Midterm Elections Cram Session: Autostraddle’s Gay Guide to Voting on November 2

The midterms are coming up. No, not exams, silly! Elections! Which are much more important and much more frustrating than any test.

It’s possible you don’t even understand what Midterm Elections ARE, and if that’s the case, then that’s okay. The U.S. holds general elections two years after the quadrennial (four-year) elections — you know, the one where you vote for Presidents.

Federal offices up for election during the midterms are:

+ Federal offices that are up for election during the midterms are:
+ Members of the United States Congress (all 435 seats in the US House of Representatitives, and the full terms for 33 or 34 of the 100 Senate seats)
+ 34 of the 50 U.S. States elect Governors at midterm elections.
+ Vermont and New Hampshire elect governors to 2-year terms, at the midterms and presedential elections.

Do you remember what a big deal it was when we finally won a majority-Democratic House and Senate? Yes, me too. That is why midterm elections are important. As is becoming increasingly obvious, who we have as president hardly matters when his party has control of Congress.


Imagine what would happen with divided government. It will be virtually impossible for him to accomplish anything, even if he actually tries/wants to. And as clusterfucks like Arizona’s SB-1070 prove, individuals who have been elected to state government can accomplish some pretty awful things all on their own.

We debated writing this post because we thought you were probably all going to vote for the Democratic candidates anyways, but in the end we feel it’s important to impress upon you the importance of voting at all in light of how crazy and horrific some of the other options are. So using the really professional and high-quality journalistic tools of “looking at Politico” we have determined the biggest names and “hottest races” as of the writing of this post, and we will tell you all about them.

Before we really get into this, though, there is a thing we thing you should know, which is that according to mainstream media this is Your Election. If you’ve been feeling angry lately, if you’ve been feeling underserved and overlooked and, to borrow a sentiment from a misguided and backwards sociopolitical movement, that “this isn’t your government anymore,” then you are not alone.

We’re all angry, we’re all mad as hell, and we’re not going to take it anymore. So much so, in fact, that even straight people are taking notice; it’s possible that gays’ dissatisfaction with Democrats will cause us to vote for independent candidates as a block and lose them a significant portion of the vote. Will this force them to acknowledge us, or create an unfortunate Nader wedge effect that gives Republicans an advantage? Maybe both.

From NPR:

Kate Coatar is seriously considering voting for Green Party candidates instead of Democrats, whom she normally supports. James Wyatt won’t cast a ballot at all because he no longer trusts anyone to fight for causes important to him… “It’s all talk and nothing’s happening, and I’m just over it,” said Coatar, 62, a church business manager who said she’s as concerned about health care and homelessness as about gay issues. “I don’t know who to vote for and the election is a week away.” [Volunteers] who’ve been calling the 18,000 or so members of Equality Illinois to urge them to vote have been getting an earful. Many members say they won’t vote or will vote against incumbents, regardless of their party affiliation or stance on gay issues.

What About the Gay Republicans?

At the same time, gay conservative groups like GOProud are attacking liberal Democrat candidates based on their record on gay issues, even openly gay ones like Barney Frank, criticizing them for their inaction. While the unspoken implication that Republican candidates are a better option may seem tenuous, they’re also publicizing those Republican candidates who do support gay causes, like Hawaii’s Charles Djou, who supports a repeal of DADT.

On the whole, though, The Republican political machine has not been particularly friendly towards the gays as election season approaches, potentially as a calculated move to court that voting demographic who believes we are to blame for all of the country’s ills.

One pre-recorded campaign phone message, aimed to attack Michigan Democratic candidate Toni Sessoms, uses the word “homosexual” ten times in a minute and a half. Despite the contention that “public opinion is heading in the opposite direction,” the GOP seems to have emerged from some secret team meeting with the unified strategy of hate speech, gay-baiting and fearmongering w/r/t gay candidates or even Democratic candidates who may theoretically be kind of gay-friendly.

“Larry Gross, a professor at the University Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication, described this election cycle as ridden with ‘a kind of extreme rhetoric that we haven’t seen for some time’ and said other factors are at work than the strategy of conservative politicians simply hoping to rile up the far Right, evangelical, anti-gay vote.”

What are those factors? Apparently this kind of “unhinged excess rhetoric” has proven to play well with the Tea Party, and “anger and discontent” in general are proving to be strong motivations for voters.

