LGBT election watch: Where the drama will unfold

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Election 2020 rainbow graphic text

Election 2020 latest update on what to look for

Count on it: There will be drama Tuesday night. There already has been in the 2020 elections, with a lesbian member of Congress winning a special order from the U.S. Supreme Court, LGBT groups marshaling behind different sides in the U.S. Senate race in Maine, and a gay aide to a U.S. Senate hopeful in South Carolina having to apologize for anti-gay slurs he posted when in high school.

There are an estimated nine million LGBT people registered to vote November 3, maybe more, according to a study by the Williams Institute, an LGBT think tank at UCLA. Various studies and polls over many years have consistently found about three-quarters of LGBT voters support Democratic candidates. Other studies have suggested LGBT people tend to be much more engaged in politics than the general population, writing or calling elected officials, consuming political news, and communicating about issues through social media.

It’s a good bet that many LGBT people will be glued to their news and social media venues November 3.

And while polls as of October 30 look good for those 75 percent of LGBT voters who tend to support Democrats, those LGBT Democrats will likely exhibit a world of caution against celebrating too early. That’s because, on October 30, 2016, most pollsters and even Republican candidate Donald Trump’s campaign, believed Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton had a strong enough lead to guarantee her election as the first woman president of the United States. Much of the blame for that errant optimism fell on her openly gay campaign manager Robby Mook and his reliance on data analysis. Even fivethirtyeight.com, a respected poll analysis website founded and run by openly gay statistician Nate Silver, predicted Clinton would easily win. It was a reasonable prediction, given that virtually every poll showed Clinton winning.

Tuesday night we will see what voters hath wrought

Studies of polling indicated most polls in 2016 did not adjust their surveyed respondents adequately to accommodate for the fact that college-educated voters are more likely to participate in polls. So the 2016 polls largely missed seeing the number of non-college-educated voters who would turn out for Trump. And, according to The Atlantic magazine, there was a significant undecided vote in 2016 (but one that has largely evaporated this year).

With these caveats from recent history and a well-informed perspective on President Trump’s performance in office—including impeachment over alleged bribery of Ukraine, the Republican shenanigans around U.S. Supreme Court nominees, and the epic failure to manage the coronavirus crisis—the nation sits down Tuesday night to see what voters hath wrought.

And as the nation prepares to stare into the future, it has—for whatever they are worth—these polls for hints, as of October 30:

FiveThirtyEight.com gives Democrat Joe Biden an 89 percent chance of winning the White House. It gives Democrats a 98 percent chance of keeping the House and a 76 percent chance of taking control of the Senate.

RealClearPolitics.com gives Democrat Biden a 63 percent “betting odds” advantage.

Decision Desk HQ-Optimus, a collaboration of various major media outlets, gives Biden an 88 percent chance of winning.

In addition to the presidential race, LGBT voters have a critical interest in who controls the House and Senate. Many Republican-controlled chambers have been notoriously hostile to equal rights for LGBT citizens.

The U.S. House: Democrats currently control 232 seats in the U.S. House, Republicans control 197, and six are vacant. A party needs 218 for control. Of the seven openly LGBT members currently serving the House, all are expected to win re-election, though three have some complications. Of the eight newcomers running for House seats, at least one has a very good chance at winning and at least three others are maybes.

The U.S. Senate: Republicans currently control 53 seats in the U.S. Senate, Democrats 47. Polling indicates Democrats will almost certainly lose one of their current seats (held by Senator Doug Jones in Alabama). If they do lose Jones, and if Trump retains the White House, Democrats would need to hang onto every other seat and pick up five more to reach the magical majority number of 51.

LGBT Candidates: In addition to these important contests, the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund estimates that “at least 574 LGBTQ candidates” are on the ballot November 3. Its website identifies about 300 who have won their explicit endorsement and financial support.

Here’s an hour-by-hour (Eastern Coast time) just updated guide to how the night will unfold for major LGBT candidates and for the contests to control the U.S. House and Senate, and the White House:

Polls closing at 6 p.m.

