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2006 Senate race coverage introduction : Dec. 25, 2005

Click for the full list of 2006 Senate races

This week we introduce our coverage for U.S. Senate in 2006. We have posted our web page 2006 Senate races, listing all 33 states which will have Senate races decided in November. We introduce our coverage page by including House incumbents or former House members who are running for U.S. Senate in 2006. with their House voting records shown on each page. We will expand to full campaign coverage, and the Senate debates, through the course of the campaign (see our 2004 Senate debates and our 2004 Senate race coverage). The House incumbents appear in the left-hand column. Their opponents appear in the right-hand column,

House member running for Senate Incumbent Senator
Kenneth E. Bentsen (D,TX) Kay Bailey Hutchison (R,TX)
Sherrod Brown (D,OH) Mike DeWine (R,OH)
Ed Bryant (R,TN) Bill Frist (R,retiring)
Benjamin L. Cardin (D,MD) Paul S. Sarbanes (D,retiring)
Ed Case (D,HI) Daniel Akaka (D,HI)
Harold E. Ford (D,TN) Bill Frist (R,retiring)
Katherine Harris (R,FL) Bill Nelson (D,FL)
Van Hilleary (R,TN) Bill Frist (R,retiring)
Nancy Lee Johnson (R,CT) Joe Lieberman (D,CT)
Mark R. Kennedy (R,MN) Mark Dayton (D,retiring)
Robert Menendez (D,NJ) Jon Corzine (D, elected Governor)
Kweisi Mfume (D,MD) Paul S. Sarbanes (D,retiring)
Bernie Sanders (I,VT) Jim Jeffords (I,retiring)
Nick H. Smith (R,MI) Debbie Stabenow (D,MI)

Accusation: Cheney provided "philosophical guidance" for torture : Nov. 20, 2005
A former top State Department official said Sunday that Vice President Dick Cheney provided the "philosophical guidance" and "flexibility" that led to the torture of detainees in U.S. facilities.

Retired U.S. Army Col. Larry Wilkerson, who served as former Secretary of State Colin Powell's chief of staff, told CNN that the practice of torture may be continuing in U.S.-run facilities. "There's no question in my mind that we did. There's no question in my mind that we may be still doing it," Wilkerson said. "There's no question in my mind where the philosophical guidance and the flexibility in order to do so originated -- in the vice president of the United States' office," he said. "His implementer in this case was [Defense Secretary] Donald Rumsfeld and the Defense Department."

At another point in the interview, Wilkerson said "the vice president had to cover this in order for it to happen and in order for Secretary Rumsfeld to feel as though he had freedom of action."

Cheney has lobbied against a measure in Congress that would outlaw "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment" of prisoners, calling for an exception for the CIA in cases that involve a detainee who may have knowledge of an imminent attack. The amendment was included in a $491 billion Pentagon spending bill that declared 2006 to be "a period of significant transition" for Iraq. Proposed by Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican who was tortured as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam, the amendment was approved in the Senate last month by a 90-9 vote. It was not included in the House version of the bill.

The White House has said that Bush would likely veto the bill if McCain's language is included, calling the amendment "unnecessary and duplicative."

Cheney has come under mounting criticism for his position. Last week, Stansfield Turner, a military veteran who served as director of the CIA during the Carter administration, labeled him the "vice president for torture." In a statement responding to Turner's remark, Cheney said his views "are reflected in the administration's policy. Our country is at war and our government has an obligation to protect the American people from a brutal enemy that has declared war upon us." "We are aggressively finding terrorists and bringing them to justice and anything we do within this effort is within the law," the statement said, adding that the United States "does not torture."

Source: CNN.com
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Rep. Jack Murtha calls for withdrawal from Iraq : Nov. 18, 2005

Click here for excerpts from Jack Murtha (D, PA) or for other House members.

The partisan furor over the Iraq war ratcheted up sharply on Capitol Hill on Thursday, as an influential House Democrat on military matters called for the immediate withdrawal of American troops and Republicans escalated their attacks against the Bush administration's critics.

Representative John P. Murtha of Pennsylvania, a Vietnam combat veteran who voted for the Iraq war, said that after more than two years of combat, American forces had united a disparate array of insurgents in a seemingly endless cycle of violence that was impeding Iraq's progress toward stability and self-governance. He said the 153,000 American troops in Iraq should be pulled out within six months. "Our military has done everything that has been asked of them. It is time to bring them home," Mr. Murtha said, at times choking back tears. Mr. Murtha's proposal, which goes well beyond the phased withdrawal of United States forces from Iraq that other moderate Democrats have proposed, stunned many Republicans who quickly held their own news conference to criticize the plan.

