Swayed by an alliance of the Mormon Church, evangelicals and Catholic bishops, voters decided yesterday to use two states' constitutions to ban marriage for gays and lesbians …
… even though, I'll interject, constitutions are normally intended to ensure the civil rights of minority groups.
California's Proposition 8 was the most intense gay-marriage battle ever -- and the most expensive ballot measure in any state this year. More than $70 million was spent on it. Exclamation point.
The Proposition 8 battle continues, though -- already there is talk of a lawsuit challenging the vote. In my High Country News take on how the battle involves many Westerners, I reported that Mormons had donated more than 30 percent of the total war chest for Prop 8. More recent estimates have the Mormons donating more than 75 percent. And the Daily Kos blog has uncovered an internal Mormon Church memo that shows Mormon leaders have quietly planned to ban gay marriage since the late 1990s.
Meanwhile, in Arizona, with a Mormon push, Proposition 102 writes the denial of civil rights into the Arizona Constitution.
California's raft of green ballot measures this election looked like the start of an enviro-revolution. Almost.
Proposition 7 would have required California to generate 50 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2050, and Proposition 10 would have authorized a $5 billion bond issue to promote alternative energy and alternative fuel vehicles, with about $2.9 billion going towards rebates on new vehicle purchases, mostly for natural gas cars and trucks.
But voters roundly defeated both -- Proposition 7 with 65 percent of the vote against, and Proposition 10 with 60 percent of the vote against -- and with good reason. Major conservation groups -- think Sierra Club -- joined major utilities and others in an effort to defeat Prop 7 because the measure would actually have hindered renewable energy development by leaving out smaller producers.
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As the Barack Obama wave swept much of the West, carrying fellow Democratic candidates to many victories, the Republicans in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming proved to be more resistant.
John McCain won the presidential races in all three states. In the Congressional races, the Democrats apparently took one House seat that had been held by Idaho Republicans. But Democrats failed to wrest a Wyoming House seat from Republican control, even though it had been considered up for grabs.
And Republicans gained ground or maintained their control in all three legislatures.
Here's the breakdown:
As ABC News put it, “the traditionally red state of Colorado has seen a wave of blue voters.” The state picked Obama for president, probably boosted by high turnout among Hispanics, 20 percent of the state’s voters. The last time Colorado went blue was in 1964, for Lyndon Johnson.
Dems now control both U.S. Senate seats, the governorship, and the state legislature. Colorado is not alone -- many other Western states, including Nevada and New Mexico, shifted left in this election (check out this nifty map from the New York Times).
In the most expensive race in Senate history (if spending by outside groups is counted), Democrat Mark Udall picked off Republican Bob Schaffer. The five-term congressman is the son of Western conservation hero Mo Udall. Udall's vacated House seat was taken by Democrat Jared Polis, the first openly gay person from Colorado elected to Congress.
Democratic Reps. Diana DeGette, John Salazar and Ed Perlmutter all held onto their seats. Salazar, a sixth-generation San Luis Valley potato and wheat grower, won his third term under a folksy slogan -- “Send a farmer to Congress.”
The pundits may have waited until the last possible second on election night to call California, along with Oregon and Washington, and pronounce Democrat Barack Obama the 44th president of the United States, but there was never really any doubt that the electoral-vote-heavy-weight Golden State would embrace the Illinois Senator by a wide margin. With 96.4 percent of districts reporting, Obama snagged 61.2 percent of the vote to Republican John McCain's 37 percent.
Democrats had hoped to ride Obama's coattails to victory and take over six Republican-held seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, bringing their majority to 40 of California's 53 House seats. But by election time it was clear that only two seats in the state were truly competitive, thanks to redistricting that favors incumbents.
One of those tight races turned out to be something of a landslide for Dems. Democrat Jerry McNerney, who unseated notoriously anti-conservation Republican Richard Pombo in the 11th District east of the Bay Area in 2006, beat out Republican challenger Dean Andal 54 to 45 percent. Dems and conservationists, who back McNerney in part for his strong advocacy for clean energy, considered the district rented territory and poured resources into McNerney's campaign this year. It also helped that the district's political leanings have shifted, with registered Democrats trailing Republicans by only 1 percent, compared to 6 percent back in 2006.
The other tight race -- to replace scandal-plagued Republican Rep. John Doolittle in northeastern California's 4th District -- remains a complete dead heat, with absentee and provisional ballots left to count. Republican candidate Tom McClintock, a conservative state legislator and former gubernatorial candidate, has a mere 451-vote lead over the Democratic candidate, centrist retired Air Force Lt. Col. Charlie Brown.
Dems also hoped to make serious gains in the state legislature, where they currently hold substantial majorities in both the Senate and the Assembly. So far it appears they may indeed gain a few seats -- though not as many as they hoped for -- with two in the Assembly and one in the Senate. The latter would leave them one seat short of holding a supermajority that would allow them to bypass the GOP and override vetoes.
Prior to yesterday's election, New Mexico was just about evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. While Dems controlled the State House and Senate, and a Dem lived in the Governor's mansion, two of the three U.S. Congressional seats were held by Republicans and the state was represented by one Republican and one Democrat in the U.S. Senate. As well, the presidential contests in the state are often notoriously close. In 2004, Bush eked out a victory by about 0.7% while Gore pulled out a win in 2000 by about 0.1% of the vote.
