LGBTQ Candidates Record Historic Midterm Wins In Rainbow Wave

A record number of LGBTQ candidates ran this year. Many of them made history.

The 2018 midterm elections gave momentous victories to America’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community.

A record number of LGBTQ candidates ran for office this year, and more than 240 ― an unprecedented number ― won their primaries. On Election Day, several of them made history, including the first openly gay man to be elected governor; New Hampshire’s first gay congressman; and a Native American lesbian who won a House seat in Kansas, becoming the first queer person to represent the state in Congress.

Here are some of the biggest LGBTQ wins from election night:

Jared Polis from Colorado becomes the first gay man to be elected governor in the U.S.

The five-term Democratic congressman and father of two defeated Republican state Treasurer Walker Stapleton, a second cousin of former President George W. Bush.

Polis, whose first child was born in 2011, was the first openly gay parent in the Congress.

“Tonight, Colorado rejected the Trump-Pence administration’s politics of bigotry and fear by choosing bold pro-equality champion Jared Polis, the nation’s first openly gay man elected governor,” Chad Griffin, Human Rights Campaign president, said in a statement. “For nearly a decade in Congress, Polis fought to advance fairness and equality in Colorado and across America.

Sharice Davids becomes first LGBTQ person and Native American to represent Kansas in Congress.

Democrat Sharice Davids bested GOP Rep. Kevin Yoder in Kansas’ 3rd Congressional District on Tuesday, becoming the first Native American and the first LBGTQ person to represent the state in Congress.

Davids, who identifies as lesbian, is a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation. She earned her law degree at Cornell Law School and served as a White House fellow under President Barack Obama. She’s also a former professional mixed martial arts fighter.

Davids, 38, will be one of the first two Native American women in Congress. Democrat Deb Haaland, a member of the Laguna Pueblo tribe, also won her congressional race on Tuesday night. Haaland will be representing New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District.

Democrat Chris Pappas edged out Republican Eddie Edwards in New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional District, becoming the state’s first openly gay member of Congress. Pappas, a restauranteur and former state lawmaker, succeeds retiring Democratic Rep. Carol Shea-Porter.

“Voters in New Hampshire and all across the country are delivering a strong message,” Pappas said in his victory speech. “When America is faced with a challenge, we don’t give up. We don’t give into fear or anger. We persevere.”

Lesbian Angie Craig defeats anti-LGBTQ congressman in Minnesota, becomes first openly gay person elected to Congress from the state.

Democrat Angie Craig won Minnesota’s 2nd Congressional District, unseating GOP Rep. Jason Lewis. The victory makes Craig, who identifies as lesbian, the first openly gay person elected to Congress from the state.

This was the second time Lewis and Craig have battled for the suburban Twin Cities swing seat. Lewis ― who has compared gay people with “rapists” and has denounced same-sex marriage ― bested Craig by just 2 percentage points in 2016.

Two transgender women, Gerri Cannon and Lisa Bunker, were elected to the New Hampshire House of Representatives.

Democrats Gerri Cannon and Lisa Bunker won seats in New Hampshire’s Strafford 18 and Rockingham 18, respectively.

According to the Los Angeles Blade, Cannon and Bunker will join Virginia state Del. Danica Roem as the only openly trans members of any U.S. state legislature.

Roem, who made history last year when she was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates, celebrated the two women’s victories on Twitter on Tuesday night.

“Pretty soon, I will no longer the only out transgender state legislator in the country.... and that is wonderful!” Roem wrote.

Democrats Susan Ruiz and Brandon Woodard become the first LGBTQ members of the Kansas state legislature.

Newly minted state representatives Susan Ruiz and Brandon Woodard, who both identify as LGBTQ, will be representing Kansas’ 23rd and 30th Districts respectively.

Zach Wahls, who defended his two lesbian moms before the Iowa House of Representatives in 2011, becomes a state lawmaker himself.

Democrat Zach Wahls, who made headlines in 2011 for defending his two moms and gay marriage before the Iowa House of Representatives, clinched 78 percent of the vote in Iowa Senate District 37 on Tuesday night.

The 27-year-old LGBTQ advocate will be one of the youngest people to ever serve in the Iowa Senate.

Wahls is the co-founder of Scouts for Equality, an advocacy group dedicated to ending discrimination in the Boy Scouts of America.

Malcolm Kenyatta becomes the first LGBTQ black man elected to the Pennsylvania legislature.

Malcolm Kenyatta, a 27-year-old former Democratic National Convention delegate, won his bid for the state representative seat in Pennsylvania’s 181st District on Tuesday. Kenyatta succeeds his cousin, W. Curtis Thomas, who has occupied the seat since 1989, according to Philadelphia magazine.

Though Kenyatta will be the first openly gay person of color in the state legislature, he’s not its first LGBTQ member. That distinction belongs to Democrat Brian Sims, who in 2012 was elected to represent the 182nd District. Sims was re-elected to that post on Tuesday.

The dual victory means that, for the first time, two openly gay lawmakers will sit in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.

Teri Johnston elected mayor of Key West, Florida, becoming the state’s first lesbian mayor.

Teri Johnston was elected mayor of Key West. The former city commissioner is the first openly lesbian mayor in Florida’s history.

Massachusetts voters uphold transgender rights protections.

In a major victory for the state’s transgender community and allies, Massachusetts residents voted to keep in place legislation that forbids discrimination on the basis of gender identity.

Question 3 on the ballot asked voters whether they wanted to keep an existing state law that shields transgender people from discrimination in public places, including restaurants, hospitals and gyms. A “yes” vote means people can use public facilities that match their gender identity.

“This victory is one for the history books,” advocacy group Freedom Massachusetts celebrated on Twitter.

Kate Brown, the country’s first bisexual governor, and Tammy Baldwin, the first LGBTQ senator, re-elected.

Democrat Tammy Baldwin from Wisconsin, the country’s first openly LGBTQ senator, was re-elected to the U.S. Senate.

Kate Brown, the Democratic governor of Oregon, also held on to her seat. Brown, who identifies as bisexual, became the country’s first openly LGBTQ governor when she was first elected to the post in 2015.

On Election Day, a rainbow formed over the U.S. Capitol in Washington. The midterms have been a momentous victory for America's LGBTQ community and its allies.
On Election Day, a rainbow formed over the U.S. Capitol in Washington. The midterms have been a momentous victory for America's LGBTQ community and its allies.
Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

This article has been updated to include Teri Johnston’s win in Key West, Florida.

Clarification: Language in this story has been amended so that both references to Kate Brown identify her as bisexual.

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