Election 2008

A Look At Some Key Races

Prior to the election, Americans United compiled a list of House and Senate races considered important by the Religious Right, as well as state ballot referenda. A roundup of those results follows:

U.S. Senate

Colorado: Religious Right groups backed Robert Schaffer, who sought the seat being vacated by Wayne Allard. Their efforts failed, and U.S. Rep. Mark Udall defeated Schaffer 52 percent to 43 percent.

Georgia: Saxby Chambliss, an incumbent backed by Religious Right groups, defeated challenger James Martin but will face a runoff due to a Georgia law that requires a more-than-50-percent level for victory.

Kentucky: Incumbent Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, whose race was identified as important by several Religious Right groups, defeated challenger Bruce Lunsford 53-47 percent.

Minnesota: Religious Right groups hope to help incumbent Norm Coleman retain his seat against challenger Al Franken, a liberal satirist who has poked fun at the Religious Right in his books. At this writing, the race remains too close to call and was headed for a recount.

Mississippi: Incumbent Roger Wicker defeated former governor Ronnie Musgrove 55 percent to 45 percent. Several Religious Right groups had backed Wicker and tagged the race as key.

New Mexico: In this race for a seat being vacated by Pete Domenici, Religious Right groups backed Steve Pearce over U.S. Rep. Thomas Udall. Udall defeated Pearce easily, 61-39 percent.

North Carolina: Incumbent Elizabeth Dole, who in the final days of the race implied that challenger state senator Kay Hagan might be an atheist, was defeated by a vote of 53-44 percent. Some Religious Right groups had issued voter guides that promoted Dole.

South Dakota: James Dobson endorsed challenger Joel Dykstra against incumbent Tim Johnson, but Dykstra lost badly, 62 percent to 38 percent.

House of Representatives

Colorado: Rep. Marilyn Musgrave lost to challenger Betsy Markey, 45 percent to 55 percent. Musgrave was closely aligned with the Religious Right and promoted a constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage.

Florida: Incumbent Tom Feeney, often cited by the Religious Right as one of its champions, was handily defeated by Suzanne Kosmas, 57 percent to 41 percent.

Idaho: Rep. Bill Sali, who frequently promotes Religious Right legislation, was defeated by challenger Walt Minnick, 51 to 49 percent.

Maryland: Andy Harris, who had been endorsed by James Dobson, lost a tight race to Frank Kratovil.

Michigan: Incumbent Tim Walberg, whose race was highlighted as important by several Religious Right groups (including Concerned Women for America’s PAC), was defeated by Mark Schauer, 49-46 percent.

Minnesota: Rep. Michelle Bachmann, a Religious Right favorite, retained her seat against challenger Elwyn Tinklenberg 46 percent to 44 percent. Erik Paulsen, who was endorsed by James Dobson, defeated Ashwin Madia, 48-41 percent.

North Carolina: Robin Hayes, an incumbent who worked closely with the Christian Coalition during that group’s heyday, was defeated by Larry Kissel, 55-45 percent.

Virginia: Incumbent House member Thelma Drake received a $2,300 contribution from TV preacher Pat Robertson, but it wasn’t enough to save her seat. Drake lost to Glenn Nye, 48 percent to 52 percent. In addition, Virgil H. Goode Jr., a former Democrat who often promoted “culture war” issues, apparently lost a tight race with Tom S. Perriello.

Ballot Questions

California: An amendment banning same-sex marriage passed, 52 percent to 48 percent. Exit polls indicated that Religious Right groups, the Roman Catholic hierarchy and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) were successful in mobilizing religious conservatives to oppose same-sex marriage.

Florida: Voters approved a state constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage by a vote of 62 percent to 38 percent.

Arizona: A same-sex marriage ban was added to the state constitution, 56 percent to 44 percent.

Arkansas: Voters approved a ban on unmarried couples adopting children, which is seen as a way to prevent same-sex couples from adopting, 57-43 percent.

Colorado: An attempt to add a “Human Life Amendment” to the Colorado Constitution failed 73-27 percent.

South Dakota: A proposal to ban most abortions failed 55-45 percent.

California: An amendment requiring physicians to provide notification to parents or guardians of minors at least 48 hours before performing an abortion lost 52 percent to 48 percent.

Michigan: Voters approved a change to state law to allow people to donate embryos left over from fertility treatments for stem-cell research 52 percent to 48 percent. Opposition to the measure was led by the Michigan Catholic Conference.

Washington: A measure to permit physician-assisted suicide in certain cases passed easily, 59 percent to 41 percent.

Connecticut: A ballot proposal to convene a state Constitutional Convention failed 60 percent to 40 percent. The state Catholic Conference heavily backed the plan, hoping to use it to win a ban on same-sex marriage and other church goals. Similar measures were defeated in Hawaii and Illinois by 2-1 margins.