U.S. HOUSE SEAT – Indiana 2nd – Most of Indiana will vote until 7 p.m., but South Bend, home of Democratic presidential contender Pete Buttigieg, closes at 6. There, probate attorney Pat Hackett is making her second try at unseating four-time Republican incumbent Jackie Walorski. Walorski’s record on LGBT issues has earned her a seven out of a possible 100 score from the Human Rights Campaign. A graduate of Liberty Baptist College and a staunch Trump supporter, Walorski has raised $2.2 million for her campaign, compared to Hackett’s $770,000. Only $11,500 of Hackett’s support has come from LGBT political action committees (PACs), including the Equality PAC of the Congressional LGBTQ Equality Caucus, the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, and the L PAC. Buttigieg made a statement in support of Hackett but, as of October 14, his Win the Era PAC had not contributed to her campaign. Hackett has a master’s degree in theology from Notre Dame and lives in South Bend with her spouse Rita.

Polls closing at 7 p.m.

FLORIDA – Two mayoral seats – Fort Lauderdale, Wilton Manor – These are among the most heavily LGBT municipalities in Florida. The Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel endorsed openly gay incumbent Mayor Dean Trantalis with a strong editorial supporting a second term. He’s seen as having a relatively easy path re-election. Wilton Manor City Commissioner Julie Carson, a lesbian and cancer survivor, decided to run for the mayoral seat only last February when incumbent openly gay Mayor Justin Flippen died suddenly of a brain aneurysm. She faces two other candidates, including another former mayor. South Florida Gay News Publisher Norm Kent wrote last week that, while her opponents are worthy candidates, Carson “galvanized” the community of 12,500 following Flippen’s death and has “judiciously integrated our community’s social responsibilities” with the town’s economic needs.

VIRGINIA – Richmond mayor – Alexsis Rodgers – Lesbian civic leader Alexsis Rodgers, 29, has taken on a steep climb, trying to unseat a popular mayor in a five-way race of Virginia’s capital city. It’s her first bid at elective office, but she’s raised the second largest amount of money after incumbent Mayor Levar Stoney. That gives her a fighting chance to be one of two candidates in a possible run-off come December (Richmond has an odd Electoral College-like system that often leads to run-offs.) The Richmond Times Dispatch reported recently that a poll of likely voters had Rodgers a distant third place, but 30 percent of voters were undecided.

PRESIDENTIAL RACE –Watch Georgia – There are 60 votes in six states on the line at this hour. Four of the six states (Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, South Carolina, with a cumulative 44 electoral votes) went to Trump in 2016. Two states (Virginia and Vermont, with 16 electoral votes) went to Clinton. But polling in Georgia is unusually close in 2020; the latest (by CBS October 23) showed a tie. An upset there could ring like the shot heard round the world. At this point, considering the Georgia polls are still within the margin of error, the historic voting patterns would suggest the Probable EV count will be: Trump 44, Biden 16.

U.S. SENATE RACES –There are three close races closing out this hour and Democrats have a strong likelihood of picking up one seat, a reasonable chance of picking up two.

The two are in Georgia. Both Republican incumbents –David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler–have poor voting records on LGBT issues, and their Democratic challengers –Jon Ossoff and Rapheal Warnock– have support from the LGBT community. The last two polls show Democrat Warnock with a 19-point lead over Loeffler, who is caught up in a COVID inside trader scandal. Polls on the other race, show Democrat Ossoff with a two-to-three-point lead but within the margin of error. HRC has endorsed Ossoff and Warnock.

In South Carolina, the Human Rights Campaign scores Republican incumbent Lindsey Graham a consistent zero. When asked in a recent campaign interview about his support for the right of same-sex couples to marry, Graham said, “I have tried to be tolerant, I’ve tried to understand that people have different life experiences…. But I can tell you right now, when it comes to South Carolina, I think I’ve been an effective voice for who we are.” The latest poll shows Graham with a six-point lead over challenger Jaime Harrison. HRC has endorsed Harrison even though, in September, news reports revealed that two of Harrison’s top aides, including a gay man, posted Twitter messages several years ago using terms such as “faggot,” “homo,” and other crude language. Both apologized. One of the aides, Guy King, said the posts were made while he was in high school and college. “As a Black gay man, I know how hurtful words like this can be and have experienced the pain that comments like this can cause,” said King. “I hope anyone hurt by these words accepts my heartfelt apology.” According to The State newspaper, Harrison issued a statement saying, “That language has no place in our state,” Harrison said. “Although these tweets are many years old, inexperience is no excuse for such inappropriate language, and I have addressed this personally with these individuals and my entire team.”

