With Election Day 2015 now behind us, here’s how some of the key races around the country played out.
No legal weed for Ohio
In Ohio, voters rejected Issue 3, a proposal that would have legalized both medicinal and recreational marijuana. The ballot measure was unique in that it wasn’t just legalization that was controversial, but the manner in which legalization in the state would take shape. Had it passed, Issue 3 would have given a handful of people — namely the proposition’s rich backers, like former 98 Degrees frontman Nick Lachey, fashion designer Nanette Lepore and two descents of President William Howard Taft — the exclusive rights to cultivate commercial cannabis in the state.
The idea of a monopoly on marijuana appeared to turn many voters off; they overwhelmingly rejected the measure, 64 percent to 36, while narrowly approving Issue 2, an anti-monopoly amendment that explicitly banned the “initiative process from being used for personal economic benefit.”
Lobbying for the proposition, Lachey had emphasized the jobs it would create and the money it would bring to his home state. Presidential hopeful and Ohio Gov. John Kasich scoffed at that idea during a recent primary debate. “We’re running a $2 billion surplus, we’re not having a revenue problem right now. And sending mixed signals to kids about drugs is a disaster,” Kasich said.
Legalization groups were split on the issue — the Marijuana Policy Project and National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws issued reluctant endorsements, while the Drug Policy Alliance refused to endorse because of the monopoly issue.
John Pardee, vice president of the Ohio Rights Group, a legalization organization that originally opposed and later voted to support Issue 3, summed up his feelings in a note to volunteers and supporters: “I’m more excited for the future of Ohio cannabis reform than I’ve been in a long while. We have to stick together if we are going to succeed so I suggest that any future draft amendments needs the buy-in of all of you good people before it hits the streets.”
San Franciscans reject anti-Airbnb measure
In San Francisco, voters rejected Proposition F, a ballot measure that would have restricted short-term rentals in the city to 75 days a year or fewer, 55 percent to 45 percent.
It was an outcome ShareBetterSF, the group that bankrolled the effort, was prepared for. In an interview a few days prior to the election, spokesperson Dale Carlson said if the group lost, “We’ll try again next year. The history of progressive politics in this town is: you put something on the ballot the first time and you lose. You may have to do it again and again and again before you prevail.”
Carlson invoked the fight to impose limits on high-rise buildings as one example; that measure had to be put on the ballot seven times before voters finally approved it.
ShareBetterSF, which received the majority of its funding from the hotel and restaurant workers’ union, was outspent 28-to-1 by its opponents, including Airbnb. The company was upbraided for one particularly tone-deaf campaign that attempted to convince San Francisco voters to support it by bragging about the $12 million the company pays in taxes.
“It takes an enormous amount of chutzpah to brag about the fact that you pay your tax obligations,” Carlson said on Friday. “I think, even if they pull this out and win, the damage they’ve done to their brand, particularly in San Francisco, is going to be with them for a long time.”
Houston equal rights bill is nixed
In Houston, voters rejected Proposition 1, the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), by a margin of 61 percent to 39 percent; the bill would have prohibited discrimination on the basis of sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, familial status, marital status, military status, religion, disability, genetic information and pregnancy.
The fairly uncontroversial anti-discrimination bill was originally passed by the city council in 2014, and later suspended by the State Supreme Court amid protest by a group of local pastors. Those pastors, with support from Texas Gov. Greg Abbot and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee, campaigned against the ordinance by telling voters, inaccurately, that it would allow men in women’s bathrooms.
After the loss, Houston Mayor Annise Parker, who drafted the original ordinance, held a press conference in which she characterized the effort to defeat HERO as “a campaign of fear-mongering and deliberate lies. Deliberate lies. This isn’t misinformation, this was a calculated campaign of lies designed to demonize a little-understood minority.”
Parker, who is wrapping up her third and final term as mayor, told Rolling Stone last week that, even though HERO appeared to be leading in the polls, the outcome would be determined by who could galvanize the most people to turn up on Election Day.
“I’ve been in politics now for 18 years. I’ve been elected nine times in Houston. I know my way around the politics in Houston. I know enough to know that no matter where you are, a race is determined by who shows up,” Parker said. “If you have an overwhelming majority, you can kind of say, ‘Oh yeah, whoever shows up, we’re probably going to be fine.’ But if you have a slim majority, you have to work hard to make sure that your people show up if you reflect what the broader community feels.”
The defeat of Proposition 1 leaves Houston without a local framework under which residents can file discrimination complaints.