Last night was light years away from the nationwide repudiation that most progressive Americans were counting on.
In San Francisco, numerous reform ballot propositions covering taxation and the allocation of city funds appear set to pass. Nearly everywhere else, though, it was a near-wipeout. At the topmost level, Democrats under Speaker Nancy Pelosi appear likely to retain the House of Representatives, but a number of high-profile Senate candidates failed to gain traction, and no matter who wins the Presidency, that chamber will remain under GOP control.
Still, there were many positive results. For starters, it is undeniably good that America’s cities remained quiet through the night, even as President Trump claimed victory in a speech at 11 p.m. Pacific time that — it should be noted — even conservative commentators like Ben Shapiro and Fox News’ Chris Wallace decried as premature and irresponsible.
It was a night of firsts for several candidates who represent intersecting marginalized communities, particularly LGBTQ+ people of color. Representing a district in the Bronx adjacent to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s, New York City Councilmember Ritchie Torres became the first Afro-Latino LGBTQ member of Congress. Just north of the city in Westchester, Mondaire Jones became the first gay Black man to win a seat in the U.S. House.
At the state level, Tennessee elected its first LGBTQ+ lawmakers, one of whom, Torrey Harris, is also the youngest in the state. (A Black man, he wore a blazer adorned with the names of Black victims of police violence.) While Florida maintained its title as America’s most disappointing state, two queer Black lawmakers — one a first-time contender and the other an incumbent who only recently came out — won.
Transgender candidates performed well. Sarah McBride became Delaware’s first openly trans state senator, while in Vermont, 26-year-old Taylor Small achieved the same distinction. Jill Rose Quinn won a judgeship in Cook County, which includes Chicago, making her the first transgender official in Illinois.
New Jersey became the 12th state to legalize cannabis for adults 21 and over, and Arizona — a rare bright spot for Democrats — followed shortly thereafter. Montana voters passed dual measures intended to permit a right to grow cannabis and establish a legal age for its use. Comic Billy Eichner’s tweet that the City of West Hollywood, Calif., had legalized cocaine was in jest, but Oregon said no by a wide 59-41 margin to a dated, War on Drugs approach by passing Measure 110, which decriminalizes possession of small amounts of heroin, cocaine, LSD, oxycodone and some other drugs.
Florida voted to increase the hourly minimum wage from $8.26 to $10 by next September, then raise it in one-dollar increments until it reaches $15 in 2026, showing that liberal/progressive policies may pass even when far fewer people identify as liberals/progressives.
Virginia passed Amendment 1, which would take redistricting out of the hands of partisan legislators and turn it over to a bipartisan commission. (This was significant, as Democrats had won control over the state legislature over the past two elections, giving them an opportunity to redraw district lines in their favor.)
Mississippi had previously decided to replace its state flag, the last in the nation to include the Confederate battle flag. In last night’s Measure 3, its citizens chose its replacement: a design that includes magnolias, the state flower, as well as the words “In God We Trust.”
Little-noticed amid the election brouhaha was that yesterday was one of the worst days for the increasing COVID pandemic, with approximately 90,000 new cases and almost 1,200 deaths nationwide. But dying of COVID-19 is not necessarily an impediment to winning political office, as North Dakota voters elected David Andahl to the state legislature. He succumbed to coronavirus in October.
Guest columnist Peter Lawrence Kane is, in addition to being a huge politics junkie, the communications manager for San Francisco Pride and a former editor of SF Weekly.