Sponsoring LGBT Legislation No Harm to Electability

A number of LGBT allies lost their races in last week’s elections–but one bit of positive news is that sponsoring LGBT-rights legislation did not negatively impact a candidate’s ability to win.

Barbara Boxer
Barbara Boxer

A number of LGBT allies lost their races in last week’s elections—but one bit of positive news is that sponsoring LGBT-rights legislation did not negatively impact a candidate’s ability to win.

Three current senators who were lead sponsors of LGBT-rights legislation in the 111th Congress and were up for re-election all won their races: Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.)

Thirteen of the fifteen representatives who were lead sponsors of LGBT-rights legislation and were up for reelection won their races: Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Donna Christiansen (D-V.I.), John Conyers (D-Mich.), Barney Frank (D-Mass.), Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), Jim McDermott (D-Wisc.), Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Jared Polis (D-Colo.), Laura Richardson (D-Calif.), Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.), Pete Stark (D-Calif.), and Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.).

Two sponsors did lose: Pennsylvania Democrats Patrick Murphy and Joe Sestak. (Sestak was running for a Senate seat.)

Murphy, a former Army captain, was lead sponsor of a bill to repeal the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy banning openly gay service members. It was incorporated as language in the Defense Authorization bill that passed the House in May but has yet to pass the Senate. Murphy also co-sponsored several other LGBT-rights bills, including two bills that would help protect students from bullying and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Sestak, a former three-star admiral in the Navy, had been an outspoken supporter of DADT repeal. His campaign Web site stated that Sestak’s support of LGBT rights “is born out of his experience in the military,” where he served with lesbian and gay service members.

He also sponsored a bill to ban housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity and was a co-sponsor on several other LGBT-related bills, including the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act that passed last year.

Sestak and Murphy’s support of LGBT rights seem to have played no part in their defeats, however. Debates with their opponents focused on jobs and economic issues. Both Pat Toomey, Sestak’s opponent, and Mike Fitzpatrick, Murphy’s, tried to rally voters who were dissatisfied with the Obama administration’s—and by extension, the Democrats’—handling of the economy.

Toomey even agreed with Sestak in supporting a repeal of DADT, although Toomey said he first wanted to make sure military leaders agreed repeal would not interfere with their mission.

Looking back to earlier support for LGBT rights, four of the 14 senators who voted against the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996 were up for reelection this year. Three of the four won: Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). The only one to lose, Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.), was another victim of the wave of anti-Democrat sentiment across the country. Wisconsin voters also chose Republican Scott Walker to replace Democratic governor Jim Doyle, who did not seek another term.

GOP to dominate most state legislatures

Among the more dismal losses in Tuesday’s results was the one in New Hampshire, where Republicans won a veto-proof majority in both the state House and Senate.

It gets worse.

New Hampshire State House (Photo credit: Nicopoley, Wikimedia Commons)
New Hampshire State House (Photo credit: Nicopoley, Wikimedia Commons)

Among the more dismal losses in Tuesday’s results was the one in New Hampshire, where Republicans won a veto-proof majority in both the state House and Senate. That means that, while Democratic Governor John Lynch retained his seat—and the position to veto any of the legislature’s pending bills to repeal the state’s marriage equality law—there are enough votes now in both chambers to overturn that veto.

It gets worse.

Republicans took over the majorities in both chambers of the state legislatures in Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Alabama—states which had both houses dominated by Democrats going into Tuesday’s votes.

In Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, where only one chamber had a Republican majority, now both are dominated by Republicans. The Maine Senate, too, has switched from a Democratic to Republican majority, with Republicans holding a hefty 21 to 13 margin that would not likely approve a new marriage equality law. The Democratic-led Maine Senate passed such a bill in 2009 by a 20 to 15 margin but the law was overturned by voter referendum later that year.

And the National Conference of State Legislatures reports that the Minnesota Senate will now, for the first time in history, be controlled by Republicans.

In all 25 state legislatures are now completely dominated by Republicans, 16 by Democrats, four are divided between the parties. The majorities in four states are still undetermined and Nebraska’s has only a non-partisan.

“It was worse than I thought,” said openly gay State Rep. Jim Splaine in New Hampshire.  According to the NCSL, the state’s 400-seat House will next year be comprised of 296 Republicans and 104 Democrats. Its 24-seat senate will include 19 Republicans and five Democrats. Both easily exceed the two-thirds needed to overturn a veto.

The domination of Republicans in the legislatures is likely to mean a much more Republican Congress for the next ten years, as state legislatures in most states approve the lines for Congressional districts. Redistricting for those districts begins next year.

Big losses in the U.S. House and Senate

Republicans won control of the U.S. House in Tuesday’s elections. As of 3 a.m. Wednesday, it appears the GOP will hold at least 234 seats, to Democrats’ 180.

John Boehner
John Boehner

Republicans won control of the U.S. House in Tuesday’s elections. As of 3 a.m. Wednesday, it appears the GOP will hold at least 234 seats, to Democrats’ 180.

But Democrats retained a slim majority in the U.S. Senate—holding 51 seats, compared to the Republicans’ 47. Senate races in Washington State and Colorado are still considered too close to call on Wednesday morning.

The LGBT community will be able to celebrate the addition of a fourth openly gay member to the House and the re-election of the three openly gay incumbents, but the loss of a Democratic majority in that chamber spells the end for hope that any of the dozen or so pro-gay measures pending in Congress have any chance of advancing in the next two years.

“If anyone thinks that the Democrats are going to come back in the lame duck session of Congress and repeal DADT, I have a bridge to sell you,” blogged longtime Democratic gay activist David Mixner last night at davidmixner.com. “In the last two years, we have failed to achieve our goals on DOMA, DADT and ENDA. We even have failed to pass pension and health insurance for federal employees. It appears that the Justice Department’s appeal of the DADT decision could have cost us any chance of getting DADT repealed.”

The new Republican majority also increases the likelihood that measures hostile to LGBT civil rights issues can be publicized through hearings in committee that will, starting next January, be chaired by Republicans.

While U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) made many promises to move LGBT legislation under her watch as Speaker of the House, Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) has a zero record on gay-related matters in the past three sessions Congress, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Two other political zeros will be at his side: Eric Cantor of Virginia as the likely minority whip, and Mike Pence of Indiana, as Republican Conference Chair.

Openly gay Reps. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), and Jared Polis (D-Colo.) will return to their seats in the next Congressional session. They will be joined by the openly gay mayor of Providence, Rhode Island, who will be representing that state’s 1st Congressional district. Two other openly gay candidates for Congress on Tuesday did not succeed – Steve Pougnet in California and Ed Potosnak in New Jersey.

There were numerous other losses for the LGBT community to mourn in Tuesday’s results. U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Penn.), who led the charge to gain passage of a measure to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT), lost his seat to Republican challenger Michael Fitzpatrick, who was endorsed by Log Cabin Republicans. And five other strong LGBT supporters lost Tuesday night, including Reps. Phil Hare (Illinois’ 17thCongressional district), John Hall (NY’s 19th), Michael Arcuri (NY’s 24th), John Salazar (Colorado’s 3rd), and Carol Shea-Porter (NH-1st). Hare earned a 100 percent score from HRC; Hall earned a 90, Arcuri an 85; and Salazar and Shea-Porter an 80.

