Election 2014

San Diego Very Close to Electing First Openly Gay (and Libertarian) Republican Congressman


Carl DeMaio
Carl DeMaio

This morning less than 800 votes separate Republican Carl DeMaio from incumbent Democrat Scott Peters in San Diego. With late mail and provisional ballots uncounted, this means it's too soon yet for DeMaio to grab a surfboard and join to Republican wave.

If the numbers hold up, Carl DeMaio will become the first openly gay man elected to Congress as a Republican (retired Jim Kolbe of Arizona is the actual first gay Republican congressman, but he came out while in office). DeMaio is also a libertarian pension reformer (full disclosure: DeMaio is an independent contractor for the Reason Foundation research division's pension reform project). I profiled DeMaio back in July, and he's featured in my preview of the midterms in the December issue of Reason on stands now.

According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, there could be as many as 50,000 provisional and late mail-in ballots to count, so this may take a while. We won't see another tally until Thursday.

The race also turned nasty and personal toward the end. DeMaio ended up mired in scandals. A former campaign worker accused DeMaio of sexual harassment. DeMaio's camp, though, said the man was retaliating because he was fired for his alleged role in plagiarizing some content for the campaign's website. DeMaio also accused him of responsibility for a break-in at their campaign office earlier in the year, but the city's district attorney determined there wasn't enough evidence to file charges. Then another former staffer came forward just days before the election with similar sexual harassment accusations. DeMaio's camp has again denied the claims.

Polls had barely put DeMaio ahead back in October so the closeness of the race should not come as a surprise, and it's not clear whether the late scandal affected the vote in any way. DeMaio dismissed the scandals again last night. From the Union-Tribune:

"I've also, particularly in the past several weeks, received such amazing support and love from San Diegans who reject the politics of personal destruction. They don't want smears, they want solutions."

Unfortunately, should he win, DeMaio will not be joined by Richard Tisei of Massachusetts in the House of Representatives. Tisei, also an openly gay, libertarian-leaning Republican, lost to Democrat newcomer Seth Moulton. Moulton was one of the few challengers to toss out an incumbent in the primaries, as voters handed scandal-tainted John Tierney his walking papers. Moulton ended up trouncing Tisei 54 percent to 41 percent, despite late polls showing Tisei ahead. Looks like earlier polls in September proved more accurate. He conceded last night, saying he has "no regrets."

NEXT: Obama and Dems Rebuked by Electorate on Climate and Energy Policy

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  1. Well, well, well. You stay classy, San Diego.

    1. You stay classy fabulous, San Diego.

      Had to.

  2. Woo! Is this the beginning of the end for gay rights as a partisan issue?

    1. Every single Republican congressman could be an out gay, and it still wouldn’t. There’d just be a lot of sexual-preference traitors.

      1. In terms of progressive rhetoric, sure. They’re going to ride this one as long as they can, the same way that they’ve tried to make gender equality an anti-feminist position. But at a certain point, those of us who are sick of the culture war won’t play, and we’ll have a perfectly reasonable alternative.

        1. Socon rhetoric plays a part there too. I’d be surprised if the GOP candidate in 16 doesn’t take an anti-SSM stand.

          1. You won’t let it stop you from painting the socons as just about to triumph in a realization of A Handmaid’s Tale.

            But, you’ll be surprised.

          2. I’d be surprised if the GOP candidate in ’16 doesn’t take a “let the states decide” stand. On both SSM and pot, for that matter.

        2. Sadly, it goes beyond rhetoric. The thing about a culture war, like any other war, is that it really doesn’t matter if one side doesn’t want to play.

          Republicans are okay with gay marriage?
          Oh, but the bastards aren’t comfortable with public accommodation laws!

          Republicans are okay with public accommodation laws?
          Oh, but the bastards are still okay with religious exemptions!

          You get the picture.

          1. Jesus fags, it’s been like 10 years since we singled you out to rally the base in a presidential campaign. Get over it.


            1. What does that have to do with my point?

              Are you suggesting public accommodation laws are okay because Republicans acted like assholes?

              Are you suggesting it’s okay to force people to act against their convictions because Republicans’ hands aren’t clean?