So, Republicans are choosing to make us the scapegoats of the election, and Democrats are choosing to… not really be interested in talking about it.

Where does this leave us as far as voting?

Is there a way out of this sense of helplessness and impotent rage, is there anything we can do with our limited political power that will actually bring change?

We don’t have the answers, but we do know that the founding principle of democracy is that individual citizens SHOULD be able to bring about change in their own lives through active participation in government and sometimes force their government to provide that change when it doesn’t volunteer to do so on its own.

With that in mind, we genuinely encourage you to research your choices and educate yourself about the candidates, the platforms, and the options. Knowledge is power, even more so for people who have systematically been denied power.


Vote Gay!

And, uh, hey, you know what’s a thing you can do? VOTE FOR A QUEER CANDIDATE. We’re not arguing that you should necessarily vote for anyone just because they’re gay — if someone’s platform is entirely abhorrent to you, by all means take your vote elsewhere — but we want to let you know about candidates like Cecilia Rosales and Theresa Sparkes, who are lesbian and trans candidates respectively, both running in California. Rosales would be the first Filipina as well as the first openly gay City Council member; Sparkes is, kind of awesomely, former chief executive of Good Vibrations. The best way to get ourselves represented in our government may be to make sure we are literally represented with queer candidates. And lesbian Rebecca Kaplan is running for mayor of Oakland. Check out Victory Fund to find and research candidates who are specifically gay, lesbian or trans; it’s probably  not going to be printed at the top of their campaign mailings. It will be hard to have a gay president without first having gay city council members. Just saying.



Governors to Watch Out For


Carl Paladino, Republican — He’s a douche, no matter which way you slice it. Either he’s a homophobic douche, or he’s a douche who pretends to be a huge homophobe to win the homophobic vote. Which is douchier? Does it matter? No. (Here’s his campaign page if you need to confirm.)

Andrew Cuomo, Democrat — Not Carl Paladino.



Jan Brewer, Republican — “ASSHOLE.” — Laneia

Terry Goddard, Democrat — Not Jan Brewer.


Meg Whitman, Republican — Meg Whitman is like if Prop 8 had sex with its clone and then gave birth to a gubernatorial candidate. I don’t know what else to say about her. She gave a bunch of money to Prop 8, and I think she also hates healthcare. Basically, your being able to see a doctor for less than your entire paycheck and then having a girlfriend to come home to is her worst nightmare. “Make Sure Riese, Alex, Taylor, Kelsey and Miss April Are Broke, Sick And Lonely” is her official campaign platform.


Jerry Brown, Democrat – Not Meg Whitman


The House

We really wanted to go through this carefully and tell you the races to watch and the people to make sure you helped out with your vote, but there are 112 different seats up for re-election, and that’s really overwhelming. I’m not actually even sure who my own House representatives are, so.

Here’s a helpful list of the House races for you via the New York Times. It is conveniently categorized by “Democrat-leaning,” “Republican-leaning,” and “toss-ups.” I’m going to recommend that you look through the “toss-ups” and if one of them happens to be where you live, you get on the fucking phone and start politely suggesting that people vote. If you look through the “Republican-leaning” list and see where you live, I recommend you get in a pickup truck with a megaphone and start educating people. (A hybrid pickup truck. Obvs.)

A word of warning: our sources (i.e. the Internet) say that “while it is unlikely that the Democratic Party will lose control of the House in 2010, historically the party that wins the White House loses seats in the following midterm elections. This, combined with the fact that Democrats currently hold a substantial majority in House, points to a likelihood that the Democrats will lose a large number of seats in the 2010.”

This is a less than optimal scenario if we want to accomplish anything, because the more Democratic seats we lose, the easier it will be to become totally gridlocked on any decision that needs the House’s approval. This could mean that gay stuff gets stalled indefinitely, even the stuff we’ve worked years for.

So, you know, vote! Figure out which candidate in your district sucks less, and vote for them!

The Senate

The Senate is a little more manageable, so we’ve got a few thoughts on some races. Check out this graphic from the New York Times (which continues to win at life) for some info on your local Senate race. The same dangers exist for the Senate races as for the House. The Democrats could lose it, and that would make gay rights progress extremely difficult.

A lot of the races are getting tighter as we reach election day, which means early predictions of Republican gains — about 50 House seats and about 8 Senate seats — are less and less sure. Says the Guardian, “at this stage, the difference between victory and defeat will come down to the “ground game”: the relative efficiency of both parties to identify their bases and get them to the polls.” Consider this Autostraddle’s effort to help them out with the ground game.


