Equality Matters

Has NOM Run Out Of Electoral Power?

June 25, 2014 12:59 pm ET - by Luke Brinker

The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) suffered a defeat at the polls on June 24, when pro-marriage equality Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY) fended off a conservative primary challenge from NOM-backed candidate Claudia Tenney in New York’s 22nd congressional district. The loss marks the latest sign that NOM - which one promised that supporting marriage equality would be a “career ender” for New York Republicans - is running out of electoral power.

Hanna, one of three House Republicans who support marriage equality, defeated Tenney by a margin of 53 to 47 percent after a primary campaign in which he came under attack from social conservatives and Tea Party groups. NOM publicly  announced its support for Tenney on June 23 and spent $20,724 supporting Tenney and $10,743 attacking Hanna. 

NOM and its supporters might explain Tenney’s loss by citing the $700,000 the pro-equality American Unity PAC spent supporting Hanna

But it wasn’t that long ago that NOM stridently proclaimed that supporting marriage equality would prove fatal for Republican candidates. 

In 2011, the group sought to punish Republicans in the New York State Senate who voted for the state’s marriage equality law. NOM dropped six figures running Internet ads, erecting billboards, distributing mailers, organizing rallies, and supporting anti-equality primary challengers. While two out of three Republicans in contested primaries prevailed over NOM-backed candidates, one NOM-endorsed primary challenger managed to topple an incumbent.

Shortly thereafter, NOM announced plans to spend big in a host of states in order to oust pro-equality Republicans. The group promised to spend $250,000 each in Illinois, New Hampshire, and Washington state – to no avail. 

Recent general election contests haven’t turned out any better for NOM’s candidates. In 2013, the group poured funds into the ultimately unsuccessful campaigns of U.S. Senate candidate Steve Lonegan (R-NJ) and gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli (R-VA).

These losses come as NOM confronts myriad legal woes and financial challenges and amid a succession of pro-marriage equality rulings in state after state. Even candidates NOM supports are increasingly wary of being tied too closely to the organization and its cause; In a tweet Wednesday morning, Tenney downplayed the role of LGBT issues in the primary, suggesting that the race was actually "about corruption."

While NOM has never really succeeded in walking the walk in its pledge to defeat pro-equality Republicans, the results in New York illustrate that the organization increasingly lacks the power and funds to even talk the talk. Even if NOM consistently overpromised and under-delivered, the prospect of a NOM-backed primary challenge was once enough to cause at least some angst for pro-gay Republicans. That threat looks even less fearsome now.


NOM Sustains Yet Another Election Loss In Virginia

Another NOM-Endorsed Candidate Loses: Steve Lonegan Edition

NOM Ignores Its Own Track Record In Pledge To Oust Pro-Equality Illinois Republicans

Copyright © 2010 Equality Matters. All rights reserved.