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SheWired's Guide to Election Day 2014

SheWired's Guide to Election Day 2014

SheWired's Guide to Election Day 2014

Even if you've already gone to the polls to cast your ballot (you're going to vote...right?!) there's so much going on in today's midterm election. Here's our picks for the races to watch.

Things aren't looking too good for Democrats in the Senate, but there are still plenty of female candidates out to make some firsts, especially LGBT women on the campaign battleground, as well as strong male allies (including the guy who could be the first openly gay governor elected to office). Here are our picks for the races to watch tonight.

Maura Healey, Massachusetts AG

Healey Racks Up Endorsements In Race To Become First Gay AG in U.S.

In September, Maura Healey won the Democratic primary in the state's attorney general race by a landslide, touting her involvement in championing marriage equality in Massachusetts and federally as assistant attorney general. Healey was endorsed by several major organizations and local papers, including the Boston Globe in September, citing her deep legal experience as assistant attorney general. "Healey is not afraid to lead on civil rights issues," the editorial board wrote. "She directed successful efforts to challenge the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman. She showed similar passion while bringing the nation’s first civil rights case by a state against subprime mortgage lenders who overcharged minority borrowers." If elected, Healey could be the first openly gay state attorney general in the U.S. — Michelle Garcia

Liz Dickinson, Democrat, Kansas House District 30

Is Kansas Ready for a Bisexual State Rep?

Liz Dickinson is hoping to become a different kind of Kansas legislator. The bisexual, married mother of two not only vocally supports LGBT rights (she's a member of Equality Kansas), but her campaign has focused on women's rights and education. She's running against Republican Randy Powell, a staunch social conservative who was hand-picked by the outgoing Rep. Lance Kinzer, who is retiring after nearly 10 years representing Kansas's House District 30. 

TheNew Republic recently called Dickinson the "Most Exciting Underdog in Kansas," noting that the former National Organization for Women lobbyist very nearly defeated Kinzer in 2012, taking 46 percent of the vote from the incumbent. 

Kansas's House District 30, which includes parts of Olathe and neighboring Lenexa (where the 30-year-old Dickinson reside), sits within Johnson County, the state's most populous and, notably, the source of much media attention last month after a state judge ordered county clerks there to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The state Supreme Court eventually stepped in and placed the order on hold, but not before the lesbian couple who filed the lawsuit were legally married at the Johnson County Courthouse — a moment Dickinson captured on camera, as she owns local studio Piper Lucy Photography. — Sunnivie Brydum

Kyrsten Sinema, Arizona

Arizona's Most Secure Democrat Still Faces Uphill Battle To Keep Seat
Going into the election, Congress's only openly bisexual member, Kyrsten Sinema is fighting to retain her seat as Republicans have already amped up their efforts in early voting. While Sinema may be the strongest of the three Arizona Democrats running for reelection to Congress, her Republican opponent Wendy Rogers is ahead by 6 points in early votes, as of Monday morning, the Arizona Republic reports. Sinema, whose district elected President Obama in 2012 by just four points, has had a track record of bipartisan work since her days in the state legislature, which some see as an asset to her campaign, particularly for vulnerable Democrats in Arizona. —Michelle Garcia

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Florida

Three Republicans Test the Party on Marriage Equality

There are just three Republicans in the House who support marriage equality, and whether they win or lose has the potential to become a talking point. 
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida is perhaps the most prominent of the group because she led the way and became the first in her party to publicly support marriage equality back in July 2012, even co-sponsoring a bill to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. After announcing her position, she won reelection.
Ros-Lehtinen was followed that year in December by Richard Hanna of New York, who had already won reelection. In this cycle, Hanna is essentially unofficially reelected because he has no opponent.
Charles Bass of New York was actually the third House Republican to follow suit but he did so as a lame duck, only after losing a reelection bid in 2012. 
Republican Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania made headlines this year when he became the third sitting GOP member to back marriage equality, arguing his party had overemphasized marriage equality as an issue, telling The Washington Post that “Life is too short to have the force of government stand in the way of two adults whose pursuit of happiness includes marriage.” — Lucas Grindley

Lauren Scott, Republican, Nevada State Assembly District 30

Will The Country's First Trans State Lawmaker Be Republican? 

Lauren Scott is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force who served in Operation Desert Storm, held a top-secret security clearance, and proudly touts her expertise with an M-16 rifle on her campaign website's home page. With that experience, it might not be surprising to learn that Scott is the Republican candidate for Nevada Assembly District 30, hoping to unseat freshman Democat Mike Sprinkle. What might be more surprising is that Scott also happens to be a transgender woman. 

