Republicans Sweep Senate and House, Making History, while Gays Win Most Ballot Issues

Log Cabin Expands Inclusive GOP With $250,000 Campaign Effort; Key Endorsements Back Winning Gov Candidates in New York, Massachusetts and Maryland

November 6, 2002 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Blogger Tumblr

(WASHINGTON, DC) – In a midterm election that made history, the GOP captured the U.S. Senate and expanded its majority in the House of Representatives, with pro-inclusion Republicans winning decisive victories in Democratic states. It was the first time in over one hundred years that an incumbent president's party won decisive gains in both houses of Congress. At the same time, grass-roots activists scored wins in nearly every gay-related ballot measure at the local and state level across the country, and African American and female Republicans made history in statewide races where Democrats had failed to do so before.

At the same time, Election 2002 proved the complete failure of the one-party, pro-Democrat strategy of most national gay political organizations across the country, according to the nation's largest gay Republican organization.

"This election is an indictment of the gay community's continued reliance on the one-party political strategy," said Rich Tafel, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans. "Not only did it fail in the Congressional races, but it led to anti-gay tactics by Democratic candidates all across the country, and defeated another GOP gay rights champion in the House while Republicans expanded their majority."

"It's time the gay community re-examined its blind allegiance to the Democratic Party and builds a truly bi-partisan movement," Tafel continued. "The 2002 elections have finally exposed it as a complete failure."

Log Cabin spent over $250,000 for inclusive Republicans at the federal, state and local level across the country in the 2002 election cycle, with $150,000 in contributions raised for local and state candidates through Log Cabin chapters, $50,000 in direct and bundled PAC contributions to federal candidates and $50,000 in get-out-the-vote expenditures and on-the-ground activities, known as "soft money" expenditures.

In all, 92% of Log Cabin-endorsed House Republican incumbents were re-elected, and 100% of Log Cabin-endorsed Senate candidates won or advanced to a run-off. Also, Log Cabin-endorsed candidates for governor were victorious in New York (Governor George Pataki), Massachusetts (Governor-elect Mitt Romney), Maryland (Governor-elect Robert Ehrlich) and Georgia (Governor-elect Sonny Perdue). Log Cabin also backed the first African American elected lieutenant governor in the history of Maryland, state GOP chairman Michael Steele. In Ohio, Governor Bob Taft (R) won overwhelmingly despite strong opposition by far-right groups to his selection of Log Cabin-backed Jeannette Bradley (R) as his running mate. Bradley, a strong supporter of same-sex partner health benefits for public employees, will be the first African American female lieutenant governor in the nation's history. The elections of both Steele and Bradley are further evidence of the winning pro-inclusion strategy of President Bush's GOP.

Openly gay Republicans also ran for office in 2002 across the country. Congressman Jim Kolbe (R-AZ) was overwhelmingly re-elected in a new Congressional District, while Councilmember David Catania (R) won his largest number of votes ever in his tenure on the Washington, DC, city council. Log Cabin raised over $20,000 for Catania's winning campaign in the nation's capital. Log Cabin Houston leader Alex Wathen was elected as Justice of the Peace in Harris County, Texas, after being attacked by far right groups who told Republicans not to vote for Wathen.

Meanwhile, openly gay candidates for Congress in San Francisco (Mike German) and Connecticut (Richter Elser) were defeated in overwhelmingly Democratic districts.

Openly gay Florida state House candidate Patrick Howell was defeated when local Democratic leaders and anti-gay leaders joined forces to back his Democratic rival. Log Cabin raised $5,000 for Howell's campaign, and he was strongly backed by the local and state GOP, and won the endorsement of the Orlando Sentinel newspaper. The retiring incumbent, anti-gay state Rep. Alan Trovillion, endorsed the Democrat and called on anti-gay supporters to vote for her, while the county Democratic chairman said at a gay event that gays who voted for Howell were akin to "Jews voting for Hitler."

The Role of President Bush and the National GOP

"President Bush's inclusive leadership has put a new face on Republican leadership," Tafel said. "The American people have responded with a record turnout for a midterm election and shown their strong support for his leadership. This should be a continuing lesson to Republicans up and down the ballot in coming elections that inclusion wins."

"Furthermore, the leadership of the Republican Party reached out to us more dramatically than ever before, with clear and decisive results," Tafel said.

Tafel also credited Republican National Committee Chairman Marc Racicot, and the leaders of the House and Senate GOP campaign committees, for their leadership of the GOP in the 2002 election cycle.

