Healey, Kotek, Polis win governor races

  • by Lisa Keen
  • Tuesday November 8, 2022
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Out gubernatorial candidates Maura Healey, left, won in Massachusetts; Tina Kotek was victorious in Oregon; and incumbent Jared Polis was easily reelected governor in Colorado. Photos: Courtesy the candidates
Out gubernatorial candidates Maura Healey, left, won in Massachusetts; Tina Kotek was victorious in Oregon; and incumbent Jared Polis was easily reelected governor in Colorado. Photos: Courtesy the candidates

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, a popular Democrat in a deeply blue state, coasted to victory Tuesday as predicted, becoming the first lesbian to be elected governor of any state. Another lesbian candidate for governor, Tina Kotek in Oregon, was declared the winner Wednesday.

Gay Colorado Governor Jared Polis sailed to a second term. But in a surprise upset, five-term gay Congressmember Sean Patrick Maloney (D-New York) appeared to be losing his seat in Congress, and a pro-Trump gay Republican appears to have defeated a gay Democrat for a U.S. House seat from New York.

Healey's win in Massachusetts made her the first woman to win election as governor in that state and the first lesbian to win election as governor anywhere in the nation. (Bisexual Kate Brown was the first openly LGBTQ person to be elected governor when she won a special election bid in Oregon in 2016 but was termed out this year; Polis became the first gay man when he was elected governor of Colorado in 2018.)

Healey, who helped lead the legal battle for marriage equality and championed many challenges against Trump administration policies, triumphed over a Trump-backed Republican. That candidate, Geoff Diehl, had former President Donald Trump's endorsement but not that of the state's popular incumbent governor, Republican Charlie Baker. Healey positioned herself to acknowledge Baker's strengths.

In her acceptance speech, Healey delivered a message to "every little girl and young LGBTQ person out there." She is her state's first female governor.

"I hope tonight shows you that you can be whoever you want to be," she said.

Healey also promised to be a governor for everyone, whether they voted for her or not.

The Associated Press called the race for Healey just five minutes after the polls closed at 8 p.m. Eastern time Tuesday. Early numbers indicated Healey won 63%, to Diehl's 36%.

In Oregon, where voters have for decades rejected Republican candidates for governor, Kotek, a Democrat and former speaker of the state House, had to contend with a third party candidate who appeared to be drawing nine points from voters who are believed would otherwise vote Democratic. As of Wednesday morning, with 67% of the vote counted, Kotek held a one-point lead over her Republican opponent. Kotek told supporters that she is "optimistic" but it was "still too early" to declare victory.

But by late Wednesday morning, she had declared victory.

And in Colorado, Polis breezed to reelection, garnering about 62% of the vote at deadline.

LGBTQ candidates sought to double the number of out members of the U.S. House this year. Going into Tuesday's election, that count was eight. At deadline, it appeared the number in the new Congress, which begins January 3, could be 11.

U.S. House incumbents

Eight of nine incumbent LGBTQ candidates in the U.S. House were running for reelection, and four had relatively easy runs: Mark Pocan (D-Wisconsin), Mark Takano (D-California), David Cicilline (D-Rhode Island), and first-termer Ritchie Torres (D-New York). One current openly gay member of the House, Mondaire Jones, was redistricted into another district and lost the primary. At deadline, three of the four incumbents with tough races appeared to have won, but one is still awaiting final results in a race too close to call Wednesday morning.

At deadline, Maloney lost his hotly contested race for a sixth term in the U.S. House with 95% of the vote counted. He conceded Wednesday morning, Politico reported.

Because of redistricting, Maloney had to choose whether to run in District 18, his original district, or District 17, where his home is located under the new map. The complication: District 17 was the district being represented by Jones. Much to Jones' chagrin, Maloney chose District 17 and soon found himself in a toss up race against State Assemblyman Mike Lawler.

Angie Craig's 2nd Congressional District race in Minnesota is always a nail-biter, including this year, as the two-term lesbian Democrat faced the same Republican opponent she beat by only two points last time. The lead Tuesday night kept changing, but by Wednesday morning, with 99% of the vote in, Craig appeared to hang on to her seat for a second term, with a five-point margin. In the strangest of twists, just like during the 2020 race, a third party candidate's name was also on the ballot even though that person is dead. In 2020, a different dead candidate won 6% of the vote (voters are not alerted if a listed candidate is deceased); this year, the dead candidate won 3.3%.

