15 Key LGBTQ Races to Watch on Election Night

On election night, more than 300 LGBTQ candidates across the country will compete in what is widely regarded as the most pivotal midterm race in decades—if not ever. A great many of these political hopefuls could make history on Nov. 6. If elected, candidates like Colorado’s Jared Polis and Vermont’s Christine Hallquist would be the first out officials to serve in their respective offices.

As the results roll in, INTO put together a list of some of the key races to watch.

BRIANNA TITONE (D-Colo.)

Who is she?

A former volunteer firefighter and environmental consultant, Titone served as a delegate for Bernie Sanders in the 2016 election. She is also the secretary and treasurer for the Jefferson County LGBTQ Caucus, as well as the captain-at-large for the Jefferson County Democratic Party.

What position is she running for?

Colorado House of Representatives, District 27

Who is she running against?

Republican Vicki Pyne

What issues is she running on?

Titone hopes to combat pay inequality for women and minorities, believes the internet is a public utility, urges campaign finance reform, and thinks all Coloradans deserve a living wage. She is in favor of an initiative to increase funding for transportation by $6 billion in the state.

How likely is it that she will win?

Colorado’s 27th House District has been held by Republicans since 2010. Current officeholder Lang Sias won the seat by 13 points in 2016.

What are the implications of the race?

If elected, Titone would be the first trans woman in Colorado to be elected to the state legislature. Virginia’s Danica Roem flew to the state to campaign for her earlier this year.

 

CHRISTINE HALLQUIST (D-Vt.)

Who is she?

The former CEO of Vermont Electric Cooperative, Hallquist was one of the first chief executives of a major company in the U.S. to transition on the job. She began transitioning in December 2015.

What position is she running for?

Governor of Vermont

Who is she running against?

Republican incumbent Phil Scott

What issues is she running on?

Hallquist supports a $15 minimum wage, paid family and medical leave insurance, and a plan to achieve 90 percent renewable energy in Vermont by 2050. Should she win, she plans to create an independent oversight board on racial justice.

How likely is it that she will win?

Despite being a conservative in a Blue State, Scott is one of the most popular governors in the country. Polls show the incumbent leading by at least 10 points.

What are the implications of the race?

If elected, Hallquist would be America’s first openly trans governor.

 

ERIC HOLGUIN (D-Texas)

Who is he?

Holguin is a former candidate for the Corpus Christi City Council. He worked as an intern for New York Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and in the New York City Comptroller’s office from 2016 to 2017.

What position is he running for?

U.S. House of Representatives, Texas’ 27th District

Who is he running against?

Republican incumbent Michael Cloud

What issues is he running on?

Holguin wants to expand access to broadband cable internet in rural communities, provide free community college for working-class Americans, pass a national nondiscrimination law protecting LGBTQ workers, and lower the voting age to 17. He believes healthcare is a human right.

How likely is it that he will win?

Holguin was defeated by Cloud in a June special election to replace departing Blake Farenthold for the remainder of the year. The Republican won by 32 points.

What are the implications of the race?

If elected, Holguin would be the first queer man of color and the first gay Latino politician to serve in U.S. Congress.

 

GINA ORTIZ JONES (D-Texas)

Who is she?

Ortiz Jones worked in the U.S. Air Force as an intelligence officer during the Iraq War. After leaving the military, she served as the senior advisor for trade enforcement under the Obama administration and later the director for investment at the office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

What position is she running for?

U.S. House of Representatives, Texas’ 23rd District

Who is she running against?

Republican incumbent Will Hurd

What issues is she running on?

As a member of Congress, Ortiz Jones will focus on job creation for working-class families, ensuring every Texas student has access to quality education, immigration reform, and expanding access to affordable health care.

How likely is it that she will win?

It’s hard to call. Hurd only beat his Democratic challenger by 1.3 percentage points in 2016, and Hillary Clinton won the district by 3.4 points in the 2016 election. However, a New York Times/Siena poll shows Hurd leading by 15.

What are the implications of the race?

If elected, Ortiz would be the first queer woman of color to serve in U.S. Congress, as well as its first out lesbian Latina.

 

JARED POLIS (D-Colo.)

Who is he?

Since 2009, Polis has served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, representing Colorado’s 2nd District. After co-founding American Information Systems (AIS) while in college, he is worth a reported $400 million—making him one of Congress’ wealthiest members.

What position is he running for?

Governor of Colorado

Who is he running against?

Republican Walker Stapleton

What issues is he running on?

Polis wants to push Colorado toward 100 percent renewable energy by 2040, establish universal full-day kindergarten and preschool by 2020, pass common-sense gun reform, and rebuild the state’s infrastructure.

How likely is it that he will win?

