Dozens of LGBTQ candidates running for positions ranging from mayor to state legislator to school board member won their races on November 5 during an off-year election night that notably featured victories for six out trans women, including Virginia Delegate Danica Roem.
Roem made history in January of last year when she became the first out trans person elected to a state legislature, and this time around she defeated her Republican opponent, Kelly McGinn, by more than 13 percentage points to become the first trans state legislator to win re-election. Roem won despite getting targeted by transphobic attack ads pushed by the anti-LGBTQ Family Foundation.
Virginia Delegate Dawn Adams — who in 2017 became the first out lesbian in Virginia’s State Legislature — and out gay Delegates Mark Levine and Mark Sickles also won, helping Democrats snag control of both houses of the State Legislature to give the party full control of state government — a result that will likely lead Virginia to become the 38th state to ratify the 1972 Equal Rights Amendment, though whether Congress or the courts will lift the original 1982 deadline Congress established and allow the amendment to take effect is unclear.
In total, 80 candidates endorsed by the LGBTQ Victory Fund, which helps elect out queer folks to various levels of government, won their races. Four candidates won their mayoral races, five won state office competitions, and 70 won various local office races.
Notably, six out trans candidates from around the US — all trans women — won their respective competitions, and Roem wasn’t the only trans candidate to win a race in her state: Donna Price, a trans woman who spent 25 years in the Navy, was elected to the Board of Supervisors. Other winning trans candidates included Holly Ryan, who won a City Council race in Newton, Massachusetts, and Councilmember Aime Wichtendahl of Hiawatha, Iowa, who was re-elected after becoming the first out trans elected official in her state in 2015. School Committee member Lizbeth Deselm of Melrose, Massachusetts, and school board member Gerri Cannon of Somersworth, New Hampshire — also a state lawmaker — won their elections.
The presence of out school board members is especially noteworthy in light of the longstanding and persistent anti-LGBTQ sentiments in school districts, as evidenced in the case of Gavin Grimm, a trans student in Virginia whose Gloucester County School Board refused to update his school transcript to conform to his birth certificate and would not allow him to use the boys’ bathroom. (Grimm later won a ruling in his lawsuit against the district.)
Most recently, Attorney General William Barr has targeted out teachers and LGBTQ education in schools.
A slate of LGBTQ mayors were re-elected and out gay candidate Eddie Sundquist won his race to become mayor of Jamestown, New York. Out LGBTQ mayors Patrick Wojahn of College Park, Maryland, and Lydia Lavelle of Carrboro, North Carolina, were re-elected, and out candidate Joseph Geierman won a spot in the Doraville, Georgia, mayoral runoff.
“Americans are understandably focused on the 2020 presidential and congressional elections, but the LGBTQ candidates who won tonight will arguably have a greater impact on the everyday lives of their constituents,” LGBTQ Victory Fund President Annise Parker, the former mayor of Houston, said in a written statement. “We are building a pipeline of out LGBTQ leaders at every level of government so we can advance equality today, and so we are positioned to run for higher-level offices in greater numbers tomorrow.”
The election night yielded gains for Democrats in unlikely places. Kentucky’s Attorney General, Andy Beshear, toppled incumbent Republican Governor Matt Bevin by less than one percentage point, according to unofficial election results, signaling warning signs for President Donald Trump in a state he won by a whopping 30 percentage points in 2016.
The night was not a complete loss for Republicans, however, as Mississippi Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves beat conservative State Attorney General Jim Hood, a Democrat, in an open race for governor.
Republicans picked up two seats in the New Jersey State Assembly and one seat in the State Senate.
The only Republican endorsed by the LGBTQ Victory Fund, Jeffrey Litke of Connecticut, won re-election to the Naugatuck Board of Education.