Once Tuesday night’s victors are sworn in, the United States will have elected more than 1,000 concurrently serving LGBTQ officials for the first time in history, according to the political action committee LGBTQ Victory Fund.
At least 237 lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer candidates were on the ballot — an 18.5 percent increase since the last off-year election, in 2019, according to the Victory Fund.
Races were still being called Tuesday afternoon, but in many states, LGBTQ candidates celebrated historic firsts.
Six out LGBTQ candidates won their races for the New York City Council, which means the number of out representatives on the 51-person council increased from four to six. According to the Victory Fund, it’s the largest group of out LGBTQ council members ever elected in a city, with the previous record being five also in New York.
Democrats Crystal Hudson and Kristin Richardson Jordan — who will represent District 35 in Brooklyn and District 9 in Upper Manhattan, respectively — will be the first two Black out LGBTQ women elected to the council. Tiffany Cabán and Lynn Schulman — both Democrats who won seats representing District 22 and District 29, respectively, in Queens — will be the first out LGBTQ women elected to a public office that represents Queens, according to the Victory Fund.
In the Midwest, Rebecca Maurer, a Democrat, defeated a 16-year incumbent and became the first out LGBTQ woman elected to the Cleveland City Council, and Gabriela Santiago-Romero, also a Democrat, became the first LGBTQ councilwoman in Detroit and the first Latinx out LGBTQ woman elected in the entire state of Michigan.
Across the country, in Montana, Democratic candidate Christopher Coburn became the first Black out LGBTQ person ever elected in the state when he won his race for the Bozeman City Commission, according to the Victory Fund.
Trans candidates also won a number of races Tuesday. Dion Manley became the first trans person elected in the state of Ohio after winning his race for the Gahanna-Jefferson school board in Gahanna, just outside of Columbus.
Xander Orenstein, who uses gender-neutral pronouns, became the first nonbinary person elected to a judicial position in the United States after winning their race for the Allegheny County Magisterial District Court in Pennsylvania. They ran unopposed in the general election after defeating incumbent Anthony Ceoffe in the primary by 40 votes.
Thu Nguyen, a Democrat, became the first nonbinary person elected in the state of Massachusetts after winning their race for Worcester City Council, according to the Victory Fund. Orenstein and Nguyen will add to the small pool of nonbinary elected officials serving in the United States, which currently stands at 11.
Though most of Tuesday's LGBTQ victors are registered Democrats, not all are. Don Guardian became the first out LGBTQ Republican state legislator in New Jersey when he won his election to the General Assembly. New Jersey — until Guardian is sworn in — is one of just six states in the entire country without any LGBTQ people currently serving in the Legislature, according to the Victory Fund.
Some LGBTQ incumbents won re-election Tuesday night, including Danica Roem, a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, and Andrea Jenkins, who was re-elected to the Minneapolis City Council. Roem became the first out transgender person to serve in a state legislature after her win in 2017 and is now the longest-serving out trans state legislator in U.S. history, after winning re-election for a second time. Jenkins in 2017 became the first Black trans woman elected to public office.
Annise Parker, Houston’s first openly LGBTQ mayor and the current president and CEO of the LGBTQ Victory Fund, said she has mixed feelings about the outcome of election night. She noted the Victory Fund works with LGBTQ candidates at every level of office, but it focuses more than other national organizations on down-ballot candidates for school board and city council, for example.
“Those candidates had a really good night, just as they did last year, but the closer you get to the top of the ticket where national politics come into play, the more problematic it is,” she said.
Two Victory Fund-endorsed candidates lost their races in the Virginia House of Delegates: Del. Joshua Cole, a Democratic incumbent, lost his race to Republican challenger Tara Durant, and Douglas Ward, a Democratic challenger, lost his race to Republican incumbent Michael Webert.
She said “culture war” issues played a significant role in the races in Virginia, and in many other areas of the country, and that some candidates don’t know how to respond to them.
For example, she said Republican Glenn Youngkin, the projected winner of Virginia’s race for governor, emerged victorious by “hitting Trump themes without including Trump.” LGBTQ issues played a significant role in his campaign: Youngkin faced criticism last month for saying that, though he doesn’t personally support marriage equality, he would respect that it is legal in Virginia. He also expressed his opposition to trans girls playing on girls sports teams at school — an issue that has led to 10 states restricting transgender students’ sports participation — and supported Tanner Cross, a Virginia school teacher who was suspended (and later reinstated) after saying he would refuse to use pronouns consistent with transgender students’ gender identities.
“It is easier to convince someone to vote out of fear than out of positive conviction,” Parker said. She said the technique is not new and that LGBTQ candidates and pro-LGBTQ candidates have to know how to redirect the conversation — especially going into the 2022 midterm elections, as these issues are likely to gain traction.
She pointed to Roem, who has run against candidates who have used anti-trans rhetoric three times now, and she’s won every time.
“Danica is focused on the things that matter most to her constituents — bread and butter, basic legislative issues — and does not allow herself to get sidetracked into this culture war red meat stuff,” Parker said.