LGBTQ representation in the U.S. House of Representatives could more than double this year, as a record number of gay candidates are running for Congress on Nov. 3.
There are at least 24 LGBTQ candidates for the House nationwide, with 15 receiving endorsement from the LGBTQ Victory Fund, a political action group that works to increase the number of out elected officials.
“These diverse candidates will bring their lived experiences to a body that desperately needs more unique perspectives,” Annise Parker, the fund’s president, told NBC News.
There are currently seven LGBTQ representatives in the House, all Democrats and all expected win re-election: David Cicilline of Rhode Island; Chris Pappas of New Hampshire; Sean Patrick Maloney of New York; Mark Pocan of Wisconsin; Angie Craig of Minnesota; Mark Takano of California; and Sharice Davids of Kansas, who became first openly gay Native American woman in Congress in 2018.
There are two LGBTQ U.S. senators — Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, both Democrats. Neither is up for re-election.
Eight House candidates endorsed by the Victory Fund, all Democrats, are challengers, including Beth Doglio in Washington, Pat Hackett in Indiana, Tracy Mitrano in upstate New York, and Georgette Gómez, the San Diego City Council president running in California’s 53rd Congressional District.
The nine known LGBTQ congressional candidates the fund has not endorsed include seven Democrats and two Republicans.
Gomez is up against fellow Democrat Sara Jacobs for a seat left vacant by the retirement of Rep. Susan Davis. If she wins, Gomez, the daughter of Mexican immigrants, would be the first LGBTQ Latina in Congress.
“It's something that I've been fighting for and will continue to push forward, to defend immigrants, to defend immigrant rights, to move this country to start addressing comprehensive immigration reform,” she told NBC News.
Gomez is part of a trend of LGBTQ candidates of color this election cycle, one that includes attorney Mondaire Jones and New York City Council member Ritchie Torres, Democrats who are highly favored to win New York’s 17th and 15th Congressional districts, respectively.
Should they prevail, Jones and Torres will be the first Black gay men elected to Congress. (Torres identifies as Afro-Latinx.)
“At a time when movements to end racism, police brutality and health care disparities are at a high, these leaders will ensure the grassroots enthusiasm has a voice and advocate in the U.S. Congress,” Parker said in an email.
Gina Ortiz Jones, an out lesbian running for Texas' 23rd Congressional District, is a former Air Force captain and a national security adviser who worked under both the Obama and Trump administrations before resigning in 2017. The 39-year-old Iraq War veteran would be the first openly gay representative from Texas and the first Filipino American woman in Congress.
Two years ago, she lost to Republican incumbent Will Hurd by less than 1,000 votes. Hurd is not seeking re-election, and Jones now faces Navy veteran Tony Gonzales in a hotly contested open race.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has targeted Texas’ 23rd District as a pick-up opportunity and Jones is confident it will flip from red to blue.
“We’re seeing record turnout, because we know we deserve better, she told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Thursday. “Folks are excited about what’s possible.”
In Michigan, state Rep. Jon Hoadley is looking to unseat longtime Republican incumbent Fred Upton, who voted against the Equality Act last year and for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in 2004 and 2006.
Like other LGBTQ congressional candidates, Hoadley has been the subject of attack ads that have been characterized as homophobic.
A commercial from the Congressional Leadership Fund, a pro-Republican PAC, uses 16-year-old LiveJournal posts Hoadley published as a college undergrad. In one entry, he wrote about going to a gay bar for a discussion on crystal meth’s impact in the community. In another he joked about “a four year old wearing a thong” at a friend’s wedding.
The CLF ad calls Hoadley “disturbing” and “creepy,” and says sending him to Congress would show “bad judgment.” Mailers from the National Republican Congressional Committee referred to him as a “pedo sex poet.”
Hoadley’s main focus in the campaign has been on health care. His partner, Kris, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2017, and Hoadley has vowed to protect the Affordable Care Act.
“We absolutely need to get health care right," he told NBC News. "We are in the middle of a global health pandemic and a health crisis.”
Becoming the first LGBTQ member of Congress from Michigan, he added, would just be “an interesting footnote to history.”