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The eight LGBTQ politicians leading America’s Rainbow Revolution”

Months from now, voters will be able to pick from at least 730 openly LGBTQ politicians at the ballot box – the most in American history.

Mere months before he was assassinated for daring to be an openly gay politician, Harvey Milk commissioned Gilbert Baker to sew a new flag. It needed to be one that would unify the LGBTQ community in San Francisco, inspiring the same kind of hope as Milk’s revolutionary political career. It was here, in 1978, that the first rainbow pride flag was created.

It’s fitting that Gilbert Gay Betsy Ross” Baker’s flag that has become a marker for America’s march towards equality owes its origins to one of the most prominent (though not the first) openly gay elected officials in the US. Now, 32 years after his death, the legacy of Milk is living on at the ballot box through a new kind of rainbow revolution. On Super Tuesday, 16 states and territories held elections, and the results were staggering: 28 LGBTQ candidates won primary races nationwide and secured their party’s nominations for the November election. 

Months from now, when Americans (including nearly nine million LGBTQ registered voters) head to their polling places, they’ll be able to pick from at least 730 openly LGBTQ politicians – the most in American history, according to the LGBTQ Victory Fund. It’s a groundbreaking number that arrives on the heels of a years-long push for LGBTQ representation in the government. In 2018, 161 Victory Fund-backed candidates won elections at the federal, statewide, and local levels. In 2019, an off-year for elections, 99 of 200 openly LGBTQ candidates joined them after winning a new spate of elections.

Of these 730 politicians running for offices across America this year, we’ve picked some of the most important to keep your eye on. People who can teach us valuable lessons about the state of LGBTQ political equality – including a Trump-embracing gay Texan who serves as a reminder that LGBTQ politicians on the ballot box don’t always signify progress. Here are some of the openly LGBTQ politicians worth watching this election cycle. 

Photo courtesy of Alamy

Gina Ortiz Jones (D)

State: Texas

Office: US House of Representatives

Why she matters: She’s an openly gay, first-generation, Filipina-American making waves in the conservative Lone Star state. Back in 2018, the US Air Force veteran who served in the military under the homophobic Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, rose from obscurity and came within 1,150 votes of defeating Republican Senator Will Hurd. 

With Hurd not seeking re-election this year, Jones has become the favourite to take over his seat in the election – and she’s got the fundraising flex to prove it. She’s raked in over $2.6 million from donors ready to see Texas elect its first openly LGBTQ person and America’s third openly LGBTQ person of colour to Congress.

Mauro Garza ®

State: Texas

Office: US House of Representatives

Why he matters: If there were ever a person ripe for being the villain in a gay political drama, it’s this man. He’s gay, he owns San Antonio’s thriving gay club Pegasus, and… he’s a Trump-supporting Republican. To nobody’s surprise, San Antonio’s gay scene responded to the news of his campaign with boycotts of Pegasus.

The good news is that his odds of winning are slim. His first attempt at a congressional campaign landed him 1 per cent of the vote, and he still has to win an election in May to be the Republican nominee in November. But let Garzo serve as a reminder: some gays are terrible and when you align yourself with a homophobic, transphobic president, you’re pushing progress backwards, not forwards.

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Georgette Gómez (D)

State: California

Office: US House of Representatives

Why she matters: San Diego has become the epicentre of California’s own rainbow revolution thanks in part to Gómez, who is openly queer. Before jumping into the race for Congress, she worked as a victims’ advocate for sexual abuse and domestic violence survivors. Next, as City Council President, she helped to expand affordable housing and implement the city’s historic Climate Action Plan.

Now, the first generation Mexican-American activist has her sights set on Washington. With endorsements flowing in from the Justice Democrats and progressive zaddy Bernie Sanders, the odds of her becoming the first openly LGBTQ Latina in Congress are looking good.

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Todd Gloria (D)

State: California

Office: Mayor of San Diego

Why he matters: Adding to the proof that San Diego is shouting gay rights!” in the 2020 elections, we have a man whose pearly whites, high-energy campaigning, and lifelong fight for LGBTQ equality as an out gay man has turned him into a local star.

For years, he’s racked up a series of legislative victories for the LGBTQ people in his city, including the Getting Zero” initiative, which aims to eradicate HIV and AIDS in ten years. He already won 41.8 per cent of the vote on Super Tuesday to become the Democratic nominee for the mayorship. If he keeps up his winning streak, he’d be the first openly LGBTQ person and first person of colour elected as the mayor of San Diego.

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Sarah McBride (D)

State: Delaware

Office: Delaware State Senate

Why she matters: Only a millennial transgender activist could successfully bring a surge of excitement to a state as boring as Delaware. Already, the young politician has racked up a list of accomplishments that include a stint as the White House’s first openly transgender intern and her current role as national press secretary for the Human Rights Campaign. Not bad for a woman who hasn’t even turned 30 yet.

It’s been four years since her breakout speech on the national stage at the Democratic National Convention (another first in trans history), and now she has Delaware’s State Senate in her crosshairs. If she wins, she’ll be the first out LGBTQ person elected to the Delaware state legislature.

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Ritchie Torres (D)

State: New York

Office: US House of Representatives

Why he matters: A day after President Trump told four congresswomen of colour to go back” to where they came from, this gay, Afro-Latino City Council member announced his plans to run for a seat in the House of Representatives. It wasn’t the first time Torres has been spurred to action in response to the words from a politician. 

Last year, he called for the removal of fellow City Council member Rubén Díaz, Sr., a Democrat whose homophobic record is as well-known as his signature cowboy hat, after Díaz Sr. made a an anti-gay remark. In a twist fit for a film, it will be this man who comes as Torres’ biggest challenge in his fight to make it to the general election. To rep the Bronx, he’ll be entering fighting for the Democratic nomination in June against Díaz Sr. 

Jenna Wadsworth (D)

State: North Carolina

Office: Commissioner of Agriculture

Why she matters: A battle for the top agricultural job in a state may not seem urgent, but in North Carolina, where agriculture is the state’s biggest industry, it’s huge. It’s also the epicentre of a potentially historic push for transgender representation, thanks to a woman whose political career began a decade ago when she was just 21 years old. While Wadsworth was still in college, she was voted on to the Wake County Soil and Water Conservation District Board, becoming North Carolina’s youngest woman ever elected.

With ten years’ experience on the Conservation District Board, the commissioner flexed her popularity in the state on Super Tuesday, beating her Democratic opponents by nearly 300k votes to make it onto the ballot in November. If she can keep winning over voters, she’ll become North Carolina’s first openly LGBTQ Constitutional Officer.

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Susan Eggman (D)

State: California

Office: California State Senate

Why she matters: For this openly gay State Senator, attacks on her sexuality are so 2006. It was during that year’s race for Stockton City Council that her opponent, Beverly Foster, announced herself as God’s candidate” and scoffed at a lesbian organisation” for donating to Eggman. Not sure where God’s candidate is now, but it’s clear that Eggman is thriving, honey.

For the last eight years, the former social worker and professor forged a path for a new generation of LGBTQ politicians in California and across the US on the state Assembly and as a member of California’s Legislative LGBTQ Caucus. Now, as she fights for re-election after a narrow three-point win against four challengers on Super Tuesday, she’ll head to the November election armed with over a decade of experience as an LGBTQ political trailblazer.


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