Polls conducted during the month of October show Polis leading his conservative opponent by 6.7 percentage points. Democrats have held the governor’s office in Colorado since 2007.

What are the implications of the race?

If elected, Polis would be the first gay man to serve as governor of a U.S. state. To date, Oregon’s Kate Brown is the only LGBTQ person to be elected governor.

 

KATE BROWN (D-Ore.)

Who is she?

Brown is currently the governor of Oregon and the first openly bisexual governor of a state in U.S. history.

What is she running for?

Governor of Oregon

Who is she running against?

Moderate Republican Knute Buehler

What issues is she running on?

As governor, Brown has raised the minimum wage and increased funding for education and guaranteed paid sick leave. Though Buehler wrote legislation giving people access to over-the-counter birth control, Brown is emphasizing her opponent’s votes against legal abortion and Medicare funding.

How likely is it that she will win?

The Oregon governor’s race is considered a toss-up. According to poll averages, Brown holds a slim 4.3 point lead over Buehler — just outside a three percentage point margin of error.

What are the implications of the race?

Brown is America’s only LGBTQ governor.

 

KATIE HILL (D-Calif.)

Who is she?

Katie Hill is a nonprofit executive who served as the executive director of California’s People Assisting the Homeless and has worked to pass legislation to address Los Angeles’ homelessness crisis.

What is she running for?

U.S. House of Representatives, California’s 25th District

Who is she running against?

Republican incumbent Stephen Knight

What issues is she running on?

Hill’s campaign has focused on affordable health care. She also wants to close tax loopholes to make sure the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes, rebuild the middle class, and address California’s affordable housing crisis.

How likely is it that she will win?

Though Brown is a Democrat in a decidedly blue state, pundits consider this race a toss-up. A recent Berkeley IGS poll had Brown ahead by four, but the results were flipped in tracking from the New York Times and Siena College. Their polling showed Knight winning by the same margin.

What are the implications of the race?

If elected, Hill would be California’s first LGBTQ representative to U.S. Congress, and one of just a handful of openly bisexual members of either house.

 

KYRSTEN SINEMA (D-Ariz.)

Who is she?

Sinema is a bisexual woman, a Democrat, and the U.S. congressional representative from Arizona’s 9th district. She’s been serving since 2013.

What is she running for?

U.S. Senate

Who is she running against?

Martha McSally

What issues is she running on?

Sinema is running on her bipartisan record. She’s considered the third-most bipartisan member of Congress. She also wants access to quality healthcare, benefits for veterans and job growth. Just don’t call her a progressive.

How likely is it that she will win?

Polls have been fairly split, with each candidate winning their fair share by a narrow margin. McSally only leads by a percentage point in poll averages tracked by RealClearPolitics, making them statistically tied.

What are the implications of the race?

If elected, Sinema would be the first bisexual member of the U.S. Senate, which has only had one LGBTQ representative in history: Tammy Baldwin.

 

LUPE VALDEZ (D-Texas)

Who is she?

Valdez is the former sheriff of Dallas County. Before stepping down from her position to run for governor, she served in the position for 12 years.

What position is she running for?

Governor of Texas

Who is she running against?

Incumbent Republican Greg Abbott

What issues is she running on?

Valdez supports the passage of statewide LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination protections in Texas, comprehensive immigration reform allowing a path to citizenship for DREAMers, expanding voting rights to disenfranchised populations, and paid sick leave for workers.

How likely is it that she will win?

Valdez has a lot of ground to make up on election day: Polls show Abbott ahead by an average of 16.7 percentage points. It doesn’t help that the Republican regularly ranks among the top 10 most popular governors in the U.S.

What are the implications of the race?

If elected, Valdez would be the first queer woman of color and the first out lesbian to serve as governor of a U.S. state.

 

MARK TAKANO (D-Calif.)

Who is he?

Takano is the first LGBTQ person of color elected to Congress and has served in the U.S. House since 2013.

What is he running for?

U.S. House of Representatives, California’s 41st district

Who is he running against?

Republican candidate Aja Smith

What issues is he running on?

Takano is solidly Democratic as a legislator, voting with the party on most issues. He spent 20 years as a classroom teacher and is running on education and economic issues. Takano also supports reforming campaign finance, voting rights, and the national immigration system.

How likely is it that he will win?

Extremely likely. FiveThirtyEight gave Takano a 99 percent chance of holding the seat, projecting he would win by 36 points. Takano has raised almost $1 million, while Aja has raised only $38,000.

What are the implications of the race?

If reelected, Takano would remain the only openly gay person of Asian descent in U.S. Congress.

 

NEIL RAFFERTY (D-Ala.)

Who is he?

Rafferty is the prevention and education coordinator for Birmingham AIDS Outreach.

What position is he running for?