Then again, there isn't much that's typical about the 51-year-old Scott, according to a Las Vegas Weekly profile. A self-described "quiet person" who rescues cats, Scott told the local weekly she is "a nerd, I read, [and] I don't go clubhopping." Her campaign website acknowledges that until 2009, she was a registered Democrat.

If she's elected, Scott will not only be the first out trans lawmaker in Nevada, she'll be the first openly trans person elected to state office anywhere in the U.S., according to the Reno Journal-Gazette

After transitioning in the 1990s, Scott's trans identity has been an impressive nonissue in her bid for office, perhaps partly because she says she's "over it," according to the Las Vegas Weekly. Scott is "a moderate but politically dynamic candidate whose contradictions can be complementary," reports the local outlet. She handily defeated a more conservative opponent in the Republican primary in June

While Scott's campaign website highlights traditional fiscal conservative touchstones like supporting small business, opposing tax increases, and generating employment, she also supports "common-sense solutions that can reduce firearm related accidents, domestic gun-related violence, and suicides." Her website acknowledges that such solutions could include improved access to mental health services and crisis counseling. A strong supporter of new and renewable energy, Scott is also the president and CEO of Alkcon Corporation, a tech corporation that develops methods to convert natural, landfill, and bio-gas into liquid propane. 

Scott currently serves as a commissioner on the Nevada Equal Rights Commission, where she was appointed in 2012 by Gov. Brian Sandoval, who endorsed her bid for state Assembly. She's long been a member of Equality Nevada, the statewide nonprofit that was instrumental in securing the state's improved (and trans-inclusive) hate-crimes law, LGBT-inclusive employment nondiscrimination law, and, as of last month, marriage equality. — Sunnivie Brydum

Sandra Fluke, California state senate

Thrust Into Spotlight, Fluke Has National Attention in State Race

Attorney and civil rights advocate Sandra Fluke's name was put in the national spotlight after she testified before Congress about contraception access at college campus as a Georgetown University law student. It wasn't so much her speech that gained traction, but the reaction from the conservative right, mostly Fox News and most famously, Rush Limbaugh, who called her a "slut" and a "prostitute" for advocating better access to contraception on campuses. Now Fluke is running for California's state senate to represent a large swath of notoriously progressive western Los Angles, a district that includes the City of West Hollywood, a heavily LGBT area. Fluke, who co-founded the New York Statewide Coalition for Fair Access to Family Court, which also assisted LGBTQ Youth and wrote an op-ed for The Advocate last week. She faces Ben Allen, a longtime westside figure who has received a major financial boost from local Republican-turned-independent Bill Bloomfield, who challenged (and nearly beat) now-retiring Henry Waxman in 2012. Bloomfield has spent $1.3 million in independent expenditures on Allen in this election cycle, but has not publicly explained why, since Allen and Fluke are both Democrats. — Michelle Garcia

Shiela Kuehl, Los Angeles supervisor

Child Star Versus Kennedy Kin in West Los Angeles

It may not sound like it, but the Board of Supervisors is one of the most powerful seats in Southern California, and LGBT activist Sheila Kuehl, a former child star is going head to head with Bobby Shriver, a fellow Democrat. The five member board presides over Los Angeles County's 10 million residents, 103,000 public employees, and influences the 88 incorporated cities within the county, and two million people live in the district up for grabs. According to Deadline Hollywood, Shriver leads with the entertainment industry heavyweights, but Kuehl is leading with the fundraising effort. And both say they want to be Hollywood's voice on the board. Kuehl, who is openly gay, has few big-name Hollywood endorsers like Shriver (the former Santa Monica mayor's got Jodie Foster, Renee Zellweger, and JJ Abrams), but she has a long history in politics in both the state assembly and senate. Still, in this tight race, she has raised three times as much as Shriver with $4.7 million in her coffers. This was before she came in first in the June primary earlier this month, with Shriver outspending her. —Michelle Garcia

Rebecca Kaplan, Oakland mayor

Kaplan Moves Up The Ranks

Out Oakland politician Rebecca Kaplan has been a figure in the Bay Area for years, and her race for the city's mayor proves it: while support for her rival Libby Schaaf is rising, Kaplan still retains a strong lead (the only question is voters who were still undecided as of two weeks ago). Kaplan was first elected to the city council in 2008, making her the first out lesbian elected to office in the city. According to Oakland North, Kaplan is among the top spenders in the race, but she has been surpassed by Schaaf, Jean Quan, Dan Sieglel, and Bryan Parker.  — Michelle Garcia

North Carolina: Kay Hagan v. Thom Tillis
Incumbent senator Hagan, a Democrat and marriage equality supporter, has become a special target of the antigay National Organization for Marriage. Last week NOM released a TV ad denouncing her for having voted to confirm U.S. District Judge Max Cogburn, whose October ruling struck down North Carolina’s ban on same-sex marriage. What NOM's ad didn’t mention is that Cogburn was confirmed on a vote of 96-0, and that the state’s other U.S. senator, Republican Richard Burr, was as enthusiastic as Hagan in supporting Cogburn.

