By Lisa Keen
Republican candidates won enough U.S. Senate seats Tuesday night to take over the majority in both chambers of Congress, but in an even more stunning victory, Republicans took over the governor’s offices in three strongly Democratic states – Illinois, Maryland and Massachusetts.
The results in the U.S. Senate stall any chance for advancing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act for at least two years, maybe more.
The Senate’s new Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell who won re-election from Kentucky, has scored a consistent zero on the Human Rights Campaign’s Congressional Scorecards. There is almost no likelihood that McConnell would allow a vote on ENDA.
While ENDA co-sponsor Jeff Merkely (D-Ore.) was re-elected, as were pro-gay Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and several other Democrats, at least three pro-ENDA Democratic senators lost: Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Mark Udall of Colorado.
Three other pro-gay Democrats’ seats are still up in the air this morning. Virginia U.S. Senator Mark Warner made a victory speech, but Republican opponent Ed Gillespie has not conceded and Warner holds less than a one point, meaning Gillespie can ask for a recount. Warner, who just a month ago appeared to be an easy win, was hit late in the campaign with an accusation that he promised a judgeship to the daughter of a Democratic state senator who had threatened to switch to the Republican party.
Democratic Senators Mark Begich of Alaska and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana are both forced into run-off elections because no candidate in their race won the necessary 50 percent plus one vote. Begich, with 45.3 percent, ran behind his opponent’s 49 percent, with only 5.7 percent of the vote split over two other candidates. Landrieu took 42.1 percent of the vote in Louisiana, just 1.1 percent ahead of the Republican. A second Republican candidate in the race took 13.8 percent of the vote, suggesting Landrieu’s December 6 run-off is heavily weighted against her.
The make-up of the Senate going into Tuesday was 53 Democrats, 45 Republicans and 2 independents. As of this morning, Republicans have secured 52 seats, Democrats 43 and independents two. The two independents have been caucusing with the Democrats, but have hinted they might switch to the GOP if the Republicans took over the majority.
In the U.S. House, where Republicans held 233 seats to the Democrats’ 199, Tuesday’s elections increased the Republicans seats by nine at deadline.
Clearly the tides were running high for Republicans Tuesday. Democratic governors’ seats were lost in the blue states of Maryland, Massachusetts and Illinois, although incumbent Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has not conceded. The Chicago Tribune reported early this morning that Republican challenger Bruce Rauner had 51 percent of the vote against Quinn, a strong supporter of LGBT equality, who pushed hard for marriage equality in that state. Rauner wouldn’t discuss his personal position on same-sex marriage but said the issue should have been put on the ballot for voters to decide.
In Massachusetts, Republican victor Charles Baker supports the rights of same-sex couples to marry and made political hay out of the fact that one of his brother’s is gay and married. Democratic candidate Martha Coakley had a gay running mate, Steve Kerrigan, and her office, as attorney general, filed a complementary lawsuit against the federal Defense of Marriage Act in the early challenge against that law.
And in Maryland, where retiring Governor Mike O’Malley strongly supported marriage equality, Republican victor Larry Hogan said in August he “fully” supports the decision of voters to approve allowing same-sex couples to marry and that he would “support their decision and will uphold the law.” Hogan, a white businessman, defeated a very popular African American Democratic Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown in a state with a politically dominant Democratic party and 30 percent African American voters.