by Joey Saunders
With the presidential election approaching like a howling tornado that many wish would just pass already, I felt it was a good time to explore races up and down November’s ballot, which will have the greatest effect on LGBTQ folks locally and nationwide.
1. The Elephant in the Doom (
I had originally intended to write an article about LGBTQ supporters of Donald Trump in Kansas City, however I couldn’t find enough supporters to get a decent swathe of voices. Many of my sources who had initially shown interest in Trump either didn’t want to go on-record as a Trump supporter or had shifted their allegiance to the Libertarian presidential candidate, Gary Johnson.
As of this writing, the Human Rights Campaign-endorsed Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton leads so staggeringly in the vast majority of polls and reputable political forecasts, like Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight.com and University of Virginia Center for Politics founder Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball, that a Trump victory seems highly unlikely.
Except here, in Missouri and Kansas, where Trump will likely pick up 16 combined electoral votes. Does that mean your vote is meaningless and you should just stay home? No! It just means your vote (and money) is even more valuable in races and on issues that are barely getting a modicum of the media attention that the Trumpocalypse is.
2. The Smoking Guns (Missouri’
The Missouri Governor’s race has featured antics that, in a less-cacophonous election cycle, might have been featured more prominently in national news.
Missouri’s Attorney General, Democrat Chris Koster, is facing off against political newcomer Eric Greitens, a Republican.
Greitens’s résumé is admittedly incredible—in 2013, he was named one of TIME Magazine’s 100 most influential people. The following year, Fortune Magazine included him in its list of the world’s 50 greatest leaders. Before that, Greitens was a Navy SEAL, a Rhodes Scholar, founder and CEO of veteran-benefitting nonprofit The Mission Continues, and a bestselling author.
Over the years, I’ve heard from a variety of Jefferson City insiders and lobbyists that incumbent governor Jay Nixon, a Democrat, was ineffectual in part because of uncooperative Republicans in the State House and Senate but also because of lackluster leadership on Nixon’s part.
With Greitens’s prolific past, the handsome veteran seems like a shoe-in for a Republican victory, making LGBTQ Missourians more vulnerable to future discriminatory legislation. Only he isn’t.
Greitens seems to have followed Trump’s lead by tapping into the white, straight, male angst of the alt-Right to win a tight, four-way primary. And although he did win, roughly 66 percent of Republicans did not vote for him. In an attempt to paint himself as a political outsider trying to shake things up, his criticisms of Jeff City politicians on both sides of the aisle may have alienated some of his base, not to mention the men and women he’s been calling corrupt who, if elected, he will need to work with to accomplish anything.
Though he bills himself as a hardline Conservative, less than a decade ago he attended the Democratic National Convention and President Barack Obama’s inauguration, being vetted to potentially run for office as a Democrat. Add to that the fact that Greitens received at least $1 million in campaign funds from Michael Goguen, a Silicon Valley mogul who allegedly sexually abused a young woman for 13 years, and you start to see why this one-time golden boy is starting to look a little tarnished. It doesn’t help that Greitens’s most recognizable campaign ad has raised bipartisan eyebrows for forgoing policy specifics and, instead, featuring Greitens firing a machine gun at an exploding target.
Oddly, Greitens’s Republican-turned-Democrat opponent, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, is something of an NRA darling himself. It’s enough to give LGBTQ voters pause given the stance that the vast majority of gay rights groups like the HRC have taken in favor of stricter gun control.
This stance troubles Kansas City Mayor Sly James who, The Kansas City Star reports, recently said, “I want (Koster) to know when these issues come up that there is another argument to be made on guns…and he needs to be listening, and he needs to be a governor for common sense and not political ideology.” James ultimately makes it clear that he would prefer to work with Koster, who he describes as “pragmatic,” than Greitens.
Koster has also been criticized by Republicans for his support of LGBTQ rights. Most notably, in 2014, Koster upheld a Missouri judge’s ruling that, despite an anti-gay 2004 amendment to the Missouri State Constitution, Missouri would legally recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. At the time, Koster said, “Missouri’s future will be one of inclusion, not exclusion.”
3. Little Locals
Local elections aren’t typically very sexy. But if you live in District 23 or 25 of Missouri (both in Kansas City) you have a chance to support an openly gay candidate.
Current Representative Randy Dunn beat out his sign-stealing opponent in the primaries and is running for another term as the Missouri State House Representative for District 23.
Over in District 25, Greg Razer is also running for the State House. Razer has served as the policy director for PROMO, one of Missouri’s most prominent LGBT civil rights advocacy groups, in addition to having eight years of experience as U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill’s Deputy Regional Director.
If you aren’t a resident of either candidate’s district, fret not, you can still contribute to their and other openly-LGBT candidates’ campaigns nationwide at victoryfund.org.
4. Vote With Your Heart,
The corruption caused by money in politics has been at the crux of this year’s elections. And while that may not be ideal, it does offer a way to support LGBT candidates across the country even if you aren’t able to physically cast a ballot for them.
Whether it’s a small donation or a substantial check, contributing to elect openly-gay officials in bigger races nationwide will help quicken the pace with which we stride toward equality. Here are 15 openly-LGBT congressional candidates you might consider investing in:
• David Cicilline (RI)
• Angie Craig (MN)
• Jim Gray (KY)
• Matt Heinz (AZ)
• Denise Juneau (MT)
• Sean Patrick Maloney (NY)
• Bao Nguyen (CA)
• Misty Plowright (CO)
• Mark Pocan (WI)
• Bob Poe (FL)
• Jared Polis (CO)
• Kyrsten Sinema (AZ)
• Misty Snow (UT)
• Mark Takano (CA)
5. Bluntness or Candor? (U.S.
Incumbent U.S. Senator Roy Blunt tried to distance himself from his party’s convention without outright saying he did not support Trump.
Eventually, the Republican Senator offered a lukewarm endorsement amid Trump’s tempestuous campaign and a number of political pundits and reporters who wondered if associating with Trump at all might cause his downfall. While Blunt has been a stalwart opponent of LGBTQ rights, his opponent, Democrat and Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander, may not be able to unseat him.
After the Supreme Court’s historic 2015 decision that made marriage equality the law of the land, Kander sent an impassioned email out through his campaign. In it, Kander said:
“When my friend Jolie Justus emailed after the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling, she remarked that we still had much work to do.
She’s right, and that’s especially true when it comes to protecting LGBT youth — children — who have one of the highest suicide rates in the country.
That’s one of the reasons I was actually kind of surprised to hear that Republican Senator Roy Blunt voted against a bill designed to protect students in our schools from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Senator Blunt has spent a long time on the wrong side of history when it comes to issues of equality. But these are our children, the most vulnerable among us. And if he can’t even stand up to protect them from bullying and discrimination, that’s another clear demonstration that it’s time for a change.”
As a Senator, Kander would clearly be a vital ally for the LGBTQ community, but while his campaign is working tirelessly to tighten the gap between him and Blunt, Blunt still leads in the polls.
With contemporary media trending toward salacious or negative stories, it can be tempting to just tune everything out. But with an open seat on the Supreme Court and with the Republican National Committee passing one of the most anti-gay platforms of any political party in the developed world, it is vital now, more than ever, to stay vigilant, stay positive, and most critically, to vote.