June July 2016
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The Advocate

Election Results for LGBT Voters: The Governors

On one hand, the fast pace of marriage equality's expansion state by state makes it seem anochronistic that no state has ever elected an openly LGBT person as governor. But, it wasn't until recently that Democrats stopped couching their views on marriage equality. Plus, the man who sought to become the first openly gay governor was still closeted during much of that time. Indeed, times have changed. And looking at the races for governor provide a picture of how far progress has marched, while also making you worry that some parts of the country are on a different planet. 

 

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Steve Kerrigan

RESULTS: In Massachusetts, A Democratic Ticket Of Would-Be Firsts Are Thwarted

NBC News has called Massachusetts' governors race, thwarting efforts to elect Martha Coakley and openly gay running mate Steve Kerrigan to the state's top posts.

With 95 percent of precincts reporting, the Coakley-Kerrigan ticket lost with 47 percent of the vote, according to The Boston Globe. Meanwhile, extreme third party candidate Scott Lively lost with 1 percent of the vote in Massachusetts.

If elected Kerrigan would have been the first openly gay lieutenant governor of any state, as he runs alongside LGBT ally and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Martha Coakley, potentially the state's first female governor.

The state's Democrats know they will retain a majority in the legislature, to counter the Republican winner of the governor's race, Charlie Baker and his running mate, Karyn Polito, who earned a little over 48 percent of the vote. But in Massachusetts we have an example of a possible future in which candidates from both parties support LGBT equality, and it's largely a non-issue.

Baker was among the first candidates this election cycle to address LGBT issues with a television ad. In it, the Republican gubernatorial candidate in Massachusetts told the story of his brother coming out back in 1981, and the two reminisced about how much has changed for the better with adoption of marriage equality in their state 10 years ago.
 
Even Baker's running mate, Polito, dropped her opposition to marriage equality. Boston Spirit magazine points out that her record included support for a statewide ballot question to ban same-sex marriage and a vote against the Transgender Civil Rights bill, which ultimately passed in 2011. 
 
During Baker's first run for governor in 2010, he selected gay Republican Richard Tsei as his running mate. Tsei was a state senator and minority leader at the time. 
 
Kerrigan served as CEO of the Democratic National Convention and oversaw that 2013 Presidential Inaugural Committee as its president. And Coakley led her state's quest to repeal the federal Defense of Marriage Act, calling it discriminatory. — Michelle Garcia, Lucas Grindley
 

 

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Sam Brownback of Kansas, left, with Mitt Romney

RESULT: Anti-LGBT Sam Brownback Wins Second Term in Kansas

Archconservative former U.S. senator Sam Brownback won a second term as governor of Kansas. He’s a fiscal as well as a social conservative, and the deep cuts in taxes and spending he backed in his first term have created hardships and cost him some popularity, making the governor’s race competitive this year, but Democratic challenger Paul Davis, the state’s House minority leader, conceded defeat Tuesday night, the Lawrence Journal-World reports.

Brownback iss fully committed to defending the state’s marriage ban, which just today was dealt a blow by a federal court, and in a recent debate he decried “liberal judges” who don’t “stay with the law.” He has supported “license to discriminate” legislation that would have allowed business owners to turn away customers who offend their religious sensibilities — like, for instance, same-sex couples; the bill, fortunately, died quietly in the legislature.

Brownback spoke last month at an anti–marriage equality rally in Wichita organized by the virulently homophobic Family Research Council, designated a “hate group” by civil rights activists. “We need to push forward our candidates that stand for this country, that stand for faith, that stand for family, that stand for freedom,” he said at the event. Freedom, except for LGBT people, of course. —Trudy Ring

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Scott Lively, Massachusetts

RESULT: Mass. Voters Massively Reject Global Right-Wing Crusader

It was a foregone conclusion, but now it's official: Right-wing Christian minister and Advocate Phobie Award-winner Scott Lively is not going to be governor of Massachusetts. With 97 percent of precincts in, the independent candidate had less than 1 percent of the vote, the AP reports. But it's scary that there were even that many people — 18,000 — willing to vote for him. Lively is most famous for exporting his deadly homophobia to Russia and Uganda; he’s even being sued for international human rights violations for his work in the latter country. Some of his “greatest hits”: that the Nazi Party was dominated by gays; that attacks on LGBT people in Russia are perpetrated primarily by “butch homosexuals who are beating up effeminate homosexuals”; that the great flood chronicled in the Bible was brought on by ancient same-sex marriages; that gays and their allies are setting up a totalitarian government in the U.S.; and that he’s proud to have been an inspiration for Russia’s nationwide ban on “gay propaganda.”

Even Lively himself acknowledged it would take a miracle to elect him. The mainstream candidates, Democrat Martha Coakley and Republican Charlie Baker, had a close race to replace the outgoing governor, LGBT-supportive Democrat Deval Patrick, but the election has now been called for Baker. —Trudy Ring

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Charlie Crist, Florida
RESULT: Florida Not A Big Enough Fan of Charlie Crist
 
Charlie Crist has failed in his bid to recast himself as a Democrat who supports marriage equality, with Rick Scott winning reelection as governor, according to the Associated Press.
 
Scott spent hard to win reelection by labeling Crist as a flip-flopper. Crist was once the Republican governor of the state but is now a Democrat, and he was once opposed to marriage equality but is now outwardly in favor. 
 
The race might be best remembered for "fangate." While Crist was introduced on stage during a live TV debate, anchors were left explaining that Scott refused to join in because he objected to a fan that Crist used to keep cool at his podium. It was all a little surreal, and maybe it reinforced a common dig at Scott — that he refuses to answer questions. For LGBT voters, the clearest example of Scott's evasive nature is his insistence that attorney general Pam Bondi is solely responsible for insisting on defending his state's marriage equality ban. Even Edie Windsor wrote a letter to Scott imploring him to use his power to stop the defense.
 
