Last night’s mid-term election saw a rising wave of red across our country, with Republicans taking control of the U.S. Senate and winning a surprising number of gubernatorial, U.S. House, and state legislative seats. It was the second wave election in four years, and it cements Republican power throughout most of the nation.
There were important outcomes for animal protection, too, with humane lawmakers from both political parties in competitive races, and voters deciding ballot measures on animal issues. But the election again showed that continuing partisan divisions now plague the country. Such divisions are a reminder that HSLF must, more than ever, remain committed to a bipartisan approach if it is to be successful in its efforts to drive forward an animal protection agenda.
A Win for Wolves
The citizens of Michigan voted by wide margins last night to reject two laws enacted by the legislature to open a hunting season on wolves. Both measures were expected to be close but in the end were trounced—Proposal 1 by a vote of 55 to 45 percent, and Proposal 2 by 64 to 36 percent—with the “no” side on Proposal 2 getting more votes than any statewide candidate.
This means voters not only repealed a pro-wolf hunting statute, but also repealed a measure that transfers authority to the Natural Resources Commission to declare hunting seasons on protected species.
The proponents of wolf hunting are already saying the voters didn’t know what they were doing, and in fact, they spent much of the campaign trying to disenfranchise voters and tell them their votes don’t matter. That’s because their political cronies in the legislature passed a third law that is a duplicate of Proposal 2, and they are expecting to get their way regardless of what the people think.
But so many people I talked to when I knocked on doors in Michigan knew exactly what the election was about. They understood it’s unnecessary to hunt wolves because people don’t eat the animals and because it’s already legal to kill problem wolves if they threaten livestock or safety.
The people of Michigan don’t want trophy hunting, trapping, or hounding of wolves; they don’t want more legislative tricks; and they don’t want to cede authority to an unelected group of political appointees.
It’s now time that the lawmakers and the Natural Resources Commission heed the will of the people. The resounding rejection of Proposal 2 is an unmistakable signal to the NRC to terminate any plans it thinks it may be able to execute in 2015 for a wolf hunt.
The public does not accept its authority to make such a declaration. The people of Michigan don’t want the NRC setting a wolf hunting season and don’t want to give the NRC the authority to open new hunting seasons on other protected species, such as sandhill cranes. The NRC should honor the judgment rendered by voters come 2015. We’ll be continuing this fight in the legislature and in the courts.
This was the first statewide vote on wolf hunting in any state since wolves were stripped of their federal protections in six states. Decision makers across the Great Lakes and Northern Rockies should pay attention to this vote in Michigan and see how regular citizens feel about the trophy hunting and trapping of wolves.
A Loss for Bears
Unfortunately, Question 1 in Maine, which sought to ban the cruel and unsporting practices of bear hounding, baiting, and trapping, suffered a narrow defeat at the polls, by a vote of 53 to 47 percent. It was very difficult to overcome the active involvement and spending by the state of Maine itself against the measure.
It was an unprecedented infusion of state resources into a political campaign, and that involvement was grounded in fear and scare tactics. This caused so much confusion for voters despite Maine being the only state to rely on all these extreme hunting methods.
The close vote strongly suggests that the defeat of Question 1 is not a mandate to continue these inhumane, unfair and unsporting hunting methods. We sincerely hope that Maine officials will take a careful look at how controversial these methods are with the public and how every other state has, to one degree or another, set a difference course for dealing with bears.
The opponents of Question 1 will court continuing controversy and our focused campaign energy if they simply preserve the status quo.
The measure attracted national and global attention and succeeded in making the cruel practices of baiting, hounding, and trapping a subject of broad public debate—maybe for the first time ever. We are now also calling on the Maine legislature to take up the issue of state agencies funneling money and resources into political campaigns, which is needed if the state is to have clean elections in the future.
While there are divided views about baiting in Maine—as reflected by the vote on Question 1—there is, beneath the surface, an overwhelming sentiment that trapping and hounding of bears is unacceptable.
The state’s two largest papers—the Portland Press Herald and the Bangor Daily News—both opposed Question 1 but called for a ban on hounding and trapping of bears for sport. Lawmakers and the hunting lobby must address this, or they’ll be inviting another initiative in short order.
Other Ballot Measures
While Maine and Michigan were the main events, there were a number of other ballot measures around the country on animal issues. Florida voters approved Amendment 1 in a landslide vote of 75 to 25 percent; the measure, backed by HSLF and The HSUS, dedicates funds to the protection of wildlife habitat.
Voters in Pima County, Ariz., approved Prop 415 by a vote of 58 to 42 percent, providing important funding for the county’s animal care facility to shelter homeless dogs and cats and reduce euthanasia. Voters in Aurora, Colo., unfortunately rejected Proposition 2D, which would have repealed the city’s discriminatory ban on pit bull type dogs, by a lopsided margin of 66 to 34 percent.
The big news of the night, of course, was that Republicans picked up enough seats to shift the balance of the U.S. Senate. Animal advocates should know that we helped to elect many of our leaders from both political parties, and we also lost some allies. In the top priority race for HSLF, Rep. Gary Peters, D-Mich., was the victor over Terri Lynn Land, by a resounding vote of 55 to 41 percent, in Michigan’s race for the open U.S. Senate seat.
Peters has long been a leading champion for animals in Congress, passing legislation to ban commerce in animal “crush” videos, and working to crack down on polar bear trophy hunting, animal fighting, and other cruelties. Here is the TV ad that HSLF ran in Michigan supporting his election to the Senate.