President Bush's press secretary issued an unusually blistering statement responding to Mr. Murtha's call for a pullout, declaring that the Democrat was "endorsing the policy positions of Michael Moore and the extreme liberal wing of the Democratic Party."

Speaker J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois said in a statement that Mr. Murtha and Democratic supporters had "adopted a policy of cut and run." "They would prefer that the United States surrender to terrorists who would harm innocent Americans," Mr. Hastert said.

But the talk of Washington was Jack Murtha, 73, a blunt former Marine drill instructor who served a combat tour in Vietnam and retired as a colonel in the Marine Corps Reserve after 37 years of service. The ranking Democrat on the Defense Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, Mr. Murtha has earned bipartisan respect for his work on military issues over three decades in Congress.

In recent months, though, Mr. Murtha has voiced concerns raised by constituents and from his own conversations with troops and commanders about problems like shortages of body armor and other equipment. His district in southwestern Pennsylvania has lost 13 service members in Iraq. Aides said Mr. Murtha had mulled over his proposal for weeks and decided to announce it before lawmakers left this weekend for the Thanksgiving Day recess. He presented his proposal to a closed meeting of House Democrats, who gave him a standing ovation. Mr. Murtha then held a news conference, where, fighting back tears, he said it was Congress's moral duty to intervene on behalf of the troops.

"Our troops have become the primary target of the insurgency," said Mr. Murtha, who visited Iraq in late August. "We have become a catalyst for the violence." If approved by the House and Senate, Mr. Murtha's resolution would force the president to withdraw United States troops "at the earliest practicable date," which he said could be six months. Under his plan, the Pentagon would retain a quick-reaction force in the region, as well as marines within a few sailing days.

When asked about Mr. Cheney's remarks on Wednesday, Mr. Murtha replied sarcastically: "I like guys who've never been there that criticize us who've been there. I like that. I like guys who got five deferments and never been there and send people to war and then don't like to hear suggestions about what needs to be done." In the Vietnam era, Mr. Cheney had five deferments and did not serve in the military.

Source: Eric Schmitt, New York Times
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Samuel Alito Jr. nominated for Supreme Court : Oct. 31, 2005

Click here for excerpts from Samuel Alito or for other Supreme Court justices.

President Bush is nominating Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. to the Supreme Court, according to news reports, choosing a long-time federal judge embraced by judicial conservatives to replace retiring Justice MSandra Day O'Connor.

The choice likely will mend a rift in the Republican Party caused by his failed nomination of Harriet Miers. Miers bowed out last Thursday after three weeks of bruising criticism from members of Bush's own party who argued that the Texas lawyer and loyal Bush confidant had thin credentials on constitutional law and no proven record as a judicial conservative.

Anonymous officials said Alito was virtually certain to get the nod from the moment Miers backed out. The 55-year-old jurist was President Bush's favorite choice of the judges in the last set of deliberations but he settled instead on someone outside what he calls the "judicial monastery," the officials said.

A former prosecutor, Alito has experience off the bench that factored into Bush's thinking, the officials said.

While Alito is expected to win praise from Bush's allies on the right, Democrats have served notice that his nomination would spark a partisan brawl. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, said Sunday that Alito's nomination would "create a lot of problems."

Unlike Miers, who has never been a judge, Alito, a 55-year-old jurist from New Jersey, has been a strong conservative voice on the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals since former President George H.W. Bush seated him there in 1990.

Alito has been dubbed "Scalito" or "Scalia-lite" by some lawyers because his judicial philosophy invites comparisons to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. But while Scalia is outspoken and is known to badger lawyers, Alito is polite, reserved and even-tempered.

Source: Associated Press
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Harriet Miers withdraws from Supreme Court nomination : Oct. 27, 2005

Click here for excerpts from Harriet Miers or for other Supreme Court justices.

In choosing a replacement for Harriet Miers, President Bush may feel less of a need to select a woman to fill the seat of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. And because of Mr. Bush's desire to move quickly, he would probably choose from the roster of candidates whom he has considered before and whose backgrounds and records have been extensively researched.

In addition to deciding whether he had the leeway to replace Justice O'Connor with a man, Mr. Bush will have to deal with other more pressing political questions in making his selection.

