NASHVILLE (BP) — Despite a decisive re-election victory by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, election night 2013 was marked a variety of losses for social conservatives.
Abortion advocate Terry McAuliffe won the Virginia gubernatorial race. Self-identified progressive Bill de Blasio captured the New York City mayoral election. Voters in several cities legalized marijuana, and New York approved a state constitutional amendment expanding casino gambling.
Abortion played significantly into the Virginia election Nov. 5, where McAuliffe, a Democrat, edged Republican Ken Cuccinelli by a 48-46 margin, with Libertarian Robert Sarvis capturing just over 6 percent of the vote. McAuliffe ran a barrage of negative ads saying Cuccinelli would restrict access to abortion if elected.
Pro-life candidates must combat such attacks more effectively in 2014 elections, according to the Susan B. Anthony List, a pro-life women’s group.
“Terry McAuliffe spent well over $5 million on misleading attack ads about Ken Cuccinelli and the fictitious ‘war on women,’ including running more than 5,600 spots on the abortion issue alone,” a statement on the Susan B. Anthony List website said. “Attacks on Cuccinelli were left unanswered, or answered too late, and the negative message stuck. This election shows that it is imperative for pro-lifers to be on offense in 2014 against the distortions and extremism of the Left.”
The Washington Post editorialized that “Virginia isn’t for social conservatives.” Among voters who said abortion was the most important issue to them, McAuliffe won by nearly a two-to-one margin, according to the Post.
“McAuliffe’s efforts — primarily through a blitz of campaign ads in northern Virginia — to paint Cuccinelli as a warrior for the social conservative movement worked,” the Post said. “Even though ‘economy’ and ‘health care’ voters sided with Cuccinelli, it wasn’t by anywhere close to a large enough margin to offset his losses among voters who prized social issues.”
In New Jersey, Christie, a Republican, won with more than 60 percent of the vote despite holding positions that are more conservative than most of the state’s voters on same-sex marriage and abortion. Christie is believed to be a frontrunner for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.
Christie seemed to moderate his stands on social issues leading up to the election. In October he dropped his appeal of a court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage, making New Jersey the 14th state to allow the practice. In August he signed a bill that banned state-licensed counselors from trying to help children under 18 reduce or eliminate same-sex attraction.
Christie defeated his Democratic challenger, state Sen. Barbara Buono, among female voters and ran even with her among Latinos, an unusual accomplishment for a GOP candidate.
The Washington Post editorialized that fellow Republicans should learn from Christie and moderate their stances on key issues in order to win elections.
“Tea partiers often argue that Republicans can only win presidential races with a true conservative on the ballot,” the Post said. “The problem for the broader GOP is the definition of a true conservative has become increasingly stringent. As Tuesday’s elections demonstrate, the GOP — at least in places like Virginia and New Jersey — would be much better served nominating a Chris Christie conservative than a Ken Cuccinelli … conservative.”
Ed Gillespie, former chairman of the Republican National Committee, took a more optimistic position regarding social issues.
Christie “proved that a conservative Republican can get votes from Hispanics and African-Americans, that a pro-life governor can get votes from women,” Gillespie said, according to The New York Times. “This means that those voters are available to us, that we’re not shut out demographically or geographically — that it’s worth the effort.”
New York Mayor
De Blasio became the first Democrat to be elected mayor of America’s largest city since 1989. A former city councilman, De Blasio vowed during the campaign to reform current Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s controversial stop-and-frisk policy that was criticized by civil rights groups. De Blasio also proposed to raise taxes on New Yorkers making more than $500,000 in order to fund after-school programs and create a universal pre-kindergarten program, USA Today reported.
“The people have chosen a progressive path and tonight we set forth on it, together, as one New York,” he said, according to USA Today.
De Blasio “may be the most liberal mayoral candidate in many years,” R. Albert Mohler Jr. said Nov. 5 in his daily podcast “The Briefing.”
In the Democratic primaries, de Blasio defeated Christine Quinn, who sought to become the first female mayor and the first openly gay mayor of New York. He also defeated former Congressman Anthony Weiner and former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, both of whom resigned from office amid sex scandals.
Portland, Maine, voters legalized possession of 2.5 ounces of marijuana by adults 21 and older by a two-thirds margin. Buying, selling, using and possessing marijuana remain illegal under state and federal law.
“Portland is just one domino in a series of dominoes that have been falling,” David Boyer, Maine political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, a marijuana advocacy group, told the Associated Press. “With the overwhelming support that we got, you can definitely tell it’s a mandate over here in Portland, that our current policies aren’t working for marijuana and that they want change.”
Three Michigan cities — Lansing, Ferndale and Jackson — also voted to remove legal penalties for marijuana possession by adults. State law still bars marijuana use and possession though.
Colorado voters approved a 25 percent tax on legal marijuana sales, following last year’s vote to legalize the drug statewide.
“We had a big night last night. Marijuana policy reform measures cruised to victory in states across the nation,” the Marijuana Policy Project said on its website Nov. 6. “… Now it’s time to start working on racking up even more victories in 2014.”
New York’s casino gambling amendment, which passed by a 57-percent margin, allows up to seven new full-scale casinos in the state. Initially only four new casinos will be permitted, all in the upstate region, according to the New York Times.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo championed the amendment, arguing that it was necessary to stop New Yorkers from taking their money across state lines to gamble.
“We literally hemorrhage people from the borders who go to casinos,” Cuomo, a Democrat, said, according to The Times. “I think it will keep the money in this state, and I think it’s a major economic development vehicle for the Hudson Valley especially and for upstate New York.”
New York already has five Native American casinos and nine slot machine parlors at racetracks.
“The downside to [the amendment] is massive,” Mohler said. “And what you’re looking at here is expanding the role of the state in preying on its own most vulnerable citizens.”
David Roach is a writer in Shelbyville, Ky. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).