A lesbian Air Force veteran in Texas, a transgender advocate in Delaware and a gay attorney in New York are among those running for office.
By Julie Moreau
More lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer candidates will appear on ballots across the country this November than ever before, according to a new report from the LGBTQ Victory Fund, a group that trains, supports and advocates for queer candidates.
These candidates are also more racially diverse than in past election cycles, according to the findings.
“A historic number of openly LGBTQ people are running for office this year and we have the opportunity to elect an unprecedented number on Election Day,” former Houston Mayor Annise Parker, president and CEO of the LGBTQ Victory Fund, said in a statement. “While LGBTQ candidates are significantly more diverse than U.S. candidates overall, we must continue to break down the barriers LGBTQ people of color, women and trans people face when considering a run for office. Our government must reflect the diversity of America.”Another record year
At least 1,006 openly LGBTQ people ran or are still running for office this election cycle, up from 716 in the 2018 midterms, according to Victory’s Out on the Trail report. Of these candidates, 574 will appear on the general election ballot in November, up from 432 in 2018, representing a 33 percent increase.
There are eight nonincumbent LGBTQ candidates running for the House of Representatives. If they all win, they would more than double LGBTQ representation in Congress’ lower chamber from seven to 15. There are currently two LGBTQ U.S. senators — Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz. — though neither is up for re-election this year.
Some of these congressional hopefuls are looking to unseat incumbent conservatives. Tracy Mitrano, a lawyer and cybersecurity expert, is one of them. She’s gunning for incumbent Republican Tom Reed’s job in New York’s 23rd Congressional District.
“This district can do better than what it has had as representation in Congress for the past 10 years,” Mitrano told local NBC affiliate WTEM-TV on Saturday. “Affordable health care, good education, infrastructure, the internet. Let’s get jobs back, but the only way you’re going to do that is if you lay the foundation of health and education and infrastructure.”
Former U.S. Air Force Capt. Gina Ortiz Jones is looking to beat Republican nominee Tony Gonzales, a Navy veteran, and flip Texas’ 23rd Congressional District for Democrats. If she wins, Jones would be both the first Filipino American woman to serve in Congress and the first openly gay representative from Texas.
“I really felt called to protect the opportunities that allowed me to grow up healthy, get an education and serve our country,” Jones told NBC News. “That made my story, my service, possible, and that’s why I’m so committed to fighting for working families in this district.”
Jon Hoadley is currently in his third term as a Michigan state representative. He is taking on incumbent Rep. Fred Upton, who opposed nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people and voted to ban same-sex marriage. Upton has represented the historically conservative district since 1986.
“For his entire political career, Fred Upton has worked to deny basic rights and protections to LGBTQ people – so it will be poetic justice when he is defeated by an openly gay challenger next November,” Parker said of the race. “Few 2020 Congressional races are more important than this one – a swing seat in a swing state with a stark choice for voters. Jon aims to uplift all constituents and put real people at the center of his decision-making, while Fred Upton continues to play cynical politics with people’s lives and well-being.”
If elected, Hoadley would be the first openly LGBTQ member of Congress from Michigan.
Increasing racial and ethnic diversity
A notable trend this year is the substantial increase in the number of LGBTQ candidates of color. Nearly a third of the LGBTQ candidates who ran this year are people of color, compared to 10 percent of all candidates — LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ — who ran in 2018, the report states.
Both Torres and Jones would be the first Black gay men elected to Congress if they were to prevail Nov. 3.
Rep. Sharice Davids won her House bid in 2018 and became the first openly gay Native American woman elected to Congress, and the first LGBTQ person Kansas has ever elected to federal office. She is back on the ballot this November, favored to beat Republican challenger Amanda Adkins, a former health care executive.
Georgette Gomez, currently a San Diego City council member, is running against another Democrat, Sara Jacobs, for the open seat left by Rep. Susan Davis’ retirement. If elected, Gomez would be the first Latina LGBTQ member of Congress.
Beyond the L and the G
Gay men and lesbians continue to make up the majority of LGBTQ candidates. However, bisexual, queer and pansexual candidates saw the greatest proportional growth since 2018, according to the report.
Compared to 2018, the number of transgender candidates decreased, but the number of candidates identifying as genderqueer, nonbinary or gender-nonconforming jumped considerably, from 6 to 25, marking a 325 percent increase from 2018.
For example, Louise Snodgrass is hoping to become the first genderqueer state legislator in South Dakota.
While the overall number of transgender individuals running for office this cycle went down, those who are running are serious contenders and could have an important impact at the state level. For example, Sarah McBride is on track to become the first openly transgender person elected to Delaware’s General Assembly and the first transgender state senator anywhere in the U.S.
After winning the Democratic primary in August, Taylor Small is a shoo-in to become the first openly transgender state legislator in Vermont. And in Kansas, Stephanie Byers is also favored to win her race against Republican Cyndi Howerton to fill the open seat in the state legislature. If elected, Byers would become the first openly transgender legislator in the Kansas House of Representatives.
Jessica Katzenmeyer is running for Wisconsin State Assembly, and Madeline Eden is running for the Texas House of Representatives. If elected, both women would be the first openly transgender lawmakers in their states’ legislatures.
Shifting geography of LGBTQ candidates
California, Texas and Florida boast the highest number of LGBTQ candidates running in 2020, according to the Victory Fund. These candidates could make an especially big impact on the Texas House of Representatives, where Democrats need to pick up nine seats to flip that chamber. Several LGBTQ candidates are in key races, especially out lesbians Ann Johnson and Eliz Markowitz.
Alabama is the only state this cycle that has no openly LGBTQ person running for office at any level, according to the report. At present, State Rep. Neil Rafferty is the only openly LGBTQ person in office in Alabama.
Five states — Alaska, Tennessee, Louisiana, Delaware and Mississippi — have never elected an openly LGBTQ state legislator, though that could soon change for three of them. In addition to McBride in Delaware, lesbian Lyn Franks is running for the state Legislature in Alaska, and Torrey Harris, a bisexual man, and Brandon Thomas, a gay man, are running in Tennessee.
While the number of openly lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer elected officials across the U.S. has been steadily increasing, just 0.17 percent of the country’s roughly half million elected officials are LGBTQ, according to the Victory Institute. In order for LGBTQ people — who make up an estimated 5 percent of the U.S. population — to achieve “equitable representation,” there would need to be 22,544 more of them in elected office, according to the organization.