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The 2018 Midterms Were A Rainbow Tsunami With More than 157 Openly LGBTQ Candidates Elected

The results are still pouring in from Tuesday’s midterm elections, but a few things are crystal clear: Democrats took back Congress, there’s a whole lot more women and people of color running things, and a truly historic number of LGBTQ people are about to take office at all levels of government.

According to the LGBTQ Victory Fund, the nation’s largest political action group for LGBTQ candidates, 154 of its endorsed candidates won this week. In addition, at least three gay and trans Republicans won in state and local elections.

The rainbow wave — really more of a tsunami — includes lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, and intersex candidates at nearly every level of government; from Jared Polis’ win as the first gay man elected governor of a U.S. state, to Betsy Driver becoming the first intersex mayor of a U.S. city, to two trans women — Gerri Cannon and Lisa Bunker — joining the New Hampshire state legislature.

The Victory Fund’s final tally of its endorsed candidates reveals includes two governors, nine congressional and senate winners, 89 state office winners, 43 local winners, and 11 new openly LGBTQ judges.

The vast majority of LGBTQ candidates were Democrats, and DNC chair Tom Perez congratulated them in a statement on Wednesday.

“We’ve come a long way as a nation in our march toward LGBTQ equality, and none of our progress would have been possible without the courage of the countless LGBTQ organizers and activists who marched for it, refused to back down, and demanded a seat at the table,” said Perez.

In addition to Democratic candidates endorsed by the Victory Fund, there were a number of LGBTQ Republicans that ran at various levels; most appear to have lost their bids. Mary Fay, a lesbian who secured the Republican primary nomination for Connecticut state legislature, lost by a nearly 60-point margin to Democrat Jillian Gilchrest. In Hawaii, gay Republican Brian Evans was defeated by a similar landslide in his bid to unseat Democratic Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard.

But a few gay GOP candidates did manage to beat the odds typically stacked against them among a party not exactly known for being friendly to LGBTQ progress. Althea Garrison, a black trans woman who leans conservative and ran as a Republican, will take a seat on Boston’s city council. Republican Skyler Rude will join the Washington state legislature, and longtime Wisconsin legislator Todd Novak won reelection.

All in all, LGBTQ candidates won in over 30 U.S. states on Tuesday, adding several “firsts” to Congress and other office levels. For the first time, the states of Kansas and Minnesota had LGBTQ representatives in Congress — both lesbians. And three states added LGBTQ officials to their state legislatures for the very first time: Indiana, Kansas, and Nebraska.

Not only did LGBTQ congressional additions increase the community’s visibility and numbers at the federal level, but several of those LGBTQ Democratic wins flipped seats previously held by Republicans. Sharice Davids, Katie Hill, and Angie Craig all took their congressional seats away from the GOP — which helped Democrats regain control of Congress, an invaluable advantage that could help keep the more extreme aspects of the Trump administration in check.

“An unprecedented rainbow wave of LGBTQ Congressional candidates helped strengthen the new Democratic majority, flipping three seats and securing eight seats in all,” said Mayor Annise Parker, President & CEO of LGBTQ Victory Fund. “LGBTQ candidates won over independents and even Republicans to win in some of the most competitive districts in the nation, proving out LGBTQ candidates can secure big wins in tough places. With more LGBTQ candidates in the U.S. House than ever before, we have the opportunity to finally pass equality legislation too long ignored.”

There’s still only one LGBTQ U.S. senator, however. And though advocates cheered when Senator Tammy Baldwin held on to her seat despite a massive GOP effort to unseat her, Arizona senate candidate Kyrsten Sinema is still awaiting a recount to find out whether she will become the senate’s second LGBTQ member — or not. If she does win, she’ll unseat anti-LGBTQ Trump ally Martha McSally. But more than 600,000 votes have yet to be counted in the Arizona race, and the state’s GOP is suing to block some of the counting in order to try to halt Sinema’s potential win.

Image via Getty


Mary Emily O'Hara

Mary Emily O'Hara is Associate Editor of INTO.