Iowa judges unseated, regional LGBT election news

In Illinois: Pro-equality Pat Quinn, the Democratic incumbent, defeated anti-gay Republican Bill Brady in the closest gubernatorial race in this state in 30 years. Brady conceded on Nov. 6.

A week before Election Day, Brady was demanding Quinn apologize for remarks by state Sen. Ricky Hendon, who called Brady “homophobic,” “sexist” and “racist” during a rally in Chicago.

Quinn, who carried the endorsement of Equality Illinois in part because of his promise to move civil unions legislation by the end of the year, said he didn’t call anyone any names so he need not apologize.

In another Illinois race, Republican Mark Kirk has finally won a much-watched fight with Democrat Alex Giannoulias for Barack Obama’s old seat in the U.S. Senate.

Kirk, from suburban Chicago, had a reputation as a moderate Republican until he underwent a makeover to run for the Senate. Although endorsed by LGBT groups in the past, Kirk this year voted against repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell,” one of the moves that led Chicagoan Terry Cosgrove of the abortion-rights group Personal PAC to summate, “He really just completely changed his stripes.”

Giannoulias courted the gay vote and shored up support from many LGBT community leaders in Chicago, including activist Art Johnston, Ald. Tom Tunney and state Reps. Greg Harris and Deb Mell. Campaigning in the community, he urged repeal of DADT and the Defense of Marriage Act.

In Iowa: The Family Research Council and National Organization for Marriage invested a lot of money in Iowa in advance of Election Day, funding a push to oust three state supreme court justices who joined in the unanimous 2009 ruling legalizing marriage for gays and lesbians.

The organizations succeeded.

Voters elected not to return to office Iowa Justices Marsha K. Ternus, Michael J. Streit and David L. Baker.

In the days prior to the vote, FRC/NOM drove the “Judge the Bus” around the state, with former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum and Iowa Congressman Steve King as the tour headliners. The tour made 20 stops and traveled 1,300 miles as the bus passed through 45 counties.

The Iowa strategy “was about sending a warning shot to judges nationwide,” said Joe Solmonese of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT organization. “NOM and its secret donors will target judges around the country if they rule in favor of marriage equality and will foster an anti-gay, hostile environment in the process.”

Rick Jacobs of the Courage Campaign, an LGBT grassroots group, said NOM’s intent was to hijack the Iowa courts with intimidation.

“These are tactics one might expect from Al Capone,” he said.

In other Iowa news, U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley held his seat against a challenge from Democrat Roxanne Conlin, who had the endorsement of the Human Rights Campaign.

In the race for governor, Republican Terry Branstad defeated incumbent Democrat Chet Culver, who defended the state’s marriage equality stance in a recent debate.

Culver said, “We should not write discrimination into the Iowa Constitution.”

Branstad said citizens should vote on marriage.

In Michigan: Republican Bill Schuette defeated Democrat David Leyton for attorney general in a race of late-blooming interest to the LGBT community.

Earlier this year, a student at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor alleged anti-gay harassment by an assistant state attorney general in Republican Mike Cox’s office. The government lawyer, Andrew Shirvell, was placed on personal leave pending an investigation into the allegation, which includes the claim that Shirvell was behind an anti-gay blog that targeted the student.

Leyton quickly called for the firing of Shirvell while Schuette declined to weigh in.

In the governor’s race, Republican Rick Snyder defeated Democrat Virg Bernero, who had the endorsements of the state’s highest profile and largest LGBT groups.

In Minnesota: In the top ticket race in the state, Republican Tom Emmer and Democrat Mark Dayton are still battling for the governor’s mansion in the state’s second recount in as many election cycles. Last time it was between Republican U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman and Democrat Al Franken, who ultimately prevailed after a recount fiasco that lasted for months.

Emmer ran with the support of one of the most prominent anti-gay organizations in the country, the National Organization for Marriage.

Many activists on both sides of the marriage issue believe Minnesota is the next battleground on the issue of same-sex marriage. So the skirmishes began with the 2010 gubernatorial contest, with NOM working for Emmer and HRC and other LGBT organizations directing volunteers for Dayton.

Earlier this year, Target became the focus of a community boycott when it was disclosed that the company contributed $150,000 to a conservative PAC working for the anti-equality Emmer, who once praised as “nice” the members of a Christian rock band who endorsed as “moral” the execution of gays.