Hagan was actually somewhat late to the marriage equality party, but in March 2013 she wrote on Facebook, “After much thought and prayer, I have come to my own personal conclusion that we shouldn’t tell people who they can love or who they can marry.” Earlier, she did oppose Amendment One, the 2012 ballot measure that wrote the ban on same-sex marriage into North Carolina’s constitution. She had a 95 percent score on the Human Rights Campaign’s most recent Congressional Scorecard, and she voted for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act last year.

Her opponent, Republican Thom Tillis, wants to revive the marriage ban. After Cogburn’s ruling, a second federal judge, William Osteen, struck down the ban in a separate case but (unlike Cogburn) allowed Tillis, currently speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives, and Phil Berger, leader of the state Senate, to intervene in the case and appeal his ruling. (The state’s attorney general had ceased defending the ban.) Not that they’re likely to have much luck at U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which ruled against a similar ban in Virginia, a decision that the U.S. Supreme Court recently let stand and that guided the district court judges in their rulings on the North Carolina ban.

“Pursuing this appeal will cost the taxpayers thousands of dollars, all so that [Tillis] can rally conservative opponents of gay marriage to support his election bid,” The New York Times observed. Tillis, who has denounced “liberal activist judges,” and Berger have hired no less than NOM chairman John Eastman to argue their case. — Trudy Ring

Maine's Susan Collins: An Important First for Republicans?
If the polls are correct and Susan Collins wins in Maine, she could become the first Republican senator to be reelected while supporting marriage equality. A small number of Republicans have said they back marriage equality — Mark Kirk of Illinois, Rob Portman of Ohio, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — but none have yet faced reelection. 
Collins has a long record of supporting LGBT Americans on issues they care about, so much so that the Human Rights Campaign took the unusual step of endorsing her over a Democratic challenger in the race. Collins provided one of the GOP votes needed to repeal "don't ask, don't tell." She also voted for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act when it passed the Senate for the first time ever, even speaking out on the floor in favor of it, though the bill later stalled in the House. Collins was for a long time enigmatic about her support for same-sex marriage, saying only that it was a state issue, and her state repealed a ban. But she eventually clarified her position and reaffirmed it during an October debate with Democratic challenger Shenna Bellows, who also supports marriage equality. In fact, Bellows lead the coalition "Mainers United for Marriage," which campaigned for a ballot measure that returned marriage equality to Maine in 2012. —Lucas Grindley

Iowa: Joni Ernst v. Bruce Braley
Early on in her campaign, Republican Joni Ernst attempted to impress her heavily agricultural state with an ad touting her expertise in castrating hogs, but she’d also like to cut gay people off at the knees. Iowa has had marriage equality for five years, thanks to a state Supreme Court ruling, but as a state senator she backed a constitutional amendment that would override that ruling; the effort to amend the state’s constitution, which requires approval by both lawmakers and voters, has stalled, however. She has also said the definition of marriage should be left up to the states, except of course if she has the opportunity to vote on an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to ban same-sex marriage nationwide.

She has asserted that judges should recognize that laws “come from God” and make their rulings accordingly. And something that she’s tried to downplay in her campaign is her belief in conspiracy theories, but as recently as January she was railing against Agenda 21, an obscure United Nations community-planning initiative, saying it threatens citizens’ property rights and other freedoms. “We don’t want to see a further push with Agenda 21, where the Agenda 21 and the government [are] telling us that these are the urban centers that you will live in; these are the ways that you will travel to other urban centers,” she said at a Republican forum. “Agenda 21 encompasses so many different aspects of our lives that it’s taking away our individual liberties, our freedoms as United States citizens.” OK, it's not LGBT-related, but potentially enlightening about Ernst’s worldview.

She and her opponent, Democrat Bruce Braley, are in a close race to succeed firebrand liberal Democrat Tom Harkin, a staunch LGBT ally who’s retiring after 30 years in the Senate. Braley, currently representing an Iowa district in the U.S. House, is a member of the LGBT Equality Caucus in that chamber. “I have always been proud to support our brothers and sisters in the LGBT community,” he said in an August statement on the fifth anniversary of marriage equality in Iowa. “As a member of the LGBT Equality Caucus, I’ve worked hard to sponsor and support efforts to make sure all Americans — no matter who they love — are equal under the law.”

Braley scored 100 percent on the Human Rights Campaign’s most recent Congressional Scorecard. He supports the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which has yet to come to a House vote, and has cosponsored the Student Non-Discrimination Act and the Safe Schools Improvement Act. HRC calls a Braley victory “critical to a pro-equality U.S. Senate.” — Trudy Ring

Mike Michaud: A Maine Milestone?

