Metro Weekly

At least 44 LGBTQ Texans are running for office in 2018

Bulk of LGBTQ candidates are Democrats seeking local judicial offices

Lupe Valdez – Photo: Facebook.

A record number of LGBTQ people are seeking public office in Texas in 2018, according to a list compiled by OutSmart, a Houston-area LGBTQ news publication.

The 44 confirmed candidates are the most out LGBTQ people to run in the state’s history, tripling the previous record.

The bulk of the challengers are running as Democrats, with only five running for other parties or in non-partisan races.

It starts with the governor’s race, where Jeffrey Payne, the owner of leather bar The Dallas Eagle is running as a Democrat. Also running in the primary is out lesbian Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, who would be the state’s first Hispanic governor.

In the more influential lieutenant governor’s position, Kerry Douglas McKennon, a Petersburg native running for the Libertarian Party’s nod, is expected to challenge Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the chief proponent of a “bathroom bill” to restrict transgender people’s access to public restrooms.

Eight LGBTQ people are running for Texas congressional seats. Democrat Lorie Burch is challenging Republican U.S. Rep. Sam Johnson of Plano, while Democrat John Duncan is running for the open seat being vacated by Republican U.S. Rep. Joe Barton of suburban Dallas, who is stepping down after a sexting scandal where a nude photo he sent to a woman with whom he was having an extramarital affair was made public on social media.

Mary Wilson, a Democrat from the Austin area, and Mauro Garza, a Republican from San Antonio, will both be running for an open congressional seat currently held by the retiring Republican U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith of San Antonio.

Meanwhile, Gina Ortiz Jones, who has earned several high-profile endorsements, will challenge Republican U.S. Rep. Will Hurd in a district that covers much of the Rio Grande Valley.

Eric Holguin of Corpus Christie and Vanessa Edwards Foster of suburban Houston will both run for the Democratic nod to take on Republican U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold of Corpus Christi.

James Partsch-Galvan, a Democrat from Houston, will run for the Democratic nod to succeed retiring Democratic U.S. Rep. Gene Green.

Perhaps the most interesting races will be those for state legislature, particularly given Texas’ penchant for pushing for anti-LGBTQ laws, including the aforementioned “bathroom bill.”

Three LGBTQ people, including Shannon McClendon, the sole LGBTQ Republican seeking a seat in the General Assembly, are running for the state senate, while 10 Democrats, including incumbent State Reps. Celia Israel of Austin and Mary Gonzalez of El Paso, are running for the Texas House.

Steve Kirkland, an openly gay man from Houston, is seeking election to the Texas Supreme Court. The bulk of the remaining LGBTQ people, including three incumbents, are seeking judicial seats at the county level. New Hope Mayor Jess Herbst, Texas’ first elected transgender official, will run for re-election in a non-partisan race. And openly gay newcomer Bobby Levinski will seek a non-partisan seat on the Austin City Council.

OutSmart reports that other candidates seeking office have chosen not to be publicly identified as members of the LGBTQ community, perhaps due in part to the fear that focus on their sexual orientation or gender identity could doom their electoral chances, as well as some not being completely out to family, friends, and neighbors.

“I think for many, the motivation to run is in sync with the adage, ‘If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu,” Chuck Smith, the CEO of Equality Texas, told the magazine. “We have recently been witnessing a continuous assault on our rights and freedoms. It is only by raising our voices and securing our ‘place at the table’ that we can ensure our constitutional rights to equal protection under the law are preserved.”

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