What to watch for on election night

  • by Lisa Keen
  • Tuesday October 27, 2020
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President Donald Trump and former vice president Joe Biden met in the final presidential debate October 22 in Tennessee. Photo: Courtesy CNN
President Donald Trump and former vice president Joe Biden met in the final presidential debate October 22 in Tennessee. Photo: Courtesy CNN

With one week remaining until Election Day, polls are tightening and candidates are making their closing arguments to voters in races across the country. The big race, of course, is for the White House, and anything could happen.

There are an estimated nine million LGBTQ people registered to vote November 3, maybe more, according to a study by the Williams Institute, an LGBTQ think tank at UCLA School of Law. Various studies and polls over many years have consistently found about three-quarters of those LGBT voters support Democratic candidates.

Other studies have suggested LGBTQ people tend to be much more engaged in politics than the general population, writing or calling elected officials, consuming political news, and communicating about issues through social media.

It's a good bet that many LGBTQ people will be glued to their social media feeds and news outlets November 3.

Fivethirtyeight.com, the respected poll analysis website founded and run by gay statistician Nate Silver, gives Democratic presidential Joe Biden an 87% chance of winning the White House. He gives Democrats a 96% chance of keeping the House of Representatives and a 74% chance of taking control of the Senate. (Four years ago he gave Hillary Clinton a 71.4% chance winning the White House, versus 28.6% for Donald Trump, so the polling guru isn't perfect.)

Democrats currently control 232 seats in the House, Republicans have 197, and six are vacant. A party needs 218 for control. Of the seven LGBTQ members currently serving the House, all are expected to win reelection, though three have some complications. Of the eight out newcomers running for House seats, at least one has a very good chance at winning and at least three others are maybes.

Republicans currently control 53 seats in the Senate, Democrats 47. Polling indicates Democrats will almost certainly lose one of their current seats (held by Senator Doug Jones in Alabama). If they do lose Jones, and if Trump retains the White House, Democrats would need to hang onto every other seat and pick up five more to reach the magical majority number of 51.

In addition to these important contests, the LGBTQ Victory Fund estimates that "at least 574 LGBTQ candidates" are on the ballot November 3. Its website identifies about 300 who have won its explicit endorsement and financial support.

Here's an hour-by-hour guide to how the night may unfold for major LGBTQ candidates and for the contests to control the House, Senate, and the White House. Times are Pacific.

3 p.m.

House seat, Indiana 2nd: Most of Indiana will vote until 4 p.m., but South Bend, home of gay former Democratic presidential contender Pete Buttigieg, closes at 3. There, lesbian probate attorney Pat Hackett is making her second try at unseating four-time Republican incumbent Jackie Walorski. Walorski's record on LGBTQ issues has earned her a seven out of a possible 100 score from the Human Rights Campaign. A graduate of Liberty Baptist College and a staunch Trump supporter, Walorski has raised $2.2 million for her campaign, compared to Hackett's $770,000. Only $11,500 of Hackett's support has come from LGBTQ political action committees, including the Equality PAC of the Congressional LGBTQ Equality Caucus, the Victory Fund, and LPAC, a lesbian group. Buttigieg made a statement in support of Hackett but, as of October 14, his Win the Era PAC had not contributed to her campaign. Hackett has a master's degree in theology from Notre Dame and lives in South Bend with her spouse, Rita.

4 p.m.

Florida. Two mayoral seats are up in Fort Lauderdale, Wilton Manor. These are among the most heavily LGBTQ municipalities in the Sunshine State. The Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel endorsed gay incumbent Mayor Dean Trantalis with a strong editorial supporting a second term. He's seen as having a relatively easy path to reelection.

Wilton Manor City Commissioner Julie Carson, a lesbian and cancer survivor, decided to run for mayor only last February when incumbent gay Mayor Justin Flippen died suddenly of a brain aneurysm. She faces two other candidates, including another former mayor. South Florida Gay News publisher Norm Kent wrote last week that, while her opponents are worthy candidates, Carson "galvanized" the community of 12,500 following Flippen's death and has "judiciously integrated our community's social responsibilities" with the town's economic needs.

Virginia. Richmond mayor. Lesbian civic leader Alexsis Rodgers, 29, has taken on a steep climb, trying to unseat a popular mayor in a five-way race in Virginia's capital city. It's her first bid at elective office, but she's raised the second largest amount of money after incumbent Mayor Levar Stoney. That gives her a fighting chance to be one of two candidates in a possible runoff come December (Richmond has an odd Electoral College-like system that often leads to runoffs.) The Richmond Times Dispatch reported recently that a poll of likely voters had Rodgers a distant third place, but 30% of voters were undecided.

