's Races to Watch



November 2 brings a high-stakes election for LGBT Americans, with control of both the House and the Senate up for grabs. Though the Democratic majority in both chambers has produced precious little in equality gains to date, LGBT activists have avoided having to stave off virulently antigay initiatives like the Federal Marriage Amendment ever since Republicans were ousted from House control in 2006.

The GOP has to pick up 39 seats in the House and 10 in the Senate in order to tip the balance of those chambers. Most pundits are predicting at least a 50-plus gain in the House, but Republicans’ chances in the Senate look increasingly worse even as they are poised to make significant headway.

Here’s a snapshot of some individual races to watch and why they matter, regardless of which party prevails next Tuesday.

Pennsylvania Eighth Congressional District: Rep. Patrick Murphy and Mike Fitzpatrick
LGBT advocates and political observers across the nation are keeping an eye on this race between two-term incumbent representative Patrick Murphy, who rode an anti-GOP wave into office in 2006 to unseat Mike Fitzpatrick, and Fitzpatrick himself, who is trying to return the favor this go-round now that the landscape has soured for Democrats. Not only did Murphy mount an unflagging effort to pass “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal this year, but pundits have dubbed the matchup a “bellwether” race that could signal whether Democrats hang on to the House by a narrow margin or suffer stinging defeats nationwide and surrender House control to Republicans.

Most pollsters peg the race as a toss-up that leans Republican. Last month polls had Murphy down by double digits, but a poll last week put him three points ahead of Fitzpatrick. An unlikely group of LGBT progressives teamed up to produce a video for Murphy, while Fitzpatrick, who favors waiting for the Pentagon study before voting on DADT, has been endorsed by Log Cabin Republicans. Just as in the rest of the nation, the predominant issue in the campaign is jobs and the economy. Murphy has called Fitzpatrick “the tax cut fairy” over his support for extending the Bush tax cuts, but the Democrat’s ties to President Barack Obama (he was an early supporter) and his party’s failure to tangibly improve the economy have been a heavy drag on his campaign.

Iowa: Three Supreme Court Judges
Three of the most homophobic groups in the country have taken aim at unseating three Iowa supreme court judges after they joined in the state’s landmark unanimous decision last year legalizing same-sex marriage for the first time in the nation’s heartland.

In you case you haven’t already guessed, the National Organization for Marriage is leading the way with assists from the American Family Association and the Family Research Council in this pernicious campaign to politicize the justice system and defeat the high court justices — one appointed by a Democratic governor and two by a Republican. The race would otherwise be a snoozer, as only four state judges have been ousted in Iowa since 1962, none of them at the supreme court level.

NOM has already ponied up over half a million dollars, the AFA committed to pitching in $200,000 but has so far spent a little less than half that sum, and the FRC’s local Iowa affiliate launched a campaign encouraging pastors to push their congregants to vote against the judges — a blatant violation of federal tax law for churches, as noted by the Iowa Independent.

The judges — Marsha K. Ternus, the chief justice; Michael J. Streit; and David L. Baker — have chosen not to campaign. Meanwhile NOM embarked on a mad-dash bus tour across the state this week with former U.S. senator and antigay stalwart Rick Santorum in order to strike fear in the heart of Hawkeye State. Iowa voters already rejected NOM’s $85,000 worth of scare tactics aimed at defeating state representative Curt Hanson in a special election last year, but it’s less clear if they will deliver another blow to the organization next week.

Tags: Election