              1. The consccientious resistance to public accomodation laws would be more credible if it weren’t happening right after a decade of opposition to any form of gay rights.

                I want the GOP to have credibility on gay rights, but right now, it’s not there. I hate being on the front lines in the culture war and told “the Repubs are out for your throat, so you’d better get them first.”

                1. And my stance is simple. If you’re willing to “get them first” by having the government bully them into accommodating you, then you’re now the bad guy here. I’m sorry to have to break this to you that, once you’re okay with the government telling some fundie “you’ll officiate this marriage you consider to be a sin, or we’re going to blow your brains all over that back wall”, you’ve just forfeited any sympathy I may or may not have had for you on the issue of gay marriage.

                  1. And before you accuse me, I clearly understand that this doesn’t apply to any particular gay person or couple. The point is directed at, specifically, supporters of public accommodation laws.

                    1. Opting out of the conflict is not an option. There is no major political group that wants LGBT negative civil rights and nothing else. It’s only a question of whether we get screwed or the straights do.

                      If the Dems and the GOP weren’t unified in there agreement that someone has to lose, or if the LP were viable as a political force, we’d be having a different conversation.

                  2. Nothing you’ve ever said leads me to believe you’ve ever had any sympathy on this issue. So while I’m sorry that I’ve lost your rhetorical sympathy over gays being unwilling to party with Republicans after a decade of directed dickishness, I really don’t care.

                    Also “get them first” implies that gays aren’t climbing out of a decade-long hole of Republicans ginning up voter turnout by telling Republicans that gays are coming to eat their children. And there’d been such a nice lull on that front since they’d done the same thing in the ’70s.

                    Back when I was more conservative than libertarian I constantly pushed the idea that conservatives should get ahead of the issue by disengaging issues like marriage from state control and they universally felt like it was a winnable fight and they’d be able to define marriage by state power the way they see fit.

                    I believe this is what Hosea was referring to when he said “Sow the wind and reap the whirlwind” no?

                    1. Personally, I don’t give a damn whether gays support Republicans or not.

                      I do care that the topic of conversation has moved from gay people not having their rights violated to gay people violating other people’s rights.

                      And if that’s something you’re okay with, all I can say is fuck off, slaver!

                    2. I do care that the topic of conversation has moved from gay people not having their rights violated to gay people violating other people’s rights.

                      I would prefer that we have a third option, but neither the progressives nor the socons see any political benefit in providing one.

                    3. Well, you can refuse to ally with socons or proggies. You can say you have rights, and so do people you don’t agree with. You can say that the people out to “get them before they get us” are just as big douches as the worst fundies. Is any of these things really so hard?

                    4. And if that’s something you’re okay with, all I can say is fuck off, slaver!

                      That’s cute, Bill. I’m in no way “pro” public accommodation law, and have said so every time it’s come up since I’ve been a commenter here. My dislike for public accommodation has a much better record than your “sympathy”.

                      I do enjoy schadenfreude though, and watching SoCons act like they’re victims after they bear-baited gays for my entire adult life because Rove promised them a permanent majority, provides a lot of schadenfreude for me to enjoy, even if I’m unhappy with the political reality it represents.

                    5. No, jesse, the socons aren’t “acting like they’re victims”. They are victims. If you don’t think someone forced by the law to act against their conscience is the victim of the law, what exactly is your problem with it?

                      I get it. Yes, in principle, you’re opposed to public accommodation laws. But, you don’t find these guys very sympathetic. So, fuck them.

                    6. They are victims.

                      Of their own making. I don’t like the way activists behave, but I’m in no way surprised by it.

                      I really do wish that gay rights activists were better winners, but then again maybe if the SoCons had been better winners when they were at their zenith it wouldn’t have ever been an issue. I find your ability to minimize the GOP’s role in this and maximize gay rights activists villainy incredibly tiresome.

                      I can’t stress enough how many conversations I had with SoCons in the late ’90s and early ’00s about civil unions for all and allowing churches to define marriage that ended with some variant of “but then the gays will just make their own church and call themselves married and that’s not God’s definition of marriage, so we need Prop 22/a constitutional amendment.”

                    7. How is it “of their own making”? Did the socons push through public accommodation laws when I wasn’t paying attention? I know. Maybe they secretly shut down every alternative venue so that the same sex couples would have no choice but to try to use their services so that they could reject them. That’s what happened, right?

