Despite the setback in Maine for LGBT equality, there were wins for the majority of the 79 LGBT candidates who were running for public office around the country. Notably, two African-American candidates―Charles Pugh and Jass Stewart―were among that group of newly elected officials.
Charles Pugh went from being a former FOX2 television journalist to the first openly gay president-elect of the Detroit City Council. The Detroit News reported:
A trio of first-time candidates topped the council ticket. Former broadcaster Charles Pugh, whose mother was murdered when he was a child, will become council president in January. He was followed by former Deputy Police Chief Gary Brown, whose firing led to the fall of former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, and former council aide Saunteel Jenkins.
Pugh, who also got the most votes in the primary, came into his victory speech playing "Victory" by Yolanda Adams.
"We are No. 1," said Pugh. "The change we have been waiting for is finally here. This change has been long overdue."
Pugh also alluded to recent scandals involving the foreclosure of his Brush Park condo, saying: "You stick by the people you believe in no matter what. Thank you Detroit for always having my back."
And support is what he had. Pugh received about 88,704 votes—nearly 10 percent of the vote overall. However, there was a concern from others that Pugh being openly gay might hurt his chance on winning. In an interview with The Michigan Messenger, Pugh said the following:
For those people who thought it would be an issue, they were short sighted. They did not see that Detroiters already knew my sexuality and were willing to accept it and say, “You know what? You’re welcome here. We love you. Now let’s get to work to fix our collective problems.
He went on to say in the same interview, that his win sent a clear message:
There has been a fear in the past by people in the LGBT community to stay in the closet for safety sake. So they won’t be fired, kicked out of the family, kicked out of the church. But this is a strong and clear message that that’s not required. That you can be who you are and be accepted into Detroit’s family if you step up with class and dignity and a willingness to help make our city a better place.
History was also made in Brockton, Massachusetts. Jass Stewart, 38, became the first African-American person and the first openly gay member of the city council in its 128 year history. The Enterprise News reported that Stewart, who ran for mayor of the city in the past and lost, was happy, yet subdued when he learned that he had won.
Stewart stood among the crowd at Progressions Lounge on Montello Street, accepting the well-wishes of supporters like Madden who came in moments after the results were confirmed.
“I heard I won, but I haven’t seen the numbers,” said Stewart, a 38-year-old openly gay black man, subdued on a night when celebration was clearly in order.
He had made it to the City Council with 5,920 votes or 15.6 percent.
The gathering of some 25 people cheered, congratulating the man who twice ran and lost the mayor’s race and finally made it to City Hall as a councilor-at-large.
GLAAD congratulates Pugh and Stewart!