The election is finally over.
Or… not quite. With 432 out of 438 precincts reporting, the front-runner in the hotly contested U.S. Senate race is “Write-in Votes” with 41.0% of the vote — nearly 7 points ahead of Tea Party-leaning Republican candidate Joe Miller (34.2%). Democratic candidate Scott McAdams, who consistently polled with the best “favorables” — i.e., people liked him better than either Murkowski or Miller — nonetheless drew only 23.74% of the vote counted so far.
Most of the write-in votes were presumably cast in favor of Republican incumbent Lisa Murkowski — but it’ll be a couple of weeks before the Division of Elections will finish counting the actual write-in ballots, not to mention more than 31,2000 absentee ballots. And then, it’s likely that at least some of the write-in votes will get tied up in litigation. The Anchorage Daily News reports that lawyers are already on their way up to assist Joe Miller’s campaign in a battle over the numbers. So it will be some time before we’ll know if Sen. Murkowski really beat the math and historical precedence to become the first in Alaska, and only the second in U.S. Senate history since Strom Thurmond in 1954, to win an election as a write-in candidate.
Late breaking: The Division of Elections has now announced it’ll begin counting write-in ballots on November 10.
Other statewide races didn’t bring much change. Gov. Sean Parnell will remain governor (though he’ll have a new lieutenant governor, Mead Treadwell) and Congressman Don Young will remain a Congressman. We thank Democratic candidates Ethan Berkowitz (governor), Diane Benson (lieutenant governor), and Harry Crawford (Congress) for their efforts to give Alaskans an alternative.
Arguably the other most important race to LGBT Alaskans statewide was the retention election of Alaska Supreme Court Justice Dana Fabe, who was targeted for defeat by Alaska Family Action, the political action arm of the antigay/anti-choice organization Alaska Family Council. Funded largely by Outside money from the national antigay organization Focus on the Family, Alaska Family Council sent out huge mailings in the last two weeks before the election on Justice Fabe’s involvement in Alaska Supreme Court rulings on abortion, benefits for the same-sex partners of state workers, and similar issues, often mischaracterizing her role in these decisions. Fortunately, friends of Justice Fabe countered with a website giving voters the true facts on her record, and in one of the bright spots of the election Justice Fabe retained her seat on the bench. It was a close call, though: she finished with 53.3 percent of the vote, versus 46.7 percent voting to unseat her.
An analysis of all Alaska races is beyond the scope of this article. For complete election results, see the Alaska Division of Elections and coverage in the Anchorage Daily News, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Juneau Empire, and other news sources.
There was both good news and bad news for LGBT folks nationally. On the positive side, a record number of openly LGBT candidates won public office, including at least 106 of the 164 candidates endorsed by the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund. Among the winners: Representatives Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Barney Frank (D-MA), and Jared Polis (D-CO) won reelection to the U.S. House of Representatives; David Cicilline (D-RI), the openly gay mayor of Providence, Rhode Island, will join them in Congress in the new year. Jim Gray was elected mayor of Lexington, Kentucky. LGBT candidates will take office in legislatures in Ohio, North Carolina, Washington, Maryland, and California. Victoria Kolakowski was elected to the Superior Court of Alameda County, California, becoming the first openly transgender judge in the U.S.
On the other hand, three justices of the Iowa Supreme Court were voted out of office after a major campaign by national antigay activists, who targeted the justices — David Backer, Michael Streit, and Chief Justice Marsha Ternus — because of the unanimous Iowa court’s decision in 2009 legalizing same-sex marriage in the state. Over $700,000 was spent to oust the justices in a campaign reminiscent of Alaska Family Action’s unsuccessful campaign to unseat Justice Dana Fabe.
Republican victories in the election were enough to give Republicans a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, while Democrats continue to hold a majority — if a smaller one — in the Senate. It’s unclear how the change of power will affect LGBT-related measures like the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) or the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT). Talking Points Memo reports that Log Cabin Republicans think they might be able to line up enough Republican votes to repeal DADT in the lame duck session in December (but see TPM’s reader comments for a lot of skepticism).
Pundits and commentators are already busy trying to explain what it all means. We’ll have a bit of that here too, as we have time.
Meanwhile, you can see my less… errr… formal response to the election at Henkimaa.
image - new Alameda County Judge Victoria Kolakowski at her recent wedding