Among other candidates with LGBT support who lost Tuesday night included Arizona Democratic Rep. Harry Mitchell, voted for ENDA in 2007 and opposed an amendment to ban same-sex marriage in the federal constitution. Mitchell was defeated by Republican David Schweikert, who has said, “Traditional marriage is the basis for a functional society.” Texas Democratic Rep. Chet Edwards earned an HRC contribution even though he was not a strong supporter of equal rights for gays. But he was trounced by an even more conservative Republican opponent, Bill Flores. Flores says he believes “there is one definition of marriage and that is between one man and one woman” and has said he will “stand firm against any effort to change this or force Texas to recognize “gay marriages” in other states.”

At least 12 of 17 Republican candidates endorsed by Log Cabin Republicans won re-election Tuesday night. In addition to Fitzpatrick in Pennsylvania that included Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Florida’s 18th), Judy Biggert and Bob Dold (Illinois 13th and 10th), Todd Platts (Pennsylvania 19th), Charles Dent (Pennsylvania’s 15th), Dave Reichert (Washington’s 8th), Leonard Lance of New Jersey’s 7th, Charlie Bass (New Hampshire 2nd) Nan Hayworth of New York’s 19th, and Richard Hanna of New York’s 24th.

One painful loss for Log Cabin was Republican incumbent Joseph Cao of New Orleans (Louisiana’s 2nd). The group just this year presented Cao with its “Spirit of Lincoln” award for his support on the hate crimes bill and co-sponsorship of a bill to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Republican Sean Bielat who earned the endorsement of a relatively new gay conservative group—GOProud—lost in his bid to unseat longtime Democratic gay Congressman Barney Frank, even though Bielat is against repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and for “traditional marriage.”

In the Senate, the LGBT losses include longtime civil rights supporter Russ Feingold, a Democrat from Wisconsin, who was beaten by Republican newcomer Ron Johnson. Feingold was one of only 14 senators who voted against the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 1996. Johnson, like Feingold, supports repeal of DADT but only if the military approves it. He opposes marriage equality for same-sex couples. Pro-gay Democrat Alexi Giannoulias lost in his bid for the U.S. Senate seat from Illinois to Republican Mark Kirk. Kirk, in the House, earned relatively strong scores from HRC, but last June he voted against repeal of DADT. Following numerous reports by bloggers that Kirk is a closeted gay man, a local television reporter asked him why the bloggers “keep saying that.” Kirk, who has said publicly he is not gay, said he thinks it’s because he’s divorced. And both Democrat Kendrick Meek and Independent Charlie Crist failed to win the seat from Florida. That, instead, will be held by Republican Marco Rubio, who opposes repeal of DADT.

On the brighter side, Senate Majority leader Harry Reid beat out Tea Party Republican Sharron Angle. Reid was supportive of LGBT civil rights; Angle is not. California Senator Barbara Boxer, a longtime LGBT supportive Democrat and one of the 14 DOMA opponents, has held onto her seat, defeating less supportive Republican Carly Fiorina. And pro-gay Democrat Chris Coons, endorsed by the Human Rights Campaign, easily defeated Republican gadfly Christine O’Donnell. Coons has said he will “continue fighting for LGBT issues,” including marriage equality, repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT), repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and for passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).

It is still unclear who has won the Senate races in Colorado and Washington State. In Colorado, incumbent Democrat Michael Bennet appears, on Wednesday morning, to hold onto a very slight lead against Republican Ken Buck who has implied that homosexuality is akin to alcoholism. And in Washington, incumbent pro-gay Democrat Patty Murray is clinging to a thin lead over Republican challenger Dino Rossi, who opposes marriage equality and domestic partnerships.

Iowa justices get the boot

All three Iowa Supreme Court justices up for retention this month have been given the boot. The vote sends a chilling message to other justices who face retention votes and must rule on the constitutionality of laws that adversely affect LGBT people.

scales

All three Iowa Supreme Court justices up for retention this month have been given the boot.

The Iowa Secretary of State website shows only 45 percent of voters said “Yes” to retention 55 percent said “No.”

The vote sends a chilling message to other justices who face retention votes and must rule on the constitutionality of laws that adversely affect LGBT people.

Chief Justice Marsha Ternus and Justices David Baker and Michael Streit agreed with a unanimous opinion of the seven-member bench that ruled in 2009 that the state constitution requires gay couples be treated the same as straight couples when it comes to marriage licensing.

The three justices issued a joint statement, saying it had been their “great privilege” to serve and that they had tried to uphold the law. They urged Iowans to support the state’s “merit selection system for appointing judges.”

“This system helps ensure that judges base their decisions on the law and the Constitution and nothing else,” said the statement. “Ultimately, however, the preservation of our state’s fair and impartial courts will require more than the integrity and fortitude of individual judges, it will require the steadfast support of the people.”

Justices in Iowa are appointed by the governor but must stand for “retention” at the end of their first year and the end of each eight-year term. Groups unhappy with the 2009 ruling turned the retention election for into a referendum on same-sex marriage. Those groups included the anti-gay American Family Association, the Family Research Council, and the National Organization for Marriage (NOM).

The Des Moines Register reported last week that NOM has spent $200,000 in television ads to oppose the justices’ retention.

Another coalition—a bipartisan one—formed to support the justices’ retention. It was headed up by Republican former Governor Robert Ray and Democratic former Iowa First Lady Christie Vilsack.

The Register quoted a Vanderbilt University law professor last week as saying “It is virtually unheard of for a judge to lose a retention race.” In fact, noted the Register, this is the first time voters have chosen not to retain a justice.

The paper said that exit polls indicated that voters based their decision on the court’s decision in the gay marriage case.

Interestingly, noted the Register, state district court Judge Robert Hanson, who issued the initial ruling for marriage equality that led to the state supreme court appeal, was retained in voting Tuesday with 66 percent voting yes. Another judge, Scott Rosenberg, who signed a waiver that enabled one gay couple to obtain a marriage license in Iowa before Hanson’s ruling was stayed, was retained with 69 percent of the vote.

Openly gay candidates: Some surprise victories in 164 races

The results for some high profile openly gay candidates are often mixed, and they were Tuesday night–with nine of eighteen openly LGBT candidates winning. But there was one big surprise Tuesday night and one shining star.

Barney Frank
Barney Frank

The results for some high profile openly gay candidates are often mixed, and they were Tuesday night—with nine of eighteen openly LGBT candidates winning. But there was one big surprise Tuesday night and one shining star and, overall, the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund reported that 106 of the 164 openly gay candidates running Tuesday won their races.

The big surprise came in Lexington, Kentucky, where openly gay construction company executive Jim Gray won election as mayor. The Lexington Herald-Leader reported the news shortly after the polls closed at 6 p.m. Gray has been serving as the city’s vice mayor and defeated incumbent mayor Jim Newberry. The paper said the campaign has been one of the most expensive in the city’s history and only the second time in history that a sitting mayor has been defeated. The ballot in Lexington does not indicate party affiliation. According to results published by the Herald-Leader, Gray won with 53 percent of the vote, to Mayor Jim Newberry’s 46 percent. The Herald-Leader noted that Gray lost a bid for mayor in 2002, when his sexual orientation was not public. Gray came out before running successfully for an at-large seat on the Urban County Council.

