Ellner Withdraws Candidacy As Head Of Empire State Pride Agenda

6a00d8341c730253ef013480d729a0970c Brian Ellner withdrew his name as a candidate for executive director of ESPA, a day before he was set to go before the gay rights group's board for approval, amid criticism from LGBT advocates. Ellner was expected to be easily approved for the job.

The New York Times reports:

"Several influential gay advocates objected to Mr. Ellner’s decision to take a job at the Board of Education under Mr. Bloomberg, whom they have never accepted as fully committed to their cause. While the mayor supports same-sex marriage, some advocates have not forgiven him for appealing a 2005 court decision that supported same-sex marriage and for backing Senate Republicans opposed to the unions."

"The advocates cited what they said was Mr. Ellner’s criticism of the mayor in 2005, when Mr. Ellner ran for Manhattan borough president."

“Brian Ellner could not be trusted with the rights of L.G.B.T. people, when he has a history of taking care of Brian Ellner and securing employment at the expense of ideals,” said Allen Roskoff, an advocate and the president of the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, an influential group in gay politics. The club had threatened to cut ties with the Empire State Pride Agenda if it appointed Mr. Ellner."

Ellner's response to his withdrawal: “It didn’t work out, and I wish them the best.”


  1. 24play says

    We all dodged a bullet there.

    Let’s hope ESPA’s board gets their heads out of their asses and finds a candidate who’s as much an activist as she’s a schmoozer and fundraiser. Someone who’s actually committed to the advancement of something besides her own career.

  2. Kevin V. says

    Searching for an Executive Director of any non-profit organization is a long and drawn out process. It is disheartening to learn that in the final stretch Brian Ellner’s nomination was railroaded by what looks to be ESPA board member Stuart Appelbaum’s minority opinion? I’m assuming much, but after reading the NYT article it sounds as if he spearheaded the appeal by reaching out to other organizations and influential leaders.

    It is this attitude of “taking your toys and going home” instead of coalition building and negotiation that I believe continues to cause major rifts amongst the community.

    These squabbles simply make the organizations involved look bad. As a donor it makes me think twice before writing a check.

  3. Alex M. says

    Good outcome. Memo to professional gay activists like Ellner: No more playing footsie with both sides.

  4. E. says

    Wait, working for the Board of Education counts as “playing footsie with both sides?” He was trying to help the cause of education in NYC, and now he was trying to help the cause of gay and lesbian rights. Both good things. If we hold all of our potential leaders responsible for NEVER interacting with anything or anyone that hasn’t been 100% gay-positive at all times, we’d be left with…no leaders. Because that’s how society is, and that’s what we are trying to change.

    This strikes me as petty politicking and I don’t get it.

  5. Rodney says

    Way to turn your back on a promising young and energetic proponent. May Applebaum and the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club be cursed with ineptitude.

  6. TANK says

    They’re waiting for a black jewish, american indian, hindu, muslim, illegal immigrant transgender candidate who isn’t afraid to be an activist by making nasty crank calls to important state politicians. It’s all about “diversity” for the sake of it. Sounds cool, huh?

    Too many cooks.

  7. TANK says

    On the other hand, executive salaried careerists like joe salmonese have done about DICK for us on a national level. The incentive for careerists to act on behalf of those they represent is always tempered with a genuine concern for salary and self. Soooooo…

  8. dizzy spins says

    The heads of GLAAD and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force–and the managing director of HRC–are women. Don’t act like this is some old-boys network.

  9. Queer Embrace says

    Classic example of “activists” scaring away moderates and folks who haven’t always been on our side but are coming to the table. Moving from the minority to majority cannot be done with a purist ideology. (Read some history and find out how southern whites were key to the civil rights movement.) My fear is that these “activists” are so hard up on their own idealogical purity that they’ve now become the inverse mirror image of Tea Party members. Calling you the Tea Bagger Party. Congrats for taking the NY movement back another huge step…

  10. Ken says

    “playing footsie with both sides?” Come on. We need to be able to work with both sides to get any where, this should have been considered a strength, not a weakness.