Overall, HSLF-endorsed Senate candidates won 12 of 15 races that have been decided so far, for a win rate of 80 percent, with three remaining contests still too close to call. A number of our leaders on animal protection legislation, backed by HSLF, will be coming back to the Senate, including Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J.; Susan Collins, R-Maine; Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; Jeff Merkley, D-Ore.; and Tom Udall, D-N.M.
There will be some new faces in the Senate, including Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., who has supported animal protection bills in the House. Sens. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., and Mark Udall, D-Colo., both lost their bids for reelection, and Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, who has a strong record on animal protection bills, lost his race for Iowa’s open Senate seat, to Joni Ernst, who as a state legislator has backed puppy mills, mourning dove hunting, and “ag-gag” legislation.
We are still awaiting results in Alaska, where Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, is currently trailing by about 8,000 votes, and in Virginia, where Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., has a 12,000 vote lead. Warner is a lead sponsor of legislation to strengthen the federal law against the “soring” of show horses—using caustic chemicals and other painful substances to injure the horses’ hooves and legs to induce a high-stepping gait.
Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., who has led the fight to prohibit the slaughter and export of horses for human consumption overseas, is headed to a runoff, and that race won’t be decided until December. HSLF plans to vigorously campaign for Landrieu in the runoff election.
U.S. House of Representatives
Across the country, HSLF-endorsed House candidates have been declared the victors in 181 of the 197 races that have been decided so far, for a 92 percent win rate, with six races still too close to call.
There were a number of competitive races this year for both Republicans and Democrats, and we are pleased that so many of the lawmakers whom HSLF helped with mailings, phone calls, door-to-door canvassing, and other get-out-the-vote efforts will be returning to Washington—including bipartisan leaders and strong supporters of animal protection such as Reps. Lou Barletta, R-Pa.; Cheri Bustos, D-Ill.; Jeff Denham, R-Calif.; Mike Fitzpatrick, R-Pa.; Chris Gibson, R-N.Y.; Michael Grimm, R-N.Y.; Ann Kuster, D-N.H.; Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J.; Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa; Pat Meehan, R-Pa.; Raul Ruiz, D-Calif.; Kurt Schrader, D-Ore.; Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz.; and others.
There will be a number of new animal advocates in the freshman class of the House, many of whom had strong records of leadership as previous officeholders at the state or local level. We welcome Reps.-elect Don Beyer, D-Va.; Brendan Boyle, D-Pa.; Barbara Comstock, R-Va.; Ryan Costello, R-Pa.; Mark DeSaulnier, D-Calif.; Gwen Graham, D-Fla.; Ted Lieu, D-Calif.; Tom MacArthur, R-N.J.; Seth Moulton, D-Mass.; and Norma Torres, D-Calif.; and we look forward to working with them in Congress.
We also welcome back returning Rep. Bob Dold, R-Ill., who had an outstanding record on animal protection when he previously served in the House, and congratulate all these lawmakers on their elections.
A number of animal protection supporters will not be returning next year, including Reps. Tim Bishop, D-N.Y.; Pete Gallego, D-Tex.; Dan Maffei, D-N.Y.; Nick Rahall, D-W.Va.; and Carol Shea-Porter, D-N.H. We thank them for their service and for their past work on animal protection policies. We are also anxiously awaiting results in a few remaining races that are neck and neck, and we are pulling for Reps. Ami Bera, D-Calif.; John Delaney, D-Md.; Jerry McNerney, D-Calif.; Scott Peters, D-Calif.; and Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y.; as well as for challenger Martha McSally, R-Ariz. Some of these races are extremely close, with Slaughter currently leading by 582 votes, and McSally by just 36 votes.
Results were mixed for animals in state houses across the country. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, R-Mich., who signed both wolf hunting bills, won his reelection against former Rep. Mark Schauer, D-Mich., an animal protection supporter.
HSLF-backed Gov. Jerry Brown, D-Calif., who has signed more animal protection bills than any other governor, won his bid for reelection; HSLF-endorsed Gov. Pat Quinn, D-Ill., lost his bid for another term; and HSLF-endorsed Gov. Dan Malloy, D-Conn., was declared the winner by about 30,000 votes after a long night of uncertainty in a tight race. HSLF-endorsed gubernatorial candidate Doug Ducey, R-Ariz., won his race in Arizona, and HSLF-backed Anthony Brown, D-Md., lost in an upset in the Maryland governor’s race.
Attorneys General Pam Bondi, R-Fla., and Kamala Harris, D-Calif., both strong champions for animal protection laws, won their reelections decisively with the backing of HSLF—Bondi by a margin of 55 to 42 percent, and Harris by 56 to 44 percent. State Sen. Brian Frosh, D-Md., won his race for Attorney General in Maryland, where he was a leader in working to correct the state’s misguided policy discriminating against pit bull type dogs.
We are still analyzing the many state legislative races around the country, but some pieces of good news to share: In California, where HSLF has made a major investment in state politics, our endorsed candidates won three of three statewide races, eight of nine races for state Senate and 35 of 39 for state Assembly.
In Michigan, HSLF and its supporters in the state helped some pro-animal lawmakers in close House and Senate races, and we will need their help to backstop the legislature from doing another end-run around the people on wolf hunting.
In Kentucky, state Rep. Richard Henderson, who made headlines when he attended a pro-cockfighting rally with Matt Bevin, Sen. Mitch McConnell’s Republican primary opponent, lost his reelection. At the time, Henderson had said, “I must admit I've been to more than a few chicken fights. I must admit I liked them.”
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 in every legislature 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.