November 1, 2012 at 10:12 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
9 races to watch as gays run for Congress
Tammy Baldwin, gay news, Washington Blade

U.S. Representative Tammy Baldwin (D—Wisc.) is in a tight race against her state’s former governor, Tommy Thompson, for the state’s seat in the U.S. Senate. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

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 (D-Wisc.) (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)


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.

Richard Tisei, Republican, Massachusetts, gay news, Washington Blade

Richard Tisei (Photo courtesy of Tisei campaign)


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 (D-R.I.) (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)


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.

U.S. House candidate Sean Patrick Maloney

Sean Patrick Maloney (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)


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.


Mark Pocan (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)


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 (D-Colo.) (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)


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.

Kyrsten Sinema, Arizona, Washington Blade, gay news

Kyrsten Sinema (Photo courtesy of Sinema campaign)


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.

Mark Takano, gay news, Washington Blade

Mark Takano (Photo courtesy of Takano campaign)


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


Nicole LeFavour, Washington Blade, gay news

Nicole LeFavour (Photo courtesy of LeFavour campaign)


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.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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  • Bruce Majors

    Actually a total of 10 openly gay candidates are running for Congress. Hilarious that you leave me out, when 2 pages away an article on DC candidates by your other reporter says “(Bruce) Majors, a real estate agent and longtime gay activist, says he’s running to provide voters with a choice on through his “individual rights” platform and to expand support for the Libertarian Party in D.C. Norton, considered one of the strongest allies of the LGBT community in Congress, is considered the odds-on favorite to win re-election.

  • Bruce Majors

    Then again, you left out Barbara Mikulski and a lot of people already elected to Congress, so….

  • Pingback: Election 2012 preview: the races to watch | Gay News | Washington Blade - America's Leading Gay News Source()

  • Bruce Majors

    Thanks to all my gay voters. My 13,462 votes is twice what I needed to create a new, pro-gay, political party in DC. I was especially touched by my old liberal and Democratic friends who told me at the Reel Affirmations Film Festival they had early voted for me.

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