Though Carl DeMaio, an openly gay, libertarian-leaning Republican running for a House seat representing San Diego, was ahead in the vote at the end of the Election Day, late mail-in votes and provisional ballots did him in. DeMaio has lost to Democratic incumbent Rep. Scott Peters by a margin of less than 5,000 votes. He conceded the race Sunday.
He told the San Diego Union-Tribune, "Because I care about San Diego, I wish Mr. Peters the best and hope he will endeavor to represent the district well."
DeMaio's close defeat makes it 0 for 3 as far as electing gay Republicans this cycle. I highlighted the three of them over the summer. Dan Innis ended up losing his primary in New Hampshire to a more traditional business-oriented, secure-the-border conservative. Richard Tisei in Massachusetts lost his second attempt at earning a House seat to young, progressive war veteran Seth Moulton, who defeated the Democratic, scandal-tainted incumbent Rep. John Tierney in the primaries.
We followed the three candidates partly because they all had libertarian-friendly components to their campaign platforms (DeMaio is an independent contractor for the Reason Foundation research division's pension reform project). But whether they succeeded as candidates was also a measure of the extent of the "libertarian moment" influence on the Republican Party. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) helped fundraise for DeMaio and Tisei, despite criticism from some social conservatives within the party.
But obviously it's going to be a challenge in the general election when there's resistance to the candidate from both the left and portions of the right. DeMaio got caught up in some nasty personal scandals where a former staff worker accused him of sexual harassment. DeMaio has insisted on innocence and counter-argued that the staff worker was responsible for a plagiarism incident and was fired from the campaign. Then the San Diego Union-Tribune reported Friday that the worker had met with Peters' campaign (There's more about the latest revelations here). It became a big mess and DeMaio's spokesman believes it contributed to the candidate's defeat:
"The false smears impacted or caused an ick factor to our campaign, which we believe turned off evangelical Christians and a group that normally would support Carl," [Dave] McCulloch said. "That factor was likely the reason we came up short."
Not to mention those robocalls from the National Organization for Marriage. Gay candidates were not part of this Republican wave, but the party is still working out its post-Tea-Party identity. Institutional support is a sign of change, regardless of DeMaio's and Tisei's ultimate defeats.