Last week’s primary runoffs in Texas offered good news for advocates of diversity and the LGBTQ community, with three out LGBTQ Black candidates winning their contests.
Prior to 2022, Texas voters had never elected an out Black LGBTQ person to the state legislature, even though a handful of LGBTQ legislators were elected in other districts.
But starting in February, with the special election victory of Jolanda Jones for the 147th District seat vacated by Rep. Garnet Coleman (D-Houston), that losing streak ended.
Jones, who became the first out LGBTQ Black legislator in state history, followed up that victory with another win on Tuesday, setting her up for the general election for a full two-year term.
Jones, a former member of the Houston City Council and the Houston School Board, ran on a platform advocating for affordable health care, better employment opportunities, public safety, and support for public education.
She was endorsed in both the special and primary elections by several state legislators, Black Democratic organizations, and LGBTQ groups, including LGBTQ Victory Fund, an organization dedicated to electing out LGBTQ individuals to public office.
Annise Parker, a former mayor of Houston who now serves as president and CEO of LGBTQ Victory Fund, praised Jones’ experience and qualifications, calling her a “natural leader and fierce advocate” dedicated to achieving “fairness and equity.”
“With so much prejudice plaguing our society, Jolanda’s win is a beacon of hope and demonstrates voters are motivated to elect leaders that reflect the real America who are ready to enact meaningful change,” Parker said in a statement. “We are confident Jolanda will continue being an effective leader and lawmaker and that her continued success will inspire many more LGBTQ and Black people to run for office.”
Tuesday’s runoffs also resulted in victories for two other candidates who will join Jones in the Legislature, which has provided political opportunities for LGBTQ individuals despite the proliferation of anti-LGBTQ legislation under Republican leadership. Currently, there are six incumbent LGBTQ lawmakers — all Democrats — serving in the lower chamber.
Christian Manuel-Hayes, an out gay man, narrowly grabbed the Democratic nomination over Joseph Trahan in the state’s 22nd House District. Manuel-Hayes previously served as a staffer for incumbent Rep. Joe Deshotel (D-Beaumont).
In the state’s 100th House District, out gay man Venton Jones won the Democratic nomination to replace Rep. Jasmine Crockett (D-Dallas), a longtime community activist and organizer who won the party’s nomination for the 30th Congressional District, where she’s slated to become one of the more liberal members of Congress.
Jones, who ran on a platform of guaranteeing better health care options for veterans and people living with HIV, as well as education and voting rights, is the founder and CEO of the Southern Black Policy and Advocacy Network (SBPAN), a nonprofit seeking to “improve health, social, and economic disparities impacting Black communities living in the U.S. South,” according to the organization’s website.
If elected, he would also become the first out LGBTQ person living with HIV to serve in the Texas House of Representatives.
Jolanda Jones and Hayes face Republican opposition in the Nov. 8 general election, while Venton Jones faces a Libertarian opponent. However, all three districts are overwhelmingly Democratic, meaning all three are likely to make history as the first out Black state representatives to be elected to a full term.
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