ELECTION 2016: Openly LGBTQ Candidates Vie To Make History Across Nation


Seven Out Hopefuls Could Become Firsts In Their States

This year’s election contests aren’t just going to be a big day for the presidential race. There are numerous state and local officers up for election. Because we know just how important — perhaps even more so — these down-ballot races can be, The New Civil rights Movement is breaking down the other races and what initiatives progressives should be paying attention to as they head to the ballot box on Tuesday. 

In Part 1 we looked at the 12 states electing a new governor. Part 2 took a look at some of the key US Senate races. This time, we’re taking a look at a few of the candidates who could become the first or only openly LGBTQ legislator in (or from) their state.  

Colorado’s 5 Congressional District: Misty Plowright

Misty Plowright is the first transgender candidate from Colorado, and she’s running for Congress. She’s been decried by the Right and ignored by her opponent Doug Lamborn, but as she told the Denver Post, “It’s hard to come after me. I’m not ashamed of who I am.” No Democrat has ever done better than 40 percent, though that’s not stopping Misty from trying. “I’ve been underestimated my entire life. Well, I’m still here and I’m still going,” she said.

Colorado House of Representatives, 8th District: Leslie Herod

If elected, Leslie Herod will become the first African American LGBTQ person to serve in the Colorado legislature. She’s running in a reliably blue district and is poised to make history. 

North Carolina House of Representatives, District 98: Jane Campbell

Jane Campbell’s opponent, Republican John R Bradford III, was one of the chief architects and proponents of HB2, which was motivation enough to convince Campbell to run. She’s not affiliated with any party though she’s heavily backed by Democrats. She’s also endorsed by HRC, Equality NC, and The News-Observer. She’s poised to be the only openly gay member of the legislature when elected. (Chris Sgro, executive director of Equality NC, was appointed to his temporary position to complete the last session.) 

Georgia House of Representatives, 101st District: Sam Park

Sam Park joins a long line of openly gay men vying to be the first to be elected in Georgia and may well be the first to actually make it happen. His poll numbers show him in a very tight race against incumbent Valerie Clark. What makes this interesting is that Park comes from Gwinnett County, where, as of this month, a majority of voters represent minority communities. Pundits from both sides of the aisle say this shows the coming change of Georgia’s red-voting habits to a deeper shade of purple. Park’s opponent was also a supporter of Georgia’s discriminatory “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” which was famously vetoed. (Full disclosure: I know Sam personally and on the board of a group that endorsed him. I also think he's great.)

Washington’s 7th Congressional District: Brady Piñero Walkinshaw

Brady Walkinshaw is looking to make the move from the state legislature up as the first openly LGBTQ Latino American elected to Congress. Walkingshaw’s district is safely Democratic, but his opponent, Pramila Jayapal, is also a Democrat. Both candidates have stood up for LGBTQ rights and immigrant rights and it seems as though Washington (both the state and the district) will be well served by either candidate.

Montana’s Congressional Representative: Denise Juneau

Denise Juneau could become the first Native American in Congress and the first openly LGBTQ representative from Montana. However, recent polling has her opponent, Trump-endorsing former Navy SEAL Ryan Zinke, up 19 points.  

Arizona House of Representatives, District 2: Daniel Hernandez

Daniel Hernandez first made news when he helped then-Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords stay alive after she was shot in 2011 at a public event. Now he’s advocating for stricter gun laws and LGBTQ rights. If elected, he’ll be the only openly LGBTQ legislator in Arizona. 

This is just a small sampling of some of the many openly-LGBTQ candidates running in 2016. There are also numerous LGBTQ-friendly candidates running. Be sure to do your research before you head to the polls — you could help make history! Check out your local LGBTQ PAC or other groups and make sure your voice is heard!

Image via TorbakHopper and a Creative Common License on Flickr