A record number of openly gay candidates running for Congress will face their critical test on Tuesday as many — including U.S. Senate candidate Tammy Baldwin — are seeing polls tighten as Election Day approaches.
A total of nine openly gay, lesbian and bisexual candidates are seeking office in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate. With the retirement of gay Rep. Barney Frank, openly LGBT representation in Congress will look very different after next week.
Baldwin’s race is the most high-profile among these candidates because she’d be the first openly gay person elected to the U.S. Senate and the outcome of the race against Republican former Gov. Tommy Thompson may determine which party controls the chamber after the election.
Denis Dison, a spokesperson for the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, said all eyes will be on the race because — following the spike in polls that Baldwin enjoyed after her speech at the Democratic National Convention — the contest has become increasingly high-profile and competitive due to spending from outside conservative groups.
“I know groups like Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS and Americans for Prosperity — also the U.S. Chamber [of Commerce] — I think the total amount is about $13 million they have spent on ads attacking Tammy,” Dison said. “That has caused the race to get very close.”
For her part, Baldwin made public on Oct. 30 her closing TV ad showing workers and families as well as footage of her campaigning with former President Bill Clinton.
“One big difference between Tammy Baldwin and Tommy Thompson is that she stood up to the special interests, and he’s stood up for them,” Clinton says in a voice over. “If you put people first, it works better than trickle-down economics.”
Another race that will be closely watched is Massachusetts’ 9th congressional district — where gay Republican challenger Richard Tisei seems poised to beat Democratic incumbent Rep. John Tierney.
New York’s 18th congressional district is another race of interest to the LGBT community. Gay Democrat Sean Patrick Maloney is seeking to unseat Republican U.S. Rep. Nan Hayworth, who has a pro-LGBT record in Congress and the backing of gay conservative groups.
In a statement to the Washington Blade, Maloney said the LGBT community should rally behind him because Hayworth has aligned herself with conservative groups.
“Tea Party Congresswoman Nan Hayworth doesn’t believe that my family is equal to hers or that members of the LGBT community deserve equal protection under the law,” Maloney said. “I think folks around the country, LGBT and otherwise, are tired of this extreme ideology.”
9 gay candidates to watch this election day
REP. TAMMY BALDWIN
Race: U.S. Senate seat in Wisconsin
Opponent: Republican former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson
Significance: Baldwin, a Democrat, would be first openly gay person elected to the U.S. Senate.
Polls: 10/28 Rasmussen Reports — Thompson 48, Baldwin, 47; 10/22 Mason-Dixon — Baldwin 47, Thompson, 45.
Race: U.S. House seat in Massachusetts, District 6
Opponent: Incumbent Democrat U.S. Rep. John Tierney
Significance: Tisei would be the first openly gay Republican elected to Congress as a non-incumbent and the only out Republican serving on Capitol Hill.
Polls: 10/1 Boston Globe — Tisei 37, Tierney 31.
REP. DAVID CICILLINE
Race: U.S. House seat in Rhode Island, District 1
Opponent: Republican challenger Brendan Doherty
Significance: Cicilline, a Democrat, is pursuing his first re-election effort since becoming the fourth sitting openly gay member of Congress in 2010.
Polls: 10/10 Brown University — Cicilline 46, Doherty 40.
SEAN PATRICK MALONEY
Race: U.S. House seat in New York, District 18
Opponent: Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. Nan Hayworth
Significance: Maloney, a Democrat, would be the first openly gay member of Congress from New York State.
Polls: 10/19 Siena College — Hayworth 49, Maloney 42.
Race: U.S. House seat in Wisconsin, District 2
Opponent: Republican candidate Chad Lee
Significance: Pocan would replace Baldwin in the U.S. House.
Polls: The district is widely considered a Democratic safe seat and Pocan is expected to win.
REP. JARED POLIS
Race: U.S. House seat in Colorado, District 2
Opponent: Republican challenger Susan Hall
Significance: Polis is set to become the most senior openly gay member of the U.S. House.
Polls: The district is widely considered a Democratic safe seat and Polis is expected to win re-election.
Race: U.S. House seat in Arizona, District 9
Opponent: Republican candidate Vernon Parker
Significance: Sinema, a Democrat, would be the first openly bisexual person elected to Congress.
Polls: 10/16 Summit Consulting Group —Parker 44, Sinema 42.
Race: U.S. House seat in California, District 41
Opponent: Republican candidate John Tavaglione
Significance: Takano, a Japanese-American Democrat, would be the first openly gay person of color elected to Congress.
Polls: 8/21 EMC Research — Takano 42, Tavaglione 38
Race: U.S. House seat in Idaho, District 2
Opponent: Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson
Significance: LeFavour, a Democrat, isn’t endorsed by the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund.
Polls: The district is widely considered a Republican safe seat and Simpson is expected to win.