Joe Miller, Rep. — Is dumb, hates gay people, Rachel Maddow proved it:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Scott McAdams, Dem.


Ken Buck, Rep. — This guy once compared homosexuality to alcoholism. That’s all. Done.

Michael Bennett, Dem. — We’re pretty sure he doesn’t think homosexuality is a disease.


Alexi Giannoulias, Dem., vs. Mark Kirk, Rep. — Politico has called this race Illinois politics at its finest/dirtiest. The two candidates are both questionable, and it has turned into a mutual attack-fest between Kirk, a moderate incumbent, and his challenger.

Kirk, Giannoulias’s argument goes, can’t be trusted — either on the details of his past or his allegiance to moderate policy views. Kirk makes a parallel case that Giannoulias’s personal “immaturity” and his loans to “felons and mobsters” will translate into a tax-and-spend senator.

Seems like there isn’t actually a good choice in this race. Maybe one of you should run as a write-in.


Rand Paul, Rep. — Rand Paul is a Tea Partier who believes parts of the Civil Rights Act are unconstitutional and that Obama’s stance on BP and the oil spill was un-American. His supporters are the ones who stepped on that woman in the YouTube video that’s been making the rounds. And then one of the guys asked the woman to apologize for protesting. After he kicked her in the head. You know, ’cause that makes sense. Do you want to be a Rand Paul supporter, too? Yeah I didn’t think so.

Jack Conway, Dem. — He’s Kentucky’s attorney general right now, and he’s proving a bit tougher to dispatch than Paul expected. He is trying to fight the idea that now is the time for a complete scale-back of the federal government.


Harry Reid, Dem. — You probably know who he is already, but in case you don’t, he’s the current Senate majority leader. He’s the one who has been leading the DADT charge in the Senate, and also led the movement for healthcare reform. GetEqual has taken issue with him at some points, even protesting in Las Vegas to get his attention. Dan Choi has recently taken to calling him a pussy. I dunno.

Sharron Angle, Rep. — In a recent debate between her and Reid, she said:

The policies within the military, especially this one are under review right now. And we should be waiting for the review of our military to make those decisions, not jumping ahead and making those decisions as Senator Reid tried to do when he put a provision of that provision in the defense bill. We and here in Nevada have been very careful to define marriage as between a man and a woman through two general elections. Over 70% of the population has voted to define marriage as between a man and a woman. I support what Nevada has done and I will represent our constituents on that basis.


Pat Toomey, Rep. — Initially, this race looked like the opposite of the Illinois race: a contest based mostly on individual beliefs of two qualified candidates. But Toomey is a hard core Tea Partier, somewhat in disguise. According to Queersighted, Toomey was the president of an organization called The Club for Growth, which has been accused of firing employees purely for being gay. Toomey “universally opposes gay marriage, civil unions, domestic partnerships, ENDA and gay adoption, [and] has supported candidates for office who have called homosexuals ‘sickly’ and ‘decripid.'” He also has some pretty conservative views on the deficit and on social programs.

Joe Sestak, Dem. — Sestak has an entire page on his website devoted to LGBT issues. He served in the armed forces and supports repealing DADT, as well as DOMA. He was an original co-sponsor of ENDA. He’s a dream candidate at this point.
Does that help at all? We hope so. Even if we can’t inform you on all the issues we’d like — this stuff is complicated, and local issues are often just as important as national ones but unfortunately we can’t cover everything happening in every district — we hope we’ve at least encouraged you to get informed on your own, to research your own options and at the very least to VOTE VOTE VOTE. It may not bring the change we need. But it can’t hurt, and not voting definitely can. Look how upset Olivia Wilde gets when you don’t.

If none of this has gotten through to you, feel free to look at videos or something instead, like these Thirteen Craziest Midterm Election moments. Still though, vote. For real. You can pretend it’s American Idol or something. Is Adam Lambert running for anything. Why not.

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Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

Rachel has written 1142 articles for us.


  1. while I would be wary of electing Adam Lambert to public office (simply because he hates politics), his brother, Neil, is INCREDIBLY politically savvy and liberal and gay-friendly and totally deserves my vote.

    Too bad Lady Gaga isn’t running.

