Let’s say I’m not making this up. Rosario Crocetta, age 62, accomplished the near-impossible. His election was the first time a leftist candidate won the regional governorship in Sicily since 1947, the first time an anti-Mafia candidate won, and certainly the first time an openly gay candidate emerged victorious.
In 2003, as a member of the Italian Communist Party, Crocetta had won election to become mayor of Gela, a city on Sicily’s southern coast that is his home town. He made history by becoming the first openly gay mayor in all of Italy. A year before he left office in 2009, he switched party alliances and became a Democrat. However, his anti-Mafia platform resulted in numerous death threats, requiring 24-hour-a-day police protection. Assassination plots were waged against him in 2003, 2008 and 2010. Undeterred, he went on to serve two terms as mayor of Gela, then moved on to become an Italian representative to the European Parliament before running for governor of Sicily.
When Crocetta assumed office as governor, Sicily was close to default on its debts, thanks to reckless profligacy in the regional administration, and its last governor had resigned amid claims of corruption and links to the Mafia. Crocetta was able to cope with the nearly insurmountable odds against him, until his mother got wind of an assassination plot against her son. She quit eating and died forty days later. Crocetta went into therapy.
A smoker with a penchant for blue framed glasses, Crocetta says today, “I’m homosexual, which I call a gift from God, and no, I don’t hide it one bit!”. Talking about his successful campaign for governor, he said, “the fact that I’m here is almost inconceivable. Even I’m surprised.”