Two days after Halloween, the general elections held a lot of tricks for the Democratic Party and many treats for the Republican Party.
Several news outlets had determined around 9 p.m. CT on Nov. 2 that the Republican Party had gained control of the U.S. House of Representatives. The GOP needed 39 seats, and the change means that Nancy Pelosi has to step down as speaker of the House ( although the GOP were not projected to win enough seats to take over the Senate ) . Republican John Boehner of Ohio will now take over that post.
Gay-rights organizations immediately weighed in on the shift in the political landscape. National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey said in a statement, "We'll cut to the chase: The shift in the balance of power will very likely slow advancement of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights legislation in Congress. Does this mean a blockade on LGBT rights? Not if we can help it. Fact is, our community has always had to fightand fight hardfor equality."
Human Rights Campaign ( HRC ) issued a statement saying that the election results "indicate new challenges as well as some opportunities ahead for moving forward on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. ... The loss of the House of Representatives to an anti-equality leadership, along with the loss of some fair-minded Senators, will certainly impede federal legislative efforts. Perhaps most strikingly though, candidates who were the most vociferous opponents of LGBT equality did not fare well against fair-minded candidates."
HRC President Joe Solmonese said, "Even though we will face greater challenges in moving federal legislation forward, nothing will stop us from using every tool to advance LGBT equality at every level. Attempts to hold back the tide of the equality movement will surely put anti-LGBT leaders on the wrong side of history."
In Illinois, the gubernatorial and U.S. senatorial races were pretty tight, as polls predicted. However, there was a victor declared in the Senate race: Republican Mark Kirk.
At 12 a.m. CT, the gubernatorial race was too close to call. Incumbent Democrat Pat Quinn started the evening with a sizeable Chicago-based lead that gradually shrank throughout the night as the challenger, Republican state Sen. Bill Brady, closed ranks thanks to votes from downstate. However, Quinn then expanded his lead slightlybut not enough to declare an out-and-out victor. As of the morning of Nov. 3, Quinn held an 8,000-vote lead with approximately 30,000 absentee ballots that still needed to be tabbed.
This race was seen as probably one of the most polarizing, especially regarding social issues, as the main candidates are on opposite ends of the spectrum. While Quinn supports abortion rights and civil unions for same-sex couples, Brady is not only seen as anti-gay but anti-woman in some circles as well, since he opposes abortions, even in cases of rape or incest.
Incumbent Democrats won two other posts. Lisa Madigan easily retained her attorney general seat, with Jesse White had an even easier time in his race.
The race between Democrat Robin Kelly and Republican Dan Rutherford for treasurer was tied at one point, but Rutherford pulled out a win. Likewise Republican Judy Baar Topinka, who has quite an LGBT following, defeated Democrat David Miller.
In the Illinois General Assembly, state Sen. Heather Steans had no problem with Republican challenger Adam Robinson while state Rep. Sara Feigenholtz easily bested Republican Dave Lenkowski.
In the race to take President Barack Obama's former U.S. Senate seat, Democrat Alexi Giannoulias and Republican Mark Kirk were in a seesaw battle Nov. 2. Eventually, with downstate votes coming in, Kirk overtook Giannouliasdelivering a blow to Obama.
This contest showcased the candidates' strengths; however, it also revealed a few flaws. Kirk had to apologize for embellishing parts of his military record, while Giannoulias was forced to answer questions regarding his former post at Broadway Bank and his Bright Start college-investment program.
Michael Mitchell, National Stonewall Democrats PAC Executive Director, said, "We are disappointed with the outcome of this race and know that Alexi would have brought incredible vision, drive and a strong commitment to serve the people of Illinois to his job."
In other races, Democrats in Illinois were losing seats, reflecting a national trend.
In the 10th Congressional District, Republican Robert Dold defeated Democrat Dan Seals, while Republican Randy Hultgren beat Democratic incumbent Bill Foster in the 14th District. In the 11th Congressional District, Republican Adam Kinzinger defeated incumbent Democrat Debbie Halvorson.
With 98 percent of precincts reporting, Republican Joe Walsh was edging incumbent Democrat Melissa Bean 49 percent to 48 percent.
Bucking the trend, Democratic incumbent Mike Quigley easily beat Republican Adam Ratowitz and Green Party candidate Matt Reichel in the 5th Congressional District. In addition, Democratic incumbent Jan Schakowsky routed Republican Joel Pollak.
Toni Preckwinkle made history Nov. 2 by becoming the first-ever female Cook County board president. She soundly defeated her challengers, Republican Roger Keats and the Green Party's Tom Tresser. Preckwinkle will succeed Todd Stroger, whose administration has been under constant scrutiny.
In the intriguing race for Cook County assessor, Democrat Joseph Berrios was declared the winner, having defeated Independent candidate Forrest Claypool 47 percent to 32 percent with 83 percent of precincts reporting.
While most incumbent commissioners retained their seats, Republican Tony Peraica did not, losing to Democratic challenger Jeff Tobolski in the 16th District race. This past week, Peraica was arrested in McCook ( where Tobolski is village president ) ; authorities said that Peraica was damaging propertyspecifically, he allegedly tore down some of Tobolski's campaign signs. Peraica later filed a wrongful-arrest lawsuit against McCook police and administrators.