"Governor Racicot's get-out-the-vote program was the most inclusive RNC effort in history," Tafel said. "The RNC's "72-Hour Task Force" effort enlisted Republican activists from across the spectrum and sent them all over the country to work on Republican campaigns, and Log Cabin's leaders and members were equal partners in the process. We worked entirely on pro-inclusion candidates endorsed by Log Cabin, and financed our own workers to augment the program."

Tafel praised Senator Bill Frist (R-TN), chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and Congressman Tom Davis (R-VA), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, for both addressing the leadership of Log Cabin Republicans at the organization's 2002 national convention in April.

"Senator Frist and Congressman Davis both challenged Log Cabin members to stay active in the party and play a role in crucial elections, and said they couldn't win without us," Tafel said. "This cemented dramatic progress in the GOP, and Log Cabin stepped up to the plate for them in this crucial year."

Log Cabin Active in GOP House Districts Across Nation

Republicans expanded their majority in the House of Representatives despite the strong backing of the Democratic Party's "Take Back the House" effort by every other leading gay political organization and gay Democratic leaders like Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA).

Log Cabin endorsed 27 GOP House incumbents, with 25 winning re-election. The most disappointing loss of the evening was of Congresswoman Connie Morella (R-MD), a longtime gay rights champion in Congress who was narrowly defeated after state Democratic leaders used redistricting to radically change the district she has held since 1986 and make it nearly impossible for a Republican to win. Log Cabin co-chaired a fundraiser in July featuring President Bush, which raised $400,000 for her campaign, and dedicated a ground staff member to her campaign headquarters. Morella also had the strong support of the Human Rights Campaign, while Stonewall Democrats backed her Democratic opponent, and Rep. Barney Frank (D) contributed to her opponent's campaign. In the end, Morella still managed to capture 48% of the vote against the odds, defeated by a narrower-than-expected margin.

In one of the major House upsets of 2002, Log Cabin-endorsed Ginny Brown-Waite defeated incumbent Rep. Karen Thurman (D-FL). Brown-Waite, an inclusive Republican supported by a number of centrist GOP groups including Log Cabin, was also supported with Log Cabin PAC contributions.

Log Cabin Pro-Inclusion Senate Victories to Influence Majority

All of Log Cabin's endorsed Senate incumbent candidates won across the country, and an endorsed challenger advanced to a run-off. Meanwhile, anti-gay GOP incumbents retired, or were booted from office, expanding the influence of pro-inclusion Republican Senators in the 108th Congress.

Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) fought off a spirited challenge to win, while Senator John Warner (R-VA), a strong supporter of the Log Cabin Republicans of Northern Virginia and incoming chairman of the Senate Armed Services committee, beat an independent challenger. Warner headlined a state PAC fundraiser for Log Cabin NoVa that netted $10,000 for local and state GOP candidates and initiatives.

Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR) made history in his victory, as the first GOP Senate incumbent to run pro-gay TV ads in his campaign. Smith's ads featured Judy Shepard, mother of Matthew Shepard, speaking in praise of Smith's leadership on hate crimes legislation.

"During their brief tenure, the Democratic leadership promised to pass ENDA and hate crimes legislation in the Senate, and in the end they failed to deliver on their promises," Tafel said. "We have a chance to advance our issues now in a bi-partisan fashion, with real results, if we abandon the one-party strategy and get down to work as a community with leaders in both parties."

In addition to the retirements of anti-gay Republican Senators Jesse Helms and Strom Thurmond, anti-gay incumbent Senator Tim Hutchison (R-AR) was defeated for re-election. Hutchison ran as a "family values conservative" despite revelations that he divorced his wife of many years and quickly married a younger, former staffer.

In Louisiana, Log Cabin-endorsed challenger Suzanne Haik Terrell advanced to a run-off against incumbent Senator Mary Landrieu (D), which will be held on December 7. Log Cabin pledged to continue working in support of Terrell in the second round.

"Log Cabin will go to the mat for Suzy Terrell," Tafel said. "With the GOP in clear control of the Senate, it is even more crucial to put another inclusive Republican in the GOP caucus."

