Oregon lesbians win gov primary, lead in House contest

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday May 18, 2022
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Oregon Speaker of the House Tina Kotek handily won the Democratic gubernatorial primary May 17. Photo: Courtesy Kotek campaign
Oregon Speaker of the House Tina Kotek handily won the Democratic gubernatorial primary May 17. Photo: Courtesy Kotek campaign

Oregon voters now have a chance to elect the first lesbian governor of a West Coast state and could send the first lesbian from the region to Congress following the outcome Tuesday in the state's party primaries.

Oregon Speaker of the House Tina Kotek handily won the Democratic gubernatorial primary in the Beaver State. Running against two opponents, Kotek received 57% of the vote according to unofficial returns May 18. While the Republican primary race had yet to be called, the minority leader of the state's House of Representatives, Christine Drazan, was in first place with nearly 24% of the vote.

Should Kotek win the race come November, she would be the country's first lesbian governor and only the second LGBTQ top statewide official in the three-state West Coast region. Bisexual Oregon Democratic Governor Kate Brown is termed out of office this year.

"My heart is full of gratitude. Because of you, because of the team that we built, and because of grassroots power across the great state of Oregon — we have won the Democratic primary for governor," Kotek wrote in a May 18 email to supporters.

Oregon congressional candidate Jamie McLeod-Skinner is leading in her race but more ballots remain to be counted. Courtesy McLeod-Skinner campaign  

In the closely watched race for Oregon's newly drawn 5th Congressional District, former Santa Clara City Councilmember Jamie McLeod-Skinner is so far leading with 61% of the vote against the incumbent, Congressman Kurt Schrader (D-Canby). But a balloting snafu has delayed the vote count, with just 53% of precincts having reported results as of Wednesday morning.

"Clackamas County — the most populous county in our district — had a printer error with smeared barcodes on some of their ballots, which will delay election results," McLeod-Skinner's campaign explained in a May 17 email three hours after the polls closed at 8 p.m. "What's important is that EVERY single vote is counted (especially in a race this close), and we expect that the Clackamas County elections office will get this right."

In her second race for an Oregon U.S. House seat, having lost in 2018 against a Republican incumbent, the progressive McLeod-Skinner ran to the left of the moderate Schrader, who picked up an endorsement from President Joe Biden as the race tightened in recent weeks. Her election to the South Bay council in 2004 marked the first time a lesbian helped lead the city in the heart of Silicon Valley.

Should she pull off a victory in the primary, McLeod-Skinner would be favored to win the heavily Democratic congressional district come the fall. She would be only the second out woman from the West Coast to serve in Congress, as bisexual former Congressmember Katie Hill of California was the first.

She would also be the first LGBTQ House member from the Beaver State and help increase the LGBTQ West Coast congressional delegation to at least two. Gay California Congressmember Mark Takano (D-Riverside) is expected to easily win reelection this year.

In another Oregon race that received national attention, out transgender state legislative candidate Zeloszelos Marchandt fell short in his bid for a state House district that included Portland. He was vying to become the first trans man to serve in a state legislature in the U.S.

East Coast races
In another hotly contested U.S. House race, lesbian minister Jasmine Beach-Ferrara won the Democratic primary for North Carolina's 11th Congressional district with 60% of the vote according to the unofficial returns. But she had based her candidacy largely around defeating homophobic GOP Congressmember Madison Cawthorn.

Plagued by myriad scandals and largely abandoned by Republican leaders after he falsely accused his GOP House colleagues of inviting him to cocaine-fueled orgies, Cawthorn was defeated in his party primary race by state Senator Chuck Edwards. Due to the heavy Republican makeup of the district, Edwards is expected to easily win the seat in November.

LaWana Mayfield, a Black lesbian, won in her primary election for the Charlotte City Council. She would be the first out LGBTQ person ever elected citywide in Charlotte, North Carolina, if she wins in November.

In Pennsylvania, gay State Representative Malcolm Kenyatta lost his bid for his state's open U.S. Senate seat, falling in third place with 10% of Tuesday's vote. He pledged to help elect his state's lieutenant governor, John Fetterman, to the seat and flip it from red to blue. The shorts-wearing Fetterman received 59% of the vote to also defeat second-place finisher Congressman Conor Lamb (D), a moderate.

GOP U.S. Senator Pat Toomey is retiring, giving Democrats one of their best chances to pick up a seat in the currently evenly divided 100-seat Senate. Fetterman, who suffered a stroke ahead of the primary and had a pacemaker implanted Tuesday, is a strong supporter of legalizing marijuana and has a devoted national following due to his unorthodox approach to politics.

Who Fetterman will face in November had yet to be determined Wednesday. Former television show host Mehmet Oz and businessman Dave McCormick were deadlocked at 31% in the GOP primary according to the unofficial returns.

Gay Pennsylvania state House of Representatives member Brian Sims fell short in his bid to succeed Fetterman. He landed in second place in his party primary with about 25% of the vote.

Sean Meloy, a gay man running for Pennsylvania's 17th Congressional District seat in the Pittsburgh region, also fell short in his Democratic Primary race. He came in second place with roughly 37% of the vote.

Izzy Smith-Wade-El won the Democratic primary for Pennsylvania's 49th state House District seat. If elected in November, he would be the first out nonbinary member of the Pennsylvania state legislature.

Deja Alvarez, running to become the first openly transgender Latina member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, failed to win the Democratic primary for the 182nd District in the heart of Philadelphia.

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