A record number of LGBTQ+ lawmakers are heading to the nation’s capital next year after victories in Tuesday’s general election, guaranteeing the queerest Congress ever. Eight of the nine out candidates on the ballot for Congress were victorious, and the last candidate leads in his race which is still too close to call. More than that, some of the politicians made history individually: In New York, Democrats Ritchie Torres and Mondaire Jones became the first out Black LGBTQ+ candidates elected to Congress. Torres, who also has the distinction of being the first Afro-Latinx LGBTQ+ Congressman, will represent the 15th congressional district, while Jones will represent the 17th district.
“For too long, particularly LGBTQ people of color have been pushed to the sidelines and stripped of our voice,” Alphonso David, president of Human Rights Campaign said in a statement about the incoming class. “But today we reclaim our power and declare ourselves not only worthy but indeed required representatives in the halls of Congress.” The wins are a part of a larger phenomenon that has been dubbed the latest "rainbow wave."
“The next U.S. Congress will have the largest and most diverse group of LGBTQ leaders in history and that can make a real impact on equality,” Mayor Annise Parker, president of LGBTQ Victory Fund, said in a statement.
Parker called Jones’s victory a “a milestone moment in our nation’s politics and his victory will inspire more people of color and LGBTQ people to run for office in their communities.” Parker went on to say that Jones has positioned himself to become “a powerful voice for change” who can correct the systemic “injustices faced by Black people, LGBTQ people, and other marginalized communities.”
Jones told NBC News his fellow New Yorker Torres is a “tremendous candidate and good friend” and that the pair are excited to be more than just legislators. “This is a chance for us to be the role model we looked for growing up – for queer youth and especially queer youth of color.”
In addition to the pair, there were seven incumbent LGBTQ+ candidates running for Congress Tuesday, all Democrats. Six of the seven won their races outright. David Cicilline (Rhode Island), Chris Pappas (New Hampshire), Mark Pocan (Wisconsin), Angie Craig (Minnesota), and Mark Takano (California) were all declared victorious in their respective races for the U.S. House of Representatives. Sharice Davids of Kansas, the first out LGBTQ+ Native American in Congress, also won reelection. Sean Patrick Maloney of New York is currently leading by a few percentage points over his Republican challenger, but the race is still too close to call. Currently Tammy Baldwin and Kyrsten Sinema are the only out members of the Senate, meaning there will be at least 10, and most likely 11, members of the new LGBTQ+ caucus.
Jones thanked HRC following his victory, saying he “couldn’t be more grateful” for their support.
“Growing up poor, Black, and gay, I never imagined someone like me could run for Congress and win,” Jones said in a statement.