With the final tallies from the November 5 election now posted, it can be said with assurance that this Election Day will not be remembered as a bright spot on progressive calendars. There were, however, a few points of light:
§ Indiana Democratic Representative Julia Carson, who faced the toughest attacks of any vulnerable incumbent who voted against authorizing George W. Bush to attack Iraq, easily defeated a Republican challenger whose campaign highlighted his ties to the White House and support for the war.
§ Janet Napolitano, who as a young lawyer helped represent Anita Hill when the law professor charged Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas with sexual harassment, was elected governor of Arizona. One of six woman governors–the most ever–Napolitano won with strong backing from EMILY’s List.
§ Despite last-minute campaigning by Wyoming native Dick Cheney, the overwhelmingly Republican state elected a Democratic governor, Dave Freudenthal, who promised to audit oil and gas companies to assure that taxes due the state are collected.
§ For all the antitax rhetoric of the Bush Administration and its Republican allies, Massachusetts voters rejected a plan to repeal that state’s personal income tax, while Arkansas voters refused to eliminate sales taxes. Arizona voted to raise tobacco taxes.
§ Providence, Rhode Island, attorney David Cicilline was elected mayor with 83 percent of the vote. In a city where the outgoing mayor was indicted, Cicilline campaigned as a reformer, and he wasn’t hurt by the fact that he’s openly gay. In fact, it may have helped. “Openly gay candidates have honesty on their side,” explains the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund’s Jason Young. “If you’re upfront about your orientation, you will be upfront on other issues.”
§ In South Dakota an unprecedented voter-registration drive on the Pine Ridge Oglala Lakota Reservation, where Wounded Knee is located, doubled turnout among Indian voters and provided the margin of victory for Democratic Senator Tim Johnson, who won by 528 votes.
§ New York’s fifty-eight-year-old Liberal Party, once a labor-backed reform force that helped elect Fiorello La Guardia, John Lindsay and Mario Cuomo but more recently a for-rent patronage machine, did not win the required 50,000 votes to maintain its ballot status. Line E on New York State ballots, once occupied by the Liberals, now belongs to the Working Families Party, a labor-backed reform force that hasn’t sold out and that won more than 80,000 votes.
§ USAction’s innovative Transit Vote campaign helped Citizen Action/Illinois register 11,646 new voters in Chicago. Citizen Action also worked with the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition targeting 100,000 households in African-American wards in a successful drive to increase voter participation. High turnout helped Illinois Democrats win the governorship and control of both houses of the legislature for the first time in twenty-eight years.
§ Maine’s John Eder, an activist with the Portland Tenants Union and the Portland Organization to Win Economic Rights (POWER), beat a Democrat 2-to-1 to become the only national Green legislator. He has requested that the Green Caucus–him–be afforded Congressional office space and staff like the Republicans and Democrats.
§ Vermont’s Progressive Party retained three Burlington-area legislative seats and picked up a fourth in Brattleboro. The party’s caucus holds the balance of power in a State House almost evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. Progressive Party candidate for lieutenant governor Anthony Pollina won 25 percent of the statewide vote.
§ Candidates who took advantage of Clean Money public financing won the offices of governor, attorney general, secretary of state, state treasurer and mine inspector in Arizona. Clean Money candidates won a majority of Maine legislative seats as well. Arizona’s Napolitano, the nation’s first Clean Money governor, beat a conservative Republican who condemned public financing.