There was a time not so long ago (say, last year) that some Democratic party consultants and “leaders” still clung to the belief that gay issues were too toxic for the Democratic party to touch in The Old North State.
While this myth has been crumbling for years, the 2008 elections finally swept away any remaining shred of this falsehood.
At the statewide level, the NC GOP, in league with incumbent GOP Senator Elizabeth Dole attempted to smear Democrat Kay Hagan specifically using the topic of gay marriage. As reported in several outlets including (http://pageoneq.com/news/2008/haganmailer1023.html), an anti-Hagan direct mail piece went out with a picture two groom figures and a quote from the executive director of NC’s LGBT advocacy group. However, even in the supposedly less gay-friendly eastern third of the state, Hagan soundly beat Dole and Hagan colored more counties blue than any other part of the state.
More importantly for NC Democrats and their legislative leadership, no state legislator lost their seat due to their support of LGBT issues. This is particularly notable as Democratic legislators have often used the “I can’t vote for this in my district argument” when it comes to LGBT issues.
The truth is that only two incumbent Democratic members of the NC House lost their seats in the 2008 general election, neither because of gay issues. One of those members (former Rep. Walter Church) was actually a co-sponsor of the anti-gay marriage amendment. Obviously this anti-gay pandering didn’t save former Rep. Church even in his presumably necessarily anti-gay district.
The case with former Rep. Church also highlights a key fallacy that conservative Democrats and some party consultants always fall for. They delude themselves to believe (or make the excuse) that if they are just allowed to demonstrate some ultra-conservative bona fides, their Republican opposition will truly vote for them.
Do they really think that the NC Family Policy Council folks or similar anti-gay zealots are voting for Democrats even if the Democrat caves on gay issues? That conclusion is simply delusional.
Also most of you know that openly lesbian Senator Julia Boseman won reelection to a third term in a very tough race, but her race wasn’t even the closest margin of the NC state Senate races in 2008.
Additionally, just as Kay Hagan weathered an anti-gay attack this year, another perennial target of anti-gay smears in his less than urban district, Senator Doug Berger, whipped his opponent by a 2-1 margin.
I’m sure some of you have done so already, but take a look at the 2008 general election statewide color-coded maps from on the State Board of Elections website (http://www.sboe.state.nc.us). The 14-17 counties that hold more than half of the state’s population are almost always colored blue in every statewide race. The “gay party” label didn’t hurt Democrats in 2008.
As time passes, LGBT issues will be even less controversial when the 2010 election rolls around. The only question is if Democratic leaders recognize the bluff of false scare tactics from voters who aren’t voting Democratic anyway. The 2008 NC elections proved that the anti-LGBT equality forces are folks Democrats can win without.