Friday, April 30, 2010

Stakes High in Indiana House Races

Many political Hoosiers are waking up for a new campaign season and looking for what the hot races will be in November. For us politicos that pay attention to things 24/7 it's hard to believe, but it is true that many folks haven't been plugged in or paying attention until now. After the Primary is settled on May 4, you can bet that there will be a heavy local emphasis on the battle for the Indiana House which is held 52-48 by the Democrats. With such a slim margin for error for Democrats, this year is tremendously important for a number of reasons, and people are talking about it.

The Indiana Stonewall Democrats published this blog post on their website, April 26. It's by Indianapolis attorney Christopher Daley. I think that it clearly underlines what is at stake in November for LGBT Hoosiers.

Here is the post. You can read it on the website by following this link.

Do enough LGBT Hoosiers know our rights are at stake this November?

Note: This guest editorial was written by Christopher Daley, an attorney in Indianapolis and a supporter of Indiana Stonewall Democrats.

As you know, the Republican controlled Indiana Senate overwhelming passed a resolution to write discrimination against our community into our Constitution (SJR-13) once again this year. The only thing that stopped the bill's advance was Democratic control of the House. For the 4th year in a row, Democrats killed the bill by preventing it from moving out of committee.

This fall, House seats are up for election. The Democratic majority, and our community's ability to protect ourselves from harmful legislation, is precarious. Currently Democrats hold a 52-48 majority in the House. The loss of even two seats compromises our ability to stop a constitutional amendment from advancing. The loss of three or more seats will guarantee that the Indiana Legislature will pass a resolution to write our families out of our own Constitution.

We can prevent this from happening by spreading the word to our community that we must get involved in local House races to ensure a Democratic House majority for the next two years. Over the coming weeks, ISD will provide recommendations for getting our voices, bodies, and money into this fight. Right now, though, is it important that our members throughout the state are talking to LGBT community members and allies about how important November's election will be to our safety and wellbeing.

Some community members simply won't understand why these local elections are so important. After all, Indiana already denies our families legal recognition, right? Why would a constitutional amendment be any worse? And, I don't want to get married so why do I care?

All of these are common questions we've gotten over the years. What we've found is that folks who are asking these questions just haven't been informed about what a popular vote for a constitutional marriage amendment does to the LGBT people in that state. It is clear that the legislators who are proposing such an amendment, and the hate groups backing them, aren't concerned about Indiana recognizing marriage equality anytime soon. Instead, they are using the proposed amendment as red meat to socially conservative voters and to increase social condemnation of us and our families.

Along the way, they will put our dignity as equal citizens up for popular vote and support their position with the most hateful, dangerous rhetoric imaginable. The recent campaigns in California and Maine offer more than enough evidence of how low the other side will stoop to convince voters that LGBT people and our families are unfit to fully participate in our own communities. After months of anti-gay campaign ads blanketing television and radio, straight voters in California and Maine weren't left to decide the narrow question of marriage equality. Instead, the other side escalated the vote to one of the basic humanity of LGBT people. As we all know, unfortunately, voters in both states were persuaded (by narrow margins) that LGBT people weren't worthy of full recognition as equal citizens.

Beyond the harm of the vote itself, some people have speculated about a rise in hate crimes in states where marriage equality is on the ballot. Whether there is a definable correlation, we do know that these campaigns allow a very large stage for every wacko, some of whom are very message savvy, to sound off on how horrible LGBT people are. Negative stereotypes about our community that had seemed on their way out of popular culture (that we are pedophiles, anti-religious, and recruiters of young people) are given new and vigorous leases on life by these campaigns and may, as a result, be with us for the next generation.

Finally, given the perception of Indiana voters, it is unlikely that we'll be able to count on the national resources that were deployed in California and Maine. If a marriage equality ballot initiative is able to pass the legislature, most people will take it as a foregone conclusion that it will secure enough votes to pass. Therefore, few people outside of the state will see the point in helping us to wage a counter-campaign.

ISD strongly believes that these negative outcomes can be prevented by keeping our allies in leadership roles in the House. To be clear, it is not enough to keep the individual House members who helped to kill this resolution in their seats. These individual legislators were only able to kill it because, as the majority party, they hold power in the House. This is why it is so important to get the word out now about November's elections. Check back for more information on how to get involved. In the meantime, submit your strategies, success stories, and challenges in getting the word out below so that all of our members can benefit from your experiences and ideas.

In addition to LGBT issues, can you imagine an Indiana General Assembly where an immigration bill such as the one just passed in Arizona might become law. A General Assembly emerges where because of no opposition in the House, Senator Mike Delph becomes the head man in charge on statewide immigration reform?

If Democrats don't keep the House, that reality is staring us in the face. What about a lame duck Mitch Daniels with a totally Republican legislature. That's a scary thought, and it's clear that he wants the House back. If you don't believe me, read this from the Indianapolis Star.

Star writer Mary Beth Schneider writes:

Gov. Mitch Daniels isn't on the ballot this year, but he's raising a boatload of cash for fellow Republicans.

His goal: Putting the Indiana House of Representatives back in GOP control.

Daniels' political action committee, Aiming Higher, held a fundraising event Tuesday night in Carmel with about 700 people paying $250 to $10,000 to attend.

Money raised will be added to the more than $728,000 that Aiming Higher had in its war chest as of April 9, the end of the last campaign finance reporting period.

All the money, said Brian McGrath, executive director of Daniels' PAC, will be used to help Republican candidates for the House.

Daniels helped recruit House candidates for the GOP -- including two former members of his administration, Department of Natural Resources Director Kyle Hupfer, Pendleton, and Department of Local Government Finance Commissioner Cheryl Musgrave, Evansville. While Daniels has campaigned for Republicans in the past, this is the first time he'll put hundreds of thousands of dollars from his PAC behind them.

Republicans held the majority in the Indiana House in 2005 and 2006, the first two years of Daniels' administration. That, combined with the solid Republican control of the Senate, gave Daniels the votes he needed for such initiatives as leasing out the Indiana Toll Road and switching the state to daylight saving time.

Since then, though, Democrats have held a narrow majority in the House, giving them the ability to block some of Daniels' agenda or at least force compromises.

The article also mentions re-districting which will become an issue very soon after the results of the 2010 U.S. Census are tabulated. While some ships have already sailed, the House currently draws its own districts. A Democratic map will certainly look different than a Republican one will, and it's good for 10 years!

So, Democrats, it's time to open up those checkbooks or pledge to help a campaign and keep that Indiana House blue!

1 comment:

guy77money said...

Unless Obama can turn around his bad polling numbers around , I think the Democrats in Indiana will have to start genuflecting to Mitch after the election ;) I am 95 percent sure that the house will go Republican. The Democrat's might practic how to bow and kiss Mitch's ring if they want any of their ideas heard. heheheheheee I am kidding.. well I think I am.