In another southern state, North Carolina, openly gay candidate Marcus Brandon of High Point won his first-time run for state representative and, in doing so, becomes the state’s first openly gay member of the house. (Julia Boseman was the first to the legislature, as state senator.) According to the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, Brandon also becomes only the fifth openly gay African-American to a state legislature anywhere in the country. As of 10:30 Tuesday night, three hours after polls closed, the state Board of Elections showed Brandon with 70 percent of the vote, compared to Republican Lonnie Wilson. The race was to represent North Carolina’s District 60, which encompasses Guilford County in the middle of the state. Brandon told the News-Record newspaper of Greensboro that his sexual orientation was not a secret but that “This is not something I wanted to take over my campaign.”

“Nobody in a year-and-a-half ever asked me about my sexuality,” Brandon said, in an October 15 blog by an editorial writer in which the paper noted his race was one of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund’s “Ten Races to Watch” this year.

Laurie Jinkins has won her bid to the Washington State House, and becomes its first openly lesbian state lawmaker. Another lesbian, Nickie Antonio, won an unopposed race for the Ohio state house, making her that state’s first openly gay state legislator.

U.S. Rep. Barney Frank won re-election to a 16th term as Massachusetts Congressman from the 4th District. Frank won against an aggressive Republican challenger, Sean Bielat, who had a surge of out-of-state funding in the final days of the campaign to fuel a flood of campaign literature and robo-calls. While Frank’s re-election was considered predictable, the margin of victory represents a significant drop in support for Frank. Frank garnered only 54 percent of the vote Tuesday, dropping well below his previous lowest re-election take of 68 percent in 2008. The returns almost guarantee an even tougher re-match against Bielat in 2012.

U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) won re-election to a seventh term with 62 percent of the vote, down just a few points from her previous re-election margin. U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) won a second term with 56 percent of the vote.

Providence, Rhode Island’s openly gay mayor, David Cicilline, won his bid to represent the 1st Congressional District in the U.S. House. The win will make him the fourth openly gay member of the Congress. With all precincts counted, Cicilline had secured 50.6 percent of the vote, compared to Republican John Loughlin’s 44.5 percent, and 4.9 percent for two other candidates.

In Connecticut, openly gay health care advocate Kevin Lembo appears to have won his race for the state comptroller’s seat, taking 52 percent of the vote to Republican Jack Orchulli’s 44 percent. The win makes Lembo the only openly gay candidates to win a statewide race Tuesday night.

And Victoria Kolakowski appears to have won election as a judge on the Superior Court of Alameda County, California, becoming the first transgender trial court judge in the country.

But there were losses, too.

Two openly gay candidates lost their bids for seats in the U.S. House. Democrat Ed Potosnak, a teacher and businessman, lost his bid to unseat Republican incumbent Leonard Lance in New Jersey’s 7th Congressional district. Potosnak had been given very little chance of winning in his first run, but still pulled in 40 percent of the vote. And Steve Poughnet, the openly gay mayor of Palm Springs, California, garnered 40 percent in his first run for Congress against incumbent Republican Mary Bono Mack.

Two openly gay candidates for lieutenant governor lost as the head of their tickets fell to defeat.  Steve Howard lost as the number two person on the Democratic ticket in Vermont. And Richard Tisei lost as part of the Republican ticket in Massachusetts, where incumbent Democratic governor Deval Patrick won re-election with 49 percent of the race, against Republican Charlie Baker’s 42 percent, and Independent Tim Cahill’s 8.

And openly gay Republican Ken Rosen appears to have lost his bid to represent Michigan’s 26th District in the state house. At 11:23 Tuesday night, early results showed Rosen with 44 percent of the vote, trailing Democrat Jim Townsend who has 53 percent.

LGBT Election Night Scorecard

LGBT Election Night Scorecard

LGBT Election Night Scorecard
Best Case Scenario Current Status Forecast Based on Polls Actual Results
1 Democrats keep the U.S. House 20 20 0 0
2 Democrats keep the U.S. Senate 20 20 20 20
3 NH retains Democratic House and Senate 10 10 5 0
4 NH retains Democratic governor 5 5 5 5
5 California elects Democratic governor 5 0 5 5
6 California elects Democratic Atty Genl 5 5 0 0
7 All 3 Iowa justices retained 5 5 5 0
8 Cicilline wins U.S. House seat (R.Is -1st) 5 0 5 5
9 Pougnet wins U.S. House seat (CA-45th) 5 0 0 0
10 Frank re-elected with 65% or more 5 5 5 0
11 Maine elects Democratic or Independent governor 5 5 0 0
12 New York elects Democratic governor 5 5 5 5
13 Minnesota elects Democratic governor 5 0 5 5**
LGBT political climate score* 100 80 60 45
*100 = relatively favorable for LGBT equality

0 = significantly unfavorable for LGBT equality

**Race as of Wednesday morning has not been called. Democrat Mark Dayton leads with 43.7 percent of the vote over Republican Tom Emmer with 43.2 percent

©2010 Keen News Service

Surprise openly gay victory — in Lexington, Kentucky

In one of the most unlikely of places, openly gay construction company executive Jim Gray has won election as the mayor—of Lexington, Kentucky.

In one of the most unlikely of places, openly gay construction company executive Jim Gray has won election as the mayor—of Lexington, Kentucky.

The Lexington Herald-Leader reported the news shortly after the polls closed at 6 p.m.

Gray has been serving as the city’s vice mayor and defeated incumbent mayor Jim Newberry. The paper said the campaign has been one of the most expensive in the city’s history and only the second time in history that a sitting mayor has been defeated.

The ballot in Lexington does not indicate party affiliation. According to results published by the Herald-Leader, Gray won with 53 percent of the vote, to Mayor Jim Newberry’s 46 percent.

Bielat pummels Frank with campaign drops

Voters in U.S. Rep. Barney Frank’s Congressional district have been flooded in the last two days with campaign literature telling them that Frank has “rich friends,” deserves a grade of “F,” and is “reckless and arrogant.”

Voters in U.S. Rep. Barney Frank’s Congressional district have been flooded in the last two days with campaign literature telling them that Frank has “rich friends,” deserves a grade of “F,” and is “reckless and arrogant.”

“Massachusetts just can’t afford Barney Frank and his rich friends,” says one four-page, four-color piece that includes a photo of Frank with a background of a posh poolside ocean view lounge area. The flipside shows photos of a private jet, a limo, and a Oceanside resort hotel.

That piece is identified as being paid for by the campaign of Frank’s Republican opponent for the 4th Congressional District seat from Massachusetts, Sean Bielat. Two others are paid for by the Bielat campaign; a fourth indicates it was paid for by “Keep America Safe,” a group based in Cincinnati, and headed by Republican politicos Liz Cheney and William Kristol to promote national security efforts.

Bielat is making an aggressive push to wrestle the seat from Frank, who has held the seat for 30 years.

Inside, the literature claims Frank “was responsible for the housing meltdown” and that he “wrote a law that allowed his friend’s bank, OneUnited, to cook the books and take a $12 million taxpayer funded bailout.”

