Off-Year Advances

LGBT advocacy organizations celebrate Election Day results

The off-year elections, normally a slow-paced night for national coverage, featured several ballot measures – including Ohio, Mississippi and Maine – that garnered significant attention. Additionally, from Texas to Iowa to Michigan, from Arizona to Ohio to Massachusetts, LGBT candidates and issues saw significant successes.

As the Victory Fund’s vice president for communications, Denis Dison, told Metro Weekly late Nov. 8, ”It’s been a very, very good night for LGBT candidates. Right now it looks like more than two thirds of Victory Fund-endorsed candidates will win, and LGBT candidates have made significant breakthroughs in cities and towns across the country, including Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Houston and Charlotte.”

In Maine, a referendum to keep same-day voting registration in the state met with overwhelming success. Among the arguments against the referendum was that supporters of marriage equality backed same-day registration. Despite that and other arguments against the practice, same-day registration was approved.

And, as with Bowling Green, Ohio, in 2010, the voters of Traverse City, Mich., voted Nov. 8 to keep nondiscrimination protections based on sexual orientation in place. Diana Ketola, steering committee member of Traverse City Equality, said in a statement, ”We would not be celebrating this victory if it were not for Traverse City residents’ commitment to civil rights, our amazing campaign staff, our volunteers, our community and allies, and the support of organizations like the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.”

It was in Iowa, though, where a non-LGBT candidate, Democrat Liz Mathis, scored a significant victory for marriage-equality supporters with her state Senate special election win. Receiving 56 percent of the vote in the 18th Senate District election, Mathis bested Republican Cindy Golding, who received 44 percent of the vote. Mathis’s victory, however, also means the state Senate stays in Democratic control, which stops what would have been a likely attempt at reversing marriage equality in the state.

Freedom to Marry President Evan Wolfson said in a statement, ”The voters rebuffed the anti-gay attacks that sought to make undoing the freedom to marry a critical factor in the race, and instead elected a candidate who supports the freedom to marry for all Iowa families. [LGBT advocacy organization] One Iowa worked hard to make sure that marriage remains secure in Iowa and to elect a legislator who will focus on the real challenges confronting the state.”

The Human Rights Campaign noted its role, stating in a news release, ”HRC contributed to Liz Mathis’ victory by placing five full-time field organizers in the 18th Senate District during the final weeks of the campaign.”

HRC President Joe Solmonese said in the release, ”The marriage issue is settled, voters clearly care about issues directly affecting their everyday lives. Today’s election serves as a message that it’s time to get on with the people’s business.”

Among the out LGBT candidates, Houston Mayor Annise Parker was one of the most prominent incumbents to face voters. Parker won re-election with no run-off, defeating five challengers. Receiving 51 percent of the vote, Parker’s nearest challenger stood at 15 percent of the vote but the city’s election rules are such that she barely avoided a run-off.

According to the Houston Chronicle, Parker said of the results, ”I had five opponents. Plus, I had the economy, and that was a tough opponent.”

Of challengers, several represented firsts.

Chris Seelbach will be the first out LGBT member of Cincinnati City Council. He finished ninth of 23 candidates on the ballot. The top nine vote-getters are elected to the council, and Seelbach garnered more than 1,000 votes more than the 10th-place vote-getter. Indianapolis gets its first out LGBT City Council member, with Zach Adamson’s election. And in Holyoke, Mass., 22-year-old Alex Morse was elected mayor of the 40,000-person town. The Victory Fund celebrated the Brown University graduate’s victory, calling him the nation’s youngest gay mayor.

In New Jersey, Garden State Equality member Dr. Tim Eustace was elected to the state Assembly – the second out LGBT lawmaker in the state’s history. Eustace joins Assemblymember Reed Gusciora, who won re-election.

The Victory Fund had endorsed in all six races – for Parker and Gusciora’s re-elections and for the elections of Seelbach, Adamson, Morse and Eustace.

In Arizona, meanwhile, Daniel Hernandez Jr., the out gay intern for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D) who was praised as a hero for his efforts when the congresswoman was shot, was elected to his local school board.

Not every LGBT candidate met with success. In San Francisco, Bevan Dufty, a gay former supervisor, was trailing five other challengers to Mayor Ed Lee – who was ahead of all the challengers. Although Lee was not going to garner 50 percent with the initial ballot, the city’s multiple, ranked-choice balloting meant, according to the Los Angeles Times, that he was heading toward being elected to a full term.

The National Gay & Lesbian Task Force celebrated several progressive victories, leading off its news release about the night by stating, ”Supporters of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights in Michigan’s Traverse City, workers’ rights in Ohio, women’s reproductive freedom in Mississippi, and voters’ rights in Maine were among those scoring big victories in the Nov. 8 election.”

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