Wins and losses in the 2021 election

Gregory Yorgey-Girdy (Philadelphia), Gabriela Santiago-Romero (Detroit), Liliana Bakhtiari (Atlanta), and Danica Roem (northern Virginia) all won their election races.

Incumbent New Jersey governor Phil Murphy’s bid for re-election was supposed to be a walk in the reliably blue state — but the Democrat managed only a squeaker of a win late on Nov. 3. Murphy, who had trailed GOP challenger Jack Ciattarelli early, won with a mere 50.2% of the vote. Ciattarelli had even given a pre-acceptance speech on Election Night when he was up nearly five percent at 1am. In a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans by over a million voters, Murphy made history as the first Democratic gubernatorial incumbent since 1977 to win re-election, if only by a percentage of a percentage. But the narrowness of the win had pundits shaking their heads over Democratic messaging.

Some Pennsylvania races were a win for Democrats. Gregory Yorgey-Girdy won his race, becoming the first openly gay man in history elected as a judge on the Philadelphia Municipal Court. Franny DiCicco, former executive director of Philly Pride Presents, won election as mayor of Folcroft Borough. There was a victory for Philadelphia’s progressive D.A. Larry Krasner, whose criminal justice reforms have benefitted people of color and LGBTQ people who are disproportionately jailed. And Xander Orenstein won their race for the Allegheny County Magisterial District Court, which makes them the first nonbinary person elected to a judicial position in the U.S. 

But there were a slew of election losses elsewhere in the state. Erie School Board President Tyler Titus ran for county executive in Erie County and would have become the first out trans person in the U.S. to be elected a county executive. Titus previously made history when they were elected to the Erie School Board, becoming the first out trans person elected in Pennsylvania. But Titus was yet another Democrat who lost in the Republican wave that swept the state.

Three pivotal judgeships in Pennsylvania were also lost. Maria McLaughlin lost her crucial race for the state Supreme Court to Republican Kevin Brobson. Megan Sullivan defeated Timika Lane for Superior Court. Both McLaughlin and Lane are Philadelphians, but the city — despite mail-in ballot options — barely crested 150,000 tabulated votes. Lane and Lori Dumas, who lost her bid for Commonwealth Court judge, would have meant Black women in those key positions.

However, there were also some historic wins for progressive LGBTQ Democrats across the country in local races. In New Jersey, openly gay man Don Guardian, former mayor of Atlantic City, won election to the New Jersey State House’s 2nd district.

In Virginia, Democrat Danica Roem was re elected to a third term in the Virginia House of Delegates and has become the longest-serving out transgender elected official in the U.S.

Roem represents District 13, a swing district located in the northern part of the state. With all ballots except provisional ones counted, she had 54.3 percent of the vote, Inside Nova reports.


Her victory is two-fold as she defeated Christopher Stone, an anti-LGBTQ Republican. Roem was first elected to the House of Delegates in 2017, becoming the first out transgender person to be elected to and seated in a state legislature. 

“Danica’s voters again chose a qualified trans leader over an anti-LGBTQ opponent — rejecting the so-called ‘culture wars’ that aim to divide, not improve people’s lives,” Annise Parker, president and CEO of the LGBTQ Victory Fund, said in a press release. 

Also in northern Virginia, Mark Sickles, a gay man, was re-elected in District 43. Sickles has been a Democratic delegate for 18 years and came out in 2014. Dawn Adams, an out lesbian first elected in 2017, is seeking reelection in District 68 in Richmond. Her race remains too close to call.

The governor’s race in Virginia was not as fortunate for Democrats, with GOP businessman Glenn Youngkin defeating former governor Terry McAulifffe. The race which was seen as a bellwether for next year’s midterm elections and as a litmus test for President Biden.

In Atlanta, Liliana Bakhtiari won against five other candidates for the Atlanta City Council District 5 seat, a position she narrowly lost when she first ran in 2017. Bakhtiari becomes the first queer Muslim elected official in Georgia.

Another historic win is that of Gabriela Santiago-Romero, elected to Detroit’s City Council in District 6. A Mexican immigrant, Santiago-Romero grew up in Detroit and is a longtime organizer and activist. She is the first out queer Latinx woman to be elected in the state of Michigan.

Brooklyn Democrat Crystal Hudson won the 35th District seat, making her the first out Black lesbian on the New York City Council. She lives in Prospect Heights with her partner, political strategist Sasha Neha Ahuja, and calls herself “unapologetically pro-Black, pro-queer and pro-justice.” 

NBC reports that during the pandemic, Hudson, a third-generation Prospect Heights resident, created Greater Prospect Heights Mutual Aid, a group of neighbors helping neighbors access food and other resources.

In Montana, out gay man Christopher Coburn was elected to the Bozeman City Commission in Montana. Coburn is now the first Black LGBTQ person elected in Montana. Coburn was appointed to the commission in April to fill a vacancy and was elected to complete the remaining two years of that term. 

Coburn told NBC News, “As a city commissioner, I’ll fight to make Bozeman the type of equitable and inclusive community that we all deserve.”

A big win for progressive Democrats was the election of Michelle Wu as mayor of Boston. Wu shattered the white male Boston ceiling, becoming the first woman and person of color elected to that post. Wu said in her acceptance speech, “We are ready to meet this moment. We are ready to become a Boston for everyone. We’re ready to be a Boston that doesn’t push people out, but welcomes all who call our city home.”

Minneapolis rejected the plan to overhaul the city’s police department in the wake of George Floyd’s brutal murder, perpetrated by four police officers. But Black trans woman Andrea Jenkins won re-election to her seat in Ward 8 on City Council, which includes George Floyd Square.

“In the wake of George Floyd’s death, it was Councilor Jenkins who led the fight for racial and social justice,” JoDee Winterhof, senior vice president of policy and political affairs at the Human Rights Campaign, said in a press release. 

HRC’s political action committee had endorsed Jenkins and added, “Jenkins understands firsthand the challenges facing transgender people today, especially transgender women of color. She has never stopped fighting on behalf of those on the margins of society and against the systemic racism and injustices that pervade our world. We congratulate her on her victory tonight. We look forward to continuing to work with her in the years to come.”

Jenkins supported Question 2, a plan to dismantle Minneapolis’s police force and replace it with a new Department of Public Safety. 

Phillipe Cunningham, an out trans man who had worked with Jenkins on reform issues, lost his run for re-election to Minneapolis City Council.

To view details on other local LGBTQ races, check the Victory Fund website: https://victoryfund.org/.

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Victoria A. Brownworth is a Pulitzer Prize-nominated award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Baltimore Sun, DAME, The Advocate, Bay Area Reporter and Curve among other publications. She was among the OUT 100 and is the author and editor of more than 20 books, including the Lambda Award-winning Coming Out of Cancer: Writings from the Lesbian Cancer Epidemic and Ordinary Mayhem: A Novel, and the award-winning From Where They Sit: Black Writers Write Black Youth and Too Queer: Essays from a Radical Life.