At least 35 of 61 openly LGBTQ candidates running for political office swept to victory on Tuesday night, boosted in part by a national wave that has been interpreted as a rebuke of policies and legislation targeting the LGBTQ community.
Danica Roem made history in Virginia when she became the first out transgender person elected in the commonwealth, and, come January, will be the first transgender lawmaker in the United States to serve in a state legislature.
Tuesday’s elections generated positive results for other transgender candidates across the nation. In Pennsylvania, Tyler Titus was elected to the Erie School Board, making him the Keystone State’s first elected transgender official.
In Minneapolis, Democrat Andrea Jenkins became the first transgender woman elected to the city council of a major U.S. city, winning a four-way race for the District 8 seat with 73 percent of the vote.
In the race for the District 4 seat, transgender man Phillipe Cunningham was running second, with 41 percent of the vote in a four-way race. Because Minneapolis has instant runoff voting, where voters rank their preferences in order, it will take a few days to determine a winner, as votes are allocated from the third- and fourth-place challengers to Cunningham and incumbent Council Member Barb Johnson’s totals.
Roem, Jenkins, and Cunningham were three of four candidates endorsed by Trans United Fund, the nation’s only transgender political advocacy group and political action committee, which seeks to increase transgender representation in elective office. All three received support from the organization, which sent volunteers to help them knock on doors, make phone calls, and other campaign activities.
In another victory for the trans community, Lisa Middleton was elected to the Palm Springs City Council, becoming the first transgender person elected to a non-judicial office in the state of California.
“In light of the repeated attacks on transgender people from the federal government, tonight’s wins by Lisa Middleton in Palm Springs and other transgender candidates in Minneapolis and Virginia are a beacon of hope that voters have embraced values of equality and inclusion,” Rick Zbur, the executive director of Equality California, said in a statement.
Those sentiments were echoed by Aisha Moodie-Mills, the president and CEO of the Victory Fund, which advocates for LGBTQ political representation.
“Hostile political forces at every level of government are targeting the trans community with legislation and policies that deny their equality,” Moodie-Mills said in a statement. “Tonight was about fighting back — an unprecedented number of brilliant trans candidates asking for the votes of tens of thousands of Americans, and getting them.
“[These candidates] are victorious because they focused on the local issues that matter most to their constituents — better schools, improved transportation and civil rights for all people,” Moodie-Mills added. “But it is also an undeniably historic night for the LGBTQ movement and for trans equality, having moved the needle on what is possible for a trans leader who aspires to run for office and make positive change. Now we have more trans voices in the halls of power, and 2017 will be remembered as the year of the trans candidate.”
Other LGBTQ office seekers were also successful, beginning with Christy Holstege, who will serve alongside Middleton on the Palm Springs City Council. The two women’s victories mean that the entire City Council will be comprised of members who identify as LGBTQ.
In Atlanta, where five LGBTQ candidates were running for Mayor, City Council, and Fulton County Commission, Alex Wan, who is openly gay, advanced to a Dec. 5 runoff election for City Council President. Democrat Cathy Woolard, seeking to become Atlanta’s first lesbian mayor, surged from behind on Election Day, falling just 4,000 votes short of securing a spot in the Dec. 5 runoff election, and placing third among a field of 12 candidates.
In Seattle, voters elected Democrat Jenny Durkan to be their next mayor, doubling the number of out lesbians serving as mayors of major U.S. cities. Durkan will also become just the second woman ever elected to the position, following in the footsteps of Bertha Knight Landes, who served from 1926 to 1928.
“Both women and lesbians are severely underrepresented in all levels of government, especially executive positions,” Moodie-Mills said in a statement hailing Durkan’s victory. “While Seattle voters chose Jenny because of her proven track record of leading innovative reforms and fighting for all communities, it is also an undeniably proud moment for the LGBTQ community, which continues to see this strong leader break down barriers.”
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