News (USA)

Election preview: Top 10 races to watch for LGBT candidates

Clay Aiken
Clay Aiken
6. North Carolina

Openly gay American Idol star Clay Aiken, a Democrat, is struggling to replace incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers, who represents the 2nd Congressional District in North Carolina, and earned a zero rating from HRC for two terms.

Aiken has done well in fundraising from individuals, while Ellmers has relied on party funding, but polls still show Ellmers with a sizeable lead. He is running in a district populated with many socially conservative, evangelical Christians. During the primary race, he said that he was never asked about his sexual orientation except by reporters.

Steve Kerrigan
Steve Kerrigan
7. Massachusetts

Steve Kerrigan, a former aide to the late U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy is hoping to become the nation’s first openly gay person elected as a state lieutenant governor.

Kerrigan has paid his dues through much work in both the public sector and the Democratic Party. He’s currently president of the Massachusetts Military Heroes Fund, a group that serves the families of servicemembers who have died in action.

But his fate and his campaign signs are tied closely to that of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Martha Coakley who is struggling to overcome a highly-funded Republican bid for the so-called “corner office.”

Sean Eldridge
Sean Eldridge
8. New York

Sean Eldridge is making an uphill climb to become a member of the LGBT Congressional Caucus representing New York’s Hudson Valley district (No. 19). His opponent is two-term Republican Chris Gibson.

Eldridge, the spouse of Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, has been criticized repeatedly for using the couple’s personal wealth to fund his campaign, while little mention is made that Gibson’s campaign depends primarily on finance, insurance, and investment entities.

Eldridge is, of course, pro-gay marriage; Gibson supports only civil unions, claiming that marriage is a religious institution. He earned a 76 rating from HRC in the last Congressional session and a zero in his first term.

The Eldridge camp released a poll last week showing that he had closed a 28-point lead by Gibson in September to 10 points as of October 19.

Sheila Kuehl
Sheila Kuehl
9. California

Former State Senator Sheila Kuehl is in a tight race against Bobby Shriver, a nephew of the late President Kennedy, for the District 3 seat on the powerful Los Angeles County Board. Despite her long history with the LGBT community, Kuehl is struggling to keep up with Shriver, who has raised twice the cash she has and won the backing of gay media mogul David Geffen.

But she did win the most votes in the June primary. And if elected to the seat, she would become the first openly gay person to serve on the Board.

Kuehl is probably best known for her portrayal of teenaged genius Zelda Gilroy, the wannabe girlfriend of the title character in the television series “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis,” which aired on CBS from 1959 to 1963.

David Catania
David Catania
10. Washington, D.C.

Popular openly gay D.C. Councilman David Catania is mounting a strong campaign to become the capitol city’s first openly gay mayor.

Catania has been haunted somewhat by the fact that he was a Republican in the heavily Democratic city. But he switched to independent 10 years ago after a long-standing dispute with the Republicans over their anti-gay policies.

Catania has earned a good reputation in his 17 years on the Council, but his effort may be hurt by the independent campaign of another former Republican Councilmember Carol Schwartz. And both Catania and Schwartz are up against the African American Democrat Muriel Bowser, who won the endorsement of the local gay Democratic club.

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