As the November 3 election looms, most Americans are focused on who will win the presidency, but more than 500 openly LGBTQ candidates are running for a wide range of local and national offices.
The roster of LGBTQ candidates is broad and diverse, and nearly every state is represented, including red states Alaska, Iowa, Kansas, North and South Carolina, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Wyoming and the Dakotas. There are many Black, Latinx and Asian candidates, speaking to the racial diversity LGBTQ candidates represent.
Among those running are several candidates in the tri-state area, and openly gay Pennsylvania House Reps. Brian Sims and Malcolm Kenyatta are running for re-election.
Jessica Benham is openly bisexual and running for House District 36 in the Pennsylvania Legislature. Her district is majority Democratic, so Benham is on board to become the first openly LGBTQ woman elected to the Pennsylvania House and the first openly autistic person elected to any state legislature.
“I firmly believe that the ways in which we talk about policy and implement policy are deeply rooted in our lived experiences,” Benham said after she won the primary. “I never imagined that I would be somebody who would run for office … because I didn’t see people like me in elected office.”
Daniel Smith Jr. is running to defeat an anti-LGBTQ Republican incumbent in Pennsylvania’s 12th district. Smith, a former Republicans, switched parties to try and defeat long-time incumbent Daryl Metcalfe, who has held the seat since 1999.
Metcalfe’s long history of opposition to LGBTQ issues includes opposing Philadelphia marketing itself as a gay-friendly city and sponsoring legislation banning same-sex marriage repeatedly before the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2015. He has publicly referred to openly gay House member Brian Sims as a “lying homosexual.”
If elected, Smith would join Sims and Malcolm Kenyatta as the state’s only openly gay representatives.
Sarah McBride is the National Press Secretary for Human Rights Campaign (HRC). She was the first openly transgender person to speak at a major party’s convention in 2016 at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
McBride’s advocacy and activism is credited with trans rights legislation being passed in Delaware which bans gender identity discrimination in employment, housing, insurance, and public accommodations. Joe Biden referenced the legislation during his town hall in Philadelphia on Oct. 15.
McBride was a campaign staffer for the late Beau Biden in 2010. In a speech at an HRC dinner in 2015, Dr. Jill Biden spoke about McBride’s personal story and said, “We believe young people should be valued for who they are, no matter what they look like, where they’re from, the gender with which they identify, or who they love.”
McBride is running for a seat in the Delaware State Senate. If successful, she would be the first transgender state senator in U.S. history.
Eric Morrison beat a long-time Democratic incumbent in his Delaware House primary last month. Morrison is favored to win in the strongly Democratic district. He will be running against a Republican and a Libertarian Party candidate. If elected, Morrison will be the first openly gay man to serve in the Delaware State Legislature.
“We ran a truly grassroots, people-powered, issues-based campaign,” Morrison said in a statement after he won the primary. “We kept our promises. We spoke the truth. We held ourselves to the highest level of integrity.”
The Victory Fund has also highlighted their efforts to “Queer the Congress” by helping to elect five new openly LGBTQ members to Congress and re-electing the seven currently in office. Among the candidates hoping to win House seats are two New York candidates who would be the first out gay Black male representatives in U.S. history. Each is expected to win in their largely Democratic districts.
Ritchie Torres was the youngest elected city official in New York City when he won a seat on City Council at 25 in 2013. He was also the first openly gay person elected to legislative office from the Bronx. As PGN reported in June, Torres provided a huge upset in the race for an open seat in the 15th Congressional District, located in the South Bronx. A Black Latinx gay man, Torres currently represents the district in City Council.
Torres’s win was especially sweet as the primary had 12 candidates and the favored candidate, Ruben Diaz, Sr., is a virulent homophobe. When he won, Torres tweeted, “The triumph of an openly LGBTQ candidate over a pro-Trump homophobe like Ruben Diaz Sr. would be poetic justice.”
Another left progressive expected to be elected to Congress with Torres is Mondaire Jones. In New York’s 17th House District, Jones, a Black gay man, faced down seven other candidates to replace beloved Congresswoman Nita Lowey, who is retiring after 31 years in office. Jones is already a veteran of D.C. politics, having worked in the Obama administration’s Department of Justice, where he specialized in judicial nominations.
Jones says he wants a broader conceptualization of the needs of LGBTQ people that includes many areas in which LGBTQ people face marginalization: healthcare, housing and education.
Gina Ortiz Jones, a Filipino-American lesbian and former Air Force intelligence officer, would be the first openly gay Congressperson elected from Texas. Ortiz Jones worked in the Obama administration in the Executive Office of the President as an intelligence analyst. She resigned in June 2017, saying she could no longer work in the Trump administration.
Ortiz Jones ran for Congress and lost by only 1,150 votes against Republican incumbent Will Hurd in Texas’s 3rd district in 2018. Hurd is retiring and the seat is open. Ortiz Jones would be the second lesbian of color in the House.
Pat Hackett of Indiana is running to be the first openly gay member of Congress from Mike Pence’s state. Hackett hopes to defeat incumbent Republican Jackie Walorski, who has voted against LGBTQ protections, including the Equality Act.
Tracey Mitrano, who recently married her longtime partner, Victoria Everett, is running against Republican incumbent Tom Reed in NewYork’s large 23rd district, which is majority Republican. A progressive Democrat, Mitrano has been referred to as a “radical” by Reed. Mitrano is a strong supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement and police reform and has written about police brutality. She has labeled Reed racist for his stances.
Up for re-election are openly gay and lesbian House members David Cicilline (D-RI), Sharice Davids (D-KS), Angie Craig (D-MN), Sean Maloney (D-NY), Chris Pappas (D-NH), Marc Pocan (D-WI), and Mark Takano (D-CA).