  11. Jason_Activist says


    It is time for Gay Inc. to learn that their non-profit begging careers are over. Queer Rising, EqualityAcrossAmerica and GetEQUAL are now our leaders.

    DEMANDING is the only strategy that works. Millions of new activists are taking to the streets and the halls of Congress to DEMAND our RIGHTS – RIGHT NOW!

    MLK was right – you must force your enemy to act by demanding and threatening civil disturbances. We won’t win until we get loud and LOUDER.

    Dan Choi risked his life for us. His bravery has started a real movement. He knows you have to make a scene to get noticed and then you have to raise your voices and DEMAND.

    Our DEMANDS will be met. From Gay Inc. to the White House.

    You can either become and Activist or get ready to thank one – we are nearing victory.

  12. Steven says

    I work at the Department of Education. The real reason for Ellner’s withdrawal, not reported, is that Brian mischaracterized his tenure at the DOE to the search committee. He was not well-regarded at the department and had been asked to leave. Stuart Appelbaum’s persistence revealed this fact to the board, which then felt they could not go forward with a candidate who had in effect lied about his job performance. While Appelbaum is anti-Bloomberg, the vast majority of the board likes the Mayor but couldn’t accept a candidate who had misrepresented his past.

  13. JusticeontheRocks says

    Good one, Tank.

    I remember when Ellner ran for City Council. He was in my district and sent out a flier a couple of weeks before the election. On the cover of the flier was Ellner with a woman about his age and a child. The flier talked about protecting families. The message was clear.

    I didn’t vote for him then because I thought he was a fraud. Maybe he just can’t make up his mind. Or maybe he’s just a political whore.

  14. Ellen Applebee says


    Activists didn’t kill Ellner’s candidacy. The big donors did. Do not fool yourself for one minute that it was any other way.

    Ellner’s candidacy was being pushed by Frank Selvaggi, who headed the search by the board. Other prospective candidates were being intimidated by Towleroad’s own Corey Johnson who was engaged in “opposition research.” In other words he was dredging up dirt on other good candidates to advance Ellner for whom he’d worked in 2005. Just ask Andy Stern how he got pushed out of the way.

    The little “activist” world is turning out to be just as corrupt with the same political machinations.

    This is as much about the failure of Frank Selvaggi as it is about Brian Ellner.

    Board members had serious doubts from the moment they head Ellner’s name, mostly because of his association with Bloomberg. Plain and simple.

    Enough with this “the activists win” crap. We all won. But Ellner’s candidacy, which was never approved by the board, was always in doubt.

    It’s just that people like Salvaggi and Johnson leaked info, made premature announcements and made the nomination appear as a fait accompli.

    When push comes to shove, it’s still the donor base/cocktail party circuit which runs much of the show and that’s where Ellner’s nomination was killed.

  15. adimo says

    Anyone hired by Bloomberg to work with him on education is working AGAINST education. Bloomberg’s agenda is to dismantle the public institution of education and give it over to private for-profit business. It may look like white knights swooping in, but actually, it’s a long-term cash grab of public money by private firms. Corporations growing and growing and growing. We’ll be sending our tax money directly to Goldman Sachs in the future, if Bloomberg has his way.

    And if you ever had a great teacher, someone who really made a difference to you, someone who really had a calling and gave teaching their all, think about them hitting retirement without benefits or a pension. Because that’s part of what Bloomberg’s Education plan is wants for educators; teachers working without protection of being fired on the whim of administrators, with no benefits or pensions.

    So anyone who willingly works with Bloomberg on his education team is a conscience-free individual working for our Corporate Overlords, in my humble opinion.

  16. 24play says

    Perhaps Towleroad’s own Corey Johnson could make a post here—not a comment on this thread, a separate post—outlining his role in Ellner’s candidacy and the recent machinations regarding the ESPA search.

