Were voters telling the legislature that they didn't want discrimination enshrined in the state constitution? Or was the message that voters were cool with extending the freedom to marry to same-sex couples?
The special election in House District 19A, where a majority of the voters said NO! to the amendment, may provide an answer to questions raised by the historic vote.
Or maybe not, if candidates stay on messages outlined in their announcement press releases and the hypothetical Republican candidate refrains from engaging on this issue. If that candidate is Allen Quist, Bluestem thinks he'll force the issue on the assumption that the district voters aren't ready for the change in state law.
And perhaps that those who are ready for that change--college students and younger voters--won't get out to vote in a special election in the middle of winter.
Candidates and parties should be wary of that assumption, however, in a district where the denser, more readily contacted population, lives in the college towns--and lives within walkable distances to the polls. Special elections are largely exercises in GOTV, after all.
DFL leadership reluctant to test St. Paul waters; St. Peter too?
DFL legislative leaders have signaled that they want a go-slow approach on repealing the state's ban on same-sex marriages, since the state budget, tax reform and education funding are more pressing matters.
Indeed, MPR reported in Bakk: Amendment vote was not a mandate to legalize same-sex marriage:
Newly chosen DFL Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk told MPR's The Daily Circuit on Friday that he did not interpret the results of this week's marriage amendment vote as a message from voters that they want same-sex marriage legalized in Minnesota.
"I think what the electorate was telling the Legislature is, 'Don't go pass constitutional amendments to get around a governor,' " Bakk said. "You know, it was already against the law in Minnesota, there was no reason for a constitutional amendment, and I think most Minnesotans didn't feel that amending the constitution with those kind of provisions — social provisions — was a proper use of the constitution."
If any of the candidates putting themselves forward support legalizing same-sex marriage--and have the courage to discuss their position--we might find out how accurate Bakk's assessment is as soon as endorsing conventions and a hypothetical primary rolls around.
Will DFL and IP candidates, party activists and voters say "Yes"? Or will they buck their parties' stances? Could a pro-same-sex marriage Republican emerge in the vacuum where the elephants once were? (Both DFL state house and senate incumbents ran without opposition.)
Looking at numbers in 19A
|Legislative District 19A
4102 precincts in contest. 38 of 38 precincts reported.
|Estimated Total Number of Voters||22189|
|Estimated Percent of YES*||47.14%|
The percentage of voters in this district who supported the amendment (47.14%) was slightly less than than that statewide (47.44%).
Via GAC computer science professor and elections scholar Max Hailperin, who calculated the percentages, here's the precinct-by-precinct breakdown of the marriage amendment vote in MN HD19A. The percentages are for "Yes" and "No" votes; there were 222 blanks among the estimated 22189 ballots cast.Minnesota House District 19A Amendment Votes by Precinct
Now, there are a couple of things about this district that makes it unusual for a "rural" district. One is the large college student population at St. Peter's private college (Gustavus Adolphus) a community college in North Mankato (South Central) and off-campus residents attending Minnesota State University at Mankato. College students tended to vote no on the marriage amendment.
The vote poses interesting questions for the primary, though ones that folks who are better at building statistical models than Bluestem could ask with more precision than we are able. Do college students vote in special elections? (Student turnout certainly was a factor in the January 2008 special election that brought Northfield's Kevin Dahle to the state capitol for the first time.)
Would the presence of two marriage-equality candidates split or neutralize the pro-marriage reform base? Could an anti-equality candidate in a three-way race capitalize on that division?
Would support for legalizing same sex marriage be an asset for a candidate in this special election, rather than a liability? Would the question motivate voters on both sides to go to the polls? Would it make no difference?
These are intriguing questions, but so far, none of the candidates have mentioned the issue, focusing instead on Highway 14 (the road in Nicollet County is downright deadly), the budget, property taxes, education--the usual bread and butter issues in legislative races.
Will anyone ask them about marriage equality?
Note: For news reporting that largely looks at the race from the storyline of Republican campaign consultant Gregg Peppin with some local conservative opinion mixed in, check out PIM's article, Seeming DFL stronghold could be up for grabs. The last time Peppin ran a candidate fitting those dynamics, Terry Morrow beat Rebecca Peichel 55-45 in a much more rural district during the 2010 Republican wave year.
Photo: Gustavus Adolphus College in the winter. MinnPost's Beth Hawkins reported in Youth vote’s overwhelming opposition doomed marriage and voting amendments that 78.54 percent of voters in St.Peter's W-2 P-1 said no to the marriage amendment; GAC, a heavily residential college, is part of this ward, although the college has sprawled out enough that it now has residences in three of St. Peter's four precincts. Will they turn out and vote for a pro-marriage amendment candidate in the special? Or is the marriage question so last year for the candidates?
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