The recent activity in Congress has put everyone in a political mindset. And a lot of that frustration will have to wait for when the new Congress is appointed next year. But while the election this November will not be picking the President or the fate of the House, it will still provide a few candidates to cheer and fume over.
Take a look at some of the races that the GLBT community should be watching this November, including what is at stake, who is running, and where the candidates stand on GLBT rights and issues.
Odd-year elections are usually for local level elections, like for school boards and county offices. Mayors are usually appointed here. Winners will have jurisdiction over enforcing city laws and allotting the municipal budget. And in major cities, like New York City and Houston, these calls can affect a wide population.
-New York City will be seeing new candidates now that Michael Bloomberg has reached his term limit. This race will be less heated regarding basic rights to its GLBT voters; both candidates publicly support gay rights and marriage equality. However, Bill de Blasio (D) has taken a more aggressive stance on meeting the needs of GLBT New Yorkers, including helping homeless youth; in 2012, Bloomberg cut $7 million from services to this demographic, including 160 shelter beds. When de Blasio served under former NYC mayor David Dinkins, he worked on causes such as creating the domestic partners registry and outlawing transgender discrimination. de Blasio will race against Joe Lhota (R).
-These races are not just important regarding GLBT issues, but self-identifying candidates as well. Annise Parker (D) seeks a third and final term as the mayor of Houston, Texas. In 2008, she became one of the first GLBT mayors of a major US city. If reelected, she hopes to pass a non-discrimination ordinance in the city, following a similar passage in San Antonio. She will race against Ben Hill (R), with major issues in the election leaning towards city infrastructure and crime.
Five states hold their races for state governor during off-year elections; two of them, Georgia and Virginia, are being held this year. This is an important seat to watch for states seeking marriage equality; the signatures of these officials are usually the last hurdle in the process, and their opinions can sway the lower courts on the matter.
-With current Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell (R) having reached his term limit, the race will be between Ken Cuccinelli (R) and Terry McAuliffe (D). Virginia’s constitution was amended in 2006 with the Marshall-Newman Amendment, defining marriage as between one man and one woman, a stance supported by Cuccinelli. The former Attorney General has been cited for previously calling GLBT individuals “self-destructive and soulless human beings.” In 2010, he also urged state universities and colleges to rescind policies banning discrimination based on sexual orientation, stating that only the General Assembly can offer such protections. In contrast, McAuliffe has publicly stated that he would issue an executive order “…to outlaw any discrimination in Virginia based upon any issue…”.
-In New Jersey, current governor Chris Christie (R) will be seeking a second term against Barbara Buono (D). While Christie has banned gay-conversion therapy for minors and supports civil unions, he does not believe in marriage equality. In a statement in mid-October, he said that if any of his children came out as gay, he would tell them that they “…did not have the right to marry.” Despite Governor Christie’s opposition, marriage equality has triumphed beginning October 21st. Buono, who has an openly gay daughter, has promised to enforce the state’s anti-bullying and anti-discrimination laws.
House of Representatives
If a House Representative or Senator dies or leaves their position before their term ends, special elections are held to fill the position for the remaining time. The last special election of the year is in Alabama’s First Congressional District, where Josiah “Jo” Bonner (R) resigned early to work in the private sector. These races impact House and Senate votes on federal laws, alongside the committees that write them.
The election on November 5th will be the Republican runoff election; the winning candidate will be the Republican nominee against Burton LeFlore (D) in the district’s general election on December 17th. The runoff will be between Bradley Byrne and Dean Young; while neither candidate received enough votes for nomination in the first Republican primary on September 24th, both received the most votes of the nine primary candidates. Young, during the first primary, asked the other candidates to sign a six-point pledge to oppose gay marriage, “…to defend our families and the sacred holiness of marriage.” Byrne, who supports traditional marriage, has been attacked by Young for his attendance of the Episcopal Church, whose leadership supports gay marriage.
Terms to remember:
Off-year election: Held every odd number year (2009, 2011, 2013 and so on), usually for municipal and local level elections. Special scenarios and state laws can lead to higher-level elections these years.
Runoff election: When no candidate receives the majority of votes required to be appointed, the two candidates with the most votes move on to a second election between them for the office or nomination.