“Now, we learn that [Frank] took a free luxury jet ride to the Virgin Islands with a crony who got a $200 million federal bailout.”

But the last-minute drop of numerous glossy campaign literature pieces begs the question of where Bielat is getting his funding. Federal Election Commission records just a few weeks ago showed him with not even half the money Frank had.

Through October 13, Frank’s campaign reported receiving $3 million in contributions; Bielat’s reported receiving only $1.3 million.

Frank’s campaign had spent $2.5 million by October 13, with $650,000 left in cash; Bielat’s campaign reported spending $834,000 with $463,000 left in cash.

The small “Keeping America Safe” flyer arrived on the same day the national news media began to report on security measures that found suspicious packages aimed at perpetrating a terrorist attack in the United States.

News reports about Frank staying at a billionaire friend’s “tropical mansion” in the Virgin Islands surfaced in the Boston Herald, a conservative newspaper in Massachusetts, in mid-October. The Herald noted that Frank said he and his partner, Jim Ready, are friends of Donald Sussman and Sussman’s fiancée, U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat from Maine. The Herald noted that Frank did report the flight and that his spokesman said the flight was cleared with the House Ethics Committee “before he did any of this.”

13 races to worry about Nov. 2

For hard-core political junkies in the LGBT community, there’s a lot to worry about in the November 2 voting—and not just because there’s the possibility of Republicans taking over the U.S. House and Senate. A number of races around the country could have significant impact on both the climate and the landscape for LGBT civil rights nationally.

Joe Biden
Joe Biden

For hard-core political junkies in the LGBT community, there’s a lot to worry about in the November 2 voting—and not just because there’s the possibility of Republicans taking over the U.S. House and Senate. A number of races around the country could have significant impact on both the climate and the landscape for LGBT civil rights nationally.

Download and print the Keen News Service LGBT Election Night Scorecard.

This report identifies 13 of the most important outcomes to keep an eye on next Tuesday and weighs their outcomes to reflect how much impact they could have on the LGBT community efforts to achieve equal rights. A cumulative score of 100 means the political landscape and climate remain relatively favorable for LGBT civil rights concerns. A zero would signal a significantly unfavorable change. The current status would rank a score of 80; but the latest poll predictions signal a drop to 60:

1. Democrats keep the U.S. House: Democrats currently hold 255 of the 435 House seats. It takes 218 or more to hold the majority. As of last week, the New York Times-fivethirtyeight number cruncher was forecasting Republicans would take the majority with 230 seats, leaving Democrats with only 205. Loss of Democratic control in the House means many things: Pro-gay measures have no chance of passage; anti-gay measures do.

2. Democrats keep the U.S. Senate: Democrats currently hold 57 of 100 seats and need 50 to retain the majority (with Democratic Vice President Joe Biden as Senate President). As of last week, the New York Times-fivethirtyeight number cruncher was forecasting Democrats would retain the Senate with 51 or 52 seats, to the Republicans 48 or 49. That’s still not a large enough majority for Democrats to break filibusters, but at least it cuts off the ability of Republicans to press for passage of anti-gay measures.

3. Democrats keep New Hampshire House and Senate: This bellwether state enacted a marriage equality law just this year and already three bills have been filed seeking repeal in 2011. Meanwhile, the Democratic majority in both the state House and Senate are in peril November 2, says Rep. Jim Splaine, the openly gay state legislator who authored the marriage bill in the House. Only two of seven Republicans who supported marriage equality were defeated in the primary, but the margins of victory on the marriage equality bill in 2009 were razor thin, and Splaine himself is retiring at the end of this year. If Republicans do take back the majority in the legislature, a repeal bill has a strong chance of succeeding. Polls indicate the results Tuesday are simply unpredictable.

4. New Hampshire retains Democratic governor: Now, imagine the New Hampshire legislature passes a bill to repeal its one-year-old marriage equality law and sends it to the governor’s desk. If incumbent Democrat John Lynch is there, it’s very likely that he’ll veto it. But if Republican challenger John Stephen is there, he’s promised to sign it. Polls give Lynch a good chance of hanging onto the job.

5. California elects Democratic governor: Republican Meg Whitman unabashedly opposes same-sex marriage and voted for Proposition 8. (She favors civil unions.) Democrat Jerry Brown, the state’s attorney general, supports same-sex marriage and has refused to defend California’s same-sex marriage ban— Proposition 8—in the landmark lawsuit now before the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. Whitman has criticized Brown for his position, and some speculate she could—if elected—intervene to enhance the appeal against federal Judge Vaughn Walker’s ruling that the measure is unconstitutional. The team challenging Proposition 8 says it is not concerned about that and, truth be told, the 9th Circuit will have heard the appeal long before the next governor takes office. But the position of the next governor could have some influence if and when the full 9th Circuit and/or the U.S. Supreme Court hear the case. And, legal scholar Erwin Chemerinsky notes that, if the 9th Circuit should dismiss the appeal for lack of standing by the current appellants, Whitman “could make a motion in federal court to have the judgment set aside.” Polls call this a toss-up with Brown having a slight edge.

6. California elects Democratic attorney general: Republican Steve Cooley has also criticized Attorney General Brown for refusing to defend Proposition 8 in court. If elected, he, too, could ask to have a 9th Circuit decision set aside, should it rule that proponents of Proposition 8 lack standing. He could also play a pivotal role in the approval of a future initiative should No on 8 activists need to overturn the anti-gay marriage law by ballot measure.  Cooley says he would go to bat for Proposition 8; his Democratic opponent, San Francisco district attorney Kamala Harris, says that, because Proposition 8 has been declared unconstitutional, the attorney general should not appeal it. Cooley has a slight lead in the latest polls.

7. Iowa retains three justices: One of the smallest races in the country is getting big attention: the re-election campaigns of three Iowa Supreme Court justices. All three were on the seven-member bench that unanimously ruled in 2009 that the state constitution requires gay couples be treated the same as straight couples when it comes to marriage licensing. Justices in Iowa are appointed by the governor but must stand for “retention” at the end of their first year and the end of each eight-year term. Groups unhappy with the 2009 ruling have turned the retention election for Chief Justice Marsha Ternus and Justices David Baker and Michael Streit into a referendum on same-sex marriage. Those groups including the anti-gay American Family Association, the Family Research Council, and the National Organization for Marriage (NOM). The Des Moines Register reported last week that NOM has spent $200,000 in television ads to oppose the justices’ retention. Meanwhile, another coalition—a bipartisan one—has been formed to support the justices’ retention. It is headed up by Republican former Governor Robert Ray and Democratic former Iowa First Lady Christie Vilsack. As of October 4, reports the Register, the contests are a toss-up, with 44 percent of 550 likely voters saying they’ll vote for retention, 40 percent against, and 16 percent saying they’ll retain “some.” The margin of error is plus or minus 4.2 percent. The Register quoted a Vanderbilt University law professor as saying “It is virtually unheard of for a judge to lose a retention race.”

8. Cicilline wins U.S. House seat for Rhode Island’s 1st: David Cicilline, the openly gay mayor of Providence, Rhode Island, is given a 91 percent chance of winning the four-way race to represent Rhode Island’s 1st Congressional District. For the LGBT community, it would mean a fourth openly gay member of Congress.

