Key mid-term race to watch is the Kentucky senate, where prospects for ENDA could hinge on McConnell
Most of the pundits are saying Republicans will take over the U.S. Senate and keep the House in the November 4 elections. If they’re right –and there is some room for doubt in both chambers—the Employment Non-Discrimination Act will likely have to undergo a complete makeover.
The numbers paint the picture:
Of the 36 senate seats up for grabs November 4, 21 are currently held by Democrats and they’ve all earned Human Rights Campaign scores between 80 and 100. In fact, 13 of them have earned 100. Of the 15 Republican seats up for grabs, all but the incumbents (save one) received HRC’s worst score: 0. That one is Senator Susan Collins of Maine who earned an 85.
The current make-up of the overall Senate right now is 53 Democrats, 45 Republicans, and 2 independents. The two independents have been caucusing with the Democrats but have hinted they might switch to the GOP if the Republicans win enough seats to take over that chamber.
Not counting the potential party-switchers, the Republicans need six seats, and various polls identify at least eight races in which they have a chance to pick up new seats: Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, New Hampshire, and North Carolina. (So far, there’s no indication that a political horse-trading scandal that broke in early October and involves Virginia’s incumbent Democrat Mark Warner imperils Warner’s re-election.) Those races involve seven “Yes” votes on last year’s ENDA roll call. (Georgia’s retiring Republican senator voted “No.”)
Whether Republicans are able to secure the Senate could be known as early as 9 p.m. (EDT), if they are able to take Georgia, North Carolina, Kentucky, Arkansas, and Iowa. Those states alone account for three pro-ENDA vote last November: Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), who is retiring; Kay Hagan (D-NC); and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.). That alone would not nix ENDA in the Senate. Last November, the Senate voted 64 to 32 to pass the bill.
But there’s little doubt that the only reason ENDA got a vote last November is because the Senate Majority Leader was a Democrat, Harry Reid. The current Republican Senate leader is Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. McConnell has scored a consistent zero on the Human Rights Campaign’s Congressional Scorecards. McConnell will not schedule a vote for ENDA unless –as he proposed last fall—it’s done in a way that attaches unrelated measure to it that is so disagreeable that even ENDA supporters will vote against it.
Here’s where things get interesting: McConnell is facing a serious challenge from a Democratic newcomer, Alison Grimes. Grimes has said she supports the right of every couple to marry, but she has turned off some Democrats by giving prominent play to her disagreements with President Obama on various issues; but, last week, the Lexington Herald-Leader called the race a “dead heat.” And this week, it noted that 53.5 percent of registered voters are Democrats, 38.7 percent Republicans, and 7.8 percent unaffiliated. A slightly later New York Times-CBS poll found McConnell with a six percent lead but showed the overwhelming majority (84 percent) of Democrats sticking with Grimes.
But that race and all the others among the eight crucial Senate races are simply too volatile and too-close-to-call even one week out from the voting. (At deadline, only two races showed candidate support at six points or higher: Democratic incumbent Mark Begich was up by six points in Alaska; Mary Landrieu was six points behind in Louisiana.)
Not as much attention is paid to the House. With 233 Republicans and 199 Democrats in the current chamber, Democrats need to keep all their existing seats and pick up 18 new seats ones. Unfortunately, it appears they may pick up only three seats that are open races: in Maine’s 2nd, Hawaii’s 1st, and Iowa’s 1st.
The good news in the House is that it appears at least five of the six existing members of the LGBT Congressional House caucus are likely to be re-elected. Only Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY) is in a tight race against the Republican he unseated two years ago. Former U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton rallied a crowd on behalf of Maloney this week. According to CBS New York, Maloney’s eight-point lead has dwindled to four in recent polling. And Maloney’s opponent, Nan Hayworth, has started airing an ad featuring her gay son, Will, assuring voters Hayworth is not the extremist Maloney says she is.
Three new challengers seeking to join that caucus have mixed chances, according to polls. Republican Richard Tisei appears to have a good chance at winning an open seat in Massachusetts, though former U.S. Rep. Barney Frank is backing the Democrat. Early voting in North Carolina’s 2nd Congressional district has been light, where Democratic challenger Clay Aiken is trying to unseat a Republican incumbent. And in San Diego, Republican openly gay candidate Carl DeMaio had a one-point lead over incumbent Democrat Scott Peters (who is backed by many LGBT groups) for the 52nd District seat in San Diego.
HRC President Chad Griffin announced this week he would travel to four states to campaign for Democratic senatorial candidates: Colorado’s Mark Udall, New Hampshire’s Jeanne Shaheen, newcomer Democrat Michelle Nunn, and ENDA chief sponsor Jeff Merkley in Oregon.