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The Scariest Antigay Candidates in Next Week's Election

The Scariest Antigay Candidates in Next Week's Election


These are the scariest homophobes we could come up with for a pre-Halloween election preview.


With both Halloween and Election Day coming up, it's time to look at a list of truly frightening antigay candidates whose ideology is no treat for LGBT Americans. Some, unfortunately, are sure to be elected (or reelected), some are in close races, and some have the chance of that proverbial snowball in hell. But let their existence remind you that we still have work to do to win equality -- and that work includes voting Tuesday.


Greg_abbotx633_0Greg Abbott
Running for governor of Texas

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. Abbott is now the state's attorney general, and in that capacity he has used some old, tired arguments to defend the Texas law banning same-sex marriage. He contends that marriage serves primarily to encouraging responsible procreation, "not to publicly recognize the love and commitment of two people," and that if same-sex couples to 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. Abbott's Democratic opponent, state legislator Wendy Davis, has done some questionable things in her campaign, but she remains a far better choice for LGBT Texans.

Sam_brownbackx633_0Sam Brownback
Running for governor of Kansas

This archconservative former U.S. senator is seeking 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. (Brownback's opponent is Paul Davis, the state's House minority leader.) On the social issues side, Kansas is the only state in its federal judicial circuit without marriage equality, and Brownback intends to resist the tide. He's fully committed to defending the state's marriage ban, 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 this 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.

Scott_livelyx633_0Scott Lively
Running for governor of Massachusetts

This right-wing Christian minister and AdvocatePhobie Award-winner 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." Massachusetts will be more fortunate than Uganda and Russia; while the deep blue state does not always elect Democratic governors (having gone for Republicans such as Mitt Romney, who promoted himself as a moderate, and the libertarian-leaning William Weld in recent decades), the first state to embrace marriage equality will undoubtedly shirk from Lively. Even the candidate himself acknowledges it will take a miracle to elect him. Well, the Lord moves in mysterious ways, but we don't think Lively will be the recipient of divine intervention on this. The mainstream candidates, Democrat Martha Coakley and Republican Charlie Baker, are locked in a close race to replace the outgoing governor, LGBT-supportive Democrat Deval Patrick.


Joni_ernstx633_0Joni Ernst

Running for U.S. senator from Iowa

Early on in her campaign, Ernst attempted to impress the heavily agricultural state with an ad touting her expertise in castrating hogs, but she'd also like to cut gay people off at the knees. Iowa has had marriage equality for five years, thanks to a state Supreme Court ruling, but as a state senator she backed a constitutional amendment that would override that ruling; the effort to amend the state's constitution, which requires approval by both lawmakers and voters, has stalled, however. She has also said the definition of marriage should be left up to the states, except of course if she has the opportunity to vote on an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to ban same-sex marriage nationwide. She has asserted that judges should recognize that laws "come from God" and make their rulings accordingly. And something that she's tried to downplay in her campaign is her belief in conspiracy theories, but as recently as January she was railing against Agenda 21, an obscure United Nations community-planning initiative, saying it threatens citizens' property rights and other freedoms. "We don't want to see a further push with Agenda 21, where the Agenda 21 and the government [are] telling us that these are the urban centers that you will live in; these are the ways that you will travel to other urban centers," she said at a Republican forum. "Agenda 21 encompasses so many different aspects of our lives that it's taking away our individual liberties, our freedoms as United States citizens." OK, not LGBT-related, but potentially enlightening about Ernst's worldview. She and Democrat Bruce Braley are in a close race to succeed firebrand liberal Democrat Tom Harkin, a staunch LGBT ally who's retiring after 30 years in the Senate.

Thom_tillisx633_0Thom Tillis
Running for U.S. senator from North Carolina

Tillis, who's seeking to oust LGBT-friendly incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan, is trying to kick marriage equality out of the Tar Heel State. The state's attorney general has ceased defending the ban, which was struck down in two separate U.S. District Court rulings in October. However, the second judge who struck down the ban allowed Tillis, currently speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives, and Phil Berger, leader of the state Senate, to intervene in the case and appeal his ruling. Not that they're likely to have much luck at U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which ruled against a similar ban in Virginia, a decision that the U.S. Supreme Court recently let stand and that guided the district court judges in their rulings on the North Carolina ban. "Pursuing this appeal will cost the taxpayers thousands of dollars, all so that [Tillis] can rally conservative opponents of gay marriage to support his election bid," The New York Times observed. Tillis, who has denounced "liberal activist judges," and Berger have hired no less than National Organization for Marriage chairman John Eastman to argue their case. NOM this week released a campaign ad for Tillis, by the way.


