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LGBT candidates win in off-year elections

by Lisa Keen

Danica Roem easily won re-election Tuesday to the Virginia House of Delegates. Photo: Courtesy Danica Roem
Danica Roem easily won re-election Tuesday to the Virginia House of Delegates. Photo: Courtesy Danica Roem  

More than 75% of openly LGBT candidates running in Tuesday's off-year elections won. The total was 112: 106 Democrats, one Republican, one independent, and four with undeclared party affiliations.

One of those, Danica Roem, now becomes the first openly trans person to be re-elected to a state legislature. Roem (D) handily beat an anti-LGBT candidate in her race for Delegate in the 13th District in Virginia. Democrats also managed to flip control of both the Virginia House and Senate for the first time in 20 years.

Elsewhere, it was a happy night for Democrats. Anti-LGBT Republican Governor Matt Bevin of Kentucky was defeated by pro-LGBT Democrat Andy Beshear. In 2016, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump won Kentucky by a 30-point margin over Democrat Hillary Clinton.

All nine openly LGBT candidates in Virginia won their races, including five incumbents in the General Assembly. Two years ago, Roem won a stunning upset victory against an incumbent Republican for a House seat. Tuesday, she won re-election against another anti-LGBT Republican challenger, with a margin of victory six points larger than in 2017. Roem raised nearly twice as much money as her opponent, Kelly McGinn. McGinn had signed onto a letter calling marriage for same-sex couples "morally repugnant."

Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David said the results in Virginia sent "a powerful message that Virginians support a bold, progressive vision for the future of the Commonwealth." David said HRC helped turn out 1.2 million "equality voters" in Virginia and spent over $250,000 to elect "pro-equality candidates across Virginia."

Pennsylvania, a state that Trump won by less than 1% in 2016, experienced a "blue wave" of voter support for Democratic candidates. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Republican candidates were "fading even on friendly turf." The Keystone State fielded the largest number of LGBT candidates of any other state — 14. And 13 of those, all Democrats, won, including Jessica Rothchild to the Scranton City Council.

Ohio also voted for Trump in 2016, but Democrats did well this year, and all 12 of Ohio's openly LGBT candidates won, including new Toledo City Council member Theresa Gadus.

In Indiana, which gave Trump an almost 20-point margin over Clinton in 2016, the 25-member Indianapolis City Council picked up three new openly LGBT members to join another who won re-election Tuesday night. Alison "Ali" Brown, Keith Potts, and Ethan Evans will now join Zach Adamson on the capital city's governing board. Brown and Evans are openly bisexual and married to spouses of the opposite sex. Evans and Potts both beat Republican incumbents.

Among the more stinging of the 21 LGBT losses Tuesday was Telluride, Colorado Mayor Sean Murphy, who lost his bid for re-election to a second term. Murphy was among only five incumbent LGBT candidates who lost their re-election bids. In Houston, where five openly LGBT candidates were running as Democrats for City Council, only two won. Outside Atlanta, in Doraville, Georgia, a gay city councilman, Joseph Geierman, didn't win enough votes to capture the mayor's office, but he did win the most in a four-person field and garnered enough to force a December 3 runoff against the incumbent mayor.

Of the 112 out candidates, 105 were running for local office. The field included 67 men, 44 women (including six trans women), and one nonbinary person.

The national LGBTQ Victory Fund said 80 of the candidates it endorsed won Tuesday night. The organization said it directed more than $420,000 to its endorsed candidates.

"We are building a pipeline of out LGBTQ leaders at every level of government," said Annise Parker, president of the LGBTQ Victory Fund and former mayor of Houston.

Other highlights among Tuesday's results:

In a Seattle City Council race, gay candidate Egan Orion appears to have beaten an incumbent in District 3. Orion, a gay activist and former organizer of Seattle's Pride parades, told local news outlets that he was "really frustrated" that the corporate giant Amazon supported his campaign through a political action committee that gave half a million dollars to his bid.

In a Texas House district outside Houston, lesbian Eliz Markowitz was the top vote-getter among six candidates and the only Democrat. But now she'll have to run against just one of those Republicans for the heavily Republican 28th District seat. The runoff will take place in December.

Gay former Florida state Representative David Richardson will meet an opponent in a runoff for a seat on the Miami Beach Commission. Richardson came up just one point short of reaching enough votes to win the seat Tuesday. Richardson won 49% of the vote; his runoff opponent won 38%.

In tiny Carrboro, North Carolina, lesbian Mayor Lydia Lavelle won re-election unopposed and gay newcomer Damon Seils won one of three seats on the town's Board of Alderman — coming in second out of five candidates. In nearby Hillsborough, gay incumbent Matt Hughes came in first out of four candidates running for three seats on the Board of Commissioners.

In Newton, Massachusetts, transgender candidate Holly Ryan was unopposed for a seat on the City Council, making her the first transgender woman to win election to public office in the 11th most populated city in the state. Prior to running for office, Ryan served as the LGBT liaison for two mayors.

The Victory Fund estimates there are 765 openly LGBT elected officials nationwide.

"Americans are understandably focused on the 2020 presidential and congressional elections, but the LGBTQ candidates who won tonight will arguably have a greater impact on the everyday lives of their constituents," Parker said Tuesday.

UpdatedL 11/12/19: This article has been corrected to state that Joseph Geierman is in a runoff for mayor of a Georgia city.

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