Polls closing at 7:30 p.m.

LOCAL INTEREST: North Carolina Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, Mark Robinson, has said he would not support “this mass delusion called transgenderism.”

In West Virginia, State House Delegate John Mandt Jr., running for re-election, resigned suddenly after news reports drew attention to a Facebook chat posting in which he appeared to ask whether another member of the House was a “homo” and suggested the member was probably bisexual. Mandt’s name is still on the ballot, however, and he says he’ll serve a new term if re-elected.

In Ohio, lesbian Charmaine McGuffey is running for sheriff of Hamilton County, which includes Cincinnati.

PRESIDENTIAL RACE – There are 38 electoral votes at stake in three states: North Carolina, Ohio, and West Virginia. Trump won all 38 in 2016. The latest polls give Biden the lead in North Carolina and Ohio but within the margin of error. West Virginia is solidly Trump. Looking to history when data is within the marging of error, the Probable EV count: Trump 82, Biden 16.

U.S. SENATE RACES – There’s a reasonable chance Democrats will pick up another Senate seat this hour. At latest polling, North Carolina’s Senate polling has been somewhat erractic –from a tie a few days ago to a six-point Democratic lead October 23. The Human Rights Campaign Fund and gay presidential contender Pete Buttigieg have endorsed Democrat Cal Cunningham. Republican incumbent Thom Tillis scores a consistent zero in HRC’s Congressional scorecard on LGBT issues. There’s a good chance Democrats will pick up seat number 2 or 3.

Polls closing at 8 p.m.

U.S. HOUSE SEATS – Of the four LGBT candidates for Congressional seats this hour, two seem on their way to easy re-election: Sharice Davids, first term incumbent from Kansas 3rd and David Cicilline, five-term incumbent from Rhode Island 1st.

In New Hampshire 1st– First-term incumbent Chris Pappas is getting a tough challenge in Republican opponent Matt Mowers who last week sought to draw attention to Pappas having a “corporate” boyfriend. The Gay & Lesbian Victory criticized that as a “dog whistle” for anti-LGBT sentiments. The media took notice that Pappas was dating a former lobbyist for Amazon, but it also seemed interested that Mowers did consulting work for pharmaceutical companies. Fivethirtyeight says Pappas has a 10-point advantage; local media seem to think Pappas’ deep roots in the state will overcome Mowers’ relative newcomer status to the state.

In Michigan 6th –Jon Hoadley has also been hearing the dog whistle in his bid to unseat Republican incumbent Fred Upton. According to the Victory Fund, the National Republican Congressional Committee has posted Twitter messages and sent out a campaign mailer to voters’ homes, describing Hoadley as a “pedo sex poet.” Upton, meanwhile, has the endorsement of the national Log Cabin Republicans group. RealClearPolitics calls it a toss-up, though Upton has a 4.5-point advantage.

U.S. SENATE RACES – In Maine, Log Cabin Republicans have endorsed incumbent Republican Senator Susan Collins. And she used to have the support of other LGBT groups. But then she voted for Trump Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, and started walking in lock-step with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Now HRC President Alphonso David calls Collins’ re-election “simply untenable.” And that was before last week when Collins gratefully accepted the endorsement of a long-time anti-LGBT group in Maine, the Christian Civic League. Equality Maine has endorsed Maine’s Democratic House Speaker Sara Gideon. Polls give Gideon the edge.

PRESIDENTIAL RACE – During this hour, 172 electoral votes are in play. In 2016, Trump won 94. This year, two of those states –Florida with 29 electoral votes and Pennsylvania with 20—are in play. Trump’s youngest daughter Tiffany spoke to an LGBT rally organized by gay Trump appointee Richard Grenell October 17. Equality Florida Executive Director Nadine Smith dismissed the event as “a pathetic attempt to hide his appalling record,” adding that, “Donald Trump is the worst President the LGBTQ community has ever seen.” At deadline, Biden had about a two-point lead in Florida and a seven-point lead in Pennsylvania. If the split the baby, Trump gets Florida, Biden gets Pennsylvania, the Probable EV count: Trump 155, Biden 115. But keep in mind, many political number crunchers say that, barring unusual outcomes in Georgia or Texas, Pennsylvania is Biden’s must-have ticket to 270.