Tom Dart, who at one point was considered a strong candidate for the Chicago mayoral race, retained his Cook County sheriff's position handily.
LGBT candidates had mixed results in the Nov. 2 elections.
State Reps. Greg Harris and Deb Mell had uncontested races, ensuring that they would keep their seats.
Wes Fowler, a gay Republican, took on incumbent Democrat in the race for Cook County Commissioner of the 10th District, which includes the Chicago neighborhoods of Lakeview and Andersonville. However, Gainer triumphed.
Kent DeLay came up short in his state House race ( 99th District ) , falling to incumbent Raymond Poe, while openly gay Green Party candidate Bob Mueller lost to Republican Patti Bellock.
John Dalton lost in his race for the 16th Circuit Court, Kane, "A" vacancy. E-mailing Windy City Times, Daltonencapsulating how many in his party felt across the country Nov. 2wrote, "We came up short. Tough year for Dems in Kane County."
On the national front, out gay U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., endured a tough campaign by his opponent to prevail and head back to Washington, D.C., for his 16th term. Two other out members of the HouseWisconsin's Tammy Baldwin and Colorado's Jared Polisalso won their contests.
Also, Providence, R.I., Mayor David Cicilline won his congressional race to become only the seventh openly gay person to serve in Congress, and only the third to be elected for the first time as an out candidate.
Iowa judges ousted
In a stunning development, three of the Iowa Supreme Court judges who unanimously ruled for marriage equality in the state have been voted off the bench, thanks to a well-funded anti-gay campaign.
Approximately 54 percent of the state's residents voted not to retain Supreme Court Chief Justice Marsha Ternus and associate justices Michael J. Streit and David L. Baker. Of the 74 judges on the ballot, only these three came close to being removed.
Several national anti-gay groups, including the Family Research Council and the National Organization for Marriage ( NOM ) , were part of a $1 million campaign that called for the removal of the three supreme court justices.
In a statement, Solmonese said, "By their own admission, NOM's Iowa strategy was about sending a warning shot to judges nationwide. NOM and its secret donors will continue to target judges around the country if they rule in favor of marriage equality and will foster an anti-gay, hostile environment in the process."
Pro-LGBT organization One Iowa stressed that, despite the justices' removal, same-sex marriage is still permitted in the state. One Iowa Executive Director Carolyn Jenison said, "In this election, three of the courageous justices who recognized the freedom to marry in Iowa fell victim to a perfect storm of electoral discontent and out-of-state special interest money. In addition, many of our pro-equality allies from Governor Culver to statehouse candidates lost their seats due to an anti-incumbent mood that swept the nation. We thank them for their distinguished service and we look forward to working with our newly elected legislature and Governor in the weeks and months ahead.
"While the full implications of these election results remain to be seen, one thing remains the same: The freedom to marry in Iowa remains intact."
Democratic Gov. Chet Culver has the authority to replace the justices.
In Delaware, Tea Party candidate Christine O'Donnellwho was in the news for everything from admitting that she experimented with witchcraft to speaking out against masturbationlost to Democrat Chris Coons by a margin of 56 percent to 40 percent. The race was for the U.S. Senate seat formerly occupied by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.
Also, in Nevada, Tea Party candidate Sharron Angle lost to Democratic incumbent Harry Reid in a race that sometimes became vicious.
However, there were at least two bright spots in the U.S. Senate for the Tea Party: Rand Paul and Marco Rubio. In Kentucky, Paul defeated Democrat Jack Conway, while Rubio beat Independent candidate ( and current Florida Gov. ) Charlie Crist and Democrat Kendrick Meek.
U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Pa.who led the successful effort in the House of Representatives to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"lost his race to Republican Mike Fitzpatrick, the same man Murphy narrowly defeated in 2006. National Stonewall Democrats issued a press release stating, "To say that we are heartbroken at the loss of one of our champions, Rep. Patrick Murphy, in his fight for reelection is an understatement. With DADT repeal, his commitment to our community never wavered."
National Stonewall Democrats also commented on Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J., who defeated Republican Scott Sipprelle. The organization called Holt "a strong ally for equality for many years."
Closer to Illinois, incumbent Russ Feingold, D-Wis., lost his U.S. Senate race to Republican Ron Johnson. According to Talking Points Memo, it marks the first time in 24 years that Republicans have won a Senate race in this state.
In New York, Democrat Andrew Cuomowho said at an Empire State Pride Agenda dinner that he wants to make "equality a realitydefeated Republican Carl Paladino for governor. Paladino had made a series of missteps with the LGBT community.
Out in California, a couple of hotly contested races resulted in Democratic victories. Attorney General Jerry Brown, who was a two-term governor in the 1970s, comfortably defeated former eBay CEO Meg Whitman ( a Republican who spent more than $100 million of her own money ) to become governor again. Also, in a U.S. Senate race, incumbent Barbara Boxer held off former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina.
Also in California, voters rejected Proposition 19the initiative that would legalize possession of marijuana for adults who are at least 21. The state branches of the NAACP and the League of United Latin American Citizens endorsed Prop 19; celebrities such as Melissa Etheridge, Danny Glover and Hal Sparks did, as well.
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