Other Races to Watch
Ghent, Bill, The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
While they don't attract the attention that the race for the White House does, there are a number of statewide contests that could have a strong bearing on issues of importance to gay and lesbian voters. Here is the breakdown on six such races.
Gov. Howard Dean, a Democrat, was once thought to be a shoo-in for reelection, but his decision earlier this year to sign a law legalizing gay unions has left the popular politician vulnerable. With the right-wing "Take Back Vermont" campaign gaining ground, Dean faces a backlash from state conservatives. His biggest challenge, however, may come from the left. While Dean would be favored to handily win a two-way race against Republican challenger Ruth Dwyer, the presence of Progressive Party candidate Anthony Pollina complicates matters. Vermont law demands that a gubernatorial candidate attain 50% of the popular vote to win election; otherwise, the state legislature decides. Currently, Democrats control both houses, but antigay conservatives are trying hard to change that.
Democrat Charles Robb, who barely won reelection to the U.S. Senate in 1994, has been trailing his Republican challenger, former governor George Allen, in fund-raising and in the polls. Robb has been a consistent and strong proponent of gay rights for years--activists remember him fondly for his eloquent Senate floor speech in 1996 condemning the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act. Allen, for his part, has met with Log Cabin Republicans but has not thrown his support behind any prominent gay rights measures.
How this important Midwestern state goes in the presidential race will not be the only focus for voters. Michigan also features one of the most closely watched U.S. Senate races, where Democratic congresswoman Debbie Stabenow is challenging the incumbent, Republican Spencer Abraham. Abraham, considered a tech head in Congress for his focus on technology issues, has been absent on gay measures, earning a 0 on the Human Rights Campaign's congressional scorecard this year. Stabenow, by contrast, had a 91. Democrats consider the Michigan seat a must-win if they are to have any chance of retaking the majority in the Senate. …