15 LGBTQ, Ally Candidates to Follow During the Monumental Midterms
Ever since Donald Trump won the electoral college (with an assist from Vlad Putin), most LGBTQ voters have been counting the days until we can change the political calculus. Well, that day is here. While we won't be rid of Trump yet, we could have new governors, state legislatures, and a Congress that could challenge his dangerous, hateful agenda. Here are some of the candidates we're most excited for; the people who can really start to silence the xenophobic, fear-based rhetoric we've lived under for two years.
This 42-year-old Arizona congresswoman is hoping to replace Jeff Flake, who's retiring, in the Senate. If this moderate Democrat wins, she'll be the nation's first out bisexual woman elected to the Senate. The practical-minded Sinema is well-liked in her home state and is viewed as having a good shot at turning one of Arizona's Senate seats blue; her competition is standard-issue Republican Martha McSally.
In an Advocate profile on Sinema, the congresswoman seemed to indicate a willingness to step into another famed Arizonan's shoes; maverick senator John McCain: "Sometimes it surprises people when they hear I'm friends with colleagues from across the political spectrum. That's the way I've always been -- willing to work with anyone to get the job done."
Sharice Davids broke down barriers as the nation's first gay Native American congressional nominee, coming out on top in a crowded six-way Democratic primary in Kansas's Third District. Now Davids, who is also a professional mixed martial arts fighter, faces off against Kevin Yoder in the general election. If she wins, she'll make history yet again as Kansas's first LGBTQ member of Congress and the first Native American woman to serve in Congress.
Davids's opponent Yoder has received Donald Trump's endorsement, and while Yoder said he doesn't care for the "incivility,' he said this weekend that he believes Trump loves the United States and "speaks the truth." He also said, "There's too much time spent here trying to oppose the president's efforts to secure the border."
In her attempt to become the first African-American woman governor in American history, Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams has stood up against a rigged race where her opponent, current Secretary of State Brian Kemp, has suppressed voting to the point that federal judges ruled against his tactics. Abrams was the first gubernatorial candidate to march in Atlanta Pride and been a strong advocate for queer rights, criminal justice reform, and public education. In contrast, Kemp supports "license to discriminate" legislation, which would permit individuals and faith-based organizations to refuse service to LGBTQ people on the grounds of religious freedom.
Jared Polis, a Democrat who has represented Colorado's Second Congressional District since 2009, is seeking to make history as the first out gay man to be elected governor of a U.S. state. The most recent poll shows Polis leading his Republican rival, Colorado Treasurer Walker Stapleton, by 45 percent to 40 percent, and the state leans Democratic in general. The incumbent, Democrat John Hickenlooper, is not running due to term limits. Polis told The Advocate this year that he's leaving Congress and seeking the governor's seat because he believes he can fight Donald Trump more effectively at the state level. "I feel I can make more progress back home in Colorado," he said. His priorities include universal health care, clean energy, and improving public education.
Christine Hallquist, the Democratic nominee for governor of Vermont, would be the nation's first transgender governor if she wins Tuesday. She's trailing incumbent Republican Phil Scott in the polls -- he's been just moderate enough for progressive Vermonters, but Hallquist says he isn't really addressing the state's most pressing issues, such as rural poverty, climate change, and access to health care. Those would be among Hallquist's priorities if she's elected. "The most important measure of a state is not how the wealthy are doing, it's how the poorest people are doing," she told The Advocate this summer. "[Scott's] measure is about how the wealthy are doing." Hallquist is the former CEO of the Vermont Electric Cooperative, a utility she rescued from the verge of bankruptcy, and was the first business leader in the U.S. to transition on the job. She could pull off an upset and be another "first" Tuesday.
Los Angeles County's 25th Congressional District provides the backdrop to 31-year-old bisexual Democratic candidate Katie Hill's challenge to incumbent Republican Steve Knight, whose father, Pete Knight, authored the Knight Initiative, a 2000 ban on same-sex marriage.
"Having true equality is just something that I think should be a given," Hill told The Advocate in an interview regarding LGBTQ rights.
Meanwhile, Knight opposes abortion, believes in securing the border against "dangerous immigrants," and has said that marriage is between one man and one woman.
This youthful congressman has energized Texas Democrats like none other (except maybe legendary governor Ann Richards). Though Texas hasn't elected a statewide Democrat in generations, O'Rourke is seen as giving hateful bigot Ted Cruz a run for his money.
