Polls (see chart at right) say that fewer than half the voters in this election will be motivated by a candidate's position on abortion and only a third are much concerned with gay marriage. Whether these issues are foremost in voters' minds or not, however, the outcomes Tuesday night will have a huge impact on sexuality/gender law and policy for at least the next few years. Aside from the endlessly predicted changes (or not) in who controls Congress, the most consequential outcomes are likely to be in state government, especially in the gubernatorial and state attorney general contests.
Here's my list of what to watch for when you're changing channels or checking twitter:
Gubernatorial and AG races
- California - Everyone knows that the outcome of the battle between Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman for the governorship may have an impact on Perry v. Scharzenegger, the challenge to Prop 8. Less well known is that the contest between Democrat Kamala Harris and Republican Steve Cooley to be Attorney General could have the same impact.
- Florida - As in California, both the governor and the AG in Florida can independently make litigation decisions when state law is involved. There are likely to be diametrically opposite decisions made if Dem Alex Sink is elected governor versus Republican Rick Scott, or if Dem Dan Gelber or Republican Pam Bondi becomes attorney general.
- Illinois - Republican Bill Brady is battling Dem incumbent Pat Quinn; one clear contrast is Brady's vehement opposition to civil unions, which Gov. Quinn supports. If Brady is elected, any chance to move Illinois into the civil union category would disappear for at least the length of his term.
- Maine - From Lisa Keen: "Equality Maine, the state LGBT civil rights group, says Tea Party Republican candidate Paul LePage would not only veto a marriage equality bill if one came to his desk, but "supports gutting the Maine Human Rights Act," which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. [Both] Democratic candidate Libby Mitchell [and] Independent candidate Eliot Cutler support same-sex marriage...
- Minnesota - Dem candidate Mark Dayton has promised to sign a gay marriage bill; in response, anti-equality groups financed an ad suppporting Republican Tom Emmer, because "gay marriage has consequences."
- New Hampshire - Last year, Democratic Gov. John Lynch, who said he opposed gay marriage, signed a bill legalizing it after lawmakers approved provisions affirming religious rights. Lynch is up for re-election, facing a Republican who opposes same-sex marriage, and the National Organization for Marriage is running ads against the governor depicting his signing of the bill as a betrayal of voters.
- New York - Republican candidate Carl Paladino promised to veto a marriage equality bill and criticized Dem Andrew Cuomo for taking his children to a gay pride parade. The latter move may have tanked his campaign, although it was already a hot air balloon waiting to burst. Polls show Cuomo, who supports gay marriage, massively ahead.
Judicial retention in Iowa - Three of the judges who joined the Iowa Supreme Court's decision requiring an equal marriage law are before the voters for an up-or-down retention vote. Conservatives have organized an unprecedented campaign against them, and polls predict a close race.
House of Representatives:
- CA 45 - Openly gay Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet is challenging incumbent Mary Bono Mack in this "Inland Empire" district, which offers one of the very few chances the Dems have to take a seat now held by a Republican.
- MA 4 - Barney Frank's re-election was a foregone conclusion until rumors spread that he was in trouble, seemingly validated by Bill Clinton traveling to the district to campaign for him and Barney loaning his campaign $200,000. If Barney loses, it means the Dems are getting wiped out.
- PA 8 - Former GOP Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick is looking for revenge against two-term Democrat Patrick Murphy, who defeated him in 2006. Murphy has been the lead champion in the House of repealing DADT.
- RI 1 - Openly gay Providence Mayor David Cicilline is running to replace Patrick Kennedy, who retired.
Trial court judgeship in Alameda CA Superior Court - Now an administrative law judge, Victoria Kolakowski could become the nation's first openly transgender member of the judiciary.
State legislatures -
- New Hampshire House and Senate - From Lisa Keen: "This bellwether state enacted a marriage equality law just this year and already three bills have been filed seeking repeal in 2011. Meanwhile, the Democratic majority in both the state House and Senate are in peril... [T[he margins of victory on the marriage equality bill in 2009 were razor thin... If Republicans do take back the majority in the legislature, a repeal bill has a strong chance of succeeding.
- New York - The incredibly dysfunctional NY State Senate has been on a roller-coaster, with Republicans having controlled it forever, more or less, until the 2008 election when Dems barely got control, but then couldn't deliver a majority vote for either marriage equality or a prohibition on discrimination based on gender identity. Paul Schindler at Gay City News identifes the critical races for this election cycle and maps out the chess pieces in play to try to line up the necessary votes on those two issues, a byzantine gambit that can't possibly be summarized in a paragraph.
- CA Assembly 5 - Andrew Pugno, one of the leaders in the campaign to pass Prop 8, is running in this Sacramento-area district to become a member of the state legislature. Sure would be nice if he lost.
- NC House 60 - Marcus Brandon could become only the fifth openly gay African-American member of a state legislature in the U.S.
State constitutional amendments - The Colorado right to life constitutional amendment is again on the ballot; in 2008, it got only 27% of the vote. Time to put a nail in the coffin of this idea.