From the presidential contest to the the governor’s race in North Carolina to House races in California, here are the elections LGBT people need to watch on Nov. 8
Lisa Keen | Keen News Service
Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton was looking like a shoe-in to win the 2016 presidential election — right up until Friday, Oct. 28, when FBI Director James Comey released a letter saying that his agency, while working on an unrelated matter, had come across emails they believed were “pertinent” to an investigation into Clinton’s use of a private server as Secretary of State.
Within hours, news sources were reporting that the emails were found on a laptop belonging to disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner, estranged husband of top Clinton aide Human Abedin, whose alleged sexually-related texts to a 15-year-old girl are also under investigation by the FBI. Some sources reported that the emails had nothing to do with Clinton and most noted that the likelihood of their having some pertinence in the Clinton-server matter seemed decidedly remote.
But Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and his supporters jumped on that remote possibility in hopes of boosting Trump’s White House bid.
The Clinton campaign demanded Comey release more information about the new emails and irate Democratic elected officials berated the FBI director for possibly violating the Hatch Act and for refusing to comment equally on the FBI’s investigation into Trump’s possible ties to Russia.
And with all this in mind, the bottom line going into the Nov. 8 election is that nobody knows how much impact this late-hour development — which came after some states had already been in the early voting period for several days — will have on the vote or what else might happen that could have a dramatic impact on the race. And it may take until late this week for polls to provide any hint.
Nevertheless, the whole world will be watching next Tuesday as the American electorate weighs in on one of the most contentious and dramatic presidential campaigns in modern history.
The Human Rights Campaign has estimated the LGBT voting bloc to be more than nine million strong. HRC endorsed Clinton, as did the Lesbian PAC. The Log Cabin Republicans group chose to withhold making an endorsement for president in this election.
Much of the news next Tuesday night will have significant impact on LGBT people and the guide below will help readers know what to watch and when.
What “results” will be available and when?
Total early voting will be available when polls close in each state. Additional tallies will be available through the night.
What specifically are the milestones?
For president, the winner must accumulate at least 270 electoral votes to win.
For the Senate, the key question is which party will control. At a minimum, the controlling party must have 50 senators and the White House (with the vice president’s vote breaking any tie).
For the Senate to change party hands, Clinton must win and Democrats must pick up four new seats and not lose any existing seats. If
Trump wins, Democrats would need to pick up five new seats.
In the governors’ races, political observers will be eager to learn whether North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory will lose his job over his enthusiastic support for the anti-LGBT HB2 law this year.
What’s the best channel to watch?
Any of the five major television networks — ABC, CBS, CNN, PBS, MSNBC, NBC and FOX News — will have the latest news quickly because they, plus Associated Press, are participating in the exit poll data collection.
Three networks have openly gay commentators who improve the chances that discussions of LGBT issues take place during the evening. CNN has two, possibly three: Anderson Cooper, Hilary Rosen and Don Lemon. MSNBC has Rachel Maddow and possibly Thomas Roberts. And Fox News has Shepard Smith.
When’s the best time to watch?
Political junkies who don’t want to miss any part of this historic election will tune in by 7 p.m. EDT, when the first poll result predictions will come. Specifically, this is what will come in and when: (All times listed below are EDT.)
States with polls closing are Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, South Carolina, Virginia and Vermont. Between these six states there are 60 electoral votes on the line.
Electoral votes on the line: 60
Polls prior to Comey’s letter were indicating that Clinton would win Virginia and Vermont (16 electoral votes), Trump would win Indiana and South Carolina (28 electoral votes), and Georgia was a toss-up. If the typically Republican Georgia swings to Clinton, commentators may start predicting an historic landslide for Clinton.
Senate races to watch early on are in Indiana and Kentucky. Democrats are expected to pick up their first new Senate seat in Indiana, with former Sen. Evan Bayh, who had Human Rights Campaign scores between 84 and 90 for his voting record on LGBT issues in Congress. If Clinton wins, Democrats will need to pick up three more new ones to take control of the Senate.
And in Kentucky, openly gay candidate Jim Gray is making a tough bid to unseat incumbent Republican Rand Paul.
Governors races in Indiana and Vermont are very tight races for the open seats in Indiana and Vermont.
In Indiana, Democrat John Gregg has promised to issue an executive order prohibiting discrimination against state employees based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Republican Eric Holcomb says he doesn’t plan to focus on the issue.
In Vermont, Republican Phil Scott spoke against civil unions when that was under consideration by the Legislature in 2000 but, by 2009, he was voting for marriage equality. Democrat Sue Minter was a sponsor of the state’s marriage equality bill, added gender identity to the state’s transportation regulations and promises to help fight bullying of LGBT youth.
