by Mark Gerardy
It could have (easily) been much worse for GLBTs, progressives and our supporters. On Tuesday, there were some real key wins. Considering the economy, Democrats actually held tight and lost much less than expected and there were key important victories along the way. The so-called "Republican tidal wave" is media hype, while there was a wave of Republican victories, a tidal wave would mean taking back both the House and Senate, in which they did not. In most mid-term elections, the underdog party takes back both, it is unusual to only win either the House or Senate. The largest defeat was losing the House of Representatives, the largest victory, beyond retaining pro-GLBT elected officials, are many of the governors races that went Democrat. Hawaii elected a Democrat governor and Rhode Island elected an independent. Both support same-sex marriage in states whose legislatures are poised to pass civil marriage and marriage equality laws, respectively.
The 2012 campaign season officially starts today, and Obama's current 44% approval rating mirrors all other recent presidents at mid-terms. I expect a tough race between Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin for the Republican nomination, with Romney winning over Palin, but Palin being the vice presidential candidate again. The biggest issue is the economy, specifically jobs. If unemployment stays above 10%, then we can expect a Republican tsunami in 2012. If unemployment drops below 5%-6%, then Obama's chances of being re-elected increase dramatically. Barack Obama and Congress must work to get unemployment below at least 8% in order to get re-elected.
Analysis and Election Results:
1) Percent of Republican votes in the Colorado governor race (latest poll shows 9% support, which would make the GOP a minor party for the next 4 years) would force the GOP to reconsider their anti-gay platform, if a moderately conservative state like Colorado rejects the party.
Victory: This is a resounding positive, with John Hickenlooper winning 50%+ of the votes, Tancredo trailing by 37% and Maes around 10%. I was surprised by how well that Tancredo did as a far-right fringe candidate running on an independent ticket, but Hickenlooper still won by double digits. However, I would consider Colorado to be a moderately progressive state. Colorado is approximately #11 in terms of pro-GLBT rights overall (in seven categories).
2)Retention vote for Iowa’s Supreme Court would prove that queer-bashing over marriage is no longer a winner at election time.
Defeat: All three judges were voted out of office. This could have a potential chilling effect on future rulings.
3) Will determine the likelihood of legislative enactment in 2011 of marriage equality in New York. The lower house passed the law, but the GOP has blocked it in the Senate. Number of Republicans (if any) replaced by Democrats in the New York state senate.
Tie: Democrats will still have a 32-30 majority in the New York Senate.
4) Barney Frank re-election to Congress in Massachusetts – the first openly gay member of Congress is facing a tough re-election battle).
Victory: Barney Frank was re-elected with over 65% of the vote.
5) New Jersey legislature – a rise in D membership might lead to a vote for marriage, even though the R governor says he will veto.
Victory: There were many wins for Democrats in the New Jersey legislature.
6) Hawaii governor – a D victory makes it likely the Aloha state will enact Civil Unions next year.
Victory: Democrat Abercrombie soundly defeated Aiona.
7) Minnesota governor – a D victory will make a real debate on Civil Unions in the legislature likely.
Victory: Democrat Dayton narrowly won over Emmer.
8) Florida attorney general - will determine what happens next on the anti-gay adoption law. The courts have consistently ruled against Florida, but the AG keeps fighting for this cruel, mean-spirited law. It appears the outgoing AG has given up, but a Republican victory could revive an appeal.
Defeat: Republican Pam Bondi won over Dan Gelber; however the genie is out of the bottle and gay parents are already adopting. Once taken effect and the public adapts to the the status quo, then it is more difficult to repeal and existing pro-GLBT law.
#10) California prop 19 (marijuana legalization) – a passage will signal that we’ve moved beyond simple medical marijuana (which was an issue for AIDS care), and will force the CA legislature and the Federal Congress to address this issue. The current initiative statute is so badly written as to be unusable for the stated goal of legalization, but if it shows common sense on drugs is not a loser, then the legislative branch will start to discuss this and other issues.
Defeat: Proposition 19 did not pass.
Mark's Supplemental Analysis:
Victory: In one of the closest races of 2010, Michael Bennet barely eked out a 47.4% to 47% victory over Ken Buck, astounding Republicans. While Ken Buck was not nearly as radically homophobic as many other candidates who had closer ties to the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), his views certainly were not pro-GLBT at all. With a Democrat mayor, Democrat governor, Democrat State House and Senate, and both Democrat Senators, Colorado is definitely moderate to liberal. Buck was leading in the polls between 3% to 10% going into the election.
Victory: Lisa Murkowski, as a write-in candidate, is leading 41% over Republican Joe Miller at 34%. A write-in candidate has not won the Senate since Strom Thurman in 1954, making this highly unusual.
Victory: In one of the biggest surprises, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid beat Sharron Angle 50% to 45% - despite Nevada having the highest unemployment rate, around 15%. Some assert that Karl Rove himself was heavily involved with Angle's campaign.
Victory: An easy victory for Delaware Senate Chris Coons who beat out infamous Christine O'Donnell, 54% to 40%, who tops the list of unelectable candidates based on her views, lack of the most basic knowledge of the Constitution, the issues that she considers important and her inflammatory rhetoric on social issues.
Victory: Every single NOM candidate failed.
Victory: California retained Barbara Boxer in the US Senate and Jerry Brown will once again be the Democrat governor of the Golden State, having easily defeated former CEO of EBay, conservative Meg Whitman. Whitman, by the way, threw $140 billion of her own money into this race, and was a supporter of so-called "traditional marriage" and retaining Proposition 8.
Victory: Arkansas elects Democrat governor, despite the sea of red states, Colorado being one of the few exceptions before reaching the coastal states.
Defeat: Republican John Boehner will be Speaker of the House, replacing Nancy Pelosi.
Defeat: Wisconsin Senate: Republican Ron Johnson beat popular long-time Democrat Russ Feingold.
Defeat: Kentucky Senate: Republican Rand Paul won despite his conservative-libertarian, pro-business-at-all-costs views regarding the Uniform Commerical Code as justification to repeal the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Defeat: Kansas: Republican and arch-homophobe Sam Brownback has left the Senate, but now he is the governor of Kansas. In the Senate he has been replaced by Rep. Jerry Moran, who has an HRC scorecard of 0%.
Defeat: Minnesota arch-conservative Michelle Bachman won re-election to the House.
Defeat: Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, who authored the "show me your papers" state immigration law, was re-elected.
Defeat: Texas Governor, anti-gay Republican Rick Perry, re-elected.
Defeat: 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. And the National Conference of State Legislatures reports that the Minnesota Senate will now, for the first time in history, be controlled by Republicans. The Maine Senate, too, has switched from a Democratic to Republican majority. In all 23 state legislatures are now completely dominated by Republicans, 15 by Democrats, seven are divided between the parties.