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