Primary Races for HIV Advocates to Watch on June's Super Tuesday

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Midterm primary elections have a tendency to fly under the radar of the vast majority of the nation's population. Unlike their presidential counterparts, which are covered 24/7 by the national news media, midterm primaries are generally relegated to the province of state and local news. However, a number of primary elections coming up on Tuesday, June 5, hold particular significance for people living with and affected by HIV all across the U.S., regardless of whether they can vote in them. TheBody has compiled a rundown of the races HIV advocates need to be looking at this Tuesday.

Drew Gibson is a freelance writer and a policy associate at AIDS United in Washington, D.C. You can follow him on Twitter at @SuppressThis or visit his blog "Virally Suppressed," which covers a multitude of issues related to public health and social justice.

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California Chaos

Due to a truly bizarre set of circumstances, the Democratic Party's bid to take control of the House of Representatives could be decided on Tuesday in Southern California, long before general election day rolls around in November. In California's 38th, 39th, and 48th districts, a thick field of Democratic primary candidates has developed in large part due to a groundswell of liberal opposition to the Trump administration and anti-health care Republicans. In most states, a surplus of Democrats running in a primary wouldn't be a bad thing, but in California, which has a unique primary system that ignores party affiliation and simply advances the top two vote-getters to the general election, it could be disastrous.

With so many Democrats dividing the liberal/progressive vote, there's a very real chance that two Republicans -- and no Democrats -- could advance to the general election in those three districts. Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA 48th) -- the only incumbent running -- who might benefit most from the top-two system, recently told a California realtors' association that homeowners should be allowed to refuse to sell to prospective LGBT homeowners.

Sue Bell Cobb by Bright Blue Dot [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

A New, Blue Alabama?

Less than a year ago, the idea of a Democratic candidate winning the gubernatorial race in Alabama was borderline unthinkable. But today, after Doug Jones's shocking win over Roy Moore in the December 2017 special Senate election and with a new wave of progressive energy being generated by the real possibility that Democrat Stacey Abrams could occupy the governor's mansion in neighboring Georgia, that idea doesn't seem quite so far-fetched.

Who the candidates will be in the general election remains uncertain. On the Democratic side, a neck-and-neck race has emerged between former Alabama State Supreme Court Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb and the Tuscaloosa mayor, Walt Maddox, while the sitting governor, Kay Ivey, leads the Republican field. Cobb and Maddox aren't too far apart on most major issues, with both notably supporting Medicaid expansion in the state. For her part, Ivey checks all the hideous boxes one would stereotypically expect for a Deep South conservative politician: She's an anti-abortion, anti-Medicaid expansion candidate who supported known pedophile Roy Moore in his Senate run, and in 2017 she signed into law H.B. 24, which allows adoption agencies in the state to openly discriminate against LGBT couples.

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Transgender Discrimination Looming in Montana?

While much of the national press will be looking at Montana's primary election to see which Republican earns the right to face incumbent Democratic Senator Jon Tester, HIV and LGBT rights advocates have another reason to pay close attention. Although not on the primary ballot, a transgender bathroom ballot initiative is making the rounds in Montana and, if it obtains 25,468 signatures by June 22, it will be on the November general election ballot.

The initiative, formally known as the "Montana Private Facilities in Public Schools and Government Buildings Restricted to Person's Sex Initiative," would permit non-single-occupancy bathrooms and locker rooms in all government buildings -- including public schools -- to be used only by members of "one sex," with sex being defined as "a person's immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics existing at the time of birth." The initiative had originally been proposed last year, but the Montana House Judiciary Committee killed it.

Abby Finkenauer by Iowa House of Representatives, Iowa General Assembly (Copyrighted free use), via Wikimedia Commons

Fighting for Reproductive Rights in Iowa

It's not often that national attention is directed towards Iowa during a non-presidential election cycle, but that should change this year because the state's 1st district appears to be up for grabs. Of the Democratic challengers hoping to unseat two-term Tea Party Representative Rod Blum, Abby Finkenauer has emerged as the progressive favorite.

With reproductive rights under attack in Iowa due to the state's passage of a six-week abortion ban that is the most restrictive in the nation, Finkenauer has emerged as a much needed pro-choice champion. Running on a platform firmly grounded on women's right to bodily autonomy and the need for universal health coverage, Finkenauer has already secured endorsements from EMILY's List, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. In a year when Democrats will need to flip every possible House seat, Finkenauer's campaign in Iowa's 1st could prove a deciding factor in whether the Democratic Party retakes the majority in the House.