9. Pougnet wins U.S. House seat for California’s 45th: Steve Pougnet, the openly gay mayor of Palm Springs, California, is given less than a three percent chance of unseating incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Mary Bono Mack. But Pougnet has raised significant money and interest in his first run for Congress and Mack’s popularity has been waning since 2002. This race may not put a fifth openly gay member in Congress, but it could serve as an important practice run down the road when the political pendulum swings against Republicans.

10. Frank re-elected with 65 percent or more: Barney Frank is the Congress’ most veteran openly gay member –both in seniority, experience, and age. He’s now 70. Massachusetts politicos who hope to take over his reign in Massachusetts’ 4th Congressional district are already starting to stage their practice runs. That includes Republican Sean Bielat, whose campaign slogan—“Retire Barney”—seeks to capitalize on the notion that Frank is old enough to retire. The polls don’t give him much of a chance to “retire” Frank this year—the New York Times-fivethirtyeight number cruncher says Frank’s prospects for re-election are at 96 percent. But it forecasts Frank will win only about 56 percent of the vote, and that’s down dramatically from previous re-election runs in the mid-terms, when he’s won re-election with 99 and 98 percent. In the presidential election years, Frank won with 78 percent in 2004 and 68 percent in 2008. So, if Frank slips much below 68 percent this year, political pundits and potential challengers will almost certainly smell blood in the water, whether it’s there or not.

11. Maine elects Democratic governor: Equality Maine, the state LGBT civil rights group, says Tea Party Republican candidate Paul LePage would not only veto a marriage equality bill if one came to his desk, but “supports gutting the Maine Human Rights Act,” which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Democratic candidate Libby Mitchell is the polar opposite: According to Maine Public Radio, she would “restore the gay marriage law that was repealed by Maine voters last fall.” Independent candidate Eliot Cutler supports same-sex marriage, too. But guess who’s at the top of the latest poll? LePage. According to the Portland Press Herald on October 22, a poll of 600 registered voters has LePage at 32 percent, Mitchell at 20 percent, and Cutler at 19. Twenty-one percent are undecided and the rest are promised to minor party candidates.

12. New York elects Democratic governor: Tea Party Republican Carl Paladino has turned this race into an interesting one. He is opposed to equal marriage rights for gay couples, doesn’t want his children to think being gay is “an equally valid and successful option” to being straight, and called gay pride parades “disgusting.” But the New York Daily News reported last week that he used to collect rent from gay clubs in Buffalo, his campaign says that’s proof he doesn’t discriminate against gays, and he apologized “for any comment that may have offended the gay and lesbian community or their family members.” As of October 22, Democrat Andrew Cuomo has a 23-point lead over Paladino. And Cuomo would make a much different governor for LGBT New Yorkers. To put it in his own words, “I want to be the governor who signs the law that makes equality a reality in the state of New York.” Polls indicate an easy Democratic win.

13. Minnesota elects Democratic governor: LGBT interest in this race really began to escalate after the Target and Best Buy discount chains donated big money to a group called MN Forward, and MN Forward ran ads in support of Republican candidate Tom Emmer. Emmer’s website makes clear he opposes equal rights to marriage for gay couples and he led an effort in the state legislature to adopt a constitutional amendment to ban them. By contrast, Democrat Mark Dayton supports equal rights for LGBT people and his website includes a prominent and thorough discussion of that support. Polls indicate Dayton will be the likely winner.

Download and print the Keen News Service LGBT Election Night Scorecard.

Dems clinging to Senate, and stark contrast to GOP

The likelihood of Democrats retaining a majority of the U.S. Senate has diminished dramatically in recent days. But the news is worse than that for the LGBT community, which has had to depend on the Democratic Party to do any of its bidding in Congress.

Christine O'Donnell (Photo credit: Michael Johns)
Christine O'Donnell (Photo credit: Michael Johns)

The likelihood of Democrats retaining a majority of the U.S. Senate has diminished dramatically in recent days. But the news is worse than that for the LGBT community, which has had to depend on the Democratic Party to do any of its bidding in Congress.

The Tea Party Republican Senate candidate in Colorado who called homosexuality a choice has a 66 percent chance of beating the Democratic incumbent who has a pro-gay record. The Tea Party Republican Senate candidate in Nevada, who would ban adoptions by gays, has a 62 percent chance of unseating Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who has a 100 score from the Human Rights Campaign. The Wisconsin Republican candidate, who says he will “stand up to attacks” on such “traditional values” as marriage meaning “one man and one woman,” now has a 94 percent chance of ousting longtime gay civil rights supporter Russ Feingold.

The percentages come from the New York Times’ election data cruncher known as fivethirtyeight. It analyzes polling, demographic, and other relevant data, computes 100,000 simulations based on “random variation in the local and national political environment,” and spits two numbers: one is a projected election result (what percent of the vote each candidate will take), the other is a percentage representing the likelihood that one candidate will beat the other.

The bad news is: It’s likely Republicans will beat Democrats in 26 of the 37 Senate races November 2. That will mean –if the outcome sticks to the prediction—that three Democratic incumbents whose voting records have been strongly pro-gay: Reid in Nevada, Feingold in Wisconsin, and Michael Bennet in Colorado.

It means Democrats might hold as few as 51 or 52 seats in the Senate, giving them an even weaker majority than the 57 they have in the current Congressional session which has been marked by filibusters and other obstructionist acts by the minority.

But there is good news: 8 of the 12 incumbent Democrats who have HRC scores of 80 or better are poised to win re-election fairly easily, according to the NYT-fivethirtyeight predictions. That includes Barbara Boxer of California, Patty Murray of Washington, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Ron Wyden of Oregon, Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, and Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York.

In Delaware, where a Republican Tea Party candidate, Christine O’Donnell has described homosexuality as “an identity disorder,” Democrat Chris Coons is seen as 100 percent likely to win. That’s not because of O’Donnell’s remarks about homosexuality so much as her revelation years ago that she has “dabbled into witchcraft.” Interestingly, very little has been discussed about her revelation at that same time—on the Bill Maher Show in 1999—that she had “dates” with a “witch” but “never joined a coven.”

“I hung around people who were doing these things,” said O’Donnell. She never explained, and no media has apparently asked, for details, probably because there have been so many of her foibles to keep up with.

According to Tina Brown’s The Daily Beast website, O’Donnell has a lesbian sister, in Los Angeles, but O’Donnell’s own evangelical organization—Savior’s Alliance for Lifting Truth (SALT)—organized to oppose homosexuality, among other things. When the organization’s ex-gay outreach director, Wade Richards, came out publicly as gay in an article in The Advocate magazine, he said O’Donnell “totally turned her back on me.”

Salon.com said O’Donnell used a video with a “sizzling sub-narrative” that her Republican primary opponent, Mike Castle, was “cheating on his wife with a man.” It’s not clear where and when the video, produced by a consulting firm that O’Donnell hired, was aired. But, after disavowing the tactic of gay-baiting, O’Donnell continued to make her own gay-baiting statements, including an admonition for Castle to “put your man pants on.”

The list of anti-gay remarks and positions O’Donnell has racked up is numerous, very numerous. So, what about her Democratic opponent?

