Tuesday was a very good night for LGBTQ+ candidates across the country.
At least 80 queer and trans candidates won their races in the 2019 special elections, according to a report from the Victory Fund. That tally includes Danica Roem of the Virginia House of Delegates, who became the first trans politician in the U.S. to win reelection; four out LGBTQ+ candidates elected to the Indianapolis City Council; and Dr. N.J. Akbar of the Akron Board of Education, who became one of the first out LGBTQ+ Muslims elected in the United States.
The victories follow similar gains in 2017 and 2018, which observers termed the “Rainbow Wave.” A record number of LGBTQ+ candidates — 399 — ran for office in 2018, a figure that included 22 nominees for U.S. Congress and four gubernatorial hopefuls. Last November, Colorado’s Jared Polis became the first gay man to serve as a U.S. governor by winning his race.
Roem, who became the first transgender person to serve in a state legislature after defeating Republican Bob Marshall in 2017, actually improved on her previous win. She won by seven points two years ago, even as Marshall refused to debate her or refer to her by feminine pronouns; this time she won by nearly 13 points.
Annise Parker, CEO and president of the Victory Fund, said a story like Roem’s would have been “unimaginable even a decade ago.”
“Anti-[LGBTQ+] attacks on our candidates almost universally backfired,” she said in a press release, referring to transphobic attacks against Roem’s campaign. “[LGBTQ+] candidates won in battleground districts within battleground states. And as [LGBTQ+] candidates continue to prove their electability in every corner of the country, more will be inspired to run and win.”
Even the Victory Fund’s estimate doesn’t quite reflect the tremendous success of LGBTQ+ candidates in this year’s election. Its early estimate does not include the 12 races that are still undecided or the three that are headed to runoffs.
The figure also leaves out the LGBTQ+ candidates who were not endorsed by the Victory Fund, which puts politicians through a vigorous vetting process before offering its official endorsement or funding their campaigns. According to the organization, it donated more than $420,000 to LGBTQ+ political hopefuls across the country during this election cycle. Twenty-nine of its endorsed candidates already won their elections earlier this year.
In total, the Victory Fund claims it endorsed 111 candidates on the ballot Tuesday night — more than any previous election year. Depending on how the remainder of the races shake out, at least 72 percent of those politicians will have won their elections.
But LGBTQ+ people will need many, many more rainbow waves until they achieve equal political representation in the U.S. According to a 2017 report from The Daily Beast, more than 21,000 LGBTQ+ candidates need to win seats in national, state, and local government before the community achieves parity. Although Gallup estimates that four percent of Americans identify as LGBTQ+, just less than one percent of politicians do.
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