                      Oh, wait. No. They took the losing side of an issue. And now the folks on the winning side get to violate their rights however the fuck they want. Because, now, their position is the popular one.

                    8. Now you’re either being disingenuous or daft.

                      SoCons chose the most politically heavy handed way they could have to handle the issue of gay marriage. When they had power to set the tone, they chose to maximize political control of the issue and then are unhappy when those wielding power don’t hold the same views they do.

                      While I’m not religious, I actually care quite a bit about the integrity of the church. When Bush pushed forward faith-based initiatives, I warned that letting the state invest heavily in the church would give it control when someone that wasn’t evangelical friendly came to power. When SoCons pushed a Federal Marriage Amendment I said that making it an intense and bitter political battle would end up biting the church in the ass when public opinion shifted.

                      Many SoCons could not believe that the political winds would shift that heavily, and they flogged the issue hard. They didn’t just take “the losing side” they actively marginalized gays for electoral gain. We aren’t talking about an oopsie; they were actively malicious about a small group with (then) limited political power.

              2. No, I’m suggesting that you reducing the reason why gays are slow to join up with the Republicans to being an issue with gays is retarded.

                I know a lot of gay guys who line up politically more closely with the Republicans or libertarians, but who all got pretty badly burned by the Republican prosecution of the culture war and aren’t ready to love again.

                Your assessment makes it seem like gays are just happy to follow the Democrats down whatever road, but it’s at least as much that they aren’t willing to help the Republicans who just finished a decade of fighting tooth and nail to vilify them.

                1. Can you imagine a GOP that mocks its socons the way it mocked its libertarians during the Bush years? The thought brings tears to my eyes.

                  1. You two (three?) need to get a room.

    2. Don’t forget that the Socons were campaigning for the Democrat, because they’d rather vote for a progressive than a gay libertarian:


      1. So, you mean those particular SoCon groups are actually sticking to their principles instead of standing behind a principal? That’s just dastardly.

      2. They’d rather vote for a progressive than any libertarian. SoCons are just the other side of the progressive coin.

  3. I wish DeMaio luck. San Diego politics can be particularly nasty and corrupt.

    1. Hasn’t San Diego generally been a kind of Republican stronghold for California?

      1. It’s mixed, which makes it fairly Republican for California, however the level of outright corruption has always been high.

        1. When you say “high”, is it higher as compared to the rest of California?

          I really find it hard to imagine that San Diego is worse than LA.

          1. At least in the shady real estate deal department, San Diego has always been a leader.

          2. It’s pretty bad. Probably worse than LA.

            1. Could it possibly be due to officials being subjected to less media attention?

        2. Yeah the City of San Diego leans slightly Democratic and is pretty moderate, but San Diego County is definitely a Republican stronghold.

          For instance, Rep. Duncan Hunter’s district is in Eastern San Diego County.

  4. Are you saying that we could now have 4 libertarians in congress? That would be awesome if he makes it.

    Is that it? No other libertarians or leaners were elected last night?

    Oh well, I will be happy with +1.

    I don’t think the libertarian moment has arrived yet.

    1. Bongino came surprisingly close in MD-06, but lost.

      There’s about 30-40 libertarian leaners in the House GOP. It maps pretty well to people who supported Mick Mulvaney (R-SC)’s amendment to hold defense to the same small spending increase as everything else, or the consistent group voting in favor of letting states legalize pot, medical or otherwise.

      South Carolina actually has a lot of libertarian leaning congressmen, their 7 reps being split 3 so con, 3 libertarian leaners, 1 liberal black Dem.

  5. Kolbe was re-elected after he came out, though. So DeMaio would be “first GOP Congressman elected when known to be gay at the time of his first election.” A bit of a mouthful, but kind of like distinguishing “first woman elected who isn’t the wife or daughter of the previous Rep.”

  6. He does look quite gay.

    1. Well, the alt-text certainly is. NTTAWWT.

    2. That’s okay. If he’s really libertarian, he can dress up as Heidi and sing show tunes while in session.

      1. That’s right. I don’t care if he dresses in drag in session, if he’s L, get him a seat already!

        1. He has gay eyebrows. How is that?

        2. Anyone know what size boot he wears on his head so I can get him a victory present if he wins?

    3. He does look quite gay.

      Which of course really means he’s well dressed and better looking than us.

