The FBI on Sunday afternoon thundered into the political arena for the second time in the final days of the presidential campaign –this time to say that it does not have any new information to suggest Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton should be indicted for anything.
With less than 48 hours to go before final voting on November 8, it is unclear whether this second announcement from FBI Director James Comey will undo the damage of his first announcement. On October 28, Comey sent –and someone released to the public – a letter to Republican leaders in Congress. The letter said that, in working on an unrelated matter, FBI investigators had come across some emails they believe were “pertinent” to an investigation into Clinton’s use of a private server as Secretary of State. Comey said his investigators would be assessing these new emails to determine whether they “may be significant,” but he gave no hint of when that might be. Given that the emails were reportedly in excess of 650,000 in number, there was little expectation that the FBI would say anything further before the election and the news hit the presidential campaign like an earthquake. Within days, polls were showing a significant drop off in support for Clinton and many data crunchers were suddenly suggesting that Republican Donald Trump might have a chance to win the White House.
Trump, whose campaign had been crippled by a videotape of him bragging about his own sexually aggressive behaviors, hailed the release of Comey’s October 28 letter. But on Sunday, he told supporters that rank-and-file agents of the FBI “won’t let her get away with these terrible crimes.”
There is far too little time now to gauge how voters will react to Comey’s latest announcement, but it seems unlikely that it will be able to neutralize the political impact of his first one. An unprecedented number of people took advantage of “early voting” in many states –much of that occurring between October 28 and November 6.
But the whole world will be watching November 8 as the American electorate weighs in on one of the most contentious and dramatic presidential campaigns in modern history. Though Trump has earned the title of the “most pro-gay” Republican presidential nominee in history, he has promised to appoint right-wing justices to the U.S. Supreme Court, undo “all” of President Obama’s executive orders (several of which prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity), and leave to the states whether to protect the rights of LGBT people.
The Human Rights Campaign has estimated the LGBT voting bloc to be more than nine million strong and it endorsed Clinton, as did the Lesbian PAC. The Log Cabin Republicans group chose to withhold making an endorsement for president in this election.
Much of the news Tuesday night will have significant impact on LGBT people and the guide below will help readers know what to watch and when.
What ‘results’ will be available? Actual vote tallies in each state won’t be available Tuesday night. Instead, major media outlets will announce “projections” of who will win based on data they have gathered at exit polls and through telephone interviews with people who have voted early or with mail-in ballots.
What specifically are the milestones? For president, the winner must accumulate at least 270 electoral votes to win. For the Senate, the key question is which party will control. At a minimum, the controlling party must have 50 senators and the White House (with the vice president’s vote breaking any tie). For the current Senate to change party hands, Clinton must win and Democrats must pick up four new seats and not lose any existing seats. If Trump wins, Democrats would need to pick up five new seats. In the governors’ races, political observers will be eager to learn whether North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory will lose his job over his enthusiastic support for the anti-LGBT HB2 law this year.
What’s the best channel to watch? Any of the five major television networks (ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox News, NBC) will have the latest news quickly because they, plus Associated Press, are participating in the exit poll data collection. Three networks have openly gay commentators who improve the chances that discussions of LGBT issues take place during the evening. CNN has two, possibly three: Anderson Cooper, Hilary Rosen, and Don Lemon. MSNBC has Rachel Maddow and possibly Thomas Roberts. And Fox News has Shepard Smith.
When’s the best time to watch? Political junkies who don’t want to miss any part of this historic election will tune in by 7 p.m. EDT, when the first poll result predictions will come. Specifically, this is what will come in and when: (All times listed below are EDT.)
States with polls closing: GA, IN, KY, SC, VA, VT
Electoral votes on the line: 60
Presidential: Polls prior to Comey’s letter were indicating that Clinton would win VA and VT (16 electoral votes), Trump would win IN and SC (28 electoral votes), and GA was a toss-up. If the typically Republican Georgia swings to Clinton, commentators may start predicting an historic landslide for Clinton.
Senate races to watch: IN and KY: Democrats are expected to pick up their first new Senate seat in Indiana, with former Senator Evan Bayh, who had Human Rights Campaign scores between 84 and 90 for his voting record on LGBT issues in Congress. If Clinton wins, Democrats will need to pick up three more new ones to take control of the Senate. And in Kentucky, openly gay candidate Jim Gray is making a tough bid to unseat incumbent Republican Rand Paul.
