As a 19-year-old University of Iowa engineering student, Zach Wahls stood before the Iowa House of Representatives and gave an impassioned speech defending his two lesbian mothers. A video of the speech went viral, amassing millions of views.
Seven years later, Wahls is hoping to occupy a seat in the very chamber where he made his viral plea. The 26-year-old got one step closer to his goal on Tuesday when he secured the Democratic nomination for Iowa Senate District 37.
With all precincts reporting, Wahls amassed about 60 percent of the vote. His nearest competitor on the four-person ballot was former diplomat Janice Weiner, who finished the night with 34.8 percent of the vote.
“I think it’s a sign people here are hungry for new blood in the Iowa Legislature and are ready for the next generation of leadership,” Wahls said on Tuesday, per The Gazette. “It means a lot to me the community is trusting me with that leadership role.”
Wahls will now face Carl Krambeck, a Libertarian candidate who ran unopposed. Krambeck has conceded that he’s a “long shot” for a seat long held by Democrats.
The winner of November’s election will fill a seat vacated by Democratic Sen. Bob Dvorsky, who announced his retirement after more than 30 years in the Iowa legislature. If Wahls wins the seat, he’ll reportedly be one of the youngest people to ever serve in the state Senate.
According to the Press-Citizen, all four candidates in Tuesday’s Democratic primary race had campaigned on a similar platform: increased funding for education, eliminating corporate tax cuts and reversing Medicaid privatization. What appeared to set Wahls apart was his name recognition, the paper reported, which stemmed from that stirring speech he gave in 2011 in opposition to a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage in Iowa.
“Not once have I ever been confronted by an individual who realized independently that I was raised by a gay couple,” Wahls told state lawmakers at the time. “And you know why? Because the sexual orientation of my parents has had zero effect on the content of my character.”
Wahls has continued to advocate for LGBTQ rights over the years. His book, My Two Moms: Lessons of Love, Strength and What Makes a Family, was published in 2012. He also co-founded Scouts for Equality, an advocacy group dedicated to ending discrimination in the Boy Scouts of America.
In a series of tweets last year, Wahls explained why he decided to run for state Senate:
Editor’s note: Wahls is dating a HuffPost editor who was not involved in the reporting or editing of this story.