Odd-year elections in the US are often…well, odd. Federal officials like Presidents and Members of Congress are elected predominantly in even years; odd years are usually a mishmash of local offices like town councils, mayors, county legislatures, and the occasional statewide proposition. Frequently, these elections are held without a lot of national media attention (although many, many low-budget radio spots, television ads, and slick mailers) and low voter turnout. But lefties and progressives across the country had a lot to celebrate this Tuesday night. Here’s a rundown of some of the more prominent results.
In probably the most prominent and closely-watched contest, Mississippi’s “Personhood” measure – a proposed amendment to the State Constitution that would define life as beginning with egg fertilization – failed by a relatively wide margin. In recent weeks, even anti-choice activists became skeptical at the measure, which would have precluded not just abortion but many forms of hormonal birth control and had the potential to criminalize miscarriages. If you missed the Rachel Maddow clip of a voter questioning Mitt Romney a few weeks ago on the (un?)intended consequences of the amendment, it’s worth a watch.
A race that was close to my heart was the election for Erie County Executive in the Buffalo, NY area. Progressive challenger Mark Poloncarz defeated incumbent Chris Collins in a close but definitive result. During his tenure as Executive, Collins cut child care subsidies, eliminated the county’s WIC program, slashed funding for libraries and cultural organizations, blocked a federal investigation of the conditions of the Erie County Holding Center, and generally followed through on his promise to run government “like a business.” (Oh, and he once offered a prominent local developer a seat if she gave someone a lap dance first.) It was no secret that Collins had aspirations for the NYS Governorship, and this embarrassing defeat in a race where he outpaced his opponent in fundraising nearly 5:1 and was expected to win by a landslide put a swift end to his political future. And that’s a long-term win for all New Yorkers.
There was a lot of good news Tuesday night for LGBTQ Americans and their allies. Iowa’s State Senate kept its Democratic majority in a special election, keeping the pro-marriage equality balance safe for now. And several openly gay candidates around the country won their races for a lot of “firsts.” Adam Ebbin became the first openly gay member of the Virginia State Senate. LaWana Mayfield became the first openly gay elected official in Charlotte, NC, when she won her race for City Council. Chris Seelbach became the first openly gay City Councilmember in Cincinnati, OH. Mike Laster became the first openly gay City Councilmember in Houston, TX.
In Ithaca, NY, the 24 year old Svante Myrick is the youngest mayor in the City’s history and the first African American to hold the position. And in an even more local contest, Daniel Hernandez Jr., a former intern for Gabrielle Giffords who rushed to administer life-saving first aid, won his race for an open seat on the Sunnyside Unified School District Board in the Tuscon, AZ, area. At just 21 years old, the openly gay Hernandez trounced his opponent, taking almost 62% of the vote. (These two prove you’re never too young to get a start in politics!)
Also in Arizona, Republican State Senator Russell Pearce became the first Arizona State Senator to be recalled. Pearce was the author of the controversial Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act (SB 1070), the strictest anti-immigration law in the country.
Of course there are still battles to fight and rights to protect. In the current US political climate, activists on the left always have work left to be done. But this week’s results were a welcome break from the all-too-frequent recent successes of the very radical right.