Governors races: IN and VT: These are very tight races for the open seats in Indiana and Vermont. In Indiana, Democrat John Gregg has promised to issue an executive order prohibiting discrimination against state employees based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Republican Eric Holcomb says he doesn’t plan to focus on the issue. In Vermont, Republican Phil Scott spoke against civil unions when that was under consideration by the legislature in 2000 but, by 2009, he was voting for marriage equality. Democrat Sue Minter was a sponsor of the state’s marriage equality bill, added gender identity to the state’s transportation regulations, and promises to help fight bullying of LGBT youth.
States with polls closing: NC, OH, WV
Electoral votes on the line: 38
Presidential: West Virginia’s five electoral votes will go to Trump, but polls at deadline could not predict who would take Ohio’s 18 and North Carolina’s 15. Some number-crunchers believe Trump must win both to win the White House, but most believe he has to win Ohio.
Senate races to watch: NC, OH: Democrats would really like to pick up the Senate seat in North Carolina with Deborah Ross, but Republican incumbent Richard Burr has hung onto a tiny lead at deadline. And in Ohio, Republican incumbent Rob Portman, endorsed by Log Cabin, holds a sizeable lead at deadline.
Governors races: NC, WV: North Carolina’s Republican Governor Pat McGory has been in political hot water since he helped usher through the state’s HB2 law –restricting use of public restrooms by transgender people and prohibiting local governments from passing laws to prohibit discrimination against LGBT people. The controversial law has cost the state millions of dollars in lost revenue and jobs, as corporations and big sports tournaments have pulled out in protest. At deadline, polls showed him slightly behind Democratic challenger Roy Cooper, the state’s attorney general. Cooper has refused to defend the constitutionality of HB2 and has earned the endorsement of LGBT groups. In West Virginia, Democrat Jim Justice opposed a so-called “religious freedom” law; Republican Bill Cole voted for it.
States with polls closing: CT, DE, DC, FL, ME, MD, MA, NH, NJ, PA, RI, AL, IL, MS, MO, OK, TN
Electoral votes on the line: 172
Presidential: D.C. and 16 states hold the evening’s largest block of electoral votes: 172. All eyes will be on Florida, with 29 electoral votes, and Pennsylvania with 20. Once again, Trump needs both to have any chance of winning the White House. Before the Comey letter, Clinton had a five-point lead in Pennsylvania and less than a one-point lead in Florida. If Clinton does pick up Florida and Pennsylvania, she’ll take the lead, with at least 143 electoral votes and she will have enough electoral votes in the remaining true blue states to run well past the 270 she needs to secure the White House. But if she’s having a bad night, she’ll end the 8 o’clock hour with only 94 votes and will need to pick up either Texas (a long shot) or both Arizona and Nevada in the coming hours.
Senate races to watch: FL, NH, PA, IL, MO: Democrats are poised to pick off a second Republican-held Senate seat in Illinois, with Rep. Tammy Duckworth. Duckworth got the backing of most LGBT groups, though the Human Rights campaign gave its endorsement to incumbent Mark Kirk as the lone Republican willing to endorse the Equality Act. Democrats have a chance of picking up a third new seat in New Hampshire and/or Pennsylvania but polls are too close to call. New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan, a strong supporter of LGBT equality, has been trading the lead with incumbent Kelly Ayotte, whose HRC scorecard has run from 15 to 60 to 80 in the past three sessions. In Pennsylvania, where the race is also very tight, Democrat Katie McGinty has been taking a high-profile pitch for the LGBT vote. Incumbent Pat Toomey’s last HRC score was a 16.
House races to watch: CT, NH, OK, RI: Openly gay candidates are running for U.S. House seats in these states, though incumbent David Cicilline in Rhode Island is the only sure winner. Openly gay challengers are also running in Connecticut (Clay Cope), New Hampshire (Shawn O’Connor), and Oklahoma (Al McAffrey).
Governors races: DE, NH, MO: New Hampshire’s long-time lesbian activist Mo Baxley endorsed Democrat Colin van Ostern early in the race, saying he is a “trusted ally in the fight for equality.” Republican Chris Sununu said he would have “a real problem” with businesses denying services to LGBT people based on the businesses’ religious beliefs, but he said, in a separate interview, that he’d be willing to take a look at a law that enabled that. Polls show a very tight race.
States with polls closing: AR, NY, LA, MI, MN, WI, AZ, CO, KS, NE, NM, SD, TX, WY
Electoral votes on the line: 158
Presidential: This is potentially the Waterloo hour. If Trump has been able to pull Ohio, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania into his column, the race will still be alive at 9 p.m. when results from another 14 states holding 159 electoral votes will become known. His best case scenario would be to win 280, so he can afford to lose 10 electoral votes along the way, but at 9 o’clock, he’ll still need to see Arizona (11 electorals) and Texas (38 electorals) in his column or the race is likely over.