Though O'Rourke -- who stands for Democratic ideals like health care access, a social safety net, and equal rights for LGBTQ people -- has been a few percentage points away from Cruz in most polls, voter turn-out could be key to a suprise win. Not only would an O'Rourke victory prove Texas is turning into a purple state, it would shrink the Republican majority in the Senate, and likely end Cruz's despicable political career. Read about Ernest Clark, a gay man working to put O'Rourke over the top.
You may not have heard of Jeannine Lake, but you may have heard of her opponent in the race for Indiana's 6th congressional district: Greg Pence. Sadly, this Pence is indeed related to the vice president; he's his older brother and shares most of his conservative, homophobic stances. Lake, meanwhile, is a successful local magazine publisher who was inspired to run after Donald Trump won the electoral college. Lake was recently endorsed by a fellow Hoosier: David Letterman.
This Democratic mayor of Tallahassee, Fla., is fighting to become governor of the nation's swing-iest state. This LGBTQ ally is in pitched battle with Ron DeSantis, a Trump lackey who employs racism to rile up his base (just like his idol). Polls have shown Gillum, supported by everyone from Barack Obama to Rihanna, ahead -- but we all know to never assume anything in Florida.
The race between Democrat Phil Bredesen and Republican Marsha Blackburn is so heated it got Taylor Swift into politics. Bredesen, the former governor of Tennessee, is looking to become the next U.S. senator from the state and counter Blackburn's tradition of opposing measures to establish equal pay between genders, curb violence against women, and recognize marriage equality, and basic LGBTQ rights.
Senator Heidi Heitkamp
During hearings on accused sexual predator Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court, North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat in that heavily Republican state, unequivocally said that she would oppose his confirmation in an emotional video. And she did vote against him despite knowing that doing so could render her vulnerable in the midterms.
"Countless North Dakotans and others close to me have since reached out and told me their stories of being raped or sexually assaulted -- and expressed the same anguish and fear," Heitkamp said last month. "I'm in awe of their courage too. Some of them reported their abuse at the time, but others said nothing until now. Survivors should be respected for having the strength to share what happened to them -- even if a generation has since passed. They still feel the scars and suffer the trauma of abuse."
Meanwhile, Heitkamp's Republican opponent, Kevin Cramer, is a far-right religious extremist who opposes abortion and birth control but believes it's OK to use chain-link fences to hold children of immigrants at the border. Regarding LGBTQ rights, he believes that marriage is defined by scripture and that the state definition of marriage should trump the federal definition.
Lupe Valdez would give Texas a couple of firsts if she's elected governor -- she's a lesbian and a Latina. The Democrat faces an uphill battle against incumbent Greg Abbott, a Republican with a long history of anti-LGBTQ stances, both as governor and, before that, as Texas attorney general. But Valdez, the former sheriff of Dallas County, told The Advocate this summer, "When has it not been an uphill battle for me? ... I'm getting darn good at uphill battles." She has also said that Texas is not so much a red state as a nonvoting state, so a big turnout could be in her favor.
Senator Tammy Baldwin
The first and only LGBTQ person in the Senate, Tammy Baldwin is fighting to keep her job in Wisconsin. Though right-wing interests have poured millions to defeat her, polls show the affable, well-respected senator ahead of her opponent, Republican Leah Vukmir. Baldwin urges her supporters to not be complacent, reminding them of Hillary Clinton's political fate.
Governor Kate Brown
Oregon's Kate Brown is the first bisexual governor in American history. She's looking to continue her track record of boosting LGBTQ rights in the Oregon legislature and is facing off against Republican Knute Buehler. Although Buehler is a moderate pro-choice Republican and an early supporter of marriage equality, he is hostile to gun control, while Brown advocates for criminal background checks and bans on assault weapons.
Gina Ortiz-Jones, an out lesbian, first-generation American daughter of a single mother from the Philippines, and Iraq War veteran, is the Democratic nominee for U.S. representative from Texas's 23rd Congressional District, located in the southwestern part of the state and considered the most competitive district in Texas. Her opponent, incumbent Republican Will Hurd, scored 30 out of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign's most recent Congressional Scorecard, which measures support for LGBTQ causes. Read a profile on Ortiz-Jones here.