Here Are Some Interesting State Races You Might Have Missed

Yesterday, AU’s Communications Director Rob Boston wrote a blog post about the Religious Right-empowered issues the United States may face if the Trump administration implements some of its campaign’s talking points, and Legislative Director Maggie Garrett discussed the results of some ballot referenda.

But in the midst of all of the reaction over President-Elect Donald Trump, you might have missed important state races where church-state issues were a factor. This time, there is some good news in this list, we promise.


North Carolina: Anti-LGBTQ Pat McCrory may be out as governor. It appears that North Carolina may soon have a new governor, as Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper declared victory over Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, who is notorious for his religiously-motivated anti-LGBTQ antics. McCrory hasn’t officially conceded yet, but he’s behind in a tight race.

Although it may not be the main reason he probably lost, McCrory’s anti-trans “bathroom bill,” which restricts transgender people from using the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity, garnered negative national attention and lost the state of North Carolina money in endorsements and tournament hosting. 

Montana: Religious Right Republican loses to Democratic incumbent. Montana Gov. Steve Bullock was re-elected after defeating Republican challenger Greg Gianforte, who was donated to Religious Right groups such as Focus on the Family.

But Gianforte’s donations weren’t the only suggestion that he may have been bad for church-state issues. During the race, his support for the teaching of creationism was also an issue.

Montanans for Truth in Public Schools, a political action committee, ran an ad criticizing Gianforte for wanting to direct public funds to private schools, some of which would end up teaching creationism.

“The purpose of the group is to educate the public about Ginaforte’s desire to use public dollars to fund private schools that may be teaching methodologies in evolution that are at odds with scientific consensus,” Adrian Cohea, the committee's treasurer, said. 

The race between Bullock and Gianforte was so tight that it had to be called Wednesday morning. Bullock said that despite the rhetoric of the Trump campaign, he hopes Democrats and Republicans can work together to “rise above.”

There have been some good and bad state races for church-state separation this election. 

Missouri: Attorney general race may affect pending Supreme Court case. Republican Josh Hawley is now Missouri’s new attorney general after his Democratic opponent Teresa Hensley conceded the race.

This could have implications for an important church-state case pending before the Supreme Court. In Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Pauley, the Supreme Court will decide whether the state of Missouri must give taxpayer funds to a Columbia church for its religious pre-school.

The church sought to take part in a state program that gives groups a rubber material made from recycled tires to resurface playgrounds. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources denied the grant, noting that the Missouri Constitution contains a clause barring public aid to religious enterprises.  

Here at Americans United, we previously wrote about the dangerous precedent this case could set. If the Supreme Court rules that religious groups have a legal right to tax support in certain conditions, it could lead to a lot more taxpayer money flowing to religion.

There’s been some speculation that the new attorney general might try to settle the case, thus removing it from the high court’s docket. We’ll be keeping an eye on things.

Texas: Outcome of Texas State Board of Education races could lead to more fights over evolution. Republicans who sought reelection to Texas’ State Board of Education kept their seats. This could be bad news for sound science education in the state’s public schools. With far-right members maintaining their seats, the board is likely to get mired down in more battles over evolution.

A panel convened by the Texas Education Agency voted in September to remove creationist language from public school science standards, which were written in 2009. That decision may not survive board review. 

The state board will be deciding on this proposal next year, but these race results could create an uphill battle for pro-evolution, anti-creationism representatives and activists. Currently, 10 Republicans outnumber the five Democrats on the board.