The Human Rights Campaign has endorsed Chris Coons, a county executive who it says “will continue fighting for LGBT issues.” He’s for marriage equality, for repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT), for repealing the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and for passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).

No other Senate race has been quite this saturated with gay hostilities, but many of them show equally stark splits between the Republican and the Democrat on issues of basic interest to the LGBT community, such as DOMA, DADT, and ENDA:

  • CALIFORNIA: Incumbent Democrat Barbara Boxer has earned a 100 percent from HRC. She voted against a motion that would have led to a vote on a federal constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage and she voted for an amendment to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the federal hate crimes statute. In 1996, she was one of only 14 senators to vote against DOMA, and she voted for ENDA. She is co-sponsor of a bill to provide equal benefits to the same-sex partners of federal employees. Her Republican opponent, Carly Fiorina, former Chairman of Hewlett-Packard, is opposed to equal rights to marriage for same-sex couples but supports allowing them to have civil unions. She has expressed support for DOMA, noting that it had “bipartisan support” and is supported by President Obama. She has also expressed support for Proposition 8, saying the voters were clear about what they wanted and that it was “perhaps not appropriate” for a single judge to overturn a law approved by voters. However, she said, “I support very much the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
  • COLORADO: Incumbent Democrat Michael Bennet has been in office only since January 2009, when he was appointed to serve out the term of now Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar. He has not been in office long enough yet to earn a rating from HRC, but he supports many pro-LGBT bills and is co-sponsor of repealing DADT and ENDA. In the primary campaign, Bennet said through a spokesperson that he supports full repeal of DOMA but also supports the right of states to pass ballot measures banning gay marriage. Bennet supports the repeal of DADT. His Republican opponent Ken Buck made headlines last Sunday when he told NBC’s Meet the Press that he thinks homosexuality is a choice. Bennet called Buck’s remark “outside the mainstream” of opinion on the issue.
  • FLORIDA: This is a three-way race, with polls indicating Tea Party Republican Mark Rubio has a 92.7 percent chance of winning. Both he and Independent candidate Charlie Crist oppose repeal of DADT. Crist has said he would oppose a same-sex marriage ban in the federal constitution but believes marriage is between one man and one woman and that gay couples should have only civil unions. Crist has also expressed support for a state appeals court decision that struck down the state’s ban on gays adopting. Democrat Kendrik Meek includes a large section on his campaign website expressing his support for equal rights for LGBT people, including opposition to a federal constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, support for repealing DADT, and opposition to Florida’s adoption ban. Meek, however, is given less than one percent chance of pulling out a victory.
  • ILLINOIS: This is one of the tightest races in the country, with Republican Mark Kirk showing only a 54 percent chance of taking replacing Democrat Roland Burris in Barack Obama’s old seat. HRC has endorsed Democrat Alex Giannoulias, saying he stands for “full equality” for LGBT people, including marriage equality, repeal of DOMA and DADT. Kirk has earned strong voting scores from HRC—85, 75, and 88—during the past three Congressional sessions, when he served in the House, but last June he voted against repeal of DADT. Following numerous reports by bloggers that Kirk is a closeted gay man, a local television reporter asked him why the bloggers “keep saying that.” Kirk, who has said publicly he is not gay, said he thinks it’s because he’s divorced.
  • NEVADA: Republican Sharron Angle vowed not to take contributions from corporations that provide equal partner benefits to gay employees. In debate last week, she dodged a question about her position on DADT, except to say that she thought it was wrong for the Senate to take up the issue via the defense spending bill before the Pentagon turned in its study. And she volunteered that she supports Nevada’s law to “define marriage as between a man and a woman.” NYT-fivethirtyeight gives Angle a 62 percent chance of winning the seat held by Democrat Harry Reid, a member whom HRC rates as 100 percent supportive on LGBT issues.
  • WASHINGTON: Longtime LGBT supporter Patty Murray is not perfect on gay issues. She voted for DOMA, but she co-sponsored ENDA and supports repeal of DADT. And she has a serious challenger in Republican Dino Rossi. NYT-fivethirtyeight says Murray has an 83.7 percent chance of winning but the likely result looks like 51 percent to 46.5 percent with a five-point margin of error, so it’s considered a toss-up. Rossi, two years ago, indicated he does not support marriage equality for gays and was not entirely supportive of even domestic partnerships.
  • WISCONSIN: Incumbent Democrat Russ Feingold is in a tough fight for his seat, and NYT-fivethirtyeight gives his Tea Party Republican opponent, Ron Johnson, a 94 percent chance of taking the victory November 2. Feingold rates a 90 score from HRC and, like Boxer, was one of only 14 senators in 1996 to vote against DOMA. HRC says he was also one of the first senators to publicly support marriage equality for same-sex couples. Johnson supports repealing DADT but only if the military approves it, and he opposes marriage equality for same-sex couples.

Meanwhile, a number of candidates in both Senate and House races have taken to taunting their opponents—at least the male ones—to “man up” or act “like a man.” It’s not a sophisticated level of discourse and may reflect frustration with their own campaigns or their own ability to defend their political positions.

Kendrick Meek, for instance, the Democratic candidate for Senate in Florida, told reporters that Independent candidate Charlie Crist “needs to man up and leader up his own campaign,” rather than suggest that Meek’s campaign is flailing.

Sharron Angle, the Republican challenging Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for Nevada’s seat in the Senate, garnered considerable media attention for her “Man up, Harry Reid” quip in their only debate October 14. Democratic incumbent Robin Carnahan of Missouri said her Republican opponent should “man up” and repeal his own health insurance before asking others to.

And Tea Party Republican Rand Paul, seeking a Senate seat representing Kentucky, goaded his Democratic opponent to “run a race like a man.”

The highly publicized gender-based goading comes at an especially ironic time, on the heels of increased attention nationwide to the negative consequences of bullying, especially against LGBT youth.

House mid-terms: A sinking feeling

The mid-term election for Democrats is beginning to sound like the Titanic. The gigantic wonder that set sail in January 2009 is now sinking, the passengers are in a state of panic, and the rich corporations have taken all the lifeboats.

John Boehner
John Boehner

The mid-term election for Democrats is beginning to sound like the Titanic. The gigantic wonder that set sail in January 2009 is now sinking, the passengers are in a state of panic, and the rich corporations have taken all the lifeboats.

Pollster Peter Hart, speaking to the Harvard Institute of Politics this month, put it in numbers. He said Republicans would emerge from November 2 with 230 House seats. The New York Times’ political poll cruncher, fivethirtyeight.com, predicts 226. Sure, it will be a much smaller majority than the 255 Democrats have now; but, almost no one is predicting it will be anything but a Republican majority.

And the odd thing is Republicans are less popular today than they were two years ago, said Hart. Two years ago, Republicans were reviled as the party of President George W. Bush, who led the nation into two wars, a crippling deficit, and today’s crippled economy.

Republicans will take over the House, and maybe the Senate, said Hart, because November’s vote will be the great anti-government vote.

If all that polling and punditocracy prove true, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), a long-time supporter of LGBT civil rights, will be replaced by Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), whose Human Rights Campaign score is zero. And two other political zeros will aid Boehner: Minority Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia, and Republican Conference Chair Mike Pence of Indiana.

