Atheist Pete Stark Loses His Seat in Congress; Atheist Kyrsten Sinema’s Race is Too Close to Call

The first open atheist in Congress just lost the seat he has held for nearly four decades.

Pete Stark

Pete Stark (D-CA) lost his race to fellow Democrat Eric Swalwell. This wasn’t completely unexpected since Swalwell had been doing better in pre-election polls, but it’s especially bittersweet since he used Stark’s opposition to reaffirm “In God We Trust” as our national motto against him.

Additional information: Stark came out as a “non-theist” in 2007, making him the first sitting member of Congress to ever do so. In addition to recognizing the National Day of Reason on the floor of Congress, he spoke (via video) at the Reason Rally earlier this year. Stark had served in Congress since 1973, making him the longest-serving Congressperson currently from California (and fifth longest-serving overall).

With 100% of the precincts reporting, Stark lost his race by about 10,000 votes:

There is hope for another atheist in Congress, though. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) is currently beating her opponent by 2,000 votes with 100% of precincts reporting.

Unfortunately, since the race is so close, her opponent Vernon Parker doesn’t want to concede just yet:

Parker was down, but remained optimistic. He said he expected it to take more than a day to determine a winner.

“There are a lot of votes that have not been counted and we’re going to wait and see what the final count is. We’re very enthusiastic about people who voted today and we really believe that we’re going to prevail,” Parker said. “It’s extremely doable.”

Additional information: Sinema is believed to be both an atheist and bisexual, though she hasn’t spoken about either in her capacity as a politician. Sinema has received an award from the Center for Inquiry for the Advancement of Science and Reason in Public Policy and she was present at the opening of the Secular Coalition for Arizona. She was a member of the Arizona House of Representatives from 2005-2011 and a member of the Arizona Senate from 2011-2012. (She resigned from the state Senate earlier this year to run for Congress.)



About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Jason Horton

    It would be interesting to see how many pretend to be religious for votes and how many actually are.  Not that I think we’ll ever know that but I suspect that the non-believers in Congress probably reflect the background of those standing more than the numbers indicate.

    • Formercorvguy

      what! are you saying politicians would lie about something like this?  I’m shocked

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=123400843 Stu Minnis

    Am I the only one who thinks this admirable woman’s last name has an unfortunate nom-de-porn quality?

    • Stuartlittle

      …Not to mention her soft-porn photo, above

      • http://twitter.com/Freemage69 Freemage

         Soft-porn photo, because she dares to be attractive?  I mean, seriously?

    • Quintin van Zuijlen

      Be honest, that’s what you want it to be.

  • Fsm

    The Sinema-Parker race was the worst around here as far as the mud-slinging went. While we were watching the football games on Saturday, we saw the same attack ads from Parker and Sinema back to back at least every 30 minutes. It is sad that people no longer can get elected on what their own positions are but instead by suggesting that their opponent is worse than they are. I am just going to start writing in Satan and brag that I voted for the lesser evil.

    • CelticWhisper

       On that note, am I the only one who sees Parker’s photo as very closely resembling a cartoon devil?  The smile, the narrowed eyes, the red background…

      Put horns on him and draw a little pointed tail coming up over his shoulder and seriously – he could pass for Satan.

    • HughInAz

      I used to have a lot of respect for Vernon Parker… until he started pandering to the ignorance and stupidity of the tea party.

  • CelticWhisper

    Also, while I realize we need as many atheists as we can get in public office, I can’t bring myself to be upset over the termination of someone who held office for four decades.

    Seriously, when you’re in office that long, I don’t care what your stated platform is – you’ve become a career politician and there’s no way you haven’t lost touch with the People.

    I think the “In god We Trust” bit was really low on Swalwell’s part and I would that Stark was replaced with another atheist, but 40 years…time to hang it up.

    • IndyFitz

      I disagree. If people keep voting someone in, that’s what the people want.  And I can’t wrap my head around an absolute statement like “I don’t care what your stated platform is – you’ve become a career
      politician and there’s no way you haven’t lost touch with the People.”  That seems to me like saying “I don’t care what you say – if you’ve driven Fords for years there’s no way you’d ever drive a Chevy.”  What could be more admirable than someone who served for 40 years and was always in touch with the people?  I’m not saying some career politicians don’t give a crap about the people, but to lump all politicians who have been at this for “too long” as out of touch… well, it seems intolerant and smacks of making up one’s mind without anything beyond the barest surface facts.  I guess I’d rather judge someone on his or her own merits, not merely that 40 years means you don’t care.  *shrug*

  • Xeon2000

    So Kyrsten will be our new token atheist in congress (with any luck). Here here!

  • Ikkyu

    Proud to have voted for her.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke, Blonde

    esp after yesterday’s four victories for queer equality, it’s pretty clear that atheists are the new gays, when it comes to demonizing a minority group for the sake of winning an election. get used to it, kids. it’s not so bad and i’m confident that it’s a struggle we atheists can win in the long run as well. but look for plenty more of this, now that they can’t elect people by stirring up hatred of teh gaiis. 

    • http://twitter.com/Freemage69 Freemage

       Eh… I’m a little reluctant to take it that far.  While I know atheists are a non-privileged group, it’s pretty rare for us to be the actual target of violence.  An atheist who comes out to his family might get ostracized; there’s still parts of the country where coming out as gay might get you beaten to death by your own family.


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