6 Midterm Election Races Where Religion Could Play a Major Role

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Politicians across the country are in the final stretch of the campaign as Americans prepare to vote in the Nov. 8 midterm elections.

Multiple polls show tight races, with Democrats trying to capitalize on the summer momentum that favored them for abortion rights and gun reform but fell due to rising gun prices. gasoline. Republican challengers are campaigning on the promise of defeating rising inflation and rising crime.

Polls show the biggest issues for voters entering midterms are by far the economy, followed by abortion and crime, giving the Republicans a two-out-of-three advantage. Historically, the party that does not control the White House wins seats in midterm elections.

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At stake are dozens of governorships and control of the United States Senate and House. About a third of the seats in the Senate, the 435 seats in the House of Representatives and the 36 governorships are up for election this year. With the current Senate 50-50, Republicans only need one more seat to win a majority in the Senate and a net gain of five seats to win a majority in the House. Polls indicate the GOP will likely win the House, the Senate is up for grabs and several Democratic-led states could turn red.

ReligionUnplugged.com looks at some of the key races where a candidate’s faith could play a big role in election results.

1. Georgia Senate Race

Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker contest a key race that could swing control of the Senate. Walker, a black evangelical and former professional soccer player, comes on a platform of social conservatism. He supports Georgia’s abortion ban at six weeks gestation with exceptions for rape and incest, although he said in a radio interview that there are “no shame” as part of the procedure. But in recent weeks he has made national headlines when one of his former girlfriends accused him of paying for her abortion, an allegation Walker denied. The media also revealed that Walker had more children out of wedlock than publicly known, and the mothers of his children allege he was an absent father.

The incumbent Democrat Warnock is the senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, the spiritual home of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The young senator who describes himself as a “progressive Christian” was critical for using the pulpit to advance his political agenda “Keep Georgia Blue” and to support legal abortion. Earlier this month, when asked about abortion access during the Senate debate, he said: “I trust women more than politicians.” Warnock’s main campaign promises include making health care affordable and protecting the right to vote.

2. Pennsylvania gubernatorial race

In the Pennsylvania gubernatorial race, both candidates spoke about their faith during the campaign trail. Democratic candidate Josh Shapiro, the current state attorney general, often speaks about his conservative Jewish faith in speeches and advertisements. In a interview with The Associated Press, Shapiro said, “My faith grounds me and calls me to public service. I don’t use my faith to make political decisions or to exclude others like my opponent does. He hopes to build a Democratic Coalition religious and non-religious groups.

Trump-backed Republican candidate Doug Mastriano held several rallies at churches. To recent event near Pittsburgh, a pastor introduced Mastriano saying, “Get ready for a big red wave of ‘blood of Jesus’!” AP reported. Mastriano’s opponents called him a “Christian nationalist”, a label the state senator has repeatedly dismissed, saying it was an attempt by the media to mock his faith. He gained popularity during the pandemic by opposing vaccine mandates and rules to limit gatherings, including religious services, and has been criticized for his ties to Gab, the far-right social network that has tolerated anti-Semitism. Mastriano’s campaign paid Gab $5,000 for consulting services.

3. Pennsylvania Senate Race

The Senate race between Democrat John Fetterman and Republican Mehmet Oz is another hotly contested race in Pennsylvania. Oz – better known as “Dr. Oz” on the “Oprah Winfrey Show” – is the first Muslim to be nominated by a major party for a seat in the US Senate. He associates with Sufism, an ancient Islamic practice that emphasizes a direct relationship with Allah. The Trump-backed candidate has called out Muslims he deems too extremist, saying ‘We don’t want sharia law in America’ in an interview with The real voice of America. Sharia is the historical legal system of Islam, often criticized for its approach to women’s rights, criminal justice and democracy. Although he rarely speaks about his faith during the campaign trail, Oz said ABC News he would be honored to be elected the first Muslim to the Senate chamber.

Fetterman, a progressive Harvard graduate, previously served as mayor of Braddock and lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania. In this role, Fetterman says he fought policies banning same-sex marriage, helped legalize marijuana, and reformed criminal justice by eliminating fees associated with inmates seeking pardons. According Postal Gazette, Fetterman professed no particular religious beliefs, but his politics “take on a certain spiritual intensity.” The article’s author, Brandon McGinley, classifies the Democrat as a supporter of the “social gospel”, stressing that political reform is his religion.

4. New York gubernatorial race

The race for governor of New York between Republican Representative Lee Zeldin and Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul is hotly contested. Incumbent Zeldin is seeking her first full term, promising Affordable housing for New Yorkers, gun reform and job creation. She also seeks to cement New York as a ” Safe Haven “ for anyone seeking abortion care. Hochul, who is an Irish Catholic, has received endorsements from over 400 religious leaders across the state. By early October, Hochul’s campaign had raised $46 million, with nearly $10.9 million at hand, the Gotham Gazette reported.

Meanwhile, the Jewish daily Hamodia reported that Zeldin has received endorsements from two Orthodox Jewish groups. With the rising rates of murder, rape and robbery across New York, Zeldin focused his campaign on fighting crime. The Jewish conservative from Long Island is a pro-gun rights politician and voted to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. Last month, he won Trump’s approval with a boost from TV ads paid for by super PACs and funded with more than $4 million Jewish billionaire Ronald Lauder, heir to cosmetics company Estée Lauder.

5. Arizona Senate Race

In the swing state of Arizona, Republican Blake Masters and Democrat Mark Kelly are neck and neck for the Senate seat. The Christian Masters businessman plans to do “America safe, prosperous and free again” securing the border, expanding gun rights and fighting inflation. Masters often incorporates his Christian faith into most of his speech and pastoral campaign videos. GOP candidate wants abortion banned nationwide and called the procedure “demonic,” likening it to a “religious sacrifice”. Masters was endorsed by former President Donald Trump.

His opponent, holder Mark Kelly, said he was committed to lowering the cost of living in Arizona, improving infrastructure and fixing the broken immigration system by advancing border technology and personnel and providing immigrants with a deserved path to the citizenship. The former NASA astronaut is Catholic. In the recent televised debate, Kelly responded to Masters’ comments about abortion being a “religious sacrifice”, slamming her for claiming “to know more than women and doctors about abortion”. Kelly is a co-sponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act, which seeks to codify “nearly 50 years of precedent for abortion protections under Roe v. Wade.”

6. Utah Senate Race

The U.S. Senate race in Utah is generally uneventful as the state has voted red for the past four decades. But this year, Republican Senator Mike Lee is being challenged by Evan McMullin, an independent candidate who sees himself as a “principled conservative”. While both Lee and McMullin are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — commonly known as the Mormon Church — and agree on abortion restrictions, they have opposing views on how Trump should influence the Republican Party.

McMullin, a former CIA agent and investment banker, openly criticized Lee’s efforts to nullify the 2020 election, calling it an act of “shameless betrayal.” Lee once compared Trump to Captain Moroni, a Book of Mormon hero, and remains loyal to the former president. On November 8, Utah will decide whether it is anti trump in a red state paves the way for a Senate seat.

Deborah Laker is a staff editor at ReligionUnplugged.com. She holds degrees in journalism and political science from Oral Roberts University.

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