Among the questions: How much of his decision will be affected by a need to satisfy his conservative base, which shocked him with its widespread rejection of Ms. Miers?

And how much of a political fight with Democrats is he willing to risk by naming someone in the mold of the conservative Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. One decision about any new nominee that seems beyond doubt is that Mr. Bush and his aides - and they awkwardly still include Ms. Miers on this issue - will select a candidate with unassailable legal credentials and a firm grounding in constitutional law. Ms. Miers's experience as a corporate lawyer was dismissed as having little relevance, and her relative inexperience with constitutional issues and reasoning, the heart of the Supreme Court's work, was treated with disdain by Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives.

Source: Neil Lewis, New York Times
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Bush nominates Harriet Miers for Supreme Court : Oct. 4, 2005

Click here for excerpts from Harriet Miers or for other Supreme Court justices.

President Bush nominated Harriet Ellan Miers, his White House counsel and former personal attorney, to the Supreme Court yesterday, choosing a woman who broke barriers in the male-dominated Texas legal world but brings no judicial experience or constitutional background to her new assignment.

Bush announced his choice for the nation's 110th justice from the Oval Office shortly before the court opened its new term under newly installed Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. In Bush's nationally televised statement, he simultaneously introduced Miers and defended her legal résumé, which came under immediate attack from some conservative groups.

In succeeding Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, one of the court's swing voters, Miers would be in a position to move it decisively to the right. Bush said she would bring a distinctive perspective to the high court while strictly interpreting the Constitution and not legislating from the bench.

"In selecting a nominee, I've sought to find an American of grace, judgment and unwavering devotion to the Constitution and laws of our country. Harriet Miers is just such a person," Bush said. "I've known Harriet for more than a decade. I know her heart. I know her character."

The White House appeared to be seeking a smooth confirmation process, bypassing candidates with more established conservative bona fides at a time when Bush is beset with political problems including the Iraq war and Hurricane Katrina. Based on advance soundings with Senate Democratic leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) and conservative leader James C. Dobson, the White House calculated that Miers would draw broad support.

But yesterday's response to the nominee left that open to doubt. There was widespread dissent among Bush's usual allies on the right, who questioned whether the 60-year-old former corporate lawyer possessed the distinguished qualifications and conservative credentials they are looking for in a court nominee.

Advocates on the left and their allies in the Senate also urged caution, pronouncing Miers's judicial philosophy and constitutional views a mystery.

Source: Michael A. Fletcher, Washington Post
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Bush nominates John Roberts for Supreme Court : July 19, 2005

Click here for excerpts from Judge Roberts or for other Supreme Court justices.

Citing that he is 'deeply impressed' with John Roberts integrity and character, President Bush formally announced Roberts as his nominee for the open seat on the Supreme Court.

Roberts, 50, would serve a long tenure in office and would be in a position to carry Bush's ideals for years to come.

Roberts is very respected and known throughout Washington and many anaysts believe that his confirmation will be timely.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D) of the Judiciary Committee stated 'no one is entitled to a free pass to the life-time position on the Supreme Court.' Leahy went on to state that the next step of Roberts review will be thorough and not rushed.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D) went on to state that Roberts only served as an actual judge for two years and served as an "able" lawyer for th emajority of his time in the political arena. Schumer also believes that there is no clarity in his political stance due to his short time serving as a judge.

The Senate has to confirm Bush's nomination as the next step in the selection process.

Source: Danielle George, All Headline News
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Justice O'Connor retires : July 1, 2005

Click here for excerpts from Justice O'Connor or for other Supreme Court justices.

Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, announced her resignation Friday and launched the high-stakes battle over who will replace her.

The 75-year-old moderate conservative, who was the first woman to serve on the court, has been the swing vote on some of the highest-profile cases -- including abortion and vote-counting in the 2000 presidential election.

In a letter to President Bush, O'Connor said she needed to spend more time with her husband and would leave her post after the confirmation of her successor.

Her husband of more than 50 years, John J. O'Connor, has been suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer's.

This is the first Supreme Court vacancy since 1994, when President Clinton nominated Stephen Breyer. President Reagan appointed O'Connor who took her seat as associate justice on September 25, 1981.

O'Connor's move did not surprise court watchers and portends a tremendous political battle. Already, conservative and liberal groups have been pushing the White House to fill a potential vacancy with someone who leans toward their points of view.

