LGBT Candidates and Allies Win State and Local Elections

Much of the excitement from Tuesday’s election focused on the marriage questions in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington, as well as Tammy Baldwin’s victory in Wisconsin. But LGBT candidates also ran in several races that garnered less national attention. The election of so many out LGBT candidates gives a new level of visibility to LGBT people across the country.

Georgia State Representative Simone Bell secured a second term with an overwhelming victory yesterday. Bell, an out lesbian and an African American woman, garnered 87% of the vote.

North Dakota elected its first out gay state legislator. Joshua A. Boschee faced two incumbents in a four way race for two seats in the North Dakota State Legislature and garnered the highest percentage of votes among all the candidates.

Gay Republican and Wood County, Ohio Commissioner Tim Brown won a seat with the state House of Representatives.

Voters in Maine elected Justin Chenette to represent House District 134 in the Maine State Legislature. Just 21 years old, Chenette will become the youngest out gay state representative in the United States.

David Cicilline, the out former mayor of Providence, Rhode Island, retained his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives by a ten point margin against Brendan Doherty, the former head of Rhode Island’s state police.

Janice Daniels made national headlines soon after her election for posting an update on Facebook crudely criticizing New York for legalizing marriage equality. This election cycle, the mayor of Troy, Michigan faced a recall, in part because of her comments. The recall was successful and Daniels has been voted out of office.

Karla Drenner, who became the first LGBT person elected to Georgia’s state legislature in 2000 was reelected without opposition.

Before running for the U.S. House of Representatives in New York’s 18th District, newly elected Representative Sean Patrick Maloney served as White House Staff Secretary to Bill Clinton and as First Deputy Secretary to New York Governors Eliot Spitzer and David Patterson. Maloney has been with his partner, Randy Florke, since 1992; they have three children. Maloney will be New York’s first out gay member of Congress.

Brandon Marcus, an out gay North Carolina State Legislator ran unopposed for reelection this year. He remains the only gay state representative in North Carolina.

U.S. Senator Bill Nelson easily won reelection in Florida with over 55% of the vote. This will be Nelson’s third term in the Senate.

State Representative Mark Pocan won the race to fill Senator-elect Tammy Baldwin’s seat in US House of Representatives. Pocan’s husband, Phil Frank, joined him on stage as Pocan spoke to supporters after his victory was announced.

In Colorado, Jared Polis also retained his seat representing Boulder’s newly reconfigured 2nd Congressional district. Polis’ lead over challenger Kevin Lundberg ranged from just one point in more conservative parts of the district to nearly 50 points in Boulder County.

Joe Saunders was a senior staffer at Equality Florida for seven years before winning his bid for a seat in the state’s House of Representatives. He joins David Richardson in becoming Florida’s first out gay state legislators. Richardson won a primary back in August and ran unopposed in the election.

Brian Sims will become Pennsylvania’s first out gay state representative when he is sworn in next year. Before stepping down to concentrate on his campaign, Sims was President of Equality Pennsylvania, and as the Chairman of the Gay and Lesbian Lawyers of Philadelphia. Earlier this year, he beat longtime incumbent Babette Josephs in the primaries. He ran unopposed on the election on November 6.

Former Arizona state senator Kyrsten Sinema is still holding on to a slim lead over Vernon Parker in newly formed Congressional District 9. Sinema, who is bisexual, served in the Arizona House of Representatives for six years and the State Senate for one year before voluntarily giving up her seat in order to run for Congress.

Stephen Skinner will become West Virginia’s first out gay state legislator. Skinner was founder and board president of Fairness West Virginia.

Mark Takano will be the first gay Asian-American member of Congress when he takes office next year. Takano, from Riverside, California, ran a strong campaign against John Tavaglione, a veteran Riverside County supervisor, who has a long history as a moderate.

Out gay Republican Richard Tisei lost a close race in Massachusetts’ Sixth Congressional District to incumbent John Tierney. Tisei, a self-described “live and let live Republican,” would have been the first out, Republican gay member of the House had he won.

Georgia State Representative Keisha Waites, who won a contentious primary earlier this year, was reelected. She is one of three lesbian legislators in Georgia, who of whom are also African American.

Voters in Iowa have retained Judge David Wiggins, one of the seven justices who ruled to legalize marriage equality in Iowa in 2009. Three of those judges faced reelection in 2010 and were defeated when out of state anti-LGBT groups funneled money into opposing their reelections. Wiggins is the first judge of the seven to face reelection and win.

Tuesday was an historic night in many ways, and the election of more out LGBT politicians is a promising sign that the United States is poised to make full equality a reality for all LGBT people. Having visible LGBT role models for youth is particularly important. Incoming North Dakota State Legislator Josh Boschee stated upon learning he had won: "I think it shows LGBT kids in the state that if you work hard, and you're true to yourself, anything is possible."