      1. it means he looks happy.

        1. Because he’s well dressed and better looking that us.

          1. Thus is uncovered the true discomfort of the heterosexual male with his homosexual counterpart.

            1. Au contraire, I’m quite comfortable with my inferior looks and rumpled appearance.

              1. I meant generally speaking.

  7. What’s his position on baked goods?

    1. I’m guessing he knows that they all want cake.

      1. Who cares about cake? Let them eat fried chicken!


        1. That’s racist.

  8. So, republicans hate the niggras moar than teh gaise?

  9. I expect more from gay republicans than a beige jacket and a blue tie. This is Target job interview apparel, for heaven’s sake.

  10. Can he help the Chargers?

  11. I was more excited about a Tisei win than a DeMaio win, so that’s a bit disappointing.

    C’est la vie.

    1. On a non-political note, Tisei’s husband is attractive.

      I would hope that he Tisei finds his way into the MA new governor’s cabinet

  12. OK, someone at H&R posted this link a while back and I saved it.


    I’m a blue jeans and t-shirt guy, a golf shirt when I want to impress. Someone needs a campaign manager.

  13. Whoah! Hold up. An openly libertarian congressman? I am utterly shocked and outraged.

    1. It will be interesting to see how he handles an issue like defense cuts. After all, San Diego has a large military presence. His website suggests he campaigned on maintaining a “strong national defense” and celebrated San Diego’s status as a military town, so it would definitely take some courage.

      1. Yeah, that’s why I’m glad the elections are over. All of the campaign ads rested on “I am a more authoritarian statist a-hole than my opponent.” I was probably going to have to go to the hospital for hypertension, if it went on any longer.

      2. That’s easy. You vote to cut other people’s facilities.

  14. Carl DeMaio will become the first openly gay man elected to Congress as a Republican

    Could this “milestone” be any more narrow.

    Not the first openly gay person elected to Congress. That would, I believe, be Barney Frank on the male side, followed by Tammy Baldwin (now in the Senate) on the female side.

    And why the “identity” (as in, the politically-charged group that a politician may be assigned to) of a candidate is of the slightest relevance to libertarians remains a mystery to me.

    1. Could this “milestone” be any more narrow.

      Yes, it’s actually “first openly gay man first elected to Congress as a Republican while out.”

      Kolbe was re-elected as Republican after coming out, after all.

    2. It doesn’t. It’s the three ring circus of media. It must be talked about, therefore we must talk about it.

      The narrowness of modern milestones is an indicator of how unimportant they are.

    3. Because it wasn’t so long ago that being out would exclude you from running as a Republican at all. It means the socons are becoming quite weak.

      1. It also wasn’t much longer ago that being out would exclude you from running as a Democrat.

        Depending on the district, being openly gay is still an effective bar from being elected from any party.

        It is odd, isn’t it, that the deepest blue strongholds don’t elect more gay people. Part of the reason likely is that the deepest blue strongholds are increasingly concentrated in major urban areas with significant minority populations, and they tend to be much less accepting of gaiety than well-off whites.

        Just sayin that this is far less of a partisan issue than people might like to pretend.

        San Angelo Texas, in the very buckle of the Deep Red Bible Belt, elected and re-elected a gay mayor. I laughed at my friends in Houston who were all puffed up when they elected their lesbian mayor. I was all “Meh. We just re-elected our gay mayor. Get with the times.”

        1. Seriously? I would fucking love to live in San Angelo.

        2. It is odd, isn’t it, that the deepest blue strongholds don’t elect more gay people…

          Anal sex might be a bit of a problem too. The taboo regarding male homosexuality might be have a genetic component – an innate piece of information that generally results in disfavoring the spread germs and favors, instead, male-female child bearing.

          That’s conjecture on my part, not something fit to be argued one way or the other, by me anyway. And it fails on lesbian intercourse.

          One the puzzles that should be of interest to libertarians is the political fight over keeping gay bath houses open during the late 1980’s when it was well known how HIV was spread.

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