    And, in a possibly unrelated note, does anyone else find it strange that earlier this week, while Andy picked up on and posted the Times’ report that Intrepid president Bill White had abruptly resigned after 20 years, there was no follow-up post describing the attorney general’s pay-for-play investigation that is reported to be the reason for White’s resignation?

    I find it very strange that the story just got dropped, particularly after being set up with such an intriguing initial post.

  17. Jason_Activist says

    You’re all confused. Demanding is the strategy. Activists made the demands and he was gone. Take that Bloomberg – don’t f*ck with us anymore.

    Now, get in the streets and raise your voices. Demand full Federal Equality NOW! LOUDER.

  18. TANK says

    If you don’t like the professional activist careerist crowd, stop donating money to these organizations…donate to lambda legal, ACLU, the trevor project, local lgbt youth shelters, and gay friendly politicians. It all comes back to the individual donors.

  19. Cyd says

    Why anyone would listen to the vitriol of that fool Alan Roskoff is beyond my understanding. I don’t know if Ellner was a good fit or not, but Roskoff is possibly the most horrible people in all of New York (and gay) politics. I’ll never forget the time in 2004 he told me “no way Christine Quinn will ever be city council speaker. No way.” That was just after he told me John Kerry had the Presidential election sown up. Seriously, the guy’s an evil troll and ESPA and everyone else would be good to stay far away from him.

  20. JesryPo says

    Wow. All of this talk about what sounds an awful lot like litmus tests for idealogical purity… tea party, anyone?

    I am growing so tired of this whole “activists” versus “cocktail-party” false choice. We need both the smelly kids staging sit-ins AND the over-plucked elderly sipping martinis – and don’t think we can achieve real equality without either. To the activists, please try not to fool yourselves for one minute that any counterculture has won a single right for the oppressed or ended a single war until the powered middle class decided it was in THIER best interest to do so. To the career foundation set, be very mindful of falling for the lures of Uncle Tom.

    To both of you, stop being such assholes to those who choose to work in the non-profit world.

  21. 24play says

    Funny that Cyd declares Allen Roskoff to be “the most horrible people [sic] in all of New York (and gay) politics” and then regales us with an anecdote involving Christine Quinn. After all, any New York progressive can tell you that it’s Christine Quinn who’s the most horrible person in all of New York and gay politics.

    Roskoff has done us all a huge service by torpedoing the appointment of that unqualified, self-serving weasel Brian Ellner.

  22. Kevin says

    Damn it when will we start getting smart about how politics work instead of acting like a bunch of spoiled kids. Christine Quinn is a horrible person, hardly. “Stuart Applebaum is an asshole” that one is true. I am embarrassed by the “so called” gay leaders who are more interested in their own power than in actually supporting those who can help us most.

    All I hear all the time is “do it our way, and do it now”…. spoiled brats.

    We wont make progress until the old bitter queens retire and let authentic leaders do their thing.

  23. 24play says

    Christine Quinn swore again and again that she wouldn’t try to reverse term limits—until it was time for her to be term-limited out of office. Then she went ahead and voted to overturn them.

    Although Quinn’s entire record as speaker is atrocious—millions of dollars in slush funds allotted to nonexistent community groups, endorsement of the NYPD’s new severe limits on the right to assembly—her self-serving flip-flop on term limits most clearly shows her utter lack of integrity. Quinn clearly is a horrible person.

  24. b mac says

    why anyone would aspire for a low-paying career is politics only to open yourself up to the relentless cunting of the peanut gallery is beyond me. no wonder the brightest brains are in the private sector. brian, go back to a job at a private nyc law firm, make bank, and enjoy your life.

  25. 24play says

    Yes, B Mac.

    I’d agree that if someone—like Ellner or Quinn—is primarily interested in “making bank” and career advancement, they really should do themselves AND THE COMMUNITY a favor and stay the fuck out of politics or community service.