Alabama House of Representatives, District 54

Who is he running against?

Independent candidate Joseph Casper Baker III

What issues is he running on?

Rafferty’s campaign is strongly focused on issues of community health. As a member of the legislature, he would fight to expand Medicaid in the state of Alabama, work to address the state’s opioid crisis, and increase resources for mental health. He also supports a livable minimum wage and expanding access to affordable housing.

How likely is it that he will win?

Rafferty won by a commanding 34 points in the June primaries and is likely to repeat victory on Nov. 6. Democrats are highly favored in District 54, where current officeholder Patricia Todd won by more than percentage points in 2014. She did not face a general election opponent in 2006 or 2010.

What are the implications of the race?

If elected, Rafferty would be the first gay man to serve in the Alabama legislature. Todd is currently its first and only openly LGBTQ member.

 

NELSON ARAUJO (D-Nev.)

Who is he?

Araujo currently serves as a State Senator in Nevada’s 13th assembly district.

What is he running for?

Nevada’s Secretary of State.

Who is he running against?

Incumbent Barbara Cegavske

What issues is he running on?

Araujo has said he is running “to help every eligible voter participate in our democracy — whether it’s closing the gap between early voting and election day, or allowing same-day and automatic voter registration.” He also wants to use tech companies to help ease Nevada’s elections.  

How likely is it that he will win?

Polls are scarce, but those that have been conducted show the two in a stalemate or with Araujo at a slight edge.

What are the implications of the race?

If elected, he’ll be the first LGBTQ person of color to win a statewide election in Nevada, as well as the state’s first Latino secretary of state.

 

RICK NEAL (D-Ohio)

Who is he?

After entering the Peace Corps, Neal taught public health for five years in Morocco.

He has served as an international aid worker in countries like Afghanistan, Cambodia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where he set up camps for refugees and fought for access to clean water.

What position is he running for?

U.S. House of Representatives, Ohio’s 15th District

Who is he running against?

Incumbent Republican Steve Stivers

What issues is he running on?

Neal’s list of campaign promises — which are available on his website — include protecting cuts to Social Security, working to improve the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and advocating for the expansion of Medicare among Americans 55 and older.

How likely is it that he will win?

Projections by FiveThirtyEight projected Stivers would prevail by a 15-point margin, which would actually be a good result for Neal. The Republican, who has held the office since 2010, typically wins reelection by more than 30 percentage points. A Democrat has only held Ohio’s 15th for one term since 2000.

What are the implications of the race?

If elected, Neal would be the first LGBTQ politician to represent Ohio in U.S. Congress.

 

SHARICE DAVIDS (D-Kan.)

Who is she?

A graduate of Cornell Law School, Davids is an attorney and former White House fellow.

Her campaign attracted unexpected national attention after a video highlighted her background as a former mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter. She’s also a member of the Wisconsin’s Ho-Chunk Nation.

What position is she running for?

U.S. House of Representatives, Kansas’ 3rd District

Who is she running against?

Incumbent Republican Kevin Yoder

What issues is she running on?

As a member of Congress, Davids hopes to further an economic policy focused on small businesses, fight for tax cuts for the middle class, expand Medicaid, and treat gun violence as a public health issue.

How likely is it that she will win?

Pretty likely. Although Yoder has held the seat since 2010, the latest Emerson College poll shows Davids leading by 12. In September, the  National Republican Congressional Committee pulled more than $1 million in funding earmarked for Yoder’s campaign—a move which signaled to many that the GOP is not confident in his reelection chances.

What are the implications of the race?

If elected, Davids would be the first queer woman of color in U.S. Congress, as well as one of the only Native American lawmakers to serve at the national level.

 

TAMMY BALDWIN (D-Wis.)

Who is she?

Baldwin is the first LGBTQ person to win election to the U.S. Senate. Prior to that milestone, she was also the first LGBTQ candidate elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

What position is she running for?

U.S. Senate

Who is she running against?

Republican Leah Vukmir

What issues is she running on?

During her six years in Congress, Baldwin has been a major champion of the Equality Act. The legislation would rewrite national civil rights laws to protect queer and trans people from discrimination in all forms of public life. She’s also been an advocate for veterans’ health care, expansion of manufacturing jobs, and easing the burden of student debt.

How likely is it that she will win?

While polls show Baldwin leading her Republican opponent by more than 10 points, the seat isn’t as safe as many may assume. Conservatives have spent more than $10 million in purple Wisconsin to oust her from office.

What are the implications of the race?

Baldwin is currently the only LGBTQ person to ever serve in the U.S. Senate. Should Vukmir pull an upset and Sinema also lose on election day, the upper chambers of the national legislature would have no LGBTQ representation for the first time in six years.

Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images


Nico Lang and Mathew Rodriguez

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