Metro Weekly

86 Victory Fund-endorsed candidates win elections

LGBT candidates managed to have a successful night even amid 2016's Republican wave

Aisha Moodie-Mills - Photo: Julian Vankim

Aisha Moodie-Mills – Photo: Julian Vankim

Despite victories up and down the ticket for candidates associated with Donald Trump, LGBT candidates enjoyed some victories on Tuesday, with 86 of 135 candidates who were endorsed by the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund winning their races. 

For Congress, all six incumbent House members — Mark Takano (D-Calif.), Jared Polis (D-Colo.), David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Mark Pocan (D-Wisc.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) — won re-election. U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) is not up for re-election until 2018.  Aisha Moodie-Mills, the president and CEO of the Victory Fund, pointed to their victories, specifically Maloney’s in a GOP-leaning district, as an example of how LGBT candidates “can absolutely win anywhere when they have the right message and when they’re great candidates.”

LGBT candidates doubled their representation in the Florida legislature with the re-election of Rep. David Richardson (D-Miami Beach) and the election of Carlos Guillermo Smith (D-Orlando). Both men, as well as three other LGBT candidates who were unsuccessful, ran on a platform of expanding protections for LGBT people and gun reforms in the wake of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando this past June.

In Georgia, Sam Park, an Asian-American openly gay man, was elected to Georgia’s House of Representatives, making him the fourth openly LGBT member of the legislature. In Colorado, Leslie Herod became the first openly LGBT person of color elected to that state’s legislature.

“For me personally, it was a bittersweet night, but an exciting one for Victory Fund,” Moodie-Mills said, referring to the victories of Smith, Park and Herod in particular. “These three pickups are LGBT people of color who won big last night. And I think that it is important, in the backdrop of America and who we are, with our shifting demographics, to acknowledge that LGBT people of color run and win, and are critical voices and allies on behalf of our community.”

Moodie-Mills also celebrated the election of Gov. Kate Brown in Oregon, who became the first LGBT governor of a state after former Gov. John Kitzhaber abruptly stepped down and she was next in line. Because she was not initially elected to the governorship, Brown was forced to run for the remaining two years of Kitzhaber’s unfilled term.

“I had the real honor and privilege to be with Gov. Brown just this past weekend, campaigning with her in Oregon,” Moodie-Mills said. “It is such an historic event that, for the first time in America, we have voted in an out governor. And so, for sure, we continue to break the ‘lavender ceilings’ and we continue to have great successes. We’re looking forward to see how she continues to grow, and how she’s going to continue to drive Oregon forward.”

After all 86 victories were confirmed, Moodie-Mills released a statement saying she was disappointed in the results of the presidential election. But she also expressed optimism that Victory Fund-backed candidates would help block any attempts to reverse any progress on LGBT rights that has already been made at both the state and federal levels. 

“Now more than ever, LGBT elected officials are critical to defending our community and pushing forward equality for LGBT people, and Victory Fund will be at their side,” she said. “We will work to support incumbents and build the next generation of diverse LGBT candidates so we can cement our gains and further equality for all people. But let’s not kid ourselves. We made huge strides these past eight years, and last night we took steps back. Now our community and allies need to rally and demand all elected lawmakers — not just LGBT elected officials — unequivocally stand on the side of equality for all people.”

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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