America’s political tectonic plates are shifting this June, and the friction is causing sparks and unexpected consequences.
On the national scene, Republican Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker handily beat back a recall attempt by Democrats and labor, defeating Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett 53 to 46 percent in a battle viewed by some as a metaphoric Waterloo for union collective bargaining rights. But Democrats gained a state Senate seat to switch control of that chamber, which means trouble for Walker’s right-wing agenda.
NBC’s Chuck Todd believes Walker beat the recall because “many Wisconsin voters didn’t think the premise of last night’s recall was legitimate,” thinking it should be reserved for official misconduct only. Todd wrote in his June 6 “First Read” that the exit polls showed President Obama beating his Republican presidential opponent Mitt Romney by seven points, 51 to 44 percent. “In fact,” Todd reported, “the exit poll only validates the White House’s decision to stay away from the recall, especially given the numbers that didn’t think the recall was legitimate.”
This is a key point, since several labor organizers complained that Obama’s failure to campaign for Barrett allowed GOP Super Pac money to come in and buy the election—66 percent of the $30.5 million spent on Walker’s campaign came from outside the state, compared to 26 percent of Barrett’s $3.9 million. Disillusioned Democrats thought visits by Obama or Vice President Joe Biden could have earned millions in free/earned media for Barrett.
But for those who think the recall was simply a ‘local’ issue and that Wisconsin will remain reliably blue in November, the exit polls gave a note of caution, as voters identified themselves as 34 percent Democrats, 35 percent GOP, and 31 percent as independent.
Meanwhile, anti-gay marriage measures are on the ballot in Washington, Maryland and Minnesota, and Maine has a pro-equality initiative to try to win marriage back in that state. On June 6—the day the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decided not to rehear the Prop. 8 case—the Washington Blade reported that the daughter of House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., came out as a lesbian because of the ballot initiative.
“The momentum in Maryland right now for the adoption of the gay marriage law is fast-paced. I’m 43 years of age, and I’ve been gay my whole life and I just figured this is a good time to lend my name to the cause,” Stefany Hoyer Hemmer told The Blade’s Chris Johnson.
Rep. Hoyer announced his support for marriage equality soon after President Obama, who subsequently raised thousands of dollars at two LGBT fundraisers in Los Angeles on June 6.
Openly gay Rep. Jared Polis, who is a program chair for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told Frontiers at a Rick Jacobs fundraiser for Democratic candidate Mark Takano that a Takano win in the 41st Congressional District (Riverside County) would help Democrats take back Congress. If elected, Takano would be the first openly gay person of color elected to Congress. In the June 5 ‘top two’ open primary, Takano, a teacher, came in second to Republican John Tavaglione by a vote of 16,005 (36.3 percent) to 19,815 (44.9 percent).
“We’re very excited to be continuing on to the November election, where voters will have a clear choice between a candidate committed to being a true advocate for local priorities, or another enabler of the extremist Republican agenda in D.C.,” Takano told Frontiers. “From here, we’re going to continue to speak to voters about the issues that matter most to them, including bringing new jobs to the Inland Empire and protecting Medicare and Social Security. The support I’ve received from LGBT Americans in my district and across the nation has been a key component of my success thus far, and I know I can count on the community to continue to stand by me as we move into the fall.”
In the congressional race that attracted national attention for the venom spewed by the campaigns of two once-friendly Democrats now in a face off, Brad Sherman secured more votes—31,866 (42.4 percent) to Howard Berman’s 24,320 votes (32.4 percent) in the 30th District in the San Fernando Valley—but that contest continues into November. Janice Hahn and Laura Richardson will also continue to square off in the 44th C.D., even though Hahn achieved almost 60 percent of the vote, compared to Richardson’s 40 percent. Rep. Adam Schiff, whose new 28th C.D. now ranges from Silver Lake to West Hollywood, won his primary handily with 34,528 (59.5 percent) of the vote, but will nonetheless face the second top vote-getter, Republican Phil Jennerjahn, who secured 9,865 votes (17 percent).
In the 46th Assembly District, lesbian Laurette Healy and LGBT ally Andrew Lachman were scooped by Democrat Adrin Nazarian (27.5 percent), who will face off against gay Democrat Brian C. Johnson (20.3 percent), who was strongly opposed by the education and labor establishment. Johnson may still lose his second spot to Republican Jay L. Stern after all the provisional and absentee ballots are counted.
In a surprise upset, openly gay Luis Lopez secured the second spot in the 51st A.D. with 5,453 votes, and he will face Democrat Jimmy Gomez (8,362 votes) in November.
Another surprise was the shut out of L.A. City Attorney Carmen Trutanich, who was edged out by two percent in the race for L.A. County district attorney by Deputy D.A. Alan Jackson. Chief Deputy D.A. and Steve Cooley’s second in command, Jackie Lacey, won the top spot.
The race most watched by local LGBT voters was the contest in the 50th A.D. between Assemblymember Betsy Butler, Santa Monica Mayor Richard Bloom, lesbian community organizer Torie Osborn and Log Cabin Republicans/L.A. Chapter President Brad Torgan. The final results when 283 precincts were finally posted at 4:43 a.m. were very close—Butler 12,519 (25.9 percent); Bloom 12,417 (25.6 percent); Osborn 11,744 (24.3 percent); and Torgan 11,730 (24.2 percent).
The race was intense, emotional and nasty, something that openly gay California Democratic Party Vice Chair Eric Bauman thought contributed to Osborn’s loss. Bauman, who is also chair of the L.A. County Democratic Party, personally stayed out of the race, but at times expressed the positions of openly gay Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, who supported Butler.
“While many are stunned at the outcome in A.D. 50, Assemblymember Betsy Butler’s ability to point to actual progressive legislative accomplishments allowed her to close the deal with many voters,” Bauman told Frontiers. “As in her win in 2010, once her opponents began to attack her, she rose and fought back by emphasizing her record and her potential, not by directly parrying the attacks. The fact that she could point to a diverse group of endorsements from labor to EQCA [Equality California] to the environmental community made the attacks on her fall flat.
“Expectations for Torie were heightened by her outsized personality, years of service to the community and the extraordinary level of commitment of her supporters,” Bauman said. “In the end, her campaign went negative, always dangerous for a candidate who is not well-known to the broader electorate. Going negative is a double-edged sword—it drives your opponents’ negatives up, but it also turns you negative in voters’ eyes. Torie personally had a very positive, upbeat message, but unfortunately her campaign spent a great deal of time focused on negative attacks and I think the voters in this district rejected that tone.”
On June 6, Osborn sent an email to supporters that sounded as if she was encouraging support for Bloom. “Well, we made history. We built an insurgent campaign that was vibrant, grassroots, people-powered,” Osborn wrote. “But, it wasn’t enough to overcome a determined and aggressive Sacramento machine—and a praiseworthy surge by my Santa Monica mayor.”
It will be interesting to see how Osborn’s supporters come to terms with Bloom’s fundraising base of developers.
Meanwhile, Butler flew to Sacramento to get back to work. “I think the election proves we have a lot of common interests and shared values,” she told Frontiers by phone. “It comes down to being able to collaborate with others, having the experience and knowing how to get things done in the legislature.”