Within an hour's notice of O'Connor's departure, Bush vowed in brief statement delivered in the Rose Garden to announce a nominee "in a timely manner."

And he sent a message to Democratic lawmakers not to filibuster his choice as he called for a "dignified" confirmation process that includes a "fair vote."

The White House said Bush will announce a nominee after he returns from next week's G8 summit.

Source: www.cnn.com
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Report on WMDs : March 31, 2005

Click here for excerpts from the Commission Report

The Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities
of the United States Regarding
Weapons of Mass Destruction
Report to the President of the United States
March 31, 2005
  • Charles_Robb, Commission chair
  • John McCain, Commission member
  • Laurence Silberman, Commision co-chair
  • Other Commission members:
  • Richard Levin
  • Henry Rowen
  • Walter Slocombe
  • William Studeman
  • Patricia Wald
  • Charles Vest
  • Lloyd Cutler
Source: www.WMD.gov

President Bush State of the Union Speech : Feb. 2, 2005

Click here for excerpts and the Democratic Response

  • Part 1 -- Introduction to the Joint Session of Congress
  • Part 2 -- Economy
  • Part 3 -- Social Security
  • Part 4 -- Faith-based initiatives
  • Part 5 -- War on terror
  • Part 6 -- Iraq
  • Part 7 - Closing
  • Democratic Response by Sen. Harry Reid
  • Democratic Response by Rep. Nancy Pelosi
  • Fact-Check Analysis
Source: WhiteHouse.gov
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President Bush reinaugurated : Jan 20, 2005

"An end to tyranny in our world"

George W. Bush yesterday dedicated his second term as president to a struggle aimed at promoting democracy across the globe "with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world."

The post-9/11 era could best be served by fanning the "untamed fire of freedom."

"So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture," Bush said.

Bush also pledged to pursue an ambitious agenda at home to raise educational standards and build an "ownership society."

"We will widen the ownership of homes and businesses, retirement savings and health insurance – preparing our people for the challenges of life in a free society," he said.

Bush did not make specific reference to his chief domestic policy objectives – creating individual investment accounts as part of a revamping of Social Security, restructuring the federal tax laws or placing restrictions on civil lawsuits.

Nor did he specifically mention Iraq, where more than 1,300 U.S. troops have died and continuing violence casts uncertainty as Iraqis prepare to choose an interim government. The balloting is meant to mark the emergence of a democratic order in the wake of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

Bush described the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks as a "day of fire" that ended a complacent era following the "shipwreck of communism."

In a nod to domestic adversaries, Bush said, "We have known divisions, which must be healed to move forward in great purposes, and I will strive in good faith to heal them."

As thousands of police officers barred traffic from a 100-block area near the White House and erected barricades across much of downtown, protesters managed to find curbside space along the parade route.

Bush's appearance provoked some jeering, as one dissident waved a sign reading, "Guilty of war crimes."

Source: San Diego Tribune
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Kerry concedes to Bush: Nov. 3, 2004

Senate results: GOP gains 4 seats

Sen. John Kerry called President George W. Bush to concede from his Beacon Hill home Wednesday morning after a long, tense night of vote counting. Sources said that Kerry would deliver a statement by midday.

Earlier Wednesday, supporters who waited for hours to see Kerry deliver a victory speech at a rally in Copley Square were greeted by the senator's running mate -- North Carolina Sen. John Edwards at about 2:30 a.m. "John Kerry and I made a promise to the American people that with this election, every vote would count and every vote would be counted," Edwards said. "Tonight we are keeping our word and we will fight for every vote. You deserve no less."

With 270 Electoral College votes needed to win, Bush won 28 states for 254 votes, and Kerry won 20 states and the District of Columbia for 252 states. All eyes remained on Ohio, which was yet to be declared, but Bush appeared to be leading the popular vote in the Buckeye State. Democrats said that up to 250,000 uncounted votes may be in the form of provisional ballots in Ohio -- votes that are not counted until late in the election process because they have to be evaluated. Provisional ballots are handed to voters who fail to meet certain qualifications at the polling place.
Senate results

Source: WCVB-TV, theBostonChannel.com and numerous sources for Senate results
Click for more headlines by John Kerry or George W. Bush

Oct. 31, 2004: Our presidential election prediction

We predict: Bush will win popular vote; Kerry will win electoral vote

OnTheIssues predicts that Bush will win the popular vote. But Kerry will win the electoral race by a dozen electoral votes. We base our election prediction on the results of the 1998 gubernatorial election in Minnesota, where Jesse Ventura was polling down three points the weekend before the election, yet won the election by three points. A spread of six points is greater than the margin of error in any serious poll, and understanding why Ventura won -- and why the polls were wrong -- is the basis of our presidential prediction.

