October 25, 2018

Endorsements and Analysis for the November Elections – U.S. Senate

Animal Wellness Action, a non-partisan entity that looks solely at the stances and voting, leadership, and cosponsorship records of candidates on animal issues, has announced approximately 200 endorsements of candidates for Congress and for governor’s races, forecasting that Democrats are likely to regain the majority in the House after 8 years in the minority and that strongly pro-animal Democrats are poised to win races for governor in a half dozen states. Action believes that the Senate will stay in the Republican hands, but there are some particularly important some key races in that chamber.

Every two years, there are elections for a third of the seats in the Senate. Among those 33 seats, Democrats hold more than two-thirds of them, and that means they are playing defense to hold onto those seats, with many of them representing states that favored President Trump in November 2016. With the Senate nearly evenly divided – 51 Republicans versus 49 Democrats and Independents – it would be very tough for the Democrats to pick a net of two seats or more to win a majority and reclaim control.

Unlike in the House, there are fewer Republicans who are actively working against animal protection. In Arizona, in the seat vacated by Senator Jeff Flake, Republican Representative Martha McSally (AZ-2) is squaring off against Kyrsten Sinema (AZ-9). Both lawmakers have outstanding records on animal protection – with Sinema having a perfect 10 of 10 record on the Congressional Accountability Tool and McSally an 8 of 10. McSally though gets extra credit for being the author of one of the key animal protection bills, the Humane Cosmetics Act, to stop testing of cosmetics on animals. Action issued a rare joint endorsement based on their outstanding records.

In Nevada, Democrat Representative Jacky Rosen (NV-3) is taking on incumbent Republican Senator Dean Heller. Rosen scored 10 of 10 on the CAT. Heller wasn’t nearly that good, but he’s been a strong leader as the co-author of the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act and he is a co-author of the amendment to crack down on animal fighting in the territories. But because of Heller’s pivotal vote to roll back federal protections for predators on national preserves and national wildlife refuges, our endorsement goes to Rosen, who actively opposed both of those maneuvers when they came up in the House.

The sharpest contrast between the candidates’ records on animal issues comes in Missouri and Tennessee. In the Show Me State, incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill is working to fend off a challenge from Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley. McCaskill has not been an outspoken leader on animal protection, but she’s supported most of the major animal protection bills and also voted against the repeal of the Alaska predator-protection policies and other rollbacks of animal and environmental rules. She also voted to stop abuses in the USDA’s corrupt beef and pork check-off programs and the diversion of millions family farmer dollars to benefit animal agribusiness trade associations and their campaigns against animal welfare. Her challenger, Hawley, has been leading an effort to subvert California’s progress farm animal welfare policies as a way to pander to those same animal agribusiness interests in Missouri. McCaskill is the clear choice in Missouri for animal advocates, family farmers, and fiscal hawks.

Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn (TN-7) has represented Middle and West Tennessee for nearly two decades in the House and had dozens of opportunities to help enact much-needed national policies to combat animal cruelty. In almost every case, she’s taken the opposite tack and sided with dark money and special interests. Blackburn has taken the reins in leading opposition to legislation to crack down on the barbaric practice of soring Tennessee Walking Horses, the intentional infliction of pain to horses’ front feet that causes them to perform an exaggerated gait known as the “Big Lick.”

Blackburn introduced a sham reform bill as a strategy to sow confusion. The American Veterinary Medical Association described her bill as “nothing more than an attempt to maintain the status quo in an industry riddled with abuse and will ensure that the broken system of seeing horses sored at an alarming rate does not have to answer for its crimes.”

Blackburn made a crusade of protecting the trainers who sored horses, but she seldom missed an opportunity to weigh in against other animal welfare reforms. Perhaps her most outrageous vote came against the Pet Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act, which set up national standards to require planning to help people and pets as natural disasters bore down on communities. She was involved with a different kind of public safety threat when she voted against an amendment to stop the abuse of cows too sick or injured to walk – known as “downers.” The House defeated the amendment by the narrowest of margins, 199 to 202, and just months later, the USDA determined a cow slaughtered in Washington state had Mad Cow Disease. That cow was a “downer,” and if the ban on slaughtering “downers” had been in place, she would not have been dragged into the slaughterhouse.

Blackburn voted to oppose efforts to stop the slaughter of horses for human consumption, even though horses are given many drugs unfit for human consumption; she voted to block the Fish and Wildlife Service from cracking down on the ivory trade, even though criminal syndicates and terrorists cells financed their operations and their purchase of weapons by selling the tusks of elephants; and she voted against efforts to stop the trade in primates for the pet trade, even after the public learned of cases where powerful apes kept as pets disfigured their caretakers.

While Texas’s incumbent Senator Ted Cruz has been open to supporting some animal protection issues – backing the Prevent Animal Cruelty and Torture Act and efforts to reform the check-off program – his record does not come close to matching to that of Representative Beto O’Rouke (TX-16). O’Rourke scored a perfect 10 of 10 on the Congressional Accountability Tool.

Pro-animal Senator Jon Tester is in a tough race against Matt Rosendale, and Tester most certainly gets the Action endorsement. Action is also strongly backing pro-animal incumbent Maria Cantwell from Washington, Robert Menendez of New Jersey, and Debbie Stabenow from Michigan, among others.

To enact good laws, we must elect good lawmakers, and that’s why we remind voters which candidates care about our issues and which ones don’t. We hope you’ll consider our assessment in making your voting choices. It’s critical that all humane-minded voters get out and vote in this election.

In our next edition of The Political Animal, there will be more to come on key races for Governor.

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