Out and Running: Gay and Lesbian Candidates, Elections, and Policy Representation

By Donald P. Haider-Markel | Go to book overview

CHAPTER THREE
Assessing the Role of Sexual
Orientation in Elections: LGBT State
Legislative Candidates, 1992–2006

ON THE BASIS OF THE DISCUSSION and analysis presented in chapter 2, we can now move to a systematic analysis of how a candidate's sexual orientation influences state legislative election outcomes. Although much of the (especially early) research on female and minority candidates would suggest that LGBT candidates are likely to receive less support than their heterosexual counterparts, the conclusions in chapter 2 indicate that if LGBT candidates are strategic, their sexual orientation is not likely to significantly hinder their election opportunities. Ideally, an analysis of election outcomes would examine both primary and general elections simply because in many state legislative districts the most competitive election is the primary election. My analysis is limited to general state legislative elections from 1992 to 2006 across ten states. However, the interviews with candidates analyzed in chapter 2 suggest that for most candidates, the role of sexual orientation is similar in both primary and general elections.


Theory and Previous Research

I begin with the simple notion that a candidate's characteristics influence the level of voter support. These characteristics can include major factors, such as incumbency and party but might also include issue positions, gender, attractiveness, charisma, and sexual orientation. Simply put, voters are likely to take many factors into account when deciding which candidate to support, but in many contests, a candidate's party and incumbency are likely to be the main factors. In addition, the structural elements of a given race and district are likely to shape the outcome, including a candidate's spending and the district's socioeconomic characteristics (Hogan 2001, 2007).

Furthermore, because Lax and Phillips (2009) establish that attitudes about LGBT equality vary across states, we might also expect opposition to or support for

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