    • One of my favorite tweets of the election season came from @pourmecoffee: “Not trying to tell Alaskans what to do, but it’s just as easy to write-in “Lady Gaga” as it is “Lisa Murkowski.” Easier.”

  2. i mailed my absentee ballot last week! although i’m from one of those lovely (and gigantic, wtf) blocks of red on the NYT map.

    anyway, voting is important! rachel and sarah said so!

  3. i appreciate my right to vote, but it’s usually like “would you like this douche or this douche?”. I hate it SOO MUCH .

    • I will probably be quoting you in real life soon. “Which douche did you vote for? What? That guy is even more douche-y than my douche.”

    • “And I wonder who’s going to be President, Tweedle Dumb or Tweedle Dumber.” Just to tie everything back together (since Ani covers it all).

  4. Our republican candidate for governor (in Michigan) has been completely silent on issues like marriage equality and other social issues, and it’s driving me crazy! Like, the economy sucks, yeah, but if I have a job but still can’t get married or whatever, life still isn’t that great.

  5. Your policital system is complicated indeed, but thank you so very much for explaining it, Rachel & Sarah. I’ve never really took the time to understand it, but because of your posts I finally get it, bit by bit :)
    I live in The Netherlands and our system isn’t perfect either, but we have equal rights and same-sex marriage has been legal here for 10 years. I can’t imagine how it’s like to live in a country with a lot of conservatives or creepy hypocrites like Clint McCance, but keep on fighting for your rights. VOTE, and yes, get that megaphone and educate your family, friends and as many people as you can! Good luck to all of you!

    • Yeah! I’m living in the Netherlands right now and I just sent my ballot off to America. It makes me sad that here ( regardless of the fact that there’s no official government coalition yet) equality is pretty much a given.

      Though someone did pour beer down my shoe and then take a picture on their phone while I was dancing with a girl at a club last night, go figure…

      • Even in a pretty liberal country, there’s homophobia and it’s an illusion to think it will ever stop completely. It’s horrible and so sad that gay couples who used to walk hand in hand, especially in Amsterdam, are afraid now to do so, because of the increasing gay bashing there the last couple of years. So, don’t accept what the asshole did to you last night. Ask your friends if they can help you, or do something about it. I don’t know if you speak Dutch but even if you don’t, you can report it. Call 0900-2354354 or report it online on their website http://www.discriminatie.nl.
        People can take photos whenever they like but maybe it’s good to know that, based on our portrait rights, you can raise objections here to your portrait being made public, especially if they use it against you. Oh, and hopefully you’ve been too busy dancing with cute girls, because since last week we have an official government. :) I’m not proud of it, but hey…

  6. If you live in Maryland – vote for O’Malley. Seriously.

    Also in Maryland – whatever you do DO NOT VOTE FOR ANDY HARRIS for House if you live in District 1. NO, NO, NO. I’m not familiar with his views particularly on gays, but given his lunatic views on sex in general, he’s probably not a supporter. Vote for Kratovil!

  7. I will wager that a greater proportion of the Australian population bet on the Melbourne cup horse race than go to the polls in the US.

    You guys seriously need a public holiday for voting (here voting is compulsory, always on a weekend and employers are obliged to give their employees a break to go to the polls)

      • I don’t think there is an organisation, because it is illegal to exhort people not to vote or to spoil their ballot papers, but I am sure there are pockets of opposition. Most of the educated people I have spoken to about it think it’s a great idea.

        It was an initiative of a labour government in the 1930s but since it failed to significantly change the vote their opponents never repealed it. I study law and political science and most Australian academic opinion seems to think it is a great idea which enhances our democratic system.

        • It is illegal to exhort people not to vote? Wow! Is that enforced? I’m guessing people don’t do it that often because of what you have described, but do you know any examples of people who were arrested because they exhorted others not to vote?

          Wait, by “exhort,” do you mean mislead people into not voting, or do you mean suggest that there are other courses of action besides voting/say that voting is flawed and that people should do something else/etc.?

          • By exhort I mean actively campaign to get people to spoil their ballot (by incorrectly filling it out), or to not come to the polling station. The law is directed against principled opposition.

            There is a fine handed out if you are enrolled but do not vote. The law forbidding exhorting people not to vote was definitely enforced at one point (it went to the high court) but I haven’t heard of it being needed recently.

            By the way, 70 percent of the australian population had a bet on the Melbourne cup today, how well did you do?