Polls closing at 9 p.m.

U.S. HOUSE SEAT- Minnesota 2nd: Angie Craig won her seat in 2018 and polls suggest voters are leaning her way for re-election. She won another major victory October 27, when Justice Neil Gorsuch of the U.S. Supreme Court denied a request from Craig’s Republican opponent to delay the election until February. The dramatic resolve came over a complication in the race when a third party candidate –-one who acknowledged that Republicans recruited him to run third party as a strategy to defeat Craig—died in September. Under Minnesota law, if a “major party” candidate dies within 79 days of a November election, a special election must be held in February. Republicans went to court, arguing the vote had to be changed to February, but Craig won an order, October 9, from a federal district court judge for the election to proceed. Craig’s Republican opponent appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, where Gorsuch handles emergency requests from that state.

In Texas 23rd, Gina Ortiz Jones appears has a fair chance to win a vacant seat from the San Antonio area. She lost by fewer than 1,000 votes in 2018, and the incumbent has decided to retire this year. Her Republican opposition this year has attacked with ads portraying Jones as a “radical” who wants to spend taxpayer money on sex-change surgery for transgender people, underscored by photos of Jones with her girlfriend. But Ortiz won the endorsement of San Antonio’s mayor and the San Antonio Express-News. If elected, she’ll become the first openly LGBT person to represent Texas in Congress.

In New York’s 18th, incumbent Sean Patrick Maloney is hoping to win a fifth term. Fivethirtyeight says he has an 18-point advantage. Three newcomers seeking U.S. House seats from New York are facing tougher battles, but have good chances of winning:

In New York’s 15th, Democrat Ritchie Torres is hoping to fill a seat representing the Bronx that was left vacant by a Democrat’s resignation. Torres beat out a field of 15 Democratic candidates in the primary. He’s won the endorsement of former President Obama and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. His chances are good of joining the LGBT Caucus in Congress.

In New York’s 17th, Democrat Mondaire Jones is seen as the frontrunner in a three-way race to replace retiring Democrat Nina Lowey in this seat north of New York City. He is expected to win but he’s faced some dirty tricks from a third party candidate in recent days.

In New York’s 23rd, newcomer Tracy Mitrano is having a harder time in her bid to unseat a 10-term Republican who she lost to by nine points in a 2018 bid. But the latest poll showed her within two points this time.

And in Wisconsin’s 2nd, incumbent Mark Pocan ran unopposed in 2018 but has a Republican opponent this year. But given that Pocan won 120,000 votes in his primary and the Republican garnered only 19,000, Pocan seems like a sure bet.

LGBT RACES – First term Colorado State Rep. Brianna Titone (District 27), running for a second term, has been targeted with anti-trans attacks in Colorado. Among other tactics from Republican operatives, she has been hit with a robocall that tells voters she has a “radical sexual agenda” that could harm “your wives and daughters.” Another ad, that ran on Facebook, claimed that, when she was Brian Titone, he threatened his girlfriend. Democrats labeled the tactics as “disgusting” and Titone reportedly raised more money.

U.S. SENATE RACES – There are two close Senate races this hour where Democrats are likely to pick up two new seats.

In Colorado, former Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper has a comfortable lead on incumbent Republican Senator Cory Gardner. The most recent poll there, October 20, showed Hickenlooper up by nine points. Gardner merits a zero on HRC’s Congressional scorecard; Hickenlooper has won HRC’s endorsement. One-Colorado calls Hickenlooper a “pro-equality champion.”

In Arizona, Mark Kelly, husband of former U.S. Rep. Gabby Gifford, is running to replace first-term Republican Martha McSally. The Human Rights Campaign endorsed Kelly, saying he has been a “steadfast ally.” McSally’s score on LGBT issues has rated a zero from HRC. Polls as of October 29 suggest Kelly is a likely win.

