Jan. 6 2016 01:20 PM

Meet the kinder, gentler Derrick Roach

Derrick Roach has big plans for local Log Cabin Republicans.
Photo by John R. Lamb

All progress is precarious, and the solution of one problem brings us face to face with another problem.

—Martin Luther King Jr.

I’ve been told, ‘Don’t talk to anyone at CityBeat.’” Derrick Roach smiles when he says this, giving his glass of Diet Coke a quick jiggle. “But if you talk,” he continued, “at least you develop a relationship, and you might have something to talk about.”

These days, Roach seems uninterested in taking orders from anyone. Once branded by this publication as the local Republican Party’s resident “smear master,” sidekick to slithery party Chairman Tony Krvaric, and the county GOP’s go-to private investigator, Roach now appears focused on expanding the Republican tent from his newly adopted community of Hillcrest, where he says “people are much more comfortable admitting they’re gay than they are admitting they’re Republican.”

This year, Roach takes over the helm as president of the local chapter of the Log Cabin Republicans, the conservative LGBT-rights organization founded in 1977 in California that only last year gained official recognition by the California Republican Party.

Susan Jester, the club’s outgoing president and a longtime LGBT activist, called the past county-party secretary “a perfect fit” for the job, given his relationship with party leaders while also serving as a “key player” in a successful statewide effort last September “in removing the anti-gay language in the party platform.”

Added Jester about Roach: “His personal journey in becoming an open member of the LGBT community is one that I have been privileged to be a part of as his friend and mentor, and he has shown great courage in taking a leadership role in the fight for equality and inclusion in the GOP.”

Wait, what now? We are talking about the same guy who was vilified in 2011 as a “stalker” for investigating the residency of the only openly gay member of the San Diego Redistricting Commission, right?

Yes indeed, same guy. Roach’s social media pages bear no reference to his newfound role. Even his Facebook page, under “Relationship,” states opaquely, “It’s been complicated since 2013.”

Ask Roach if he’s gay, and you’re likely to get lengthy testimonials about the meaning of friendship, a rocky divorce, his Mormon faith or his mom’s recent effort to buy him more loose-fitting clothes.

“I tell people who ask me ‘Are you gay?’ that if I say yes, I don’t think I’m being honest, but if I say no, I don’t think I’m being honest either,” Roach told Spin Cycle over lunch last week in Hillcrest. “Before I got married, I’d gone out with guys and girls. And I was totally open—my wife knew all about my past. But since she’s left, I can’t deal with women right now.”

Spin Cycle will spare you the details, but suffice it to say that social media is not the best battleground for marital wars. The divorce fracas, however, recently resurfaced, Roach said, in the form of an anonymous letter mailed to numerous political organizations that questioned his fitness for the Log Cabin presidency.

“Right now, there is someone actively running a campaign against me. I’m 99.9 percent sure who it is,” Roach said without publicly naming the person. “It’s all stuff related to my divorce, that my finances are in shambles, that my life is out of control, that I’m a political hack that causes problems and can’t get anything done. Then it questions my lifestyle choices. It’s crap.”

He said he doesn’t suspect his old chum Krvaric, who has frequently voiced his opposition to marriage equality. “I could call up Tony right now and ask for a meeting to talk about something, and he’d be, ‘Yeah sure, let’s meet,’” Roach said.

Besides, Roach noted, the U.S. Supreme Court has already decided that issue—to Krvaric’s “traditional” consternation—which leads to his main pitch about Log Cabin.

“I want to build the [Republican] base on the Log Cabin,” he said, “and I want people to understand it’s not a single-issue organization, that there’s room for everyone. We need to up our game in San Diego. I want to turn it into a first-class organization.”

Unicorn dreams, perhaps? Bold proclamations, you say? Not with event ideas that he’s hatching, Roach grins.

Why, for example, just a Log Cabin booth at the annual Pride Festival? Why not one every week at the Hillcrest Farmers Market helping people register to vote? How about better outreach to LGBT military veterans? Or boost club membership with a condom-filled car giveaway at the next year’s Pride. “Guess how many are in the car,” he said, “win the car.”

And Spin’s favorite: “I’ve already reached out to someone from Dems for Equality,” Roach hinted, a reference to his club’s Democratic counterpart. “I’m thinking something like a softball game, Democrats vs. Republicans. Bring in whatever elected officials, but make it fun. Show that we’re not always about fighting each other.”

John Musella, chairman of the California Log Cabin chapter, praised Roach as a “great guy” who “will be a fantastic leader of our San Diego chapter.”

The local chapter, which has no office space, meets instead in the conference rooms at San Diego LGBT Pride’s North Park headquarters. Stephen Whitburn, Pride’s executive director, said while he hasn’t spoken at length to Roach, he welcomed a “constructive” relationship with Log Cabin Republicans.

“They’ve historically been rebuffed by some Republicans because they’re LGBT while simultaneously getting the cold shoulder from some in the LGBT community because they’re Republicans,” Whitburn wrote in an email. “My perception is that in San Diego, they’ve expanded relationships in both arenas, and I think that’s good.

“Generally speaking, the less we shun other people because of one component of their identity, the better.”

C’mon, Roach. Teed it up for you. Big swing now! Like Krvaric says, it’s all about sticking to your principles, right? “People really do get tired of the partisan bickering. When it comes down to it, you have to be able to work together to govern,” Roach lamented. “It’s probably an old-fashioned idea of how politics should be, but to me politics is the art of negotiation.”

OK, who is this guy? Someone’s kidnapped the real Derrick Roach and replaced him with a mellow, slimmed-down double! Anyone know a good private eye?


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