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In historic House race between gay candidates, Republican defeats Democrat, NBC News projects

George Santos, the projected winner of New York’s 3rd Congressional District race, will be the only LGBTQ Republican in Congress.
George Santos campaigns in Glen Cove, N.Y. , on Nov. 5, 2022.
George Santos campaigns in Glen Cove, N.Y. , on Nov. 5, 2022.Mary Altaffer / AP

Republican George Santos is the winner in the race for New York’s 3rd Congressional District, beating Democrat Robert Zimmerman and flipping the seat from blue to red, NBC News projected. The contest marked the first time two openly gay congressional candidates had gone head to head in a general election.

With 89% of precincts reporting Wednesday morning, Santos had 54.2%, while Zimmerman had 45.8%.

Santos took to Twitter on early Wednesday morning to celebrate his victory.

"We did it! #NY03 has spoken! I promised one thing throughout this entire campaign: to be your champion in DC," he wrote. "Thank you for this opportunity to be your voice!"

Santos will succeed Democrat Tom Suozzi, who left Congress last year in an unsuccessful bid for governor.

He will also become the first openly LGBTQ non-incumbent Republican elected to Congress.

Two former GOP House members — Steve Gunderson of Wisconsin and Jim Kolbe of Arizona — won re-election after they came out (or, in Gunderson’s case, having been outed). Former Republican Reps. Mark Foley of Florida and Aaron Schock of Illinois came out as gay after they resigned from the House.

All 11 current LGBTQ members of Congress — two senators and nine representatives — are Democrats. Of the 1,065 LGBTQ candidates who ran for public office this year, the vast majority, 89%, of them were Democrats, according to the political action committee LGBTQ Victory Fund found.

Santos' projected win comes as LGBTQ issues have increasingly become a wedge issue in the nation’s culture wars.

Republican legislators have filed a record 346 anti-LGBTQ bills in state legislatures this year, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Many of the bills aim to restrict gender-affirming care for trans minors, prohibit trans girls and women from competing on girls’ sports teams in school and bar the instruction of topics relating to sexual orientation or gender identity at school. This year alone, at least 12 bills restricting transgender rights have been signed into law, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

In a September interview, Santos said he sees no contradiction between his sexual orientation and his party’s politics.

“As a lifelong Republican, I have never experienced discrimination in the Republican Party,” he said at the time. “I am an openly gay candidate. I am not shy.” 

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