October 29, 2014 at 11:25 am EDT | by Chris Johnson
Key LGBT races to watch on Election Day
election, gay news, Washington Blade

From left, Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine), Maura Healey, Richard Tisei and Sean Eldridge (Washington Blade photos of Michaud, Tisei and Eldridge by Michael Key; photo of Maura Healey by Edahlpr courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

The mid-term elections feature highly competitive races that will be nail-biters on election night, and among them are key contests of special interest to the LGBT community.

When the polls close on Tuesday, the results could include the first openly gay person to be elected to the office of governor, the first non-incumbent openly gay Republicans to win seats in the U.S. House and a shift in power in Congress that could affect the flow of pro-LGBT legislation.

Here’s a breakdown of races to watch when sifting through the results on election night.

• In Maine, Rep. Mike Michaud could become the first openly gay person to win election to the office of governor. Michaud, who came out as gay last year, has taken pro-LGBT positions during his 12 years in Congress, such as voting for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal and against a Federal Marriage Amendment. (He also voted against a version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act because it didn’t include transgender protections.)

Polls show a close race between Michaud and incumbent Republican Gov. Paul LePage, a Tea Party politician whom Politico called the craziest governor in the country, with independent candidate Eliot Cutler taking about 10 percent of the vote.

• The most crucial outcome on election night on both the national stage and for LGBT people is control of the U.S. Senate.

Republicans, who must pick up six seats to win control of the chamber, are virtually certain to pick up open seats formerly held by Democrats in West Virginia, Montana and South Dakota. That means the party needs only to pick up three more seats.

Incumbent Democrats running in Arkansas, Louisiana, Alaska and Colorado are in competitive races, but have been consistently behind in the polls, including lawmakers with pro-LGBT records like Sens. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.). The open seat in Iowa also seems tilted toward the Republicans. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) are in competitive races, but have fared better in polls.

Republican control of both the House and Senate will likely have an impact on legislation affecting LGBT people. Although passage of a Federal Marriage Amendment is unlikely, federal legislation enabling discrimination against LGBT people based on religious grounds could emerge.

• Amid the expected GOP wave on election night, two congressional candidates could make history by being the first non-incumbent gay Republicans to win election to the U.S. House.

In Massachusetts, Richard Tisei, a former Republican leader in the Senate, is running in the 6th congressional district against Democratic candidate Seth Moulton. In California, Carl DeMaio, a former San Diego council member, is in a highly competitive race in the 52nd congressional district against Rep. Scott Peters (D-Calif.).

But both candidates have faced criticism from LGBT advocates for planning to vote for Republican leadership upon election to the U.S. House. Many have urged support for their Democratic opponents.

• In Massachusetts, two openly gay candidates are on the ballot for senior-level positions in the state government. Steve Kerrigan is seeking to become the state’s next lieutenant governor. Prior to his bid, he served as a staffer for Democratic officials, including the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), and was CEO of the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

The favorite to become the state’s next attorney general is Maura Healy. In her current role as the state’s assistant attorney, she helped with litigation against the Defense of Marriage Act and represented the state in oral arguments before the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals.

• One local race in D.C. that has implications on the national stage is the contest to be the next mayor of the nation’s capital. D.C. council member David Catania, an independent who helped lead the effort to legalize marriage equality in the District, is running.

Despite LGBT support for Catania, a number of LGBT people in D.C. continue to support Democratic candidate Muriel Bowser, another D.C. Council member who’s leading him in the polls. Also on the ballot is former D.C. Council member Carol Schwartz, an independent and strong LGBT ally.

Across the country, another gay candidate running for mayor is Rebecca Kaplan, a lesbian member of the City Council of Oakland, Calif. She’s in a crowded field of candidates seeking to become mayor there.

• Also on the ballot are high-profile openly gay Democrats seeking to unseat incumbent Republicans from the U.S. House. Gay “American Idol” alum Clay Aiken is running in North Carolina’s 2nd congressional district against Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.), although the odds are against him in the Republican district.

Sean Eldridge, an investor who married Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, is running against incumbent Rep. Chris Gibson (R-N.Y.) in New York’s 19th congressional district. The race is thought to be competitive, but Eldridge has been accused of carpetbagging. He invoked the ire of the media for avoiding interviews and is running against a Republican who co-sponsors ENDA.

Another gay Democrat on the ballot is Louie Minor, a gay Army veteran who’s facing an uphill battle in Texas’ 31st congressional district to unseat Rep. John Carter (R).

• A Nevada Republican, Lauren Scott, could make history on Tuesday by being the first openly transgender person to win election and be seated in a state legislature. Scott, a veteran of the first Persian Gulf War, is, however, facing an uphill battle in Nevada Assembly District 30, a heavily Democratic jurisdiction that includes parts of Reno, against incumbent pro-LGBT Assembly member Michael Sprinkle.

Other openly LGBT candidates seeking election to state legislatures are Catherine Begaye, a Navajo who could be the first openly bisexual person elected to the New Mexico Legislature; James D. Ford, a gay candidate for Indiana State Senate; and Kyle Thorson, a gay candidate for the North Dakota State House.

• In addition to newcomer gay candidates seeking election to Congress, two of the incumbent openly LGB U.S. House members are facing stiff competition to retain their seats.

Gay Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), is fending off a challenge in New York’s 18th congressional district from Nan Hayworth, a Tea Party Republican whom he unseated in 2012. She has a gay son, Will Hayworth, and has cast pro-LGBT votes during her one term in Congress, but isn’t considered a supporter of marriage equality.

Bisexual Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) is facing a challenge in Arizona’s 9th congressional district from Wendy Rogers, a retired Air Force colonel and small business owner.

• Eyes will also be on pro-LGBT Republicans on election night to see how well they fare. Among them is Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), a co-sponsor of ENDA who’s in a close race in Colorado’s 6th congressional district against Democrat Andrew Romanoff. Coffman is backed by the pro-LGBT American Unity PAC, but critics point to his lack of support for marriage equality and recent vote against an amendment for spousal benefits to gay veterans.

Another GOP candidate backed by the American Unity PAC is Carlos Cubelo, who’s seeking to unseat pro-LGBT Rep. Joe Garcia (D-Fla.), and Robert Dold, who’s running against pro-LGBT Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.).

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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