Polls will be closing in North Carolina, Ohio and West Virginia, states totaling 38 electoral votes between them.
West Virginia’s five electoral votes will go to Trump, but polls at deadline could not predict who would take Ohio’s 18 and North Carolina’s 15. Some number-crunchers believe Trump must win both to win the White House, but most believe he has to win Ohio.
The Senate races to watch are in North Carolina and Ohio. Democrats would really like to pick up the Senate seat in North Carolina with Deborah Ross, but Republican incumbent Richard Burr appears to be hanging onto a tiny lead. And in Ohio, Republican incumbent Rob Portman, endorsed by Log Cabin, holds a sizeable lead at deadline.
Governors’ races to watch here are in North Carolina and West Virginia. North Carolina’s Republican governor, Pat McCrory, has been in political hot water since he helped usher through the state’s HB2, the controversial law restricting use of public restrooms by transgender people and prohibiting local governments from passing laws to prohibit discrimination against LGBT people.
HB2 has cost the state millions of dollars in lost revenue and jobs, as corporations and big sports tournaments have pulled out in protest. The latest polls showed McCrory slightly behind Democratic challenger Roy Cooper, the state’s attorney general. Cooper has refused to defend the constitutionality of HB2 and has earned the endorsement of LGBT groups.
States with polls closing are Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Alabama, Illinois, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma and Tennessee, accounting for 172 electoral votes. ( Polls in Texas close at 7 p.m. local time. However, while most of Texas is in the Central Time Zone, some areas are in the Mountain Time Zone.)
The District of Columbia and these 16 states hold the evening’s largest block of electoral votes: 172. All eyes will be on Florida, with 29 electoral votes, and Pennsylvania with 20. Once again, Trump needs both to have any chance of winning the White House.
Before the Comey letter, Clinton had a five-point lead in Pennsylvania and less than a one-point lead in Florida. If Clinton does pick up Florida and Pennsylvania, she’ll take the lead, with at least 143 electoral votes and she will have enough electoral votes in the remaining true blue states to run well past the 270 she needs to secure the White House.
But if she’s having a bad night, she’ll end the 8 o’clock hour with only 94 votes and will need to pick up either Texas — a long shot — or both Arizona and Nevada in the coming hours.
Senate races to watch are in Florida, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Missouri. Democrats are poised to pick off a second Republican-held Senate seat in Illinois, with Rep. Tammy Duckworth. Duckworth got the backing of most LGBT groups, though the Human Rights Campaign initially gave its endorsement to incumbent Mark Kirk as the lone Republican willing to endorse the Equality Act. But HRC announced Saturday, Oct. 29, that it was “revoking” its endorsement of Kirk due to the “deeply offensive and racist” remarks he made during his debate last Thursday, Oct. 27.
Kirk has apologized for saying to Duckworth, “I had forgotten that your parents came all the way from Thailand to serve George Washington.”
Democrats have a chance of picking up a third new seat in New Hampshire and/or Pennsylvania but polls in both states are too close to call.
New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan, a strong supporter of LGBT equality, has been trading the lead with incumbent Kelly Ayotte, whose HRC scorecard has run from 15 to 60 to 80 in the past three sessions.
In Pennsylvania, where the race is also very tight, Democrat Katie McGinty has been taking a high-profile pitch for the LGBT vote.
Incumbent Pat Toomey’s last HRC score was a 16.
House races to watch in the 8 o’clock hour are in Connecticut, New Hampshire, Oklahoma and Rhode Island. Openly gay candidates are running for U.S. House seats in all four states, though incumbent David Cicilline in Rhode Island is the only sure winner. The openly-gay challengers are Clay Cope in Connecticut, Shawn O’Connor in New Hampshire and Al McCaffrey in Oklahoma.
New Hampshire’s long-time lesbian activist Mo Baxley endorsed Democrat Colin van Ostern early in the governor’s race there, saying he is a “trusted ally in the fight for equality.” Republican Chris Sununu said he would have “a real problem” with businesses denying services to LGBT people based on the businesses’ religious beliefs, but he said, in a separate interview, that he’d be willing to take a look at a law that enabled that. Polls show a very tight race.
This hour, polls close in Arkansas, New York, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, South Dakota, Texas and Wyoming. All told, these 14 states account for 158 electoral votes.
This is potentially the Waterloo hour for the presidential candidates.
If Trump has been able to pull Ohio, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Pennsylvania into his column, the race will still be alive at 9 p.m. His best-case scenario would be to win 280, so he can afford to lose 10 electoral votes along the way. But at 9 o’clock, he’ll still need to see Arizona (11 electorals) and Texas (38 electorals) in his column or the race is likely over.
