I’m From Laurens, IA.

by Mike Triggs

State Satellite overhead image from Google Earth 2022

When I was a candidate for the Iowa Legislature in 1984 there was an out gay Republican, Rich Eychaner, who was also on the ballot who was running for Congress.

While knocking on doors in an apartment building a man invited me inside his apartment to talk. It quickly became apparent that the man mistook me for the openly gay candidate as he slammed me up against a wall. I was repeatedly choked and punched in the face, chest and groin. I can still remember the hate in my attackers eyes while he screamed the vilest hateful remarks I had ever heard uttered.

At just the moment I felt my life passing before me, my attackers wife walked in on the attack and questioned her husband what was happening.  Fortunately, he stopped his beating and pushed me out the door and onto the hallway floor.

I never reported the event to the police or sought any help from a doctor for fear of any negative publicity for the campaign. Consequently, it took the next two weeks for my black and blue marks to fade and the swelling in my scrotum to subside.

Fear of that event kept me from knocking on any more doors. Consequently, I lost the election by 711 votes.

While I never became a legislator, the event did open my eyes to the hate that is out there and consequently I became an outspoken advocate for the equality of all Americans. No one should have to face the kind of bashing I experienced. Actions like I experienced should have consequences

I continued working in Republican politics. I held a couple of political appointments in the Administration of President George Herbert Walker Bush before returning to the Midwest where I was hired as the Executive Director of the Minnesota Republican Party.

Religious zealots have controlled the Minnesota GOP since the late 80s. At one of our state party conventions a Presbyterian minister was physically removed from the stage at the state convention – mid prayer. The Party chairman had him physically removed from the podium mid-prayer because it apparently wasn’t Christian enough.

It really was that bad…and the whole episode was caught on tape by Minnesota Public Radio and was replayed nationally.

As a Moderate, I wasn’t a good political fit at the party and was ultimately fired from my job. Fortunately, I was hired immediately to manage the re-election campaign of Minnesota Governor Arne Carlson. The party faithful had always hated the governor because he was pro-choice and had signed Minnesota’s Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

A total whack job, Alan Quist, challenged the governor in the Republican primary. Nine months into my job, Quist gave the press a list of 25 people close to the governor who were either gay or lesbian. I was #1 on the list.

The press came to me with the list and assured me that they wouldn’t use it. However, it wasn’t long before the list was being passed around political circles and was the talk of the town.

When I confronted Quist about his list, he admitted that the only proof he had was that I was a “snappy” dresser and that he had “heard” that I did needlepoint! Not exactly an ironclad case, but the damage had been done and our campaign committee asked that I fall on my sword and leave the campaign. That event was somewhat ironic, given the fact that the governor had recently signed an employment non-discrimination act prohibiting Minnesotans from being fired for their sexuality.

Governor Carlson went on to lose the party endorsement but won his Primary 2-1, and won re-election by the largest margin of any governor in the state’s history.

A year later I came out as a gay man.

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