Pam_bondix633_0Pam Bondi
Running for attorney general of Florida

Bondi is apparently worried that same-sex couples are a threat to the sanctity of marriage, but her concerns about the institution haven't kept her from getting divorced twice. At a campaign event this summer, she said she's only just begun to fight to keep Florida's marriage ban -- a law that her Democratic opponent, George Sheldon, says he would not defend. Before reporters could even ask her about the ban or the numerous court cases challenging it, she asserted, "That is part of the Constitution, which I am sworn to uphold. ... This is me doing my job as attorney general. And I will continue to do that and if anybody wants me to moderate my message or stand for less I have a message for them: I am just getting started." Bondi has an edge over Sheldon in fundraising and name recognition (Libertarian Bill Wohlsifer is also in the race), but she doesn't have reelection in the bag.


Anthony_cullerx633_0Anthony Culler
Running for U.S. House from South Carolina

Culler recently upped his crazy game with a Facebook post that said gay people are "gremlins" (like in the 1980s movie, yes) who are out to destroy the social order, and same-sex marriage is a "pestilence." "Do not buy the 'cuteness' and 'What will it hurt?' arguments whispered in your ears and marketed to our children," he wrote. "Same-sex couples that seek to destroy our way of life and the institution of marriage are NOT cute and cuddly but rather (for those of you that are old enough to remember the movie), Gremlins that will only destroy our way of life." Culler has proved an embarrassment to the state Republican Party, which is not actively supporting his campaign. He's up against LGBT ally Jim Clyburn, the only Democratic member of South Carolina's congressional delegation. As a popular incumbent, Clyburn has the edge even in this conservative state.

Susan_atanusx633_0Susanne Atanus
Running for U.S. House from Illinois

There are gay gremlins, and then there are gays who bring on God's wrath in the form of autism and tornadoes. That's what Atanus blamed us for in an interview with a suburban Chicago newspaper in January. "God is angry. We are provoking him with abortions and same-sex marriage and civil unions," Atanus said. "Same-sex activity is going to increase AIDS. If it's in our military, it will weaken our military. We need to respect God." Incredibly, she then won the Republican primary over a more moderate candidate who may have been hurt by his personal history (an ex-girlfriend accused him of impersonating her online in an effort to make her lose her job and be kicked out of school) and the fact that he used to be a Democrat. Like Anthony Culler in South Carolina, she's an embarrassment to her state party; the Illinois Republican Party asked her to quit the race, but she refused, and the party withdrew its support. She's one of the snowball-in-hell candidates, though, as her district -- taking in parts of Chicago's north side and northern suburbs -- is heavily Democratic and represented by a popular Democratic incumbent, LGBT rights supporter Jan Schakowsky.

Jodi_hicex633_0Jody Hice
Running for U.S. House from Georgia

The gays are coming to sodomize straight people's sons, says Baptist minister and talk-show host Hice, who's running to succeed retiring congressman Paul Broun. His 2012 bookIt's Now or Never: A Call to Reclaim America quoted from a gay writer's 1987 essay that said, among other things, "We shall sodomize your sons, emblems of your feeble masculinity, of your shallow dreams and vulgar lies. ... They will come to crave and adore us." Hice went on to comment, "These shocking words by Michael Swift have been considered part of the 'gay manifesto' by many, and reveal the radical agenda that is currently threatening our nation." One problem: The whole essay was satire. In the same book, Hice said marriage equality would have "drastic results and irreversible consequences." By the way, he thinks Islam is not a religion and that tragedies such as the 2012 school shooting in Newtown, Conn., are the result of the nation "kicking God out of the schools." He's up against Democrat Ken Dious, but their district, in a suburban and exurban area between Atlanta and Augusta, leans heavily Republican.

Glenn_grothmanx633_0Glenn Grothman
Running for U.S. House from Wisconsin

Grothman, currently a state senator, didn't take kindly to the arrival of marriage equality in Wisconsin. For state officials to make a record of same-sex couples' marriage licenses to amounts to "legitimizing illegal and immoral marriages," he said in June, after a federal judge struck down the state's ban on same-sex unions -- a decision later upheld by the Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals and permitted to stand by the Supreme Court. (After the Supreme Court declined to review the appellate ruling, even Wisconsin's conservative Republican governor, Scott Walker, conceded that marriage equality is the law of the land.) Grothman also found it objectionable that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry criticized Uganda's "jail the gays" law. "What we have is the Secretary of State going to Africa and educating Ugandans or saying he is going to send American scientists to Uganda to explain how normal homosexuality is. ... What must God think of our country?" he said on a right-wing radio show in April. On other issues? Well, he thinks Kwanzaa is not a legitimate holiday, that abortion should always be illegal, and union workers are lazy. He's up against Winnebago County Executive Mark Harris to succeed retiring congressman Tom Petri in a Republican-leaning southeastern Wisconsin district. Although Petri is a Republican too, he's declined to endorse Grothman. Grothman does, however, have the endorsement of noted homophobe Rick Santorum, former U.S. senator and failed presidential hopeful.