If Clinton has won Pennsylvania, Florida, and Minnesota, she’ll be at 235 and the race is all but over because she can reach the magic number of 270 by simply taking California –and that’s a given. But if Clinton’s having a bad night, she’ll need Texas or Arizona this hour.
Senate races to watch: WI, AZ, CO: Democrats are expecting to keep their Democratic Senate seat from Colorado and pick up a new seat from Wisconsin. If they have already won Indiana, New Hampshire, and Illinois, then Russ Feingold, a strong LGBT equality supporter, makes four and –if Clinton wins the White House— Democrats will take over control of the Senate. If Trump wins, Democrats will still need to pick up one more Senate seat. But no celebration can begin until Democrats secure the existing Democratic seat in Nevada next hour.
House races to watch: AZ, CO, MN, NY, WI: Watch for Minnesota’s 2d Congressional District: Voters are leaning towards openly gay businesswoman Angie Craig, and last week, the Minnesota Star Tribune endorsed her over the “outsized personality” radio talk show host running on the Republican side. Two other openly gay congressional candidates –both in Arizona (Paul Babeu and Matt Heinz) –have tough but possible chances of success. And in Colorado, newcomer Misty Plowright, is making a longshot Democratic bid to unseat a Republican incumbent for Colorado’s 5th district. Four incumbent gay/bisexual Democrats are expected to enjoy easy re-elections: Jared Polis in Colorado, Sean Patrick Maloney in New York, and Mark Pocan in Wisconsin, and Kyrsten Sinema in Arizona.
Governors races: None
States with polls closing: IA, MT, UT, NV
Electoral votes on the line: 21
Presidential: Montana’s three electorals are going to Trump, but the other three states each have six electoral votes and polls prior to the Comey letter showed them each to be a toss-up state. And each could become critical to reaching 270, depending on how the evening has been going so far.
Senate races to watch: IA and NV: If Democrats haven’t won five new seats by now, Nevada is the last chance for a Democratic majority in the Senate. Plus Democrats have to retain this seat –currently held by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid. The Democrat’s nominee, Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto has the endorsement of the Lesbian PAC and the Human Rights Campaign. The Republican Rep. Joe Heck has a zero score on LGBT issues in Congress.
House races to watch: MT and UT: For Montana’s one at-large Congressional seat, lesbian Native American Denise Juneau has the backing of HRC and the Lesbian PAC but the Republican incumbent is expected to win. In Utah, transgender newcomer Democrat Misty Snow is running against incumbent Mike Lee who had a 35-point lead in the polls mid-October.
Governors races: Montana’s Democratic Governor Steve Bullock signed an executive order in January, prohibiting discrimination against LGBT state employees. He’s urged support for programs that help homeless youth to include LGBT kids and he’s presided over a same-sex wedding. His Republican challenger, Greg Gianforte, is opposed to marriage equality and has given more than half a million dollars to the anti-gay group Focus on the Family. Polls show the race leaning toward the Democrat. In Utah, the Democratic challenger Mike Weinholtz is pro-LGBT but far behind the incumbent Republican Gary Herbert, who is opposed to legal protections for LGBT people.
States with polls closing: CA, HI, ID, ND, OR, WA
Electoral votes on the line: 85
Presidential: Most of the electoral votes this hour will go to Clinton (78 of the 85), California being the biggest prize of them all with 55 electoral votes.
Senate races to watch: CA: The California U.S. Senate seat held by Barbara Boxer is not in danger of being taken by a Republican. In fact, only Democrats have survived to run in the general election: State Attorney General Kamala Harris and U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez. Both are strong supporters of equal rights for LGBT people, but Equality California and LPAC have endorsed Harris.
House races to watch: CA: Incumbent openly gay Democrat Mark Takano is expected to win his re-election to California’s 41st Congressional district easily.
Governors races: OR, WA, ND: Openly bisexual Governor Kate Brown is running for re-election in Oregon. She’s a Democrat in a blue state and a safe bet. Washington State’s Democratic Governor Jay Inslee is a safe bet there, too. He supports marriage equality; his Republican opponent does not. And in North Dakota, polls indicate a Republican win, but Republican candidate Doug Burgum bucks the common trend on LGBT issues. He’s said there should be no discrimination based on sexual orientation and that he would work with the legislature to address the problem. On the transgender bathroom issue, he’s said he’s for both religious liberty and tolerance. He’s also in support of marriage equality. Democrat Marvin Nelson has spoken out strongly against anti-LGBT discrimination and for the rights of transgender people to use public restrooms.
Results from Alaska, with three electoral votes, are not expected until after 1 a.m. EDT. All three are expected to go to Trump.