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) will lose his chairmanship of the House Financial Services Committee, Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) will lose his chairmanship of the House Judiciary Committee, and Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) will lose his chairmanship of Education and Labor. All three had HRC scores of 100 in the last Congress. Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Missouri), chair of the House Armed Services Committee, had a score of 45, which may not seem like such a loss. But his likely replacement, Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), had a zero.

While the overall seat count will be the focus of greatest concern for civil rights supporters November 2, there are individual races where the LGBT community stands to lose some important allies.

One is Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Penn.). Murphy, who is straight, went to the mat for legislation to repeal the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) policy –and at a time when most political observers were saying there was little chance of success. He voted for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) in 2007 and earned a 90 percent rating from HRC’s most recent Congressional Scorecard. HRC has contributed $8,500 in support of his re-election.

The NYT-threefiftyeight analysis says Murphy’s race is a toss-up against Republican former Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick winning. Fitzpatrick’s HRC rating, during his 2005-06 term was 63. While that is a significantly lower rating than Murphy earned, Fitzpatrick did vote against a federal amendment to ban same-sex marriage and for a hate crimes measure to include sexual orientation and gender identity. What cost him points was his failure to co-sponsor other legislation.

Of 37 House races that the NYT-threefiftyeight analyses identify as too close to call this week, Murphy’s race in Pennsylvania and five others involve incumbents with strong pro-gay voting records. Those other five incumbents, all Democrats, are Reps. Phil Hare (Illinois’ 17th Congressional district), John Hall (NY’s 19th), Michael Arcuri (NY’s 24th), John Salazar (Colorado’s 3rd), and Carol Shea-Porter (NH-1st). Hare earned a 100 percent score from HRC; Hall earned a 90, Arcuri an 85; and Salazar and Shea-Porter an 80. Just as many toss-up incumbents have scores in and around the freeze zone; so, positive positions on LGBT-related issues do not, in and of themselves, appear to sink incumbents. (The majority of toss-ups are between newcomers fighting for a vacant seat or a first-termer who has yet to be scored by HRC.)

The other “toss up” races involve candidates who earned an HRC rating of 70 or less, or have not yet been rated by the organization.

  • Arizona Democratic Rep. Harry Mitchell—HRC grade 70; HRC contribution $7,000- Mitchell voted for ENDA in 2007. In response to a question from the Arizona Republic newspaper, Mitchell said he supports Arizona’s same-sex marriage ban but opposes a similar amendment to the federal constitution. His opponent, Republican David Schweikert, said only, “Traditional marriage is the basis for a functional society.”
  • Iowa Democratic Rep. Leonard Boswell—HRC grade 67; HRC contribution $7,000—Boswell voted for ENDA in 2007 but hasn’t co-sponsored any pro-gay legislation. His challenger, Republican Brad Zaun, says on his website that he’s “committed to defending the sanctity of marriage and family” and “will continue to oppose all attempts to redefine marriage as anything other than the sacred bond between one woman and one man.”
  • Texas Democratic Rep. Chet Edwards—HRC grade 60; HRC contribution $3,500—Edwards is not a strong supporter of equal rights for gays. He voted against ENDA in 2007 and this year voted against the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” The Dallas News calls him “among the most conservative” Democrats in Congress. But political leanings are relative. Edwards’ Republican opponent, Bill Flores, says he believes “there is one definition of marriage and that is between one man and one woman” and that he will “stand firm against any effort to change this or force Texas to recognize “gay marriages” in other states.”

Log Cabin Republicans have endorsed 14 Republicans running for the House. Six of them are incumbents with HRC scores, but only one of those six has a score above 50. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Florida’s 18th) earned a 70 during the last Congress. Reps. Judy Biggert (Illinois’ 13th) and Mary Bono Mack (California’s 45th) each earned a 55. Rep. Todd Platts (Pennsylvania 19th) earned a 45. Rep. Charles Dent (Pennsylvania’s 15th) earned only a 30. And Rep. Dave Reichert (Washington’s 8th) earned only a 25. All of these six are expected to win re-election.

But Log Cabin Republicans have endorsed a few Republicans who are in close races –and in some cases, in races against Democrats who have also been strong LGBT supporters:

  • Republican incumbent Joseph Cao of New Orleans (Louisiana’s 2nd) is polling behind Democratic challenger Cedric Richmond. Cao voted for the hate crimes bill in 2009 and co-sponsored Murphy’s bill to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Last month, Log Cabin presented him with the group’s “Spirit of Lincoln” award. But Cao’s tough race is probably not due to his pro-gay stance. He won his first term in 2008 with only 50 percent of the vote. And the Democratic challenger, Richmond, is also a strong supporter of gay civil rights. In 2001, before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned sodomy laws, Richmond sponsored a bill in the Louisiana legislature seeking to undo that state’s “crime against nature” law.
  • Hawaii first-term Republican incumbent Charles Djou is in a tight race to hang onto his seat. He supports the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and opposes even civil union recognition of same-sex relationships. But he voted for repeal of DADT and reportedly would support ENDA, although his name is not on the list of co-sponsors. He has earned him the endorsement of Log Cabin and GOProud, a conservative gay group. He’s up against Democrat Colleen Hanabusa, president of the Hawaii Senate, who has the endorsement of the GLBT Democratic Caucus of Hawaii and pushed to get a vote on a bill to provide gays in Hawaii with civil unions. (The bill was later vetoed.) Djou was harshly critical of that bill, saying it countered the majority vote to ban recognition of same-sex marriage. Hanabusa supports repeal of the federal DOMA and, in a survey by Progressive Democrats of Hawaii, said she would be a strong advocate in Congress for equal rights for gay and lesbian couples.
  • Nan Hayworth, the Republican candidate in New York’s 19th Congressional district, has the endorsement of Log Cabin, while Democrat John Hall has the support of HRC. Hayworth told voters she would leave the issue of marriage to the states.
  • Richard Hanna, the Republican candidate in New York’s 24th, also has Log Cabin’s endorsement and also says he would leave the marriage issue to the states. HRC has given money to the Democratic incumbent Michael Arcuri, who has earned an 85 score from the group.

And, of course, GOProud has endorsed Republican Sean Bielat who is challenging long-time Democratic gay Congressman Barney Frank, even though Bielat is against repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and for “traditional marriage.”

Three final notes: First, while most polling suggests that the Republicans will take back the House, there are those who say Democrats are fighting their way back.

“Less than a month before the midterm elections, the political landscape remains strongly tilted toward Republicans,” reported the Washington Post last week, “although Democrats have made modest improvements with voters since their late-summer low point.”

National Public Radio sees Democrats likely to win 218 seats—the barest majority.

Second, there’s another reason to care: Redistricting. Every 10 years, the House of Representatives draws the Congressional districts. The district lines are supposed to be drawn with the goal of balancing the districts in terms of population against the new Census data. And that work begins next year, with the new Congress.

“Cutting out a wealthy suburb or looping in an ethnic neighborhood can turn a district from Republican to Democratic, or vice-versa,” notes the October 12 Wall Street Journal. “If done across the board, redistricting can tip a congressional delegation red or blue for a generation.” Those changes can, in turn, affect races for the state legislature.