If Clinton has won Pennsylvania, Florida and Minnesota, she’ll be at 235 and the race is all but over, because she can reach the magic number of 270 by simply taking California — and that’s a given.
But if Clinton’s having a bad night, she’ll need Texas or Arizona this hour.
Senate races to watch at 9 p.m. are in Wisconsin, Arizona and Colorado. Democrats are expecting to keep their Democratic Senate seat from Colorado and pick up a new seat in Wisconsin.
If they have already won Indiana, New Hampshire and Illinois, then Russ Feingold, a strong LGBT equality supporter, makes four and — if Clinton wins the White House — Democrats will take over control of the Senate. If Trump wins, Democrats will still need to pick up one more Senate seat.
But no celebration can really begin until Democrats have secured the existing Democratic seat in Nevada in the 10 o’clock hour.
House races to watch this hour are Arizona, Colorado, Minnesota, New York and Wisconsin.
Watch for Minnesota’s 2d Congressional District where voters are leaning towards openly-gay businesswoman Angie Craig, and last week, the Minnesota Star Tribune endorsed her over the “outsized personality” radio talk show host running on the Republican side.
Two other openly gay congressional candidates — both in Arizona, Paul Babeu and Matt Heinz — have tough but possible chances of success. And in Colorado, newcomer Misty Plowright, is making a long-shot Democratic bid to unseat a Republican incumbent for Colorado’s 5th district.
Four incumbent gay/bisexual Democrats are expected to enjoy easy re-elections: Jared Polis in Colorado, Sean Patrick Maloney in New York, Mark Pocan in Wisconsin and Kyrsten Sinema in Arizona.
No governor races to talk about in this group.
Polls close this hour in Iowa, Montana, Utah and Nevada, with 21 electoral votes on the line.
Montana’s three electoral votes are going to Trump. But the other three states each have six electoral votes and polls prior to the Comey letter showed them each to be a toss-up state. And each could become critical to reaching 270, depending on how the evening has been going so far.
The Senate races to watch are in Iowa and Nevada. If Democrats haven’t won five new seats by now, Nevada is the last chance for a Democratic majority in the Senate; Democrats have to retain this seat — currently held by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid. The Democrats’ nominee, Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, has the endorsement of the Lesbian PAC and the Human Rights Campaign.
Republican Rep. Joe Heck has a zero score on LGBT issues in Congress.
Montana and Utah have the House races to watch this hour. For Montana’s one at-large Congressional seat, lesbian Native American Denise Juneau has the backing of HRC and the Lesbian PAC, but the Republican incumbent is expected to win. In Utah, transgender newcomer Democrat Misty Snow is running against incumbent Mike Lee, who had a 35-point lead in the polls mid-October.
Montana’s Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock signed an executive order in January, prohibiting discrimination against LGBT state employees. He’s urged support for programs that help homeless youth to include LGBT kids and he’s presided over a same-sex wedding. His Republican challenger, Greg Gianforte, is opposed to marriage equality and has given more than a half-million dollars to the anti-gay group Focus on the Family.
Polls show the race leaning toward the Democrat.
Polls close this hour in California, Hawaii, Idaho, Oregon, North Dakota and Washington, with 85 electoral votes on the line.
Most of the electoral votes this hour — 78 of the 85 — will go to Clinton, California being the biggest prize of them all with 55 electoral votes.
The California U.S. Senate seat held by Barbara Boxer is not in danger of being taken by a Republican. In fact, only Democrats have survived to run in the general election: State Attorney General Kamala Harris and U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez. Both are strong supporters of equal rights for LGBT people, but Equality California and LPAC have endorsed Harris.
On the House side of things, openly-gay incumbent Democrat Mark Takano is expected to easily win his re-election to California’s 41st Congressional district.
Governors’ races to watch are in Oregon, Washington and North Dakota.
Oregon’s openly-bisexual Gov. Kate Brown is running for re-election, and as a Democrat in a blue state, she’s a safe bet. Washington state’s Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee is a safe bet, too. He supports marriage equality; his Republican opponent does not.
In North Dakota, polls indicate a Republican win, but Republican candidate Doug Burgum bucks the common trend on LGBT issues.
He’s said there should be no discrimination based on sexual orientation and that he would work with the legislature to address the problem. On the transgender bathroom issue, he’s said he’s for both religious liberty and tolerance. He’s also in support of marriage equality.
Democrat Marvin Nelson has spoken out strongly against anti-LGBT discrimination and for the rights of transgender people to use public restrooms.
Results from Alaska, with three electoral votes, are not expected until after 1 a.m. EDT. All three are expected to go to Trump.
© 2016 Keen News Service. All rights reserved
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 4, 2016.