinguishes himself from his opponents is his fervent opposition to the Keystone pipeline. However, Sciortino has one big obstacle as he faces the home stretch of his campaign. It’s not that he’s a liberal, it’s that he has to get married.

Sciortino’s wedding is scheduled 10 days before the election. If he wins, he would be the first member of Congress to be in a same-sex marriage. In talking about the wedding, the nine-year veteran of the Massachusetts state legislature repeatedly expressed a willingness to canonize his partner, whom he met while sponsoring his bill on Beacon Hill that provided for a buffer-zone around abortion clinics.

Sciortino’s wedding is scheduled 10 days before the election. If he wins, he would be the first member of Congress to be elected while in a same-sex marriage.

“My partner is a saint,” Sciortino said. “When I told him about possibly running for Congress this year, we knew the timing would be close between the election and the wedding, but we had set the wedding date and already started planning for it.” Then, it turned out that the wedding was scheduled 10 days before Election Day. On the bright side, Sciortino reflected that it means all his friends and family will be in town both for the wedding and the election.

And, as for the honeymoon? It will be in Washington, D.C., for his swearing in, Sciortino says. It’s not the most exotic location but, then again, no matter how far he goes, he’ll still be able to hear his father complaining that he’s too liberal.