Over 1,000 LGBTQ people to serve in public office in 2022

When those who won their races in the November election are sworn into office, the U.S. will have hit an historic milestone: There will be more than 1,000 concurrently serving LGBTQ+ officials for the first time in history, according to the LGBTQ Victory Fund

At least 237 LGBTQ+ candidates were on the ballot, which is an 18.5 percent increase since the last off-year election in 2019, according to the Victory Fund.

In October, the Victory Fund issued its Out On The Trail report which stated that at least 410 LGBTQ people ran for office in 2021. Annise Parker, President and  CEO of the Victory Fund said in the report, “LGBTQ candidates are growing in their diversity, with more Black, trans, non-binary, queer and bisexual candidates than in any other odd-numbered election year.” 

And the election backed Parker’s assessment. PGN reported some of the major wins on Nov. 3 and how young, progressive LGBTQ people of color led the victorious campaigns.

Local historic wins were among those highlighted by the Victory Fund. In Philadelphia, Greg Yorgey Girdy won his local race, becoming the first elected openly gay judge to the Philadelphia Municipal Court. Pennsylvania elected the first nonbinary judge in the U.S., Xander Orenstein, who won for magistrate in Pittsburgh to the Allegheny County Magisterial District Court. And Don Guardian became the first out LGBTQ Republican state legislator in New Jersey and one of the only LGBTQ GOP when he won his election to the General Assembly. The Victory Fund states that there are just six states in the U.S. without any LGBTQ people currently serving in their legislatures and until Guardian is sworn in, New Jersey is among them.

New York City added an historic six out LGBTQ officials to its City Council: Crystal Hudson, Kristin Richardson Jordan, Lynn Schulman, Tiffany Cabán, Chi Ossé and Erik Bottcher. Hudson and Jordan, who will represent District 35 in Brooklyn and District 9 in Upper Manhattan, will be the first two Black out LGBTQ women elected to the council. Tiffany Cabán and Lynn Schulman, Democrats who won seats in Queens, will be the first out LGBTQ women elected to a public office that represents Queens, according to the Victory Fund.

These LGBTQ wins increase the number of out representatives on the 51-person New York City Council from four to six, which the Victory Fund states is one of the most significant percentages in the country. 

Another historic win by a person of color was in Massachusetts, where Thu Nguyen won a seat on the Worcestor City Council, making them the first nonbinary elected official in state history.

Gabriela Santiago-Romero became the first out LGBTQ councilwoman in Detroit and the first Latinx out LGBTQ woman elected in the entire state of Michigan.

More surprising than big wins in blue states were historic wins in red states. Christopher Coburn became the first Black LGBTQ elected official in Montana state history when he won his race for Bozeman City Commission. Ohio elected its first-ever transgender official, Dion Manley, who won a seat on the Gahanna Jefferson School Board, a district outside Columbus, while Rebecca Maurer became the first out LGBTQ woman elected to the Cleveland City Council. 

And the predominantly Mormon state of Utah elected two new LGBTQ members to the Salt Lake City Council. Four out of the six seats are now held by LGBTQ people, making it the largest U.S. city with a majority LGBTQ council leadership.

In addition, out LGBTQ people were elected mayor in Broomfield, Colorado (Guyleen Castriotta); Lambertville, New Jersey (Andrew Nowick); Milford, Pennsylvania (Sean Strub); Carrboro, North Carolina (Damon Seils); and Somersworth, New Hampshire (Dana Hilliard).

Some LGBTQ incumbents also won re-election Nov. 2. Among those is Danica Roem, a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, and Andrea Jenkins, who was re-elected to the Minneapolis City Council. Roem became the first out transgender person to serve in a state legislature in 2017 and is now the longest-serving out trans state legislator in U.S. history. In 2017, Jenkins became the first Black trans woman elected to public office.

Some losses by LGBTQ candidates were considered concerning by the Victory Fund in terms of what they might mean for 2022 in swing states like Pennsylvania. Among the races cited was that of Erie School Board President Tyler Titus, who 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.

Annise Parker, Houston’s first openly LGBTQ mayor and the current president and CEO of the LGBTQ Victory Fund, told NBC News she has “mixed feelings” about the Nov. 2 results. Parker explained that the Victory Fund works with LGBTQ candidates “at every level of office,” but with a focus on down-ballot candidates for school board and city council races. Those races have become targets for the GOP, which has sought to fill seats at the local level to direct political issues like how LGBTQ students are treated in schools. 

Parker said of the down-ballot races that “those candidates had a really good night, just as they did last year, but the closer you get to the top of the ticket where national politics come into play, the more problematic it is.”

Among the losses for LGBTQ candidates on Nov. 2 were two of the Victory Fund’s endorsed races. In Virginia, Joshua Cole, a Democratic incumbent in the House of Delegates, lost his race to Republican challenger Tara Durant, and Douglas Ward, a Democratic challenger, lost his race to Republican incumbent Michael Webert.

Parker told NBC that “it is easier to convince someone to vote out of fear than out of positive conviction,” referencing the “culture wars” issues that the GOP has made central to their campaigning in recent years and she suggested that candidates stick with bread and butter issues and steer clear of the “red meat” that GOP candidates like Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin, who ran an anti-LGBTQ campaign, used in his messaging.

GLAAD put the wins in perspective, noting, “The number of LGBTQ elected officials serving in office is still not sufficient to represent the community. According to a 2021 Gallup poll, the number of out LGBTQ people is increasing not just overall, but also with each new generation.”

GLAAD added, “This year, Gallup found that 5.6% of the U.S. population overall is LGBTQ, but that number rises to 15.9% among Generation Z (and 9.1% among millennials.) Comparatively, only 0.19% of elected officials currently serving in the U.S. are LGBTQ people — the vast majority serving in local offices.” 

There is still a long way to go before LGBTQ people have equal representation in government, said GLAAD. “Even more LGBTQ candidates will likely run for the 2022 midterm elections, and it’s important that all LGBTQ people and their allies vote for representatives who pledge to protect and advance LGBTQ equality.”

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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.