Election 2017 brings major Democratic, LGBT wins

Election Night 2017 had a decidedly different outcome than last year’s election. 

Democrats swept all major races across the country in what pundits described as a referendum on Republican President Donald Trump. Among the biggest winners were New Jersey Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Murphy, who defeated Republican Kim Guadagno to succeed Gov. Chris Christie, and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam in Virginia.

It was also a historic night for LGBT wins, particularly among transgender candidates. Pennsylvania will have its first-ever openly transgender elected official, as Tyler Titus was elected to the Erie School Board in Western Pennsylvania.

“Tyler Titus shattered a lavender ceiling in Pennsylvania today and his victory will resonate well beyond state boundaries,” Victory Fund President and CEO Aisha C. Moodie-Mills said in a statement Tuesday. “Trans people remain severely underrepresented in our politics and government, and now more than ever we need trans voices like Tyler’s in the halls of power. This is a historic night for trans candidates across the country, and Tyler is part of a vanguard of leaders who are determined to be part of the conversation on issues that affect their lives.”

In Virginia, Danica Roem was elected to the state legislature, making her the first out trans person elected to statewide office in the nation; she defeated a Republican incumbent who introduced an anti-transgender “bathroom bill.” Andrea Jenkins was also elected with an overwhelming majority to the Minneapolis City Council, as the first openly trans black woman elected to public office in the country.

“For far too long, transgender Americans have been shoved to the sidelines, in government and even in the LGBTQ-rights movement,” said DNC CEO Jess O’Connell and DNC LGBT Caucus Chair Earl Fowlkes in a statement. “That’s beginning to change, and Tuesday’s results were a giant step forward. But this is only the beginning. LGBTQ Democrats will be front and center in the elections going forward, especially in the most vital races of 2018. We look forward to a bright and inclusive future.”

Locally, openly gay Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian was defeated by Democratic challenger Frank Gilliam. In Pennsylvania, Meadville elected its first openly gay mayor, LeRoy Stearns; Milford reelected its first openly gay mayor, Sean Strub; and Lehigh County voters backed Amy Zanelli for the county’s Board of Commissioners, making her the first out LGBT county elected official in the Lehigh Valley.

There was a large LGBT contingent cheering on District Attorney-Elect Larry Krasner, who organized his watch party at William Way LGBT Community Center. Krasner defeated Republican challenger Beth Grossman, capturing almost 75 percent of the vote. 

In the William Way ballroom, supporters chanted, “This is what democracy looks like!” and “This is what a movement looks like!” as Krasner pledged to bring a new era of criminal-justice reform to the office. Krasner is a former defense attorney and has extensive civil-rights experience.

It was that background that led him to decide to hold the event at William Way, he told PGN.

“It’s a very friendly space to me,” he said about the center. “I’ve been here on many occasions; ACT UP was one of my very first clients. I’ve always thought the biggest civil-rights issue of our time would be around gay rights.”

Democrat Rebecca Rhynhart soundly defeated her Republican challenger, Mike Tomlinson, earning nearly 83 percent of the vote to become the city’s next Controller.

In judicial races, Democrat Dwayne Woodruff was edged out by Republican Sallie Mundy for a seat on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, while three Democrats and one Republican were elected to the state Superior Court and one Democrat and one Republican will join Commonwealth Court. n