Presidential race. There are 60 electoral votes in six states on the line at this hour. Four of the six states (Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, South Carolina, with a cumulative 44 electoral votes) went to Trump in 2016. Two states (Virginia and Vermont, with 16 electoral votes) went to Clinton. But polling in Georgia is unusually close in 2020; the latest (by CBS October 23) showed a tie. An upset there could ring like the shot heard round the world. At this point, considering the polls are so close and sticking with the historic voting patterns, the probable electoral vote count will be: Trump 44, Biden 16.

Senate races. There are three closes races closing out this hour and Democrats have a decent chance of picking up two new seats.

The two are in Georgia. Both Republican incumbents — David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler — have poor voting records on LGBTQ issues, and their Democratic challengers — Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, respectively — have support from the queer community. The latest polls showed Perdue with only a 1-point lead over Ossoff, and Warnock with a 6-point lead over Loeffler. (The Loeffler race is a special election.)

In South Carolina, HRC scores Republican incumbent Lindsey Graham a consistent zero. When asked in a recent campaign interview about his support for the right of same-sex couples to marry, Graham said, "I have tried to be tolerant, I've tried to understand that people have different life experiences. ... But I can tell you right now, when it comes to South Carolina, I think I've been an effective voice for who we are." The latest poll shows Graham with a 6-point lead over challenger Jaime Harrison. HRC has endorsed both Warnock and Harrison.

4:30 p.m.

Local interest. North Carolina Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, Mark Robinson, has said he would not support "this mass delusion called transgenderism." In West Virginia, state House Delegate John Mandt Jr., running for reelection, resigned suddenly after news reports drew attention to a Facebook chat posting in which he appeared to ask whether another member of the House was a "homo" and suggested the member was probably bisexual. Mandt's name is still on the ballot, however, and he says he'll serve a new term if reelected. In Ohio, lesbian Charmaine McGuffey is running for sheriff of Hamilton County, which includes Cincinnati.

Presidential race. There are 38 electoral votes at stake in three states: North Carolina, Ohio, and West Virginia. Trump won all 38 in 2016. The latest polling has been swinging back and forth. Different polls on the same days in North Carolina showed Trump with a 1-point lead and Biden with a 4-point lead. Same thing in Ohio, where two conservative-leaning polls showed Trump ahead by three and Biden ahead by one during the same time period. West Virginia is solidly Trump. Probable electoral vote count: Trump 82, Biden 16.

Senate races. There's a reasonable chance Democrats will pick up another Senate seat this hour. At latest polling, North Carolina's Senate polling has been somewhat erratic — from a tie a few days ago to a 6-point Democratic lead October 23. HRC and Buttigieg have endorsed Democrat Cal Cunningham. Republican incumbent Thom Tillis scores a consistent zero in HRC's Congressional scorecard on LGBTQ issues.

5 p.m.

House seats. Of the four LGBTQ candidates for congressional seats, two seem on their way to easy reelection: Sharice Davids, first termer from Kansas' 3rd, and David Cicilline from Rhode Island's 1st.

In New Hampshire's 1st District, first-term incumbent Chris Pappas' Republican opponent last week tried to highlight Pappas being gay by drawing attention to his boyfriend, a move the Victory Fund criticized as a "dog whistle" for anti-LGBTQ sentiments. The media seemed interested that the boyfriend is a former lobbyist for Amazon, but it also pointed out that the Republican candidate, Matt Mowers, did consulting work for pharmaceutical companies. Fivethirtyeight says Pappas has a 10-point advantage.

In Michigan's 6th District, Jon Hoadley has also been hearing the dog whistle in his bid to unseat Republican incumbent Fred Upton. According to the Victory Fund, the National Republican Congressional Committee has posted Twitter messages and sent out a campaign mailer to voters' homes, describing Hoadley, who is gay, as a "pedo sex poet." Upton, meanwhile, has the endorsement of the national Log Cabin Republicans group. RealClearPolitics calls it a toss-up, though Upton has a 4.5-point advantage.

Presidential race. During this hour, 172 electoral votes are in play. In 2016, Trump won 94. This year, two of those states — Florida with 29 electoral votes and Pennsylvania with 20 — are in play. Trump's youngest daughter Tiffany spoke to an LGBTQ rally organized by gay Trump appointee Richard Grenell October 17. Equality Florida Executive Director Nadine Smith dismissed the event as "a pathetic attempt to hide his appalling record," adding that, "Donald Trump is the worst president the LGBTQ community has ever seen."

At deadline, Biden had about a 2-point lead in Florida and a 7-point lead in Pennsylvania. If it's split the baby, Trump gets Florida, Biden gets Pennsylvania, and the probable electoral vote count is Trump 155, Biden 115. But keep in mind, many political number crunchers say that, barring unusual outcomes in Georgia or Texas, Pennsylvania is Biden's must-have ticket to 270.

6 p.m.

House seat, Minnesota 2nd: Angie Craig won her seat in 2018 and polls suggest voters are leaning her way for reelection. But a complication for Craig developed when a third party candidate for the seat died. Under state law, if a "major party" candidate dies within 79 days of a November election, a special election must be held in February. Craig filed suit and won an order, October 9, from a federal district court judge. But her Republican opponent has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court that the election should be delayed until February.

