Your Queer PA Election Guide 2016

As the entire country counts down the days until the 2016 election season is over, it’s important to remember that local and state elections will matter just as much, if not more than the Presidential election, when it comes to our rights as queer and trans citizens of Pennsylvania. So, here is a queer guide to the rest of your ballot on November 8th!

President of the United States

I would imagine that none of you want to hear more about it, and I really don’t want to write about it. So let’s forget about the race for the leader of the free world for a second and see what the rest of our state’s candidates have to say about our rights as humans!

Just a fair warning, get ready for a whole lot of white guys.

United States Senate

Pat Toomey has been one of our senators since 2011 and since then he’s been trying to find the right balance of pro and anti gay rhetoric. He supported the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and voted in favor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, but he also tried to pass an amendment to the bill that would allow religious institutions to discriminate against LGBT people. His main thing though is ending sanctuary cities, because for conservatives, hating on immigrants is in this year.

His opponent is Katie McGinty who is the former environmental advisor to Al Gore and Bill Clinton and former head of the PA Department of Environmental Protection. McGinty would be the first woman senator to represent Pennsylvania. She has stated that she would support anti-discrimination legislation for LGBT people and that she will make sure that health care programs like Medicaid provide transgender patients with the services that they need.

United States Congress Districts 12 and 14

The US Congressman for Pittsburgh, PA’s 14th district, is Democrat Mike Doyle. His opponent is a black Republican named Lenny McAllister. Lenny is going to lose and Mike Doyle is going to be in the House until he dies or retires. So let’s go to our neighboring district’s race that’s much more interesting.

District 12’s claim to fame is that it’s the district in the country that looks the most like a giant squid. Gerrymandering can be entertaining sometimes.

The current representative of the squid-like district, Keith Rothfus, has been in office since 2013. He is very into the idea that religious freedom means that Christians get to discriminate against queer and trans people. He co-sponsored a bill in Congress that would allow tax-exempt organizations to engage in political activity as long as they were fighting against LGBT rights for religious reasons. This means that churches and nonprofits could donate to or advocate for anti-gay political campaigns, something that has been illegal basically forever.

His Democratic challenger is a medical professional named Erin McClelland. Somehow McClelland has avoided ever explicitly mentioning queer or trans issues throughout her two campaigns for US Congress. However, she is endorsed by the Steel City Stonewall Democrats, a local group for LGBT Democrats.

Pennsylvania State Treasurer

The State Treasurer’s role is to manage the state’s finances and public investments as well as to investigate fraudulent uses of public money. The race is without an incumbent because the former State Treasurer Rob McCord was investigated for campaign finance fraud and resigned in disgrace.

Otto Voit is the republican candidate, and Joe Torsella is the democratic candidate. Otto and Joe’s stances on LGBT issues are unclear.

However, Facebook can confirm that Torsella attended Allentown’s LGBT Pride in the Park and shook the hand of at least one likely gay voter.

Pennsylvania Auditor General

The Auditor General ensures that the state’s money is spent properly and efficiently and has the authority to audit any public official or agency receiving state funds. The race’s incumbent is Democrat Eugene DePasquale, who in his first term publicly criticized former Governor Tom Corbett for using state funding to defend the state’s ban on gay marriage. DePasquale called the ban an unfair law that the state should not defend.

His Republican challenger John Brown does not have a stated position on queer or trans issues, but he was one of the local Republicans that opened for Donald Trump in Ambridge, PA recently.

Pennsylvania Attorney General

The State Attorney General’s role is to defend the state in all legal matters. In the past, State Attorney Generals have played key roles in shaping state and national policies around health care, water and environmental issues, and LGBT issues.

Previous Attorney General, Democrat Kathleen Kane, was recently sentenced to about a year in prison for perjury and abuses of power while in office. BUT while in office she did take a stand in support of the queer community when she decided that her office was no longer going to defend the state’s ban on gay marriage. All that is just to say that this is a very important position, especially for queer and trans people in Pennsylvania.

The Democrat in the race is Josh Shapiro. On his website he states that he has fought for LGBT rights throughout his time as the Montgomery County Commissioner and that he will continue to fight for LGBT rights as Attorney General.

The Republican candidate is John Rafferty. While in the PA State Senate, Rafferty voted for a constitutional amendment that would define marriage as a union between one man and one woman. He’s also one of the loudest advocates in the PA State Senate for Blue Lives Matter legislation. He drafted a bill that would make any targeting of police officers a hate crime.

You can read an extensive interview done by Philadelphia Gay News of both candidates for Attorney General here.

Pennsylvania Ballot Question

Pennsylvania voters rarely see ballot measures. It’s extremely difficult for lawmakers or citizens to change the state constitution, so when we do get a ballot measure it’s usually something innocuous and overwhelmingly popular.

This year’s ballot measure, however, has been more controversial than usual because of the language used. If you voted in the primary you voted on a question about raising the mandatory retirement age of state judges to 75. For legal reasons that vote didn’t count, but this one does, and keep in mind that even though the ballot question doesn’t say so, the current retirement age is 70 and the question is asking to raise it to 75.

Proponents of the measure argue that the retirement age should be raised as the average life expectancy increases and judges are physically able to serve longer than they used to. Opponents of the measure argue that keeping the retirement age at 70 can help make our courts more diverse by allowing current judges to age out sooner and open up seats for the younger, increasingly more diverse judges.

That’s your whole ballot folks! You can find your polling place here, and vote on Tuesday, November 8th from 7 AM to 8 PM!

This article originally appeared on QueerPgh.com. This article is preserved as a part of the Q Archives project. Please consider donating to help preserve Pittsburgh’s Queer history.