Race for mayor in Hatboro heating up

By Ted Bordelon

Wire Managing Editor

The current mayor of Hatboro wants his constituents to know that he doesn’t hate the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community. In fact, Norm Hawkes said that during his eight years as mayor, he has always tried to be “the mayor
for all the people.”

Three years ago, however, he made statewide news when he vetoed an ordinance that would have added sexual orientation as a protected class to discrimination claims.

Why?

“I just don’t think that Hatboro has the resources to handle it,” Hawkes said, noting that the ordinance would have created a hearing panel of unpaid and untrained citizens who would have been, as he puts it, the “judge and jury.”

The 74-year-old former paratrooper said that anti-discrimination legislation belongs on the state level, and he has “no moral or religious issue with gay people.”

“They shouldn’t be discriminated against in any way,” Hawkes said.

Hawkes’ decision drew both criticism and praise, but little of it related to his reason for vetoing the ordinance. Instead, the Dec. 14, 2010, Borough Council meeting during which Hawkes vetoed the ordinance devolved into what one attendee described as “gay-bashing.”

That attendee, Bill Godshall, said that the meeting was part of what inspired him to run for the Democratic nomination for mayor in May. He won by a 184–145 vote, defeating Hawkes for the nomination.

“I think a lot of people felt betrayed with Norm as a Democrat,” Godshall said from the office of his party decorating business, Rose in Bloom. “I don’t see him representing all the people of Hatboro.”

The two men will face off again come November, however, because Hawkes received enough write-in votes in the Republican primary to qualify as the Republican candidate for mayor.

Both Godshall and Hawkes conducted write-in campaigns, and Hawkes garnered 143 votes among Republicans compared to Godshall’s 25. Any candidate who receives 10 write-in votes can appear on the November ballot.

Hawkes, a registered Democrat, won both the Democratic and Republican primaries in 2009 in the same fashion, and appeared on both ballots during that election.

“On a local level, I don’t really think party affiliation plays any role,” Hawkes said, noting that he mostly maintains a “left-wing” ideology.

Forty-five percent of the 4,943 registered voters in Hatboro are registered Democrats, compared to the 40 percent who are Republican.

Godshall, 70, has lived with his partner, Keith, in Hatboro for about six years. He said its “crazy not to” have an anti-discrimination ordinance in place, but that the county or state could probably better handle the measure.

Similar to the way in which Hawkes said that his veto should not be construed as anti-gay, Godshall hopes that his candidacy for mayor will not be interpreted as part of a larger agenda.

“I’m not running this campaign as ‘the gay guy running for mayor,’ ” Godshall said. “I’m running this campaign as ‘Bill Godshall for mayor and I just happen to be gay’ just as Norm Hawkes is running for mayor and he happens to be straight.”

Hawkes formerly worked as a gym teacher and school administrator, and now works for Willow Grove Infinity/Audi as a driver.

He said that he is confident in his re-election, and that his focus on public safety during his two terms as mayor should be enough to win him re-election. Hawkes pushed for gun-control legislation, a sexual-predator residency ordinance and an open container ordinance while in office.

“It was such a low turnout,” Hawkes, who has lived in Hatboro for 37 years, said of the primary election. “I don’t think it was representative of Hatboro.”

While Godshall lacks the political and governing experience of Hawkes, he said that voters should not view his greenness as a shortfall.

The Democratic nominee has 34 years of experience with the military, both Army and Air Force, and was a Scout master for numerous years. He received the endorsement of the Hatboro Democratic Committee and said that his platform focused on transparency as well as ensuring that the area is equipped for localized flooding and other natural disasters.

“I’m sure the police can give me a report as easily as they give one to Norm,” Godshall said. “How much experience do you really need?”

Ted Bordelon can be reached at tbordelon@bsmphilly.com