Log Cabin in State and Local Races

With strong, early endorsements, Log Cabin played a key role in helping to elect Republican governors in two overwhelmingly Democratic states. Governor George Pataki (R) was resoundingly elected in New York, while Mitt Romney easily defeated his Democratic opponent to win in Massachusetts. Log Cabin first met with Pataki in 1994 and endorsed his campaign in 1998, and he has become one of the strongest gay supporters among the nation's governors. Log Cabin strongly endorsed Romney's 1994 US Senate bid in Massachusetts, and in his gubernatorial race, Romney hired Log Cabin leader John Spampinato as a senior campaign aide.

Log Cabin New York raised over $20,000 for Pataki's campaign, while Log Cabin Massachusetts raised $10,000 for Romney. Log Cabin was joined by the Empire State Pride Agenda in backing Pataki, while the Human Rights Campaign endorsed Romney's opponent and took no position in the New York campaign.

In the final weeks of the campaign, Log Cabin Maryland worked with the gubernatorial campaign of Republican Robert Ehrlich, who gained their endorsement on November 1. Log Cabin Maryland Vice President Joe Zuber handed Ehrlich a $4,000 Log Cabin contribution on stage at a campaign rally on the day of the endorsement, and secured a meeting with the Governor-elect after the election. HRC endorsed Ehrlich's opponent.

In Hawaii, Linda Lingle made history in the Aloha state by being both the first Republican and the first female governor in Hawaii history. Lingle's victory came after she made strong public overtures to gay voters as Hawaii state GOP chair, including inviting Log Cabin Hawaii leader Jeff Bingham Mead to address the Hawaii Republican Party convention. Pro-gay Governor John Rowland beat back his challenger in Connecticut to win re-election, while Log Cabin-endorsed GOP candidate Sonny Perdue shocked the political world by unseating Governor Roy Barnes (D) in Georgia. Perdue had a public meeting with Georgia Log Cabin, while Barnes refused to hold a similar meeting with a gay organization.

Also in Georgia, Log Cabin member and longtime supporter Jill Chambers won election to the state House of Representatives. An important straight ally, Chambers, a former GOP county chair, will be a voice of tolerance and inclusion in the GOP state house caucus.

Gay-Baiting Democrats Across the Nation

Meanwhile, Democratic candidates all across the nation used gay-baiting tactics in their campaigns while national gay political organizations called on gay voters to back each of the candidates in a failed effort to promote the Democratic Party's national numbers.

In Montana, incumbent Senator Max Baucus (D) and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee ran a television commercial which implied that Baucus' Republican opponent was homosexual because he was a beauty consultant decades ago. Stonewall Democrats and HRC both criticized the ad, but maintained their endorsements.

Anti-gay Congressman David Phelps (D) had placed pink-colored flyers on cars outside churches in southern Illinois to point out that his opponent, Congressman John Shimkus (R), was endorsed by Log Cabin and that Phelps was not. Phelps is a lead sponsor of a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage nationwide. Chad Johnson, executive director of the Stonewall Democrats, told the Windy City Times of Chicago on July 24 that "I hope he [Phelps] defeats his Republican opponent," and Democratic House leader Richard Gephardt gave Phelps the microphone to speak for the Democratic Party this summer in response to a weekly radio address by President Bush. Log Cabin endorsed Shimkus, and sent Log Cabin executive director Rich Tafel to campaign for him in the final days. Shimkus defeated Phelps on Election Day.

In Hawaii, Democrats once again initiated a whisper campaign against Republican Lingle, as they did in 1998 when she was narrowly defeated in the gubernatorial campaign, seeking to spread rumors that she was a closeted lesbian. No gay Democratic leaders or groups spoke against the whisper campaign against Lingle either in 1998 or in 2002.

Democratic Senate candidate Alex Sanders in South Carolina attacked pro-gay Republican former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani of New York in a televised debate with his Republican opponent Lindsey Graham, saying that Giuliani's "wife kicked him out and he moved in with two gay men and a Shih Tzu. Is that South Carolina values? I don't think so." Giuliani spoke out against the attack, saying on ABC's "This Week" that the attack reflected a "double standard" and that if a Republican had said the same it would have been "major news." HRC, who endorsed Sanders, released no statement on the attack. Rep. Barney Frank (D) released a three sentence statement critical of the comments nearly one week later. Sanders was defeated on Election Day.

Meanwhile, Log Cabin refused to endorse key Republican gubernatorial candidates in California, Illinois and Pennsylvania, all of whom failed to reach out to gay voters in their states. All three Republicans were defeated in states where Log Cabin is well-organized. Political analysts fault California GOP candidate Bill Simon's defeat in part to his shifting positions on gay rights, and his failure to secure Log Cabin's support.