That all changed yesterday. Obama trounced McCain, winning 57% of the vote. All three U.S. House seats were up for grabs and Dems carried all of them -- even the 2nd Congressional District in southern New Mexico, in oil country, which was formerly held by Steve Pearce. Harry Teague will be the first Dem to hold this seat in more than 30 years. Steve Pearce abandoned that House seat when he decided to run for the U.S. Senate seat that opened up when Pete Domenici, R, announced his retirement after a gazillion years in office. But Pearce lost the Senate race in a landslide to Democrat Tom Udall.
New Mexico is blue. Dark blue. It's the only state on the CNN map that's all blue in the President, House and Senate views. All three U.S. House seats, both U.S. Senate seats and the Governorship are held by Dems. And the donkeys still control the State House and Senate. This year marks a major change for what was once considered a battleground state year after year.
While much of the West took on a blue hue last night, staunchly Republican Utah stuck to its guns. McCain won by 63 percent of the vote, making Utah his strongest supporter after Wyoming. Incumbent Republican governor John Huntsman ran away with 78 percent of the vote. Of the three Congressional races, incumbents won two. Rob Bishop (R) and Jim Matheson (D) were both shoe-ins. (Matheson, the son of former governor Scott Matheson, is known for being one of the most conservative dems in Congress.)
The third Congressional seat went to overwhelming favorite and far-right Republican Jason Chaffetz. Chaffetz defeated six-term incumbent Chris Cannon in the primaries, largely through his uncompromising stance on immigration.
The only real upset in Utah was on the state level. Amtrak conductor Jay Seegmiller (D) finally managed to trounce incumbent Republican Speaker of the House Greg Curtis (R), after two previous attempts. (In 2006, the spread was only 20 votes.) The race was in Salt Lake County, Utah’s most metropolitan, and Seegmiller came away with 55 percent of the vote. Curtis’ popularity declined last year after he backed a controversial school voucher program that was resoundingly defeated by the electorate.
And in little Sevier County, Proposition 1 -- which stated that any new coal-fired power plants in the county must first be approved by voters in an election -- passed with flying colors. For the county, this means that an election will presumably be held over a proposed 270-megawatt coal-fired power plant. And on a larger scale, the vote could set a precedent for community-based land-use decisions in the West.
I had grand plans of coming to the office this morning and writing definitive post-election blogs about the races we've been following in Washington and Oregon. But it's almost time for lunch, and the two most interesting races -- Dave Reichert vs. Darcy Burner for Washington's 8th Congressional District and Gordon Smith vs. Jeff Merkley for Oregon's Senate seat -- are still too close to call.
Anyway, in lieu of election analysis -- which will be forthcoming as soon as we know who won -- I am posting the following video clip from the end of Star Wars VI: The Return of the Jedi, in which people all across the galaxy celebrate the Rebel victory over the Empire.
Swing state Nevada went Dem in the Presidential elections, by a margin of some 12 percentage points. The results were a shocker for some, but if you take a look at the county-by-county results you see that only Washoe and Clark Counties, home to the population centers of Reno and Las Vegas, went for Obama. The Nevada Dems also went into election day with some 60,000 more registered voters than the Republicans, the result of a massive get-out-the-vote effort during the state’s early caucus.
In another interesting turn of events, Libertarian candidate Bob Barr came away with only .4 percent of Nevada’s vote, less than Ralph Nader and a good deal less than some polls had suggested.
The Dems swept the state elections as well. In the most watched race, Democratic state senator Dina Titus beat out three-term Republican incumbent Jon Porter in the 3rd Congressional District, which takes in most of suburban Las Vegas. The race had garnered national attention, with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee putting it on its list of top 20 targeted races. Titus’ win, along with several others, helped the Dems gain control of the state Senate, with a 12-9 margin. Prior to the election, the Republicans had an 11-10 majority.
And Nevada continues its winning streak, as far as predicting presidential wins. The state has voted for the winner in every election since 1912, with exception of 1976 (when it backed Gerald Ford).
Well, there weren't too many surprises coming from McCain's home state yesterday. All of the incumbents, even Harry Mitchell, D, in the 5th Congressional District, held onto their U.S. Congressional seats, and the Mac nabbed the state's presidential contest, albeit by a narrower margin than most talking heads expected. Ann Kirkpatrick, D, bagged only open seat -- the 1st Congressional District, vacated by Rick Renzi, R, in the wake of a scandal -- beating out Sydney Hay, her far right challenger.
In ballot initiative news, Arizonans voted 56.5% to 43.5% to ban gay marriage. Additionally, in spite the havoc wreaked on the state's housing market due, at least in part, to irresponsible lending practices, the folks in Arizona voted "No" on reforming predatory payday lenders. Proposition 202, or the deceptively named "Stop Illegal Hiring" initiative, did not pass. All that means is that the current penalties for businesses that hire undocumented immigrants will remain in place. And finally, the yeses and nos for Proposition 101, also known as "Medical Choice for Arizona," are almost dead even -- the "No" has an advantage of fewer than 150 votes. If Prop 101 had managed to eke out a victory, it would have meant an amendment to the state constitution prohibiting any universal health care plans.
While Arizona may have turned a slightly pinker shade of red this year, not much has changed.