Scott also wouldn't say whether he believes a marriage ban is a form of "discrimination," as courts across the country have ruled. Crist, on the other hand, calls it discriminatory: "Who is it for us to tell other people who to love?" — Lucas Grindley

 

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Greg Abbott, Texas

RESULT: In Greg Abbott, Texas Gets Another Antigay Governor

Republican Greg Abbott, who as Texas's attorney general has fought to keep the state's ban on same-sex marriage, has won the governor's race, easily besting state senator Wendy Davis, who became a hero to liberals with her 2013 filibuster for reproductive rights but made some missteps in her gubernatorial campaign. NBC News has projected Abbott as the winner; with 43 percent of the vote counted, he led Davis by 58 percent to 41 percent. When it comes to LGBT issues, Abbott looks to be no improvement over Texas’s current governor, Rick Perry, who is in his last term. As the state’s attorney general, Abbott has used some old, tired arguments to defend the Texas marriage ban, which has been struck down by a federal court but is now on appeal. He contends that marriage serves primarily to encourage responsible procreation, “not to publicly recognize the love and commitment of two people,” and that if same-sex couples are allowed to marry, “any conduct that has been traditionally prohibited can become a constitutional right.” Oh, and the law doesn’t discriminate against gay people, because just like straight people, they have the right to marry a person of the opposite sex. It should be noted that some governors and attorneys general, Republicans among them, have decided not to defend their states’ marriage bans or have indicated that they do so only because it’s their duty. Abbott has displayed no such reluctance, even though one of the people challenging Texas’s ban is an old law school classmate and friend who was at his bedside when Abbott was hospitalized for a spinal injury in 1984.  —Trudy Ring

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Mary Fallin, Oklahoma

RESULT: Oklahoma Still 'Fallin' For Antigay Governor

Oklahoma's Republican incumbent Governor coasted to a second term Tuesday night, earning just under 54 percent of the vote, according to the Associated Press. After the Supreme Court last month let stand a circuit court's pro-marriage equality ruling in Oklahoma, and same-sex couples in the state began marrying, Gov. Fallin issued a statement lamenting the "arrogant, out-of-control federal government that wants to substitute Oklahoma values with Washington, D.C. values. Last year, Fallin's unapologetic homophobia attracted the attention of satirist Stephen Colbert,  who skewered the governor's efforts to keep the state's national guard from extending benefits to same-sex partners when every other federal and military agency was doing so in the wake of the Supreme Court's landmark decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act. — Sunnivie Brydum

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Andrew Cuomo, New York

RESULT: Trailblazing Gov. Cuomo Keeps His Seat

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is projected to prevail his reelection bid versus challenger Rob Astorino Tuesday night, the New York Times reports.

Some could argue that Cuomo was the template for other LGBT-friendly governors who wanted to bring marriage equality to their states. In fact, The Advocate did in a 2011 cover story, after Cuomo was part of a united front of bipartisan activists and politicians that raised more than $2 million for the campaign. Three years later, Cuomo is up for reelection, and New York's more liberal base is hungry for more progressive policies, since he has turned out to be a social liberal and fiscal moderate.

Cuomo had relied on his appeal toward female voters with running mate Kathy Hulchol, and the formation of the Women's Equality Party, a statewide party headed by Christine Quinn, the openly lesbian former city council speaker. As of Monday night, Cuomo leads Astorino by 22 points, according to polls tracked by Real Clear Politics. —Michelle Garcia

 

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Mike Michaud, Maine

Mike Michaud: A Maine Milestone?

If elected tonight, Mike Michaud will make national history: As the first openly gay candidate ever elected to serve as a state's governor.

Michaud, who is finishing his sixth term as the Democratic U.S. Congressman representing Maine's Second Congressional District, came out in a nonchalant manner last November, confronting what he said was a "whisper campaign" that targeted him for being closeted. In a column published in the local Bangor Daily News, Michaud took the wind out of the sails of his would-be-detractors. "They want people to question whether I am gay," he wrote. "Allow me to save them the trouble with a simple, honest answer: 'Yes, I am. But why should it matter?'"

That it doesn't matter would mean the political world has changed since 2004, when former New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey announced he is gay in a speech in which the then-married father of two admitted to an affair with another man and promptly resigned. 

While the historic nature of Michaud's candidacy — and potential victory — have given an undertone of urgency to the campaign, Michaud hasn't faced any notable antigay attacks from his opponents, including the blue state's uncharacteristically conservative Republican governor. 

However, Michaud was the target of an opposition campaign by New York-based Queer Nation, taking the Congressman to task for being "too soft" on LGBT-related issues like employment and housing, according to the Bangor Daily News. Michaud has been a House cosponsor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act since he took office in 2002, though he has also expressed support for a narrowed religious exemption or an omnibus LGBT civil rights bill in Congress, should such legislation be introduced. 

Michaud has earned the endorsements of several major newspapers in the traditionally Democratic-leaning state, including from the Portland Press Herald and the Bangor Daily News.

Michaud is facing incumbent Gov. Paul LePage in a close race that has seen both candidates alternately holding leads within two percentage points or less, while Independent candidate Eliot Cutler could take between 9 and 13 percent of the vote, according to polling aggregates collected at RealClearPolitics. Although he's still formally in the race, Cutler recently told his supporters they could vote for another candidate, and has stopped airing some of his ads. A prominent independent U.S. senator from Maine who was backing Cutler has now given Michaud his endorsement, reports the Portland Press Herald

Gay statistician Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight blog lists Michaud's race as one of the most competitive for governor, ultimately listing Michaud as a 57 percent favorite as of Monday. — Sunnivie Brydum

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