Sussex County Young Republicans Chairman resigns over homophobic rhetoric during 2018 election

Hunter Hastings, now former chairman of the Sussex County Young Republicans

Sussex County Young Republicans Chairman Hunter Hastings has resigned over homophobic statements he says he heard constantly against former Republican U.S. Senate candidate Gene Truono during the 2018 election.

"I was constantly being approached hearing statements such as: “Don’t vote for the gay pervert. Rob Arlett is the true conservative,” Hastings wrote in his resignation letter.

Hastings said his vision was to bring the core message of the Republican party to the forefront to the next generation of Sussex County, but during the 2018 primary for U.S. Senate he says he saw a different message, one that has drifted away from free market principles, constitutionalism, and individual liberty.

"I was actually in the hallway one day when questions were being submitted for a debate, I won't identify which one, but I had a person come up to the debate moderator and say 'I want this question asked.' And I happened to read the question and it said 'why would Christians vote for a pervert?'"

Hastings said he was perplexed by the question.

"The man said 'this is what the Republicans really want to know,'" Hastings recalled. "I said 'holy smokes, what the heck is happening with this?'"

Hastings also claimed he heard that similar homophobic rhetoric was spewed during board meetings, and that it was suggested that people should vote against Truono simply because he's gay. 

"I heard other testimonies from other individuals that on board meetings it was kind of being swayed that the people should vote Mr. Arlett over Mr. Truono over that one factor," Hastings said. "It just amazed me how closed minded the party really is."

Hastings said he tried in private meetings to start circumventing change, but "honestly, from what I saw, it was going nowhere."

"Seeing that throughout the entire election, even after, it kind of really just reflected my view to leave the party altogether," Hastings said. "This is not the party that I learned about and this is not the party I believed in."

Delaware 105.9 reached out to Gene Truono for a response, who said he was familiar with Hasting's resignation and felt that it was pretty well-known that there was a whisper campaign against him during the election because he's gay.

"Frankly, I think it was pretty well-known that there was a whisper campaign about me being gay in Sussex County primarily, but I think that there were other factors throughout the state," Truono said. "We dealt with them online, on Facebook posts and things, and I was pretty clear from the very beginning that I was not running as a gay man."

Sussex County Young Republicans Chairman resigns over homophobic rhetoric during 2018 election

Gene Truono

Truono said on a number of radio programs he made it very clear that his goal was to run for U.S. Senate to help Delawareans, but that some falsely claimed he had a "gay agenda."

"A number of people did," he explained. "That I had some gay agenda because I'm gay, and I was also very clear that I did not. Again, I wasn't running as a gay man, but I was running as an individual who I believe had a unique background in financial services that well-qualified me for a role in the U.S. Senate."     

Truono said he wouldn't fully attribute the 'whisper campaign' to the reason he lost in the primary, but that it does appear that there was some level of influence.   

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