It was a big election night for animals, with major victories against the puppy mill industry and agribusiness lobby in Missouri, and against the NRA and trophy hunting lobby in Arizona. And many of the leading animal advocates in Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, were reelected to continue their work in 2011. The votes are still being tallied in some races, but here is a rundown of where we stand so far on the major contests that affect animals.
State Ballot Measures
The top priority for animal advocates across the country was Missouri’s Proposition B, to crack down on puppy mill abuses in the nation’s top puppy mill state. I watched the election returns with a group of animal welfare supporters at the Humane Society of Missouri animal shelter in St. Louis, and it was a nail-biter. At the end of the night, Prop B was approved by a margin of 60,000 votes, establishing common-sense standards for the care of dogs. The margin would have likely been much larger, if the Missouri Farm Bureau, Lucas Oil and Cattle Company, Missouri Veterinary Medical Association, and others had not thrown in their lot with the puppy millers, and run a late-breaking, scorched-earth campaign to confuse voters into believing that Prop B was about more than dogs. Fortunately, Missouri citizens saw through the rhetoric, and saw Prop B for what it was: a much-needed policy to turn around the state’s reputation as the puppy capital of America. And if we can beat the puppy millers and their allies on their home turf where they are the strongest and the most entrenched, it should send a message to other state and federal lawmakers across the country that dogs deserve to be treated like family pets, not like a cash crop.
In Arizona, another priority campaign was the defeat of Proposition 109, a measure referred to the ballot by the state legislature at the request of the NRA. Prop 109 would have taken power away from Arizona voters, and handed it over to politicians and special interest groups, essentially blocking future citizen ballot initiatives on wildlife issues. It would have also weakened the Arizona Game & Fish Commission, replacing scientific wildlife management with partisan politics, and could have even overturned the 1994 ballot initiative restricting steel-jawed leghold traps and poisons on public lands. We fought back with our coalition partners, and urged Arizona voters to reject this power grab. They said no to the NRA, and shot down Prop 109 by a preliminary margin of 56 to 44 percent. It was the second time in a decade that Arizona voters refused to give up their voting rights and shot down this nonsense from the NRA. Another win for animals and voting rights occurred in Oklahoma where citizens decided to streamline the ballot initiative process and allow a consistent standard for petitioning to qualify ballot initiatives, including on animal protection subjects, passing State Question 750 by a vote of 50.4 to 49.6 percent.
A loss for animals took place in North Dakota, with the defeat of Measure 2, which would have banned the canned hunting of tame deer and elk trapped inside fenced pens. The measure, which was placed on the ballot by a group of North Dakota hunters who are strong advocates for sportsmanship and fair chase, was defeated about 43 to 57 percent, largely due to a well-funded campaign by the extreme elements of the trophy hunting lobby and the commercial wildlife ranching industry. The opponents persuaded voters that the measure was about “property rights,” when there are some things that are just out of bounds in a decent society even if they take place on private property—whether it’s dogfighting, cockfighting, or shooting tame animals trapped behind fences. When HSLF saw the responsible hunters being far outspent in the race, we assisted them with TV ads to make the case to North Dakota voters, but unfortunately the effort was not enough to get them over the finish line. California voters also rejected Proposition 21, which would have protected parks and wildlife by creating a stable and adequate source of funding to maintain state parks and beaches, and promote wildlife conservation and habitat protection.
It was not a clean sweep on all of the ballot measures of interest to the animal welfare movement, but the two that received the most serious investments of our resources and attention—in Arizona and Missouri—ended with the right outcomes for animals. And we succeeded in conservative states against tough and well-heeled opponents, taking on the gun lobby and the agriculture lobby, and demonstrating that we get results for animals where we place our energy and resources.
So far, 238 House and Senate candidates endorsed by HSLF have been declared the winners, while 46 have lost and 14 races have yet to be decided. You can visit our Voter Guide online for updates on the outcomes as they are reported. HSLF focused much of its efforts on TV ads supporting leading animal protection candidates in five competitive congressional races, and we have won five out of five.
HSLF ran ads in New Orleans supporting Sen. David Vitter, R-La., a leader of efforts to crack down on puppy mill abuses and ban the trade in primates as pets, and he was reelected 57 to 38 percent. We also ran ads in Cleveland supporting Rep. Betty Sutton, D-Ohio, a sponsor of legislation to strengthen the laws against animal fighting, who was reelected 55 to 45 percent. And we supported Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., who as chairman of the Natural Resources Committee has passed a number of wildlife protection bills through the House, with ads in the Bluefield and Charleston areas, and he was victorious by a margin of 56 to 44 percent.
In other priority House races, HSLF ran ads in Palm Springs supporting Rep. Mary Bono Mack, R-Calif., a sponsor of legislation to require fur labeling so consumers aren’t deceived, and she was declared the winner 52 to 41 percent. We ran a paid TV campaign in suburban Detroit to support Rep. Gary Peters, D-Mich., a leader in the effort to ban obscene animal crush videos, and he has narrowly won by about 4,600 votes, a margin of 49 to 48 percent. We once again made an impact in Michigan’s 9th district, where HSLF made its largest investment in 2008, and helped to defeat then-Rep. Joe Knollenberg, who had one of the worst records on animal cruelty in the entire country. We hope to continue this track record in 2010, and demonstrate that when we invest resources to help shape the outcomes of candidate races, we are successful in our efforts to tip the balance in close contests.
In addition to TV ads, HSLF sent mailings, conducted door-to-door canvassing, and mobilized volunteers to help dozens of other lawmakers who are standing up for animals in a very determined way. We are pleased that we could help to reelect many of our leaders on animal protection issues in Congress from both political parties who were in competitive races, such as Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Reps. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., Jim Gerlach, R-Pa., and Dave Reichert, R-Wash. We are sad to see some of our strongest allies leaving, such as Reps. Mary Jo Kilroy, D-Ohio, John Spratt, D-S.C., Dina Titus, D-Nev., and Phil Hare, D-Ill., and we thank them for their service in Congress and for their strong support of animal welfare issues. Many of our allies are in races that are still too close to call, and we are closely watching the outcomes for Reps. Jerry McNerney, D-Calif., Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., and others.
Thank you to all of you who volunteered, wrote letters, donated, and cast your votes to help achieve these outcomes for animal protection ballot measures and for candidates who are fighting for animal welfare. It’s only because of your work, and your helping HSLF make a final push in the last days of the election, that the animal protection movement can continue to make progress for animals in the political arena. Please check hslf.org and my blog for more updates on the midterm elections.