By Lisa Keen
Lesbian attorney Maura Healey made history last Tuesday night, winning election as Massachusetts attorney general and becoming the first openly gay person to be elected as attorney general of any state.
But U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud’s chances of becoming the first openly gay person to be elected governor of any state fell short.
There were mixed results for other LGBT candidates last Tuesday night. One of the U.S. House’s six openly LGBT members lost re-election, and – so far — three of four challengers seeking election to the House lost their campaigns. Election totals are not yet final for Republican Carl DeMaio’s congressional bid in San Diego, but as of early this morning, results showed DeMaio leading with 50.3 percent.
Healey makes history
In Massachusetts, Healey, who served as a deputy attorney general and led that office’s lawsuit against the Defense of Marriage Act, won another stunning victory last Tuesday night. A first-time candidate for political office, Healey trounced her Republican opponent by a margin of 63 percent to 37 percent. She won her primary in September against a Democrat who won the endorsement of both the state party and Massachusetts’ pro-gay Governor Deval Patrick.
“When I entered this race, I was a newcomer. I’d never raised a dollar. I’d never asked for a vote,” said Healey during her victory speech Tuesday night. “But I’ll tell you what: I wasn’t new to being an underdog. And I wasn’t new to the work of the Attorney General.”
In thanking her “family,” Healey did not mention her partner, state appeals court Justice Gabrielle Wolohojian. That is probably because the Boston Globe did an article early in the campaign questioning the propriety of Healey holding campaign meetings at the home she shares with Wolohojian. State law prohibits judges from supporting political campaigns. Healey did, however, say to her cheering audience, “For those who can’t be here tonight, I love you.”
Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin issued a statement that Tuesday night, saying, “Maura Healey is one of the staunchest advocates for equality we have in this country, and we join her in celebrating her historic victory tonight. As the nation’s first openly gay attorney general, she is an inspirational trailblazer and will fight to guarantee civil rights and legal equality for all people of Massachusetts.”
In Maine, Michaud got a significant campaign boost one week before the election when third party candidate Eliot Cutler, a staunchly pro-gay contender, told his supporters to vote for whoever they thought could win. That was seen as a big chance for Michaud to pick up some, if not all, of the 15 percent of the vote Cutler had been taking in the polls. Michaud also had the benefit of several high profile rallies, with President Obama, former President Bill Clinton, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and First Lady Michelle Obama.
But at midnight Tuesday, Michaud had picked up only seven percent of Cutler’s vote, at best. Eight percent of Cutler’s supporters voted for the third party candidate. And a CNN exit poll suggests that Michaud’s being gay may have had some influence in a very close race with right-wing Republican Governor Paul LePage.
CNN asked two gay-related questions in its exit poll in Maine. One question asked whether the voter had a close friend or family member who was gay: 68 percent said yes, 32 percent said no. Of those who said yes, 51 percent voted for Michaud, 38 percent for LePage and 11 percent for third party progressive candidate Eliot Cutler. Of those who said no, 54 percent voted for LePage, 36 percent for Michaud and nine percent for Cutler.
The second question asked whether the voter supported allowing same-sex couples to marry: 68 percent said yes, 30 percent said no. Of those who supported marriage equality, 58 percent voted for Michaud, 30 percent for LePage and 12 percent for Cutler. Of those who opposed marriage equality, 77 percent voted for LePage, 15 percent for Michaud and eight percent for Cutler.
Michaud came out as gay one year ago in an op-ed, saying he didn’t want his campaign for governor to be undermined by “whisper campaigns.”
LePage was declared the victor with 48.1 percent of the vote, to Michaud’s 43.5 percent and Cutler’s 8.3 percent.
Congressional Caucus Still Six?
All but one of six incumbent openly gay members of the U.S. House won re-election Tuesday. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney of New York’s 18th Congressional District lost his re-election bid to the Republican he defeated in 2012. Maloney earned the endorsement of the New York Times on Oct. 21 but garnered only 42 percent of the vote to Nan Hayworth’s 57 percent. The Human Rights Campaign criticized Hayworth for running a television ad in the last week of the campaign that featured her openly gay son Will saying that his mother has “always been there for me.” The Human Rights Campaign scored Hayworth as a 71 (out of a possible 100) in her record on gay-related issues during her one previous term in the House.
At deadline, three of the four openly gay candidates who made challenges to incumbent members of the U.S. House had lost:
American Idol celebrity Clay Aiken took only 41 percent of the vote in his bid to unseat Republican incumbent Renee Ellmers in North Carolina’s 2nd Congressional District. Ellmers has had a zero rating from HRC for her two terms.
Sean Eldridge, spouse of Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, won a New York Times endorsement but only 21 percent of the vote against Republican incumbent Chris Gibson for New York’s 19th Congressional District.
Openly gay Republican Richard Tisei, who was seen as having a strong chance of winning an open seat in Massachusetts, fell far short, winning only 41 percent of the vote to Democrat Seth Moulton’s 55 percent. National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown blogged against Tisei and urged NOM supporters to vote for Tisei’s Democratic opponent, even though Moulton holds the same positions as Tisei on marriage. Former U.S. Rep. Barney Frank also endorsed Moulton.
Results for openly gay Republican Carl DeMaio’s effort to unseat a popular pro-gay Democrat, Scott Peters, showed him tied with 50.3 percent of the vote and Peters with 49.7 percent – fewer than 800 votes apart, according to the San Diego Tribune. The county elections office said it would have final tallies Thursday, and Peters has not conceded. House Speaker John Boehner attended a fundraiser for DeMaio, but NOM leader Brian Brown robo-called against him. DeMaio may have benefited from a national wave of support for Republicans, a trend big enough, apparently, to overcome a setback in which a former campaign aide claimed that DeMaio sexually harassed him. (San Diego County prosecutors announced just last week that they would not be pressing charges.) DeMaio, a former member of the San Diego City Council, also appears to be beating the incumbent who won endorsement from the Human Rights Campaign.
Other High Profile LGBT Candidates
In Massachusetts, Steve Kerrigan, a gay former aide to the late U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy, shared the ticket with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Martha Coakley. Coakley trailed Republican Charlie Baker by less than two points, and Coakley conceded the race.
In California, former State Senator Sheila Kuehl won her highly contested race against Bobby Shriver, a nephew of the late President Kennedy. Shriver had taken the support of some of Hollywood’s more prominent movie moguls, like David Geffen. But Kuehl took 58.5 percent of the vote to secure the District 3 seat on the powerful Los Angeles County Board. If elected to the seat, she would become the first openly gay person to serve on the Board.
In Washington, D.C., popular openly gay D.C. Councilman David Catania, a former Republican who ran as an independent, won only 35 percent of the vote, coming in second to Democrat Muriel Bowser for the office of mayor. Catania has been haunted somewhat by the fact that D.C. is a heavily Democratic city and by the fact that the Republican candidate was a former Councilmember popular with both gays and straights. Bowser won the endorsement of the local gay Democratic club.
And in Idaho, a long-shot gay candidate for governor, Steve Pankey of the Constitution Party, came in fifth out of six candidates, earning less than one percent of the vote.