With the 2014 elections fast approaching, three races are going to be monitored closely not only for the opportunity for Republicans to snatch three House seats away from the Democrats, but because GOP victories in these districts would make history. In New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional district, Republican Dan Innis seeks to unseat 1st term Democratic Rep. Carol Shea Porter. In California’s 52nd Congressional district, former San Diego City Councilman and mayoral candidate Carl DeMaio is raising money faster than a bookie at the Kentucky Derby. Finally, in the Massachusetts 6th, Richard Tisei is going to flat out destroy 9-term Democratic Rep. John Tierney.
Here’s the kicker- all three of these powerful Republican challengers are openly gay. And they would be the first openly gay Republicans to ever win an election.
It’s important to point out that these three candidates are not the first gay elected Republicans. But other gay Republicans never revealed their secret until they were in office. And in some cases, entirely against their will. In 1994, former Wisconsin Rep. Steve Gunderson was debating the use of federal funds for programs in the gay community, when Bob Dornan (R-CA) seized the moment to score a horribly cheap political trick and revealed on the floor of Congress Gunderson’s homosexuality. Because let’s eat our own. Classy.
Here’s a brief look at the candidates and why they are so well positioned in their respective congressional races.
Dan Innis (NH-01) of New Hampshire will be coming into this race guns blazing, with experience as a small business owner and academic. Mr. Innis is the former dean of the Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics at the University of New Hampshire and is bringing great ideas regarding tax and budgetary reform. “The Innis Agenda” outlines positions Mr. Innis would take in Congress to return the United States to the realm of fiscal responsibility. Here are some key points:
– Placement of budget caps on government spending. The idea being that since Congress is unable to control its spending, binding budget caps would force the federal government to spend more responsibly.
–End all mandatory spending increases to the budget. This is common-sense, but Congress can’t seem to get it’s act together.
–Implementation of a biennial budget. This is perhaps one of the more interesting initiatives Mr. Innis is campaigning on. New Hampshire requires a budget that lasts two years. Think about it. A budget that lasts two years. If implemented on a national level, there are fewer budget fights in Congress, a lower possibility of shutdowns, and the country knows what it will have for regarding spending for two ENTIRE years. That gives Congress more time to focus on other pressing matters. Or, and this is a novel idea, how about Congress spends less time crafting 1,500 page bills full of choking regulations, and gee, I don’t know, spend more time in their respective districts? You know, listening to constituents?
–Innis is a supporter of fairer, flatter taxes.
“The bottom line is the tax code has to be simpler, it has to be something people understand.”
Dan Innis has great ideas, particularly the concept of a biennial budget requirement. However, he must pass a GOP primary against former Rep. Frank Guinta, who was unseated by Carol Shea Porter in 2012. Guinta has more name recognition in New Hampshire, and is the favorite to take down the primary.
Carl DeMaio is a former San Diego city councilman, and ran against Bob Filner for Mayor of San Diego. DeMaio lost the mayoral race by about 5% of the vote, but at least he didn’t sexually assault anyone like Filner did. After Mayor Filner resigned amid sexual misconduct allegations, DeMaio flirted with another mayoral run in the San Diego special election, but opted for a stab at the United States Congress.
DeMaio argues that he will approach all matters with a cost-benefit analysis, and that the only way to fix the budget problem is by “looking at every single program on its individual basis to look at ways to reduce waste and improve performance.”
His experience on the San Diego City Council is the basis for his credentials on fiscal responsibility and low taxes- “Just like I tackled the San Diego budget, just like when people thought we couldn’t balance it without a massive tax increase or service cuts, we produced a plan that actually did that, and we got a lot of those reforms done,” DeMaio says.
What sets Carl DeMaio apart is his appeal to independent voters. After redistricting in 2010, California’s 52nd congressional district is comprised of about 1/3 equally Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. So it’s about as balanced demographically as it can get, giving one who appeals better to independents a distinct advantage.
Fundraising is going much better for Carl DeMaio than his opponent, 1st term Rep. Scott Peters. As of January, DeMaio already has $1.2 million in the bank, with funds continuing to flow in.
One of the advantages Carl DeMaio has is that he is type of Republican with potential to appeal to younger voters and moderates, without fully isolating more conservative voters.
“I see myself as a ‘new generation Republican’ who wants to challenge the party to focus on pocket-book, economic and quality of life issues in a more positive and inclusive way, rather than issues that are frankly none of the government’s business in the first place,” he said.
To put in perspective how tight this race is going to be, remember this- Rep. John Tierney has held this seat since 1996. No one has come close to beating him since he was elected. That is, until Richard Tisei challenged him in 2012 and lost by 1%. He’s back for more in 2014, and this race is likely going to be one of the biggest upsets of the year.
Richard Tisei is no stranger to Massachusetts politics. In 1984, and at the young age of 21, he was elected as a state representative, and moved to the state senate in 1990, eventually becoming the Senate minority leader. He is well liked and respected by colleagues across party lines.
But this race is going to get nasty. According to Tisei, in reference to Tierney’s tactics in 2012, “He ran a very negative campaign last time, he doesn’t have a record of accomplishment, and the votes he’s taken are hard to defend.” Tisei goes on in an interview with the Boston Herald to say, “John Tierney has one of the worst positions in Massachusetts when it comes to job creation. It doesn’t surprise me that he’s one of the few members of Congress supporting job-killing taxes for the financial services industry.”
Based on the information at hand, a race between Tisei and Tierney will result in the defeat of Tierney and another Republican in the House. When you have two primary challengers in your own party for your seat, you’re in deep trouble. One of Tierney’s challengers, Seth Moulton, has even brought aboard former Howard Dean advisor Joe Trippi to help with the primary challenge. That certainly doesn’t bode well for you when a Democratic heavy hitter like Trippi shows up in your challenger’s camp. And when you don’t have Barack Obama and a popular figure like Senator Elizabeth Warren on the ticket with you as in 2012, you’re forced to lean more heavily on your own record. Unfortunately for Rep. John Tierney, there’s practically nothing for him to lean on. You need accomplishments to do that.
So let’s make history. It’s high time to broaden the base of the Republican party to include those in the gay community. Actually electing gay Republicans to prominent positions will make major inroads to achieving this goal. This is not a call for the Republican party to embrace gay marriage. It’s not necessarily time for such a shift yet, but that day for that discussion may be peaking on the horizon. This is a call to fall in behind three highly qualified candidates for races that Republicans can surely win. Let’s make it happen.
Follow Daniel Tisdel on Twitter @Dailytiz