Pollsters don't actually report the number of people who say they're going to vote for Bush or Kerry. The pollsters adjust the raw numbers by factors that account for historical demographic trends. For example, if only 25% of people aged 18-25 voted in the previous election, then anyone in that demographic group is discounted by 75% in polls in the current election. That's called 'normalization' by the pollsters, and is built into every scientific poll. The question for the presidential race is: 'Which states have factors that would make the pollsters wrong?'

The reason that Jesse Ventura beat the pollster results is because young people came out to vote more than they did in previous elections. That's not surprising, because the turnout among 18-25 year-olds is historically very low, and Ventura was very popular among that group. Ventura had to his advantage 'same-day voter registration' in Minnesota, which enticed many young people to register and vote that day. This year, Kerry has to his advantage several large-scale voter registration efforts focused on young people. Hence we predict that the 18-25 demographic will turn out to vote more than in the 2000 election, and that the pollsters are not picking that up.

The second half of the equation is whether newly-registered young voters will vote for Kerry. That is the historical trend -- that young people vote more Democratic and more against the incumbent. Hence Edwards said today, 'If you see young people lined up to vote, we're gonna win,' and we agree that that's likely to happen. If young people vote disproportionately for Bush, then our prediction will be proven wrong.

The other low-voting group which we predict will turn out in greater-than-historical numbers are black males. That's one of the lowest-voting demographics in the country, but this year we predict a change. Black males were the focus of the 2000 Florida problems, and felt particularly disenfranchised by the results there. As with young people, there have been several large-scale organized efforts to increase registration and turnout among black males. That demographic votes even more Democratic than young people -- often up to 90%-10% Democrat vs. Republican -- which can mean huge numbers in Florida, Ohio, and any place with large black populations.

Republicans have organized numerous large-scale registration and get-out-the-vote efforts as well. Their focus have been in corporate workplaces and in churches, and especially via anti-gay marriage ballot initiatives in 11 states. It is possible that those efforts will overrule the polling results -- especially in the 11 states with the ballot initiatives -- on the same grounds as above. But the Republican-targeted groups vote in much higher numbers than the Democrat-targeted groups, and hence there is less room for improvement. And it's the room-for-improvement that the polling numbers do not pick up. The ballot initiatives may cause Bush to score an upset over the pollsters' Kerry-ahead predictions in Michigan and Oregon -- and give us confidence in predicting a Bush victory in Ohio and Arkansas despite tight races there.

There's one more factor to consider. Many people don't like to tell pollsters who they will vote for, which the pollsters report as 'undecided'. Those people often don't like incumbents, for the same reasons as they won't tell pollsters their preference. What we see as healthy American iconoclasm means any incumbent has to have a strong lead among voters who call themselves undecided, because those voters tend to vote for the challenger. That factor could amount to another percentage point or two, since the 'undecided vote' is running at 3-4 points this weekend. Typical analyses give the undecided vote to Kerry by a factor of two-to-one, which means another net gain for Kerry of a couple of percentage points over what the pollsters show.

Now onto the specific numbers. OnTheIssues uses electoral-vote.com as our source of polling information, which you can see at ontheissues.org/elect_frm.htm. If Bush or Kerry is ahead by more than 3 points -- strong support -- that state is very likely going to go for that candidate. Based on the analysis above, we predict that Kerry will win states in which neither candidate is three points ahead, with some exceptions below. The contentious states (with electoral vote count shown) that we predict will go to Kerry are:

  • WV (5) - Bush up by 3-5 points.
  • CO (9) - Bush up by 3-5 points.
  • VA (13) - Bush up by 3 points.
  • HI (4) - Bush up by 1 point.
  • NM (5) - tied in the polls.
  • NH (4) - tied in the polls.
  • NV (5) - tied in the polls.
  • MI (17) - Kerry up by 1 point.
  • IA (7) - Kerry up by 1 point.
  • FL (27) - Kerry up by 1-2 points.
  • PA (21) - Kerry up by 3 points.
  • MN (10) - Kerry up by 3 points.
  • NJ (15) - Kerry up by 3-5 points.
  • WI (10) - Kerry up by 3-6 points.
All the pundits have been predicting Ohio as the Florida of 2004 (i.e., the most contentious state). Bush is currently up by 4-5 points in Ohio. With that size lead, we predict Bush will win Ohio despite the factors in the above analysis -- the gay-marriage surge for Bush will counter the youth-vote surge for Kerry. The overall count is:
  • 171 electoral votes in strong pro-Kerry states
  • 215 electoral votes in strong pro-Bush states
  • 152 electoral votes in the states listed above, which we predict go to Kerry, 104-48.