In Texas 23rd, Gina Ortiz Jones appears poised to win a vacant seat from the San Antonio area. She lost by only 1,000 votes in 2018 and the incumbent has decided to retire this year. She's won the endorsement of San Antonio's mayor and the San Antonio Express-News. If elected, she'll become the first openly LGBTQ person to represent Texas in Congress.

In New York's 18th, incumbent Sean Patrick Maloney is hoping to win a fifth term. Fivethirtyeight says he has an 18-point advantage. Three newcomers seeking House seats from New York are facing tougher battles, but have promise.

In New York's 15th, Democrat Ritchie Torres is hoping to fill a seat representing the Bronx that was left vacant by a Democrat's resignation. Torres beat out a field of 15 Democratic candidates in the primary. He's won the endorsement of former President Barack Obama and Biden. His chances are good of joining the LGBT Equality Caucus in Congress.

In New York's 17th, Democrat Mondaire Jones is seen as the frontrunner in a three-way race to replace retiring Democrat Nina Lowey in this seat north of New York City. He is expected to win but he's faced some dirty tricks from a third party candidate in recent days.

In New York's 23rd, newcomer Tracy Mitrano is having a harder time in her bid to unseat a 10-term Republican whom she lost to by 9 points in a 2018 bid. But the latest poll showed her within 2 points this time.

And in Wisconsin's 2nd, incumbent Mark Pocan ran unopposed in 2018 but has a Republican opponent this year. Given that Pocan won 120,000 votes in his primary and the Republican garnered only 19,000, Pocan seems like a sure bet.

First-term Colorado state Representative Brianna Titone, a transgender woman, is running for reelection and says she has been targeted with anti-trans attacks in the race.

Presidential race. This hour is both crucial and a potentially crazy. Throwing Arkansas (which closes at 5:30) into the 6 o'clock mix, there are 15 states and 162 electoral votes to record. In 2016, 106 of these went to Trump, including Wisconsin (10), Michigan (16), and Arizona (11). But this year, unlike anytime in recent memory, Texas (38) is a down-to-the-wire horse race.

Last weekend, the last polls to come in showed first a tie, then Biden with a one-point lead, then a three-point lead. Michigan looks to be leaning strong for Biden; Arizona and Wisconsin look sloppy. Given that Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) is taking measures, backed by the state Supreme Court, to make it as cumbersome as possible to return absentee ballots, the probable electoral vote count is: Trump 238, Biden 194.

7 p.m.

Montana. Gay secretary of state candidate Bryce Bennett has won the endorsement of some key newspapers in the state and while his opponent has tried to paint him as a raging "liberal," the papers and many of his colleagues in the state Senate say he's got the experience and the temperament for the job. If elected, he will become the first openly LGBTQ person to win statewide office in Montana. Keep in mind, the latest poll in Montana has given Trump a 6-point lead in the presidential race

Presidential race. Four states and 21 electoral votes are up this hour. Nevada will break for Biden. Iowa's polling results have been a bit erratic but will probably go with Montana and Utah for Trump, leaving the probable electoral vote count: Trump 253, Biden 200.

8 p.m.

House seats. In California's 41st, gay incumbent Mark Takano won more than 100,000 votes in his primary this year, compared to his Republican opponent's 58,000. He has no impediments for a fifth term.

In California's 53rd, the queer president of San Diego City Council, Georgette Gomez, is hoping to win an open seat but she has been strongly outspent by another Democrat seeking the office.

In Washington's 10th, bisexual state Representative Beth Doglio is hoping to win a vacant seat representing the Tacoma area. She's won some big name endorsements (Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren). She's up against former Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Stickland, another Democrat, and Strickland won the Seattle Times endorsement. There haven't been many polls and the race is considered close, with Strickland in the lead.

Additionally, the Evergreen State has two LGBTQ people are running for statewide office: Marko Liias for lieutenant governor and Helen Whitener for the state Supreme Court. Whitener was appointed to the court vacancy in April and is running in a special election. She is the first Black woman on the court and the second openly LGBTQ person. She's won endorsement from the Seattle Times and her opponent has dropped out, though is not off the ballot. Liias has a strong opponent who is also a Democrat and has more endorsements.

Presidential race. This is the bottom of the ninth, bases loaded, two outs, and Democrats are poised to grand slam 78 electoral votes to win the game. The five states in this hour are predictable: California (55), Washington (12), Oregon (7), and Hawaii (4) for Biden. Idaho (4) will deliver for Trump, and at 10 p.m., Alaska will toss in 3. Probable final electoral vote count: Trump, 260, Biden 278. Game over. The only question — and it's a big one — is whether the Trump team will try to file a protest or otherwise dispute the results.

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