Political strategists took a note from Tuesday’s Virginia governor’s race likely to be replayed next year in midterm elections and the presidential race in 2008: Democrats can talk about faith, too.

“We proved that faith in God is a value we all can share, regardless of party,” Virginia Lt. Gov. Timothy Kaine said in his victory speech over his Republican opponent, Jerry Kilgore.

“Values voters” were identified as a key bloc in helping President Bush to win re-election in 2004. Polls have suggested that many voters consider the GOP as being friendly toward people of faith, and Democrats hostile to traditional values.

Kaine, however, a one-time altar boy, put his Catholic faith and upbringing front and center in his campaign for governor.

“My life and my values have been shaped by my family, my faith, and my community,” Kaine said on his campaign Web site.

Kaine took a year off from law school to work with a Catholic missionary in Honduras teaching carpentry, welding and religion to poor children.

In fact, his faith-based opposition to capital punishment played a role in the campaign, when Kilgore ran attack ads saying Kaine couldn’t be trusted to uphold Virginia’s death penalty. Kaine said he can separate his religious beliefs from his duty to uphold the law.

Kaine defeated Kilgore 52 percent to 46 percent, despite a last-minute get-out-the-vote appearance by President Bush in support of the Republican candidate.

Also on Tuesday, voters in Texas overwhelmingly approved a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, becoming the 19th state to take that step. Gay marriage is already illegal in Texas, but supporters said a constitutional amendment was needed to prevent courts from overruling state law. About 76 percent of voters supported the constitutional ban.

“The Texas Constitution will now protect marriage, families and the state that we love,” Republican Party Chairwoman Tina Benkiser said, according to Religion News Service.

Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, blamed the outcome on “the lies and smears of anti-gay zealots and the profound unfairness of having minority rights put up for a popular vote.”

Opponents to gay marriage received a setback, meanwhile, in Maine, where voters rejected a proposal backed by conservatives to repeal a gay-rights law passed by the Legislature.

Concerned Women for America applauded “the pro-family people of Maine,” who fought unsuccessfully to pass a “People’s Veto.”

“Homosexual activists poured in resources from out of state, engaged in smear tactics and were aided by a media that routinely engaged in character assassination,” said Robert Knight, a Maine native and director of CWA’s Culture & Family Institute. “The pro-family people were outspent by more than 10 to 1, saw hundreds of yard signs ripped up, and generally were under siege. But having fought the good fight and done all they could, they can hold their heads high.”

California voters rejected a measure that would have required doctors to notify the parents of teenage girls seeking abortions, despite the backing of religious conservatives and endorsement by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.

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