With one week left to go until the provincial election, Langley MLA Mary Polak’s campaign manager Todd Hauptman has quit — explaining that, as a gay man, he can’t continue to feel marginalized by the supporters of her re-election.
In a letter to Polak written Tuesday, Hauptman says he has had enough of being made to feel less of a person for his sexuality and feels Polak has had an opportunity to support the gay community but hasn’t.
“The very base of voters who will likely help Mary get re-elected in just one week’s time are made up of individuals who hold hateful attitudes towards the community I am a part of,” said Hauptman in his letter. Since he sent his letter out, he hasn’t made any public statements or spoken to any media.
Hauptman, 26, who worked for Polak prior to the campaign doing social media work, is well-known in the community for his activism against human trafficking. He has been politically involved since he was 14 years old.
He began volunteering with Langley-Abbotsford MP Randy White. There he got to know White’s assistant Tanya Tait, who four years ago donated her kidney to Hauptman, giving him a new lease on life.
At a press conference Polak held on Tuesday, she said she found out through media accounts that he had resigned.
“I can’t say I completely understand it. We’re friends. I care about him very deeply and have to say I feel fairly hurt,” said Polak, who held back tears.
Polak said his decision to publicly step down without letting her know came after a meeting she had with him at 8 a.m. Tuesday morning, regarding concerns she had about him disclosing campaign strategy to someone who works in rival NDP Andrew Mercier’s camp.
“I told him that I wanted him to remain as my campaign manager but that we would have to address the situation of information sharing,” she said.
She wouldn’t disclose what was leaked.
“Some information has been passed to the NDP campaign as a result of this friendship [Hauptman has],” she said. “Todd is very new to the political world at this level so I don’t think he did it to hurt the campaign,” she stressed.
Mercier called Polak’s accusations “absurd” and “ridiculous.”
“At no point did we receive a brown envelope labelled top secret. I would question why Mary made such heavy allegations like that and still begged Todd to stay on as her campaign manager,” Mercier said. “It doesn’t make sense to me at all.”
Mercier said Langley is a small community and he knows Hauptman to be “a committed Liberal.”
But being at the Langley Teachers’ Association all-candidates meeting and hearing Polak’s answers to a question she was asked about her role in banning gay books from Surrey classrooms, he “completely understands why Todd would be upset.”
“It must have been very difficult for Todd to make this decision.”
Hauptman came to Polak recently and said she failed to stand up for the gay community when questioned at an all-candidates meeting about her stance as a Surrey school trustee against the inclusion of books promoting gay families.
In 1997, Polak was one of the trustees who supported banning books about same-sex couples in Kindergarten and Grade 1 classrooms. The decision ended up in a long court battle which ended in the Supreme Court of Canada.
Asked if she believes homosexuality is a sin, Polak said the Catholic church she belongs to teaches that it is.
“I’m supportive of individuals in all walks of life. I have my own religious beliefs but in terms of my actions, I think they speak for themselves. In terms of my faith, it is not for me to judge but to show caring and love for all people,” she said.
As to Langley Liberal supporters being homophobic, she hasn’t seen any of that herself.
“I can only trust that he has experienced that. I haven’t witnessed that. All of us here not only worked on the campaign, we have been friends for quite some time,” she said. She has known Hauptman was gay for a long time.
In his letter, Hauptman said Polak has been supportive of his sexuality.
“While I can say without hesitation that Mary has always shown me respect and love, and was a source of strength and encouragement when I ‘came out,’ I have been conflicted beyond words these past weeks,” said Hauptman in his letter.
“Today, I am asking politicians of all stripes — including Mary — to speak up for the gay community. We live in a day and age where we must be willing to embrace our fellow human beings, regardless of their sexual orientation,” he said. “I have had enough of being marginalized and I am tired of politicians making endless excuses for political gain.”
Polak said she still considers Hauptman her friend and would like to speak to him.
She recognizes how his decision will impact the nature of the campaign.
“The saddest part of this is we should all be caring for one another and making sure people aren’t marginalized,” she said. “This will result in more division and arguing and that is the tragedy of how this will be framed,” she said.
Any further updates to this story can be seen online at www.langleytimes.com – Editor.