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