  8. It makes me sad when people don’t vote because most of the candidates suck. I hate it as much as I hate that most of the candidates suck. Because even if you don’t want one of those people leading you, the bottom line is that ONE OF THEM WILL. Write someone in, vote for a third party candidate, stage a coup (okay maybe not whatevs), but don’t sit back and let other people take over. If you really want a third party or write-in candidate, then campaign for them. You know what’s kind of like a third party? THE TEA PARTY. And they’re doing pretty damn well for themselves. So do that, but in a good way. Voting for someone you’ve campaigned for is super satisfying, kind of like sex or organic farming. Knowing you contributed to their election is even better, like, I don’t know, going to space or something. So please vote. Please exercise your right to vote. My county emailed me my absentee ballot because I didn’t know if it would reach me overseas. Some countries don’t even have absentee voting systems. But we do. So for all of America’s painfulness and terribleness and everything, it’s got some stuff going for it, and it’s up to us to help change the rest.

  9. Here in Florida, the choices for senate are Marco Rubio (Tea-partier, douche, currently in the lead) Charlie Crist (Independent, less douchey than Rubio) and Kendrick Meek (Dem.). It’s sort of a tough choice between Charlie Crist (Independent) and Kendrick Meek (Dem). Though Kendrick Meek is pro-choice and supports gay rights he is polling so low, it seems he has no chance against Rubio, the main competitor. Crist, the current governor of Fl., supported the ruling that made gay adoption legal in Florida and has (very) recently shown support similar legislation (ENDA, civil unions, repeal of DADT)
    In any other election I would be voting for Meek, but due to his dismal poll numbers, I feel Crist is just a smarter choice. Ultimately I’m for anyone that’s NOT Marco Rubio.

  10. I mailed in my ballot about two weeks ago. I had it filled out and ready to be mailed in about fifteen minutes after I got it.

    If you’re in Oregon, vote for Kitzhaber for governor. And it’s too late to mail them in, so you have to take your ballot to a drop box.

  11. If it’s any indication of how the Illinois Senate race will turn out, there were a lot of people booing Alexi Giannoulias at the Moving America Forward Rally at Hyde Park on Saturday.

    • I’m voting Green for the IL Senate race. I get the whole “Nader effect” argument but Kirk is actually one of the few somewhat-sane Republicans out there — pro-choice, pro-environmental regulations, pro-gun restrictions. His LGBT stances are less than ideal, for sure, but I can’t bring myself to vote for another Chicago crook and Giannoulias looks like another Blagoevich waiting to happen…

  12. Yeah, I’m pretty sure Jan Brewer is the devil…
    Bit of advice for AZ voters. We’ve got this little thing called “The Clean Elections” which, provides a booklet with statements from the candidates to, I believe, all residential addresses. [thick paper booklet with AZ flag sun rays on a desert back drop, prob sitting on you kitchen table or counter] The great thing about this is; some of the candidates will use the “I voted against/for” method, making it easier to use the process of elimination. For example, if they voted for SB 1070 {basically Hitler Nazism with Mexicans…ok, no gas chambers yet but, at the very least, the anti-immigration reform] you can prob deduce that they’re not all that into gay rights…imho.

  13. I have a giant political crush on Joe Sestak & I really hope he wins. I already know some of my friends are voting for Toomey =/ Nov. 2nd is going to be quite the interesting day.

  14. If you want to see more awesome DIY progressive voter guides, check out theballot.org before hitting the polls tomorrow!

    • Have you ever read the U. S. Constitution? If you haven’t, you’re in for a ride. It is really interesting.

      • See, this is the wrong response. I was looking for people to quote Ani DiFranco lyrics at me ’cause it’s Ani Day. I’ll do it:

        come one-come all voters
        lets all vote next time
        show ’em which side are you on now
        which side are you on

        (her adapted lyrics of “Which Side Are You On?”)


          and now i’ve drawn closed the curtains
          in this little booth
          where the truth has no place to stand
          and i am feeling oh so powerless
          in this stupid booth
          with this useless little lever in my hand

  15. It’s a sad night in Illinois. And apparently the entire country.

    Everyone ready to say goodbye to DADT and Prop 8 repeal?

  16. Great post. I could’ve done without scarring my eyes by laying them on that ghastly photo of Meg Whitman and her sexy ass belt across her bellybutton…

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