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The next battle for marriage equality will not take place in Minnesota and Maine in November of 2012 via ballot initiative, nor even in the Maryland legislature in the Spring of 2012. Rather, it will take place in the New Hampshire Legislature some time this coming winter, quite possibly at the same time the frenzy that is the New Hampshire Republican primary is ongoing.

According to the New York Times:

Another battle is expected in New Hampshire, one of the states that has adopted same-sex marriage. Pressure is mounting for the Legislature to take another historic step by reversing course.

In a fight expected to begin in January, conservatives think they have a good chance of victory in the Legislature, but they are not sure if they can muster enough votes to override an expected veto by the Democratic governor, John Lynch. In reference to the override:

"The votes will be very close," said Kevin H. Smith, the executive director of Cornerstone Action, a conservative group there.

And that's the key to this diary:

The votes will be very close...

There's no chance the issue will die quietly, despite polls showing a large majority of New Hampshire voters rejecting repeal. Legislative procedure in New Hampshire demands that each bill filed must be voted on during the two year session. As two bills denying marriage equality were filed but not voted on last year, voted on they must be this year.

New Hampshire did become slightly less likely to repeal marriage equality when, on May 17th, 2011 in a special election for the New Hampshire House of Representatives, Democrat Jennifer Daler won an unexpected and surprisingly large victory with 59% of the vote, in a district that Obama only won with a 51% share in 2008.

In the upcoming months there are not one, not two, but three special elections for the New Hampshire House, all to replace Republicans who have resigned.

(Background: In November of 2010, Republicans almost swept New Hampshire, winning the Senate race, both House races, and supermajorities in the State Senate and House -- they failed to win the governor's race, thank FSM).

Their House supermajority is in no danger due to these special elections, since there are currently 293 Republicans in the 400 member House and a mere 267 constitutes 2/3rds.

But

The votes will be very close...

Which means that any seat that can be wrestled from a Republican in these special elections could make a big difference in the chance of sustaining a veto of marriage equality repeal!

Here's why. If the vote is going to be close, that means that the final tally for the override is likely to be within ten votes either way. So every extra vote for marriage equality that can be nailed down in practice means an extra 5% or more (1 in 20) shot of upholding the veto rather than a 0.25% boost (1 in 400, the number of legislators in the NH House).

How do these special elections look? Here's the skinny on the one prior and three upcoming special elections:

County District Date Democrat Republican 2010 Dem. percentage (1) data sources
Hillsborough Dist. 4 May 18 Jennifer Daler Peter Kucmas 43% 2010
2011
Strafford Dist. 3 Aug. 9 Bob Perry Honey Puterbaugh 42% 2010 2011
Rockingham Dist. 14 Sep. 6 Ryan Mahoney Kevin Janvrin 34% 2010 2011
Hillsborough Dist. 3 Sep. 20 Peter Leishman David Simpson 48% 2010 2011
Although in 2010 Democrats received only 43% of the vote in Hillsborough, District 4, in 2011 Daler was able to get 59% of the vote. Of course in these special elections where only few thousand votes are cast (2400 in Daler's victory) anything can happen, but this is encouraging. It means the Democrat could have an excellent shot in Hillsborough D3, a decent shot in Strafford D3, and even in Rockingham D14 there is the possibility of an upset, since Daler got 16% more of the the vote in 2011 the the Democrats did in 2010, and 16% more of the vote in Rockingham D14 would bring Mahoney up to 50% exactly.  Also in Rockingham D14, a third-party candidate, Brendan Kelly, will be running in the general election as a Libertarian, which could dilute the Republican vote, helping Mahoney.

Of course none of this matters in terms of the veto override if these Democratic candidates don't support marriage equality (or at least will vote to uphold the Governor's veto). But they do!

According to the New Hampshire Legislature's records, both Robert Perry and Peter Leishman, who were New Hampshire legislators during the 2009-2010 session, voted in favor of marriage equality. Presumably both would vote against repeal.

According to this Q&A, Ryan Mahoney will not support repeal::

3. What is your stance on gay marriage. Should it be repealed in New Hampshire?

New Hampshire has a proud tradition of protecting individual freedoms and I believe this includes marriage equality. It would be wrong to deny or take away the rights of any New Hampshire citizens and I would not support a repeal.

Getting these Democrats elected therefore means three more votes against repeal; three of perhaps ten or fifteen votes marriage equality advocates need to keep the law from being overturned.  

The first special election, featuring Robert Perry, is August 9th, the same day the Wisconsin recall elections will take place. Let's win back the Wisconsin Senate AND take the first step towards preserving marriage equality in New Hampshire.

You can donate to Perry's campaign via the Paypal link on his blog.

I have not been able to find donation links or web pages for the other candidates.  If you know of any, I'll update the diary if you point me at them.

Remember

The votes will be very close...

-----

(1) Each New Hampshire House member nominally represents about 3300 New Hampshire residents. But most County Districts elect more than one representative per district. E.g., the top four vote getters winning the four seats allocated to a district. It seems like there is usually one Republican and one Democrat running per allocated seat, but they are elected at large. What I did was sum up the votes for all the Republican candidates and then for all the Democratic candidates to arrive at the Democratic percentage of the vote in a given District.

7:16 PM PT: Leischman is a definite 'no', according to this comment.  Good to know despite there not being much doubt!


Originally posted to jpmassar on Tue Jul 26, 2011 at 07:08 PM PDT.

Also republished by Take New Hampshire Forward!, Angry Gays, Milk Men And Women, and Dailykos Kossacks For Action.

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