The outcome of New Hampshire’s hotly contested U.S. Senate race could determine whether Democrats regain control of the chamber.
A poll that the University of New Hampshire Survey Center and WMUR, a local television station, conducted between Oct. 26-30 found Gov. Maggie Hassan is ahead of incumbent U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) by a 46-44 percent margin. Ayotte was ahead of Hassan by a 50-44 percent margin in a survey that Emerson College conducted between Oct. 23-25.
The Human Rights Campaign has endorsed Hassan.
The advocacy group earlier this week released an online video that contains a clip of her speaking in support of LGBT rights during an interview with WMUR. The video also contains clips of Hillary Clinton, who HRC has also endorsed.
“New Hampshire has a long tradition of inclusiveness,” says Hassan. “We all grow stronger together, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Hassan’s campaign website says she “led the effort to achieve marriage equality” in New Hampshire in 2009 when she was a member of the New Hampshire Senate. It also notes the Granite State was among the states that urged the U.S. Supreme Court to rule in favor of marriage rights for same-sex couples in the Obergefell case.
Hassan in June issued an executive order that bans discrimination in state government based on gender identity.
The state Senate in 2009 voted unanimously to kill a bill that would have added trans-specific protections to the state’s nondiscrimination law. Hassan, who was a senator at the time, told members of the Democratic National Committee’s LGBT Caucus with whom she spoke at the Democratic National Convention that she supports the Equality Act, which would add sexual orientation and gender identity to federal civil rights law.
Hassan also supports increased funding for HIV/AIDS research. Hassan’s campaign website notes she will “fight any effort to undermine marriage equality” and oppose efforts to restrict adoption rights for same-sex couples.
“In the U.S. Senate, Maggie will continue to fight for policies to ensure that all citizens are fully included in our civic and economic life, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity,” it reads.
Ayotte to write-in Pence
Log Cabin Republicans last month endorsed Ayotte, U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and other GOP senators who voted to advance a trans-inclusive version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in 2013. The measure has not gone to a full vote in either the Senate or the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives.
“I am honored to accept the endorsement of Log Cabin Republicans and grateful for their partnership as we work towards our shared goal of a strong national defense, fiscal responsibility and individual freedoms for all Granite Staters and Americans,” said Ayotte in a statement that Log Cabin Republicans released after it announced their endorsement of her re-election campaign.
Ayotte was New Hampshire’s attorney general when then-Gov. John Lynch signed the state’s same-sex marriage law in 2009.
Hassan told members of the DNC’s LGBT Caucus that Ayotte backed efforts to repeal the statute once it took effect in 2010.
Ayotte stressed her belief in “traditional marriage” in her statement on the Obergefell ruling. She also noted that she respects the landmark decision that extended marriage rights to gays and lesbians across the country.
“I believe New Hampshire’s legally married same-sex couples should be treated equally under the law no matter where they live,” said Ayotte.
Hassan has also noted her opponent opposed the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and adoption rights for same-sex couples.
Ayotte last month announced she would not vote for Donald Trump after the Washington Post released a 2005 recording in which he made lewd comments about women and bragged about groping them. She said she plans to write in Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who opposes LGBT-specific issues.
Ayotte’s campaign did not return the Washington Blade’s request for comment.
Hassan ‘friendly to the trans community’
Ray Buckley, the openly gay chair of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, applauded Hassan’s record on LGBT-specific issues.
“Governor Hassan was instrumental in the passage of New Hampshire’s marriage equality law in 2009,” Buckley told the Blade in an email. “No one worked harder for the law than Maggie. Her opponent, Sen. Kelly Ayotte, remains to this day opposed to marriage equality. In the senate, Maggie Hassan will be a champion for LGBTQ rights.”
Gerri Cannon, a trans activist who lives in Somersworth, a small city near New Hampshire’s Seacoast, told the Blade on Tuesday that LGBT issues have “sort of been brushed under the carpet” in the race.
Cannon described Hassan as “friendly to the trans community” and “knowledgeable.”
“She’s done alright by us,” said Cannon, who told the Blade she plans to vote for her.
Cannon said she has not “seen a lot from” Ayotte in terms of supporting New Hampshire’s LGBT and trans communities.
“[There is] not a lot of negativity either,” Cannon told the Blade. “It seems like she doesn’t have a lot of clear support for us either.”
“Maggie Hassan does have a better pulse of what’s going on in New Hampshire than Kelly Ayotte,” she added.