Last night's Democratic primaries did not treat gay marriage advocates well.
The state senate is ground zero for the same-sex nuptials debate. And supporters need to pick-up about a half-dozen seats in the 38-member chamber to have a good shot at passing a bill next year. Last night, just one same-sex marriage supporter - Adam Satchell - claimed victory in the six most watched races.
But Ray Sullivan, executive director of Marriage Equality Rhode Island, insists the fight is not over, pointing to a handful of Democratic candidates who could deliver a majority with victories in November.
Ryan Pearson, a gay marriage supporter who cruised to victory in a less-than-competitive Democratic primary yesterday, takes on vulnerable Republican Senator Bethany Moura. Same-sex nuptials supporter Catherine Cool Rumsey faces off against Republican Senator Glenford Shibley, who opposes the legislation.
Democrat Scott Pollard is up against Republican Senator Nicholas Kettle, who seems a likely "no" on gay marriage. And Stephen Archambault, who ran for attorney general in 2010, is vying to replace retiring Democratic Senator John Tassoni, Jr., who was seen as friendly to gay rights activists but less-than-solid on same-sex marriage.
Still, defeating incumbents, as the primary suggested, is no easy task. And gay marriage supporters will be forced to play defense in some districts, too.
Cranston Senator Bea Lanzi, considered a "yes" vote by advocates, is retiring. And the Democrat who won the primary yesterday, charismatic Cranston school committee member Frank Lombardi, is anti-gay marriage. It's unclear where his Republican opponent, Sean Gately, stands on the issue. But Lombardi would have to be considered the favorite.
So while Sullivan insists there is still a path to a gay marriage majority in the senate - and there may be - it is clear that path is an increasingly narrow one.
It may be a little easier to get down that path if Tim Gill, the reclusive Colorado technology magnate who has invested in state-level legislative races for years now in a bid to tip the balance on same-sex marriage and other gay rights issues, decides to play in November as he did in the primary races.
No word, yet, on whether that might happen. And we probably won't know until the last minute; Gill's political operation doesn't often discuss strategy. But if he does participate, it seems likely that he'll stick to his long-running strategy of focusing mailers and other voter communications not on gay marriage itself, but on any issue that could make a difference in an election.
Sullivan says his parents, who live in one of the senate districts Gill targeted during the primary, received a mailer criticizing senate candidate Leo Raptakis - who opposes same-sex nuptials - on the 38 Studios debacle.