Election Wrap-Up: Mixed Results for Animals, Hope on the Horizon
Last night’s election returns ushered in some important changes for our country, but with the existing political alignment largely retained—and, in this case, with some new names and faces and with more Democrats in each chamber of Congress. The big story was, naturally, that the American public re-elected President Obama, and we congratulate him and look forward to working with his administration to build on his animal protection record. A number of pending regulatory actions are in the pipeline on puppy mills, downer veal calves, chimpanzees in research, and other animal protection issues, and we hope to get these over the finish line soon and to jumpstart other issues in the next four years. But the election again showed the continuing partisan divisions in the country, and that division is a reminder that HSLF must, more than ever, remain committed to a bipartisan approach to drive forward an animal protection agenda and to figure out ways to conduct the business of the country without causing abuse and harm to animals.
Senate candidates endorsed by HSLF won 15 of 18 state contests, for an 83.3 percent win rate. We helped to elect strong supporters of animal protection from the House to open Senate seats in competitive states—including Reps. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc. (with 51.4 percent of the vote), Martin Heinrich, D-N.M. (51 percent), and Chris Murphy, D-Conn. (55 percent)—who will grow the ranks of animal advocates in the Senate. We also helped to re-elect some of our leading champions on animal protection bills—including Sens. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., Ben Cardin, D-Md., Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Bob Menendez, D-N.J., Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.—all of whom will be coming back for another term. The alternatives in some of those races would have been hostile to animal protection issues, including former Gov. Tommy Thompson, R-Wisc., who campaigned with hunting enthusiast and NRA board member Ted Nugent, and Rep. Connie Mack, R-Fla., who has opposed most animal welfare bills.
We lost a leader for animal protection in the Senate with the defeat of Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., and we thank him for his strong support of animal welfare issues during his time in office; we expect the winner of that seat, Elizabeth Warren, to be a supporter of animal protection. We also were unsuccessful in Arizona and Nevada, with Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., defeating Dr. Richard Carmona, and Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., defeating Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., in competitive races. We will reach out to the winners of those contests as well as to other Senate victors in states where HSLF had not made any endorsement, and look forward to working with them in the 113th Congress.
House candidates backed by HSLF appear poised to win in 166 of 180 congressional districts, for a 92 percent win rate. With aggressive direct mail, phone banking, and grassroots outreach, we helped lawmakers from both sides of the aisle win re-election in very competitive seats—including Reps. Mike Fitzpatrick, R-Pa. (with 56.6 percent of the vote), Michael Grimm, R-N.Y. (52.8 percent), Jerry McNerney, D-Calif. (54.1 percent), Gary Miller, R-Calif. (55.3 percent), Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo. (53.3 percent), and John Tierney, D-Mass. (winning with a plurality of 48.3 percent, by just 3,650 votes). A number of former House members, backed by HSLF, are coming back to Congress—including Dan Maffei, D-N.Y., Carol Shea-Porter, D-N.H., and Dina Titus, D-Nev.—all of whom had outstanding records on animal protection when they previously served, and we are pleased to have them back in office. And some state legislative champions of animal protection, such as Assemblywoman Grace Meng, D-N.Y., who sponsored a bill in New York to ban the trade in shark fins, will be new members of the 113th Congress.
One race still appears too close to call, but HSLF-backed candidate Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., who was the leading animal advocate in the Arizona Legislature, is currently ahead of her opponent by about 2,100 votes. We lost several House members who were strong supporters of animal protection and were in highly competitive races—including Reps. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., Howard Berman, D-Calif., Mary Bono Mack, R-Calif., Bob Dold, R-Ill., Nan Hayworth, R-N.Y., and Betty Sutton, D-Ohio—and we thank them for their public service and their strong leadership on the humane treatment of animals. We have strong expectations that the winners of those races, with the exception of Rep. Jim Renacci, R-Ohio, will be advocates for our cause.
One of the top priorities for HSLF was the race between Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, and Christie Vilsack in Iowa’s newly drawn 4th Congressional District. King has been one of the leading opponents of animal protection in Congress, and he survived his race last night, defeating Vilsack by a vote of 53.2 to 44.6 percent. HSLF ran TV ads in the district, letting voters know about King’s voting record on animal fighting, pets in disasters, and other animal protection bills. Although King won, the race became much more competitive than it had originally been, and animal issues became part of the discourse in rural western Iowa. Four of the five major newspapers in the district opposed King in their endorsements, and voters—about half of whom are represented by King for the first time due to redistricting—are now aware of his record on animal protection and will hopefully hold him accountable on future votes. Animal issues are being discussed even in the most rural, conservative parts of the country, and HSLF does not shy away from taking on these tough fights.
HSLF made endorsements only in select state races, where the candidates were especially strong animal advocates and leaders for our cause. We are pleased to report that former Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., backed by HSLF, has the lead in Washington’s gubernatorial race, and Kathleen Kane, with a strong record on prosecuting animal cruelty cases, has won the attorney general’s post in Pennsylvania. State Rep. John Maher, R-Pa., lost his bid for auditor general, but we look forward to continuing to work with him in the legislature as the chairman of the House Agriculture Committee in the Keystone State.
Other longtime animal advocates in state legislatures were victorious, with help from HSLF, including Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-Wash., who has led the effort to retain voter-approved prohibitions on bear baiting, cougar hounding, and steel-jawed leghold traps; Assemblyman Paul Fong, D-Calif., who led California’s effort to ban the trade in shark fins; and Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Calif., who authored a bill to prevent landlords from forcing tenants to de-claw cats and de-bark dogs, and helped pass California’s ban on hound hunting of bears and bobcats as chair of the Senate Natural Resources Committee. A chief opponent of animal protection, Rep. J. Paul Brown, R-Colo., who had introduced a bill to allow sport hunting of bears during the spring when mother bears are nursing dependent cubs, was defeated by 768 votes, thanks to the work of animal advocates.
As I wrote last night, North Dakota voters rejected Measure 5, but they did not reject the idea that there must be a felony animal cruelty law in the state. It’s largely a settled matter due to this ballot initiative campaign, and the opponents of the measure have pledged to pass legislation in 2013 to establish felony-level penalties for malicious cruelty. We consider that a win for animals, and will work hard to make sure it happens next year. California voters approved Prop 30, by a vote of 54 to 46 percent, which protects future funding for law enforcement, including animal protection and anti-poaching laws.
You can see the full list of HSLF-endorsed candidates and outcomes in our Voter Guide. All in all, while the results were mixed for animals in races across the country, and some contests have yet to be decided, we have great hope and optimism that the cause of animal protection will continue to make gains in Congress, in state legislatures, and with regulatory agencies. Animal protection issues are being discussed as part of the political discourse like never before, and voters in every corner of our country—red states and blue states—are becoming aware of the challenges facing animals and the steps needed to protect them and prevent large-scale cruelty and abuse. Thank you to everyone who voted, volunteered, and got the word out for humane candidates across the country—your efforts continue to make a difference.