Elizabeth Warren goes after LGBTQ vote with booth at DragCon

Warren has taken a proactive approach to winning the support of LGBTQ voters, providing more potential paths to victory.
U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren and musician Melissa Etheridge march in Boston's 48th Pride Parade in Boston
Sen. Elizabeth Warren and musician Melissa Etheridge march in Boston's Pride Parade on June 9, 2018.Brian Snyder / Reuters file
By Tim Fitzsimons

Amidst the tottering queens and sky-high wigs, attendees at RuPaul’s DragCon this past weekend found an unusual sight: a booth for the presidential campaign of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.

“That’s fierce,” Marti Gould Cummings, a drag queen and candidate for New York City Council, commented on Twitter. Other DragCon attendees posted photos of themselves standing beside an Elizabeth Warren cardboard cutout draped with a rainbow boa.

Warren recorded a special message for DragCon, which calls itself the “world’s largest” drag convention, that was played before the convention crowd.

“I’m in this fight for an America that works for everyone, not just for a thinner and thinner slice at the top. I’m in this fight for LGBTQ+ equality,” Warren said in the video. “A record number of trans Americans were killed last year, disproportionately trans women of color. We need to call it out, and we need to fight back.”

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Shea Couleé, a drag queen who appeared on season nine of the reality TV show “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” said she spoke at Warren’s DragCon booth because she “wanted to use my platform in a space where I knew that I could get a lot of attention for her, to bring some awareness to her campaign.”

“We had so many conversations with so many young people and voters, and I think it’s important that we get these young voters fired up and excited about the next presidential election,” Couleé added.

Even as Democrats consider their first openly gay presidential contender, Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, only Warren showed up at DragCon.

“The folks at DragCon extended an invitation to all of the Democratic candidates to come to DragCon, and she is the only one that accepted the invitation,” Couleé told NBC News. “For me, that speaks volumes.”

“She’s shown herself to be a great ally,” Couleé added.

Daniel Lander, Warren’s LGBTQ outreach director, said: “Elizabeth was honored to be invited to DragCon. She knows the importance of meeting LGBTQ+ voters where they are to listen to them and share her plans to protect and lift up the community.”

As a senator for Massachusetts, the first state to legalize same-sex marriage, in 2004, Warren has been a strong supporter of LGBTQ equality since she was elected to the Senate in 2012. She recently sponsored a bill to unlock tax refunds that were denied to same-sex couples legally married in Massachusetts and others states before the Defense of Marriage Act was ruled unconstitutional in 2013.

Warren and two other presidential candidates added their preferred pronouns to their Twitter bios, and Warren has used her social media posts to draw attention to the murders of transgender women like Pebbles LaDime Doe and Kiki Fantroy.

Any strategy to maximize the LGBTQ vote could pay dividends in early primary and caucus states — like New Hampshire and Nevada, two states with higher-than-average LGBTQ populations — because LGBTQ voters overwhelmingly identify as Democrats.

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And a broader LGBTQ outreach strategy could pay even more significant dividends during a general election, if Warren were to win the Democratic nomination. According to one analysis from 2012, first authored by the Williams Insitute’s Gary Gates, Barack Obama’s 2012 margin with LGBTQ voters was enough to account for his general election win in several key swing states.

Warren, along with other top tier presidential candidates including former Vice President Joe Biden and Buttigieg, will appear at two LGBTQ-focused candidate forums: a September event in Iowa and an October event in California.

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