PRESIDENTIAL RACE – This hour is both crucial and a potentially crazy. Throwing Arkansas (which closes at 8:30) into the 9 o’clock mix, there are 15 states and 162 electoral votes to record. In 2016, 106 of these went to Trump, including Wisconsin (10), Michigan (16), and Arizona (11). But this year, unlike anytime in recent memory, Arizona is trending blue and Texas (38) is a down-to-the-wire horse race. The latest polls to come in showed first a tie, then Biden with a one-point lead, then Trump with a one-point lead. Michigan looks to be leaning strong for Biden; Arizona and Wisconsin look sloppy, though most polls indicate Wisconsin will go blue. Given that Texas Governor Greg Abbott is taking measures, backed by the state supreme court, to make it as cumbersome as possible to return absentee ballots, the Probable EV count: Trump 238, Biden 194.

Polls closing at 10 p.m.

MONTANA – Secretary of State candidate Bryce Bennett has won the endorsement of some key newspapers in the state and, while his opponent has tried to paint him as a raging “liberal,” the papers and many of his colleagues in the state senate say he’s got the experience and the temperament for the job. If elected, he will become the first openly LGBT person to win statewide office in Montana. Keep in mind, the latest poll in Montana has given Trump a six-point lead in the presidential race

U.S. SENATE RACES – There are two close Senate races this hour and a chance for Democrats to pick up at least one new seat.

In Montana, Democratic Governor Steve Bullock is in a tough race against incumbent Republican Senator Steve Daines. Daines currently holds a three-point lead in the polls and a zero grade from the Human Rights Campaign. Bullock has HRC’s endorsement. He signed an executive order prohibiting discrimination against LGBT state employees and supported the U.S. Supreme Court decision to strike state bans on marriage for same-sex couples.

In Iowa, Republican incumbent Joni Ernst has just a two-point lead over her Democratic challenger Theresa Greenfield. Greenfield’s got the support of HRC and Buttigieg, and Ernst’s HRC score is a zero. The Des Moines Register has endorsed Greenfield.

PRESIDENTIAL RACE – Four states and 21 electoral votes are up this hour. Nevada will break for Biden. Iowa’s polling results have been a bit erratic but will probably go with Montana and Utah for Trump, leaving the Probable EV count: Trump 253, Biden 200.

Polls closing at 11 p.m.

U.S. HOUSE- In California’s 41st, incumbent Mark Takano won more than 100,000 votes in his primary this year, compared to his Republican opponent’s 58,000. He has no impediments for a fifth term.

In California’s 53rd, the queer president of San Diego City Council, Georgette Gomez is hoping to win an open seat but she has been strongly outspent by another Democrat seeking the office. Gomez was hit with bad news in early October that her 2017 tax returns failed to show her Council salary, an error Gomez attributed to an accountant. She has since corrected the return and paid the back taxes, but she’s 13 points behind her self-funded opponent.

In Washington’s 10th, State Rep. Beth Doglio, a bisexual, is hoping to win a vacant seat representing the Tacoma area. She’s won some big name endorsements (Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren). She’s up against former Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Stickland, another Democrat, and Strickland won the Seattle Times endorsement. There haven’t been many polls and the race is considered close, with Strickland in the lead.

WASHINGTON STATEWIDE– Two openly LGBT people are running for statewide office: Marko Liias for lieutenant governor and Helen Whitener for the state supreme court. Whitener was appointed to the court vacancy in April and is running in a special election. She is the first black woman on the court and the second openly LGBT person. She’s won endorsement from the Seattle Times and her opponent has dropped out, though is not off the ballot. Liias has had a strong opponent who is also a Democrat and has more endorsements.

PRESIDENTIAL RACE – This is the bottom of the ninth, bases loaded, two outs, and Democrats are poised to grand slam 78 electoral votes to win the game. The five states in this hour are predictable: California (55), Washington (12), Oregon (7), and Hawaii (4) will deliver for Biden. Idaho (4) will deliver for Trump, and at 1 a.m., Alaska will toss in 3. Probable final EV count: Trump, 260, Biden 278. Game over. The only question is whether the Trump team will try to file a protest after the game.