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Rainbow Wave? History Made in the 2018 Midterm Elections

Nov 15, 2018

By Eric Hayes & Greg Lukach

The election on November 6th was charged with speculation about “blue waves,” “red walls,” and other predictions about which way the balance of power would lean. Regardless of what expectations were set for political parties, one thing is for sure: LGBTQ+ candidates made waves this year at the local, state, and federal levels.

According to the Victory Institute’s OUT for America 2018 Census of Out LGBTQ Elected Officials Nationwide, LGBTQ+ representation in government prior to the 2018 election has been lacking. A survey that examined 520,000 elected offices across the country—from the United States Congress to local school boards—identified that only 559, were held by out LBGTQ+ people, 0.1% of all elected officials. To create an equitable representation of LBGTQ+ people in the United States, our country would need to increase that number to at least 4.5%, or another 22,827 elected officials.

While the 2018 election did not bring us even close to the goal of equitable representation, there was a historic amount of LGBTQ+ candidates on the ballot this year. With at least 225 running, the latest counts show 161 victories for LGBTQ+ candidates: 10 federal wins, 106 statewide wins, and 45 local wins.

Here are just a few of the notable victories in the effort to break the lavender ceiling in politics this year:

Jarod Polis in Colorado became the first openly gay man to be elected governor in the US.

Polis previously served five terms in Congress, where he was the first openly gay man elected to the House, as well as the first gay parent in the US Congress. He joins the ranks of Kate Brown in Oregon, who became the first openly LGBTQ+ governor to be elected in 2016. She was also re-elected on November 6th.

“I want to thank … my personal support network — first and foremost, of course, my amazing partner, and the first ‘first man’ in the history of Colorado, Marlon Reis.” – Jarod Polis

 Sharice Davids became the first out LGBTQ+ person to represent the state of Kansas.

Sharice will also be the first Native American woman to serve in Congress, a first she shares with Deb Haaland of New Mexico who also won on November 6th.

 “We have the opportunity to reset expectations about what people think when they think of Kansas . . . We know there are so many of us who welcome everyone, who see everyone and who know that everyone should have the opportunity to succeed.” – Sharice Davids

Chris Pappas became New Hampshire’s first openly gay member of Congress

“This election is about who we are. Today, voters confirmed that the people of this district, state, and county are so much more kind, more decent, more tolerant than this political system would let us believe. This shows us what we can accomplish when we work together.” –Chris Pappas

Angie Craig unseated an anti-LGBTQ incumbent to become Minnesota’s first openly gay member of Congress.

As an out lesbian, Angie Craig defeated incumbent Jason Lewis, whose history as a radio host includes statements alleging that LGBTQ+ parents are harmful to their children and comparing gay couples to rapists.

“From the start, this campaign has always been about what we’re fighting for,” Craig said in her victory speech at Lone Oak Grill in Eagan. “What we’re fighting for — quality health care for every single American. It’s been about jobs and job skills for every person in this country. It’s been about taking dark, anonymous money out of politics in this country. And it’s been about listening and showing up.” –Angie Craig

Gerri Cannon and Lisa Bunker: Two transgender women elected to New Hampshire House of Representatives.

Cannon and Bunker will join Danica Roem in Virginia as the only three transgender members of a state legislature in the country.

“After the election last year, when Danica Roem won in Virginia and showed me a trans woman could get elected, I decided to do all I could. And today I have my hope back. Decency, civility, respect, diversity, love: these were the winners last night.” – Lisa Bunker

“Now, we need to get to work!” – Gerri Cannon

Malcolm Kenyatta became Pennsylvania’s first LGBTQ+ black man elected to the Pennsylvania legislature.

After being barraged with homophobic attacks throughout a hard fought campaign, Kenyatta won his district in a landslide.

“We decided to choose love over hate. We decided to choose the future over the past. We decided to choose innovation over stagnation. And we decided to choose a vision of our city and of our district where we get things done together.” – Malcom Kenyatta

Kyrsten Sinema in Arizona became the first openly bisexual member of the US Senate.

Sinema became the first openly bisexual member of the House when she was elected in 2013 is the second LGBTQ+ member of the Senate joining Tammy Baldwin, who joined the Senate in 2013 and was re-elected on November 6th.

Arizona proved that there is a better way forward. We can work with people who are different than us. We can be friends with people who are different than us. We can love and care about people who are different than us. We can keep people who are different than us safe. We can be good people who care deeply about each other even when we disagree.” –Kyrsten Sinema

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