Democrat Chris Pappas, New Hampshire's first openly gay member of Congress, appears to have won a third term in a congressional district that has been split evenly among Democrats, Republicans, and non-affiliated voters. After winning his first term by 8.6 points, he won the second term by 5.1 points. With 81% of the vote counted as of Wednesday morning, Pappas was 8.2 points ahead of a candidate promoted by Trump. That candidate, Karoline Leavitt, spoke out against trans women athletes and self-accepted pronouns and said she would support Florida-like "Don't Say Gay" legislation.

Lesbian Democrat Sharice Davids was holding a 13-point lead in her Kansas district Wednesday morning, with 99% of the vote counted. Davids faced her 2020 challenger and a more Republican-leaning district this year, thanks to redistricting. Pre-election polls suggested abortion might be a factor there, and Kansas voters in August overwhelming rejected an effort to give the state legislature power to ban all abortions in the state. Davids supports the right of people to obtain an abortion; her Republican opponent Amanda Adkins said she's "pro-life" but thinks the issue should be decided at the state level, not federal government.

U.S. House challengers

The LGBTQ Victory Fund supported eight of the nine openly LGBTQ candidates for Congress this year. As of Wednesday morning, five of the nine appeared victorious.

Becca Balint (Vermont-At-Large): Democrat Balint, president pro tem of the Vermont Senate, easily won her first bid for the state's one U.S. House seat. According to the Associated Press, Balint, a lesbian former middle school teacher, beat the Republican Party's candidate Liam Madden, a former Marine, by 35 points.

Eric Sorensen (Illinois): gay Democrat Sorensen is running 3.4 points ahead of Republican Esther Joy King for this open seat from central-western Illinois. He was declared the winner Wednesday, becoming the first LGBTQ member of Congress from the Prairie State. During his victory speech, he said he would "make sure we all have a seat at the table." He also thanked his "wonderful partner, Sean, for being a rock through all of this."

Jasmine Beach-Ferrara (North Carolina): With 100% of the vote in Wednesday morning, Democrat Beach-Ferrara conceded as she was 10 points behind a Republican state senator for an open seat vacated by a Democrat near the more progressive Asheville area. Beach-Ferrara, a lesbian county commissioner and ordained minister, was also an LGBTQ activist in the state.

Robert Garcia (California): Garcia, a gay Democrat and mayor of Long Beach, easily won this new congressional seat with 66% of the vote.

Will Rollins (California): In the heavily LGBTQ Palm Springs-Coachella Valley area, gay Democrat Rollins had 56.5% of the vote over an anti-gay incumbent who has a zero score on LGBTQ votes in Congress, according to the Human Rights Campaign, the national LGBTQ rights organization. Rollins is a former federal prosecutor who has worked on cases against some of the January 6 insurrectionists. The newly drawn district is 50-50 Democrat-Republican.

In the other West Coast congressional race with an out candidate, lesbian former Santa Clara City Councilmember Jamie McLeod-Skinner is in a tight race for Oregon's open, newly drawn 5th Congressional District. She is in second place with 47.6% of the vote, while her Republican opponent Lori Chavez-DeRemer has 52.4% of the current vote tally.

Heather Mizeur (Maryland): With 89 percent of the voted counted by Wednesday morning, Democrat Mizeur, a lesbian former state legislator, was running 23 points behind a pro-Trump incumbent she sought to unseat. Mizeur previously made a strong showing in a gubernatorial primary in Maryland. But District 1 is largely rural Eastern Shore territory and represented by the incumbent for 12 years now.

George Santos and Robert Zimmerman (New York): The U.S. House race to represent Queens and Long Island, New York, was the first to ever pit two openly gay candidates against each other in a congressional general election. Wednesday morning, with 93% of the vote counted, pro-Trump Republican gay George Santos was 8.4 points ahead of Democrat Robert Zimmerman for the open seat, previously held by a Democrat. Santos had acknowledged attending the January 6 insurrection rally and said he would defend marriage equality but support a Florida-style "Don't Say Gay" bill in Congress. Zimmerman is a former aide to members of Congress and political commentator who had the support of the Victory Fund.

The Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund said a record number of openly LGBT candidates ran for office during these mid-term general elections: 678.

Updated:11/9/22: This article has been updated with additional results.

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