Zach_dasherx633_0Zach Dasher
Running for U.S. House from Louisiana

Dasher is more tempered in his antigay rhetoric than his uncle, but he does have that uncle's endorsement -- and the uncle happens to be Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame. "Fundamentally we come from the same place," Dasher said of Robertson in a September interview with a Louisiana paper, adding, "I believe in the Bible and the inspired word of God. I believe marriage should be between one man and one woman." He also has the endorsement of the antigay Family Research Council's political action arm. Well, it's said you know a man by the company he keeps. What's more, his wife, Jill, has called homosexuality an addiction that can be overcome, like alcoholism or drug abuse. And he shares something besides homophobia with Georgia's Jody Hice -- he blames atheism for the Newtown killings. In an idiosyncratic election setup, Dasher will run against a Democrat, a Libertarian, a Green Party member, and several other Republicans (the latter including incumbent Vance McAllister, tarnished by an infidelity scandal) Tuesday for the Fifth Congressional District seat. If no one wins a majority in the large, rural district, the top two candidates will compete in a runoff December 6.

Steve_kingx633_0Steve King
Running for U.S. House from Iowa

Minnesota's Michele Bachmann is retiring from Congress, but at least a couple of the folks seeking reelection can be counted on to bring the antigay crazy. King, famous for tarring immigrants as drug mules with "calves the size of cantaloupes," doesn't neglect the gays. Just this month, when an Iowa newspaper asked him about gay people's prospects in the afterlife, he said, "I'll just say that what was a sin 2,000 years ago is a sin today, and people that were condemned to hell 2,000 years ago, I don't expect to meet them should I make it to heaven." Later, on a conservative radio show, "King simultaneously stood by what he said and claimed that the story was 'false' and had been 'fabricated,'" as Right Wing Watch put it. "What I said was it's between them and God," he said on The Steve Malzberg Show. "And I said what was a sin 2,000 years ago is a sin today. That was what I said. And I stand on what I said, and they've manufactured this." Some political observers think King is a shoo-in for reelection, but Democrat Jim Mowrer was within three percentage points of him in one recent poll.

Louie_gohmertx633_0Louie Gohmert
Running for U.S. House from Texas

When it comes to bizarre rants about gays, Gohmert is in a class by himself. Remarks that mixed gun control, marriage equality, and bestiality helped him win an AdvocatePhobie Award for 2013, and he's kept up the pace this year. In January he said pro-marriage equality judges "need some basic plumbing lessons," in May he accused LGBT activists of using Nazi-like tactics to silence their opponents, and just a few days ago he made a strange comment about soldiers in ancient Greece receiving massages from same-sex lovers to justify his opposition to gays serving in the military. Oh, and he says he and his ilk "love homosexuals," but just don't endorse how gay people lead their lives. Regarding other issues, he's obsessed with Benghazi and he recently denounced President Obama for sending U.S. troops to Africa to help fight the Ebola outbreak, saying the troops will bring it home. Earlier he said it was Central American refugees bringing Ebola into the United States. Democrat Shirley McKellar is challenging Gohmert as he seeks reelection, but he's quite popular in his conservative district.

Dishonorable Mentions
We've concentrated on congressional and statewide races, with the aforementioned candidates making a dirty baker's dozen of homophobes, but a couple of state legislative candidates merit inclusion.

Jordan_haskinsx633_0Jordan Haskins
Running for state representative in Michigan

Haskins says that if Michigan legislators vote to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the state antidiscrimination law, "it's time for conservative Christians to vote with their feet and their dollars" and leave the state. He has boasted of turning back a similar municipal effort in his hometown of Saginaw, writing on Facebook that he was among those who stood up to "the homosexual lobby pushing their happy feel good, anti-discrimination BS." Haskins has a checkered past, with a criminal record that includes breaking into cars so he could masturbate to the sound of the engine. "I was in a messed-up state of mind mentally and emotionally when I did what I did," he told a Saginaw newspaper. He's up against Democrat Vanessa Guerra in the race for an open seat in a heavily Democratic district.

Gordon_klingerschmidtx633_0Gordon Klingenschmitt
Running for state representative in Colorado

Last but never least, the antigay preacher and former Navy chaplain who thinks LGBT people are doing the bidding of Satan. Literally. "They want your soul," he recently said of gay activists, on his Pray in Jesus Name broadcast. "They want you to disobey God so that you go to hell with them. It's not enough that they go to hell for disobeying God, they want you to disobey God so that we all go to hell. That's the devil's goal in the end." Pro-marriage equality rulings, he said on the same episode, come from "demonic judges who are imposing the devil's law upon the people." Klingenschmitt, who actually calls his political position "center right," is running against Democrat Lois Fornander for an open seat representing a section of Colorado Springs, a famously conservative city. So he could very well end up winning.

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Trudy Ring

Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.
Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.