At least eight transgender or non-binary individuals are seeking elective office on Nov. 7, and stand a good chance of becoming historic “firsts,” according to the Victory Fund, which advocates for LGBTQ representation in elective office.
The number of out transgender candidates — a number that the Victory Fund calls “unprecedented” — is particularly remarkable in light of the fact that there are only six out transgender elected officials across the nation.
The chief race that many casual election observers will be watching is in Virginia’s 13th Hous of Delegates District, where Danica Roem is challenging Del. Bob Marshall (R-Manassas), who earlier this year sponsored a “bathroom bill” that sought to force transgender people to use public facilities that match their biological sex at birth. If elected, Roem would become the first transgender person to serve in a state legislature come January.
Other transgender office seekers include Minneapolis City Council candidates Andrea Jenkins and Phillipe Cunningham, who would become the first openly transgender people elected to the city council of a major U.S. city; Lisa Middleton, running for the Palm Springs City Council, who would be the first transgender person to win a legislative seat in the state of California; Kristen Browde, running for town supervisor in New Castle, N.Y., who would become that state’s first elected transgender person; and Tyler Titus, a candidate for Erie School Board who would become Pennsylvania’s first elected transgender person.
Shannon Cuttle, an education and safe schools advocate seeking a seat on the South Orange/Maplewood Board of Education, would become the first non-binary person to win elected office in New Jersey, and Sophie Hawes-Tingey, running for mayor of Midvale, Utah, would become the Beehive State’s first elected transgender person. Hawes-Tingey previously ran for a seat on the town council in 2015, losing to incumbent Paul Glover.
In total, there are 61 LGBTQ candidates who have been endorsed by the Victory Fund on the ballot on Tuesday. As such, Victory Fund will be sharing live results of each race on its website starting at 6 p.m.
While it’s nearly impossible to handicap all races, Victory Fund is paying special attention to elections in Georgia as a sign that LGBTQ candidates can gain traction and win elective office, even in the South. The organization has backed Cathy Woolard’s campaign for mayor of Atlanta, as well as Alex Wan, who is seeking to become President of the Atlanta City Council, City Council candidates Liliana Bakhtiari and Kirk Rich, and Josh McNair, a candidate for the Fulton County Commission.
If elected, Woolard would become the first LGBTQ person to become mayor of a major city in the Deep South. Wan would become the first gay man and first Asian-American to be elected Council President. Bakhtiari would become the first out LGBTQ Muslim elected to office in the United States, and McNair would become the first out LGBTQ African-American elected to office in Georgia.
Under Georgia election laws, the winning candidate must win 50 percent of the vote, plus one vote. If no candidate reaches that threshold, the top two candidates will face each other in a runoff election on Dec. 5 — meaning some LGBTQ candidates could be left in limbo for another month.
Besides Woolard’s race, Victory Fund is also closely tracking the Seattle Mayor’s race, where Jenny Durkan, the top vote-getter in the August “top two” primary, could become the city’s first openly lesbian mayor. Currently, the country’s only out lesbian mayor is Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski.
Trans United Fund, the only organization solely dedicated to transgender issues and supporting transgender candidates for office, has endorsed Roem, Jenkins, Cunningham, and Browde in their respective bids for office.
Monica Roberts, one of the co-chairs of Trans United Fund’s Breakthrough Fund, says the fact that a number of out transgender candidates are running this year and in 2018 speaks volumes about where the movement is headed.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Roberts said of the number of candidates running. She says that Trans United Fund had volunteers on the ground helping out in each of the races where the Fund made endorsements, as well as independent expenditures to help the candidates win.
“I’ve been saying for a long time that the next level of this movement is that we were going to have to have trans folks in government, at the legislative level, helping to write good bills and kill bad ones,” Roberts says, comparing it to the lack of representation that African-Americans experienced prior to the Civil Rights Movement. “Political involvement for a minority group is crucial to its success in society, and in advancing its human rights agenda.”
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