If elected Tuesday, Mike Michaud will make national history: As the first openly gay candidate ever elected to serve as a state's governor.

Michaud, who is finishing his sixth term as the Democratic U.S. Congressman representing Maine's Second Congressional District, came out in a nonchalant manner last November, confronting what he said was a "whisper campaign" that targeted him for being closeted. In a column published in the local Bangor Daily News, Michaud took the wind out of the sails of his would-be-detractors. "They want people to question whether I am gay," he wrote. "Allow me to save them the trouble with a simple, honest answer: 'Yes, I am. But why should it matter?'"

That it doesn't matter would mean the political world has changed since 2004, when former New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey announced he is gay in a speech in which the then-married father of two admitted to an affair with another man and promptly resigned. 

While the historic nature of Michaud's candidacy — and potential victory — have given an undertone of urgency to the campaign, Michaud hasn't faced any notable antigay attacks from his opponents, including the blue state's uncharacteristically conservative Republican governor. 

However, Michaud was the target of an opposition campaign by New York-based Queer Nation, taking the Congressman to task for being "too soft" on LGBT-related issues like employment and housing, according to the Bangor Daily News. Michaud has been a House cosponsor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act since he took office in 2002, though he has also expressed support for a narrowed religious exemption or an omnibus LGBT civil rights bill in Congress, should such legislation be introduced. 

Michaud has earned the endorsements of several major newspapers in the traditionally Democratic-leaning state, including from the Portland Press Herald and the Bangor Daily News.

Michaud is facing incumbent Gov. Paul LePage in a close race that has seen both candidates alternately holding leads within two percentage points or less, while Independent candidate Eliot Cutler could take between 9 and 13 percent of the vote, according to polling aggregates collected at RealClearPolitics. Although he's still formally in the race, Cutler recently told his supporters they could vote for another candidate, and has stopped airing some of his ads. A prominent independent U.S. senator from Maine who was backing Cutler has now given Michaud his endorsement, reports the Portland Press Herald

Gay statistician Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight blog lists Michaud's race as one of the most competitive for governor, ultimately listing Michaud as a 57 percent favorite as of Monday. — Sunnivie Brydum

Steve Kerrigan

In Massachusetts, A Democratic Ticket Of Would-Be Firsts
If elected, Steve Kerrigan would be the first openly gay lieutenant governor of any state, as he runs alongside LGBT ally and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Martha Coakley, potentially the state's first female governor. The Democratic ticket is currently polling 5 percentage points behind Republican Charlie Baker and running mate Karyn Polito. But in Massachusetts we have an example of a possible future in which candidates from both parties support LGBT equality, and it's largely a non-issue.

Following the death of former Boston mayor Thomas M. Menino, a noted LGBT supporter, Coakley and Baker suspended their campaigns briefly. 

Baker was among the first candidates this election cycle to address LGBT issues with a television ad. In it, the Republican gubernatorial candidate in Massachusetts told the story of his brother coming out back in 1981, and the two reminisced about how much has changed for the better with adoption of marriage equality in their state 10 years ago.
Even Baker's running mate, Polito, dropped her opposition to marriage equality. Boston Spirit magazine points out that her record included support for a statewide ballot question to ban same-sex marriage and a vote against the Transgender Civil Rights bill, which ultimately passed in 2011. 
During Baker's first run for governor in 2010, he selected gay Republican Richard Tsei as his running mate. Tsei was a state senator and minority leader at the time. 
Kerrigan served as CEO of the Democratic National Convention and oversaw that 2013 Presidential Inaugural Committee as its president. And Coakley led her state's quest to repeal the federal Defense of Marriage Act, calling it discriminatory. — Michelle Garcia, Lucas Grindley

Andrew Cuomo

A Trailblazing Governor Who Some Say Is Still Not Left-Leaning Enough
Some could argue that New York's Andrew Cuomo was the template for other LGBT-friendly governors who wanted to bring marriage equality to their states. In fact, The Advocate did in a 2011 cover story, after Cuomo was part of a united front of bipartisan activists and politicians that raised more than $2 million for the campaign. Three years later, Cuomo is up for reelection, and New York's more liberal base is hungry for more progressive policies, since he has turned out to be a social liberal and fiscal moderate. While he is expected to win against Republican challenger Rob Astorino, the state senate still hangs in the balance.

Cuomo is relying on his appeal toward female voters with running mate Kathy Hulchol, and the formation of the Women's Equality Party, a statewide party headed by Christine Quinn, the openly lesbian former city council speaker. As of Monday night, Cuomo leads Astorino by 22 points, according to polls tracked by Real Clear Politics.—Michelle Garcia

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