And, finally, pollster Hart illustrated a point by posting photographs of three famous political couples: Bill and Hillary Clinton, John and Elizabeth Edwards, and Al and Tipper Gore. Ten years ago, he asked, which of these couples would you predict would still be together.

On the political high seas, he said, “You never know.”

With House in question, is Frank ‘running scared’?

The first in a three-part series on the mid-term elections

It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the angst surrounding next month’s Congressional elections. The 24/7 media are hyping a Republican takeover of the House and maybe the Senate. A switch in party leadership of either chamber will represent a major setback for pro-LGBT goals in Congress.

So, how likely is it that Republicans will take back leadership of either chamber? Polling data are our crystal balls.

Barney Frank
Barney Frank

The first in a three-part series on the mid-term elections

It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the angst surrounding next month’s Congressional elections. The 24/7 media are hyping a Republican takeover of the House and maybe the Senate. A switch in party leadership of either chamber will represent a major setback for pro-LGBT goals in Congress—even relative to the modest goals achieved thus far under a Democratic-led House and Senate. Not only would pro-gay legislation not advance, even in committee, but the LGBT community would likely find itself on the defensive, fending off hostile legislation.

“While certainly some Republican members have voted with us, their leadership is not supportive,” said Fred Sainz, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, the national LGBT community’s de facto lobby. And the party that controls each chamber, he noted, “gets to set the agenda and control what bills will be voted on.”

“If the leadership doesn’t support equality, then they will never allow bills aimed at equality to see the light of day,” said Sainz. “That’s what’s at stake in this election.”

So, how likely is it that Republicans will take back leadership of either chamber? Polling data are our crystal balls.

Fivethirtyeight.com, the New York Times-affiliated political data-analysis unit which does an intensive crunch of polling numbers based on a careful weighting of important variables (such as demographics, poll reliability, proximity to voting day, etc.), forecasts Democrats in the Senate losing seven seats but clinging to 52 seats on November 2. For the House, it forecasts Republicans likely to have 224 seats to the Democrats’ 211. Those forecasts are as of September 30 and October 1.

That would be a big switch in the House—46 seats, from the current 257 Democrats and 178 Republicans.

Three Democratic seats that are apparently very safe are those held by the House’s only three openly gay members: Barney Frank, Tammy Baldwin, and Jared Polis. Polis has no challenger and the threefiftyeight-NYT analysis calculates that Frank and Baldwin’s seats are “100 percent” safe.

The only odd news in these races is that a gay Republican group called GOProud endorsed Frank’s Republican challenger, Sean Bielat. The group says Frank is partly to blame for the nation’s financial woes and says his Republican challenger, Sean Bielat, “believes that marriage is a state issue and opposes a federal constitutional amendment.”

But Bielat’s positions have changed in the past several months. In an interview with the Boston Globe, published February 19, Bielat indicated he supports “the Massachusetts law legalizing gay marriage.” (There was no statutory law doing that; only a state supreme court ruling that the constitution requires equal treatment of same-sex couples under the law.) But in an interview published July 25 by SouthCoastToday.com, Bielat indicated he opposes same-sex marriage, civil unions, and gays in the military.

Bielat’s recently updated website provides what one must presume is his official position now: “I have a traditional understanding of marriage. I believe that efforts to change the way marriage has been legally defined should be subject to either a legislative or referendum process. I also believe that marriage should remain a state issue.”

Concerning “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Bielat’s website indicates he believes “the military, not Congress” should determine the policy concerning gays in the service.

“Gay rights activists argue that gays and lesbians have served proudly and deserve to serve openly,” states Bielat. “As a member of the Marine Reserves who has served on active duty, I honor every soldier who takes up arms for our country. Each deserves our respect and gratitude. The American military, however, does not exist to support the individuality and diversity of soldiers but to protect the American homeland and people. Individual rights and preferences in the armed forces are always secondary to mission accomplishment, as they must be. If and when military leaders, free from political coercion and after studying the issue, believe that gays serving openly will enhance, or have no impact on, our military capability, I will support their decision.”

On a local Fox News interview September 25, he was more direct, “I support the current policy.”

Interestingly, despite polls that show Frank has a safe seat, many political news reports in Massachusetts are saying Frank is in a tough fight for re-election, primarily because he’s represented his district for almost 30 years now, he just turned 70, and the media insists there’s an anti-incumbent sentiment growing among voters generally.

But large, national and recent polls don’t support the anti-incumbent theory.

An ABC/Washington Post poll September 30 to October 3 of 1,002 adults nationwide found that 61 percent disapprove of “the way the Democrats in Congress are doing their jobs.” The same poll found 67 percent disapprove of “the way the Republicans in Congress are doing their job.” Ditto a Pew Research poll of 1,002 adults during the same time period: 53 percent disapprove of how “Democratic leaders in Congress are doing,” 60 percent disapprove of how “Republican leaders in Congress are doing.” Ditto a CBS/New York Times poll September 10 to 14 of 990 adults: 50 percent disapprove how Democrats in Congress are doing, 68 percent disapprove Republicans in Congress.

Frank is both a Democrat and a Democratic leader. He chairs the House Financial Services Committee. He’s also the most senior and most visible of the House’s three openly gay members.

While he’s gotten $9,000 from the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund and almost $9,500 from the Human Rights Campaign, that’s less than three percent of the $635,500 he’s received from various political action committees. In all, as of the August 25 report to the Federal Elections Commission, his campaign has raised $2.4 million.

In contrast, Bielat, 35, has raised $261,840 in the same time period, all from individuals, both in state and out. He’s, thus, posing a sort of David-versus-Goliath image for his bid and says a poll his campaign commissioned sees him within 10 points of catching Frank. There have been no independent polls conducted on the race thus far.

In some respects, Bielat’s campaign is bolstered by devices other than the candidate. For one, Frank has waged a campaign this year, whereas, in some years, he’s had no opponent. But this year, he also hosted a rally with former President Bill Clinton as speaker and has had two Obama cabinet secretaries with him on the campaign trail. The Wall Street Journal noted Tuesday that Frank was giving much less money to his fellow Democrats’ campaigns than in past years, suggesting he’s having to campaign “aggressively” to beat back an anti-incumbent mood.

Bielat and Republicans point to all this as evidence that Frank is “running scared.” But it’s a claim that’s hard to justify. For one, Frank won his primary with almost 40,000 votes compared to Bielat winning his with 12,000. For another, Frank beat his last Republican opponent with 68 percent of the vote, compared to the Republican’s 25 percent. Even the Journal concedes a Frank loss is “unlikely.”

Frank will debate Bielat Monday, October 11, on a local AM station’s talk radio show—at 7 a.m. (Streamed at www.audio.wrko.com.)

There is one more important and apparently safe Democratic seat that involves an openly gay candidate. David Cicilline, the openly gay mayor of Providence, recently won a four-man race to secure the Democratic nomination. The NYT-threefiftyeight analysis describes his chances of beating the Republican candidate as 96 percent. Various small polls in September showed Cicilline with a lead of between 18 and 23 points. As of August 25, Cicilline had raised $1.4 million, Loughlin had raised $469,533.

The men, and two other independent candidates, seek to replace Rep. Patrick Kennedy, one in a long line of Democrats, who is vacating his seat.