SILVER LINING

Why Pro-Gay State Governorships May Be The Only Bright Spots This Election

Mike Michaud

Things aren’t looking good for Democrats on Election Day, and although the party isn’t yet synonymous with LGBTQ rights, exactly, it is increasingly on our side in the political battles, with some rare exceptions. The Senate looks like a lost cause, and Republicans may add to their majority in the House.

If there is any bright spot at all, it’s at the state level. Democrats look like they might win some key governors’ races, including a historic one in Maine.

Here’s a look at some of the battleground states where Democrats have a strong chance of winning–and homophobes a strong chance of losing.

Maine

Rep. Mike Michaud (right) has the chance to become the first openly gay man to be elected governor. (In 2004, with his then wife at his side, New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey came out as “a gay American” at the same time he announced his resignation.) Michaud is running in a tight race against incumbent Paul LePage, a Tea Party favorite and all-around wingnut.

A third candidate, Eliot Cutler, had been siphoning support from Michaud, but last week announced his supporters were free to vote for whomever they pleased, after Sen. Angus King, an independent, switched his endorsement from Cutler to Michaud. With Cutler backing away from the race, the odds of Michaud winning look much better.

Michaud got a big boost last week when President Obama came to Portland to stump for the candidate. Obama remains popular among Democrats, and his appearance in Maine was clearly an effort to motivate the base.

When Michaud came out a year ago, even his gay and lesbian colleagues in Congress were caught off guard. His campaign is so low-key about his sexuality than it’s not included in his bio on the campaign website or even in the section detailing his support for LGBT issues. Still, his victory would be a thumb in the eye for Maine’s religious right and the awful LePage, and that alone would be worth his winning.

Pennsylvania

Incumbent Republican Tom Corbett is heading to certain defeat, thanks to his inability to be anyone other than his idiotic self. As a reminder, Corbett once compared marriage equality to incest. He’s also run an administration that has pretty much managed to piss off just about everybody in the state. As a added twist, his conservative staffers spent their office hours trading X-rated material over government email. (It was straight adult film, of course.) About the only thing in Corbett’s favor was that he threw in the towel when marriage equality became inevitable in the state.

The Democrat, Tom Wolf, has been assiduously courting the LGBT vote (although with Corbett as an opponent, it’s not as if he has to try hard). He was quick to condemn the brutal gay bashing of a couple in Philadelphia and even engaged in a gay pub crawl in Philadelphia on Halloween. Ahead by double digits, Wolf can be forgiven if he had a few celebratory drinks with the boys a few days ahead of the final results.

Florida 

If the incumbent Republican were someone other than Rick Scott, the prospect of electing one-time Republican governor and affirmatively heterosexual Charlie Crist wouldn’t exactly count as a victory. But Scott, who made his fortune running the Hospital Corporation of America, which later settled the largest ever fraud case in U.S. history, has earned a well-deserved reputation as a douchebag. Among his first acts as governor was removing protections for LGBT Floridians, and he subsequently flirted with returning to the 1990s by banning gay adoptions. 

Now a Democrat, Crist is no prize package either. As governor, he was an ardent defender of the state’s ban on gay adoptions and opponent of marriage equality. When it comes to his past opposition to LGBT rights, Crist is now fluent in grovel, having scoured the thesaurus for every possibly synonym for “sorry.”

Polls give Crist a slight edge. Just don’t be surprised if most Floridians emerged from the ballot box on Tuesday holding their noses.

Kansas

Yes, Kansas. The Republican stronghold is about to prove that there are limits to how far right a party can careen. Incumbent Governor Sam Brownback has allied himself with the most extreme elements of the party, including the Christian right. He has declared “Days of Restoration” during which he encouraged Kansans to “collectively repent of distancing ourselves from God and ask for His mercy on us.” For the state’s gay pride celebration, Brownback banned the use of flagpoles because they were “weapons.”

And that’s only during his stint as governor. As a U.S. Senator, Brownback blocked George W. Bush’s nomination of Janet Neff to U.S. District Court because she had attended a lesbian commitment ceremony. He also urged the Senate to pass a resolution honoring noted homophobe and Focus on the Family founder James Dobson. 

Needless to say, Brownback has been threatening to stand at the chapel door with an ax handle to prevent marriage equality in his state. He’s pledged to aggressively battle marriage equality in the courts, even though it’s a lost cause.

That’s not the reason why Brownback is on the road to losing to Democrat Paul Davis. It’s that Brownback’s experiment in voodoo economics has essentially incinerated the Kansas economy. 

Davis would be a step up (well, algae would be a step up), but it’s not as if he will be the standard bearer for LGBT issues in the state. He’s basically steered clear of taking a position on marriage equality, saying “that issue is now in the court system and there’s nothing we’re going to be able to do about it.”

Still, neutrality would be a lot better than out and out hostility.