The sum of the above is that Kerry wins the electoral vote 275-263. We predict that Virginia, West Virginia, and Colorado will be too close to call before Wednesday morning but will go to Bush. Hawaii would go to Kerry based on our analysis, but Cheney spent the weekend there which we predict will be decisive. The surge based on gay-marriage ballot initiatives will give Bush a win in Michigan, we predict. The next most likely state where Bush would benefit from the gay-marriage surge is Oregon, but Kerry is ahead by 6 points. If you see Oregon going for Bush on Tuesday evening, Bush will certainly win a landslide -- adding Oregon to our numbers above gives Bush a 270-268 victory but winning Oregon would imply other unexpected victories. We don't see any chance for Bush in Wisconsin or N.J., but we include them on the list because some pundits have declared them contested. Missouri and Arizona, also on some swing-state lists, look like safe Bush bets to us.

We also predict that Bush will win the popular vote. Bush is behind in 5 large-population states: CA, NY, IL, PA, and FL. Of course he will still get around 40%-45% of the vote in each of those states, millions of votes which will count for zero electoral votes. We hope for a electoral-vote-popular-vote split again because voters will be so dismayed at the system that we will do away with the electoral college, which we view as a step forward for democracy. In fact, Colorado may split their 9 electoral votes this year, by a ballot initiative on just that topic. We endorse seeing the electoral college done away with -- if several large states adopted Colorado's system (or the existing split-vote systems of Nebraska and Maine) then the electoral college would effectively be gone -- and good riddance!

We are not endorsing Kerry -- we don't endorse candidates but we do endorse political participation and we especially endorse voting based on the issues. We note for the record that in 2000 we similarly predicted a Bush popular vote victory and a Gore electoral vote victory and we were incorrect on both counts (although few pundits predicted a split, and we did). If we're as wrong in 2004 as we were in 2000, we'll be the first to tell our viewers 'ignore the polls and the pundits' because we already encourage that. And viewers should note that this prediction is based on very wonkish concepts -- we wholeheartedly admit to being wonks!

Source: OnTheIssues.org editorial by Jesse Gordon, editor-in-chief
Click for the Electoral Map

Gay marriage on ballot in 11 states: Oct 30, 2004

May help Bush win Michigan and Ohio

Voters in 11 states will decide Tuesday whether to impose constitutional bans on same-sex marriage. Rarely in American history have so many voters -- close to one-fifth of the electorate -- had a chance on a single Election Day to express themselves on such a highly contentious social issue. Most, if not all, of the bans are expected to win approval, though national gay-rights groups are spending heavily in Oregon and a few other states in hopes of avoiding a shutout. The 11 ballot items result from a backlash to the court ruling almost a year ago that made Massachusetts the only state with legalized gay marriage. Seeking extra protection against any comparable future rulings, legislators in five states and signature-gathering citizens' groups in six states placed proposed constitutional amendments on Tuesday's ballots that would limit marriage to one man-one woman unions.

The proposed amendments in Mississippi, Montana and Oregon refer only to marriage. Those in Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma and Utah would ban civil unions as well, and those extra provisions have generated extra controversy. In Ohio, several top Republicans, including Gov. Bob Taft, oppose the amendment -- even though its presence on the ballot is viewed as a potential benefit to President Bush. In Michigan, another presidential battleground, the state AFL-CIO has condemned the amendment as a threat to domestic partnership benefits offered by public employers.

Already this year, voters in Missouri and Louisiana have weighed in on the issue, with marriage amendments winning more than 70 percent of the vote in both states. Louisiana's amendment was later struck down in state court. Recent polls showed support for the amendments at 76 percent in Oklahoma and Kentucky, 65 percent in Arkansas, 60 percent or more in Michigan, 59 percent in Montana, 57 percent in Ohio.

Source: Associated Press in San Francisco Chronicle
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