Tuesday’s primaries saw more victories for LGBTQ candidates, with Kyrsten Sinema becoming the Democratic nominee for U.S. senator from Arizona and Lauren Baer winning a congressional nomination in Florida.
Sinema, currently a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, becomes the first out bisexual Senate nominee. She took 80 percent of the vote, easily besting activist Deedra Abboud. In November she will face Republican Martha McSally, also a current House member, as they vie for the Senate seat left open by Jeff Flake’s retirement, setting Arizona up to elect its first woman U.S. senator. McSally defeated two far-right candidates, physician Kelli Ward and the infamous former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, but she is solidly right-wing herself.
“Arizona voters shattered a lavender ceiling in selecting Kyrsten Sinema as the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate – and it puts her on-track to be just the second openly LGBTQ U.S. senator in American history,” said a statement issued by Annise Parker, president and CEO of the LGBTQ Victory Fund, which has endorsed Sinema. “This race is consequential not just for the Democratic Party and for the LGBTQ community, but for all Americans who demand an end to the political divisiveness that Martha McSally embodies. An LGBTQ Senate candidate taking down an anti-LGBTQ opponent in a red state will be a defining moment in this year’s rainbow political wave – and will further the evolution in how Americans view LGBTQ people and candidates.
“McSally refuses to support a federal right to marriage equality, votes for ‘religious exemption’ laws designed to target LGBTQ people for discrimination, and opposes federal protections for transgender students. Ask her positions on the most basic of LGBTQ protections and she obfuscates, choosing politics over leadership and fairness. Meanwhile Kyrsten is the embodiment of the American dream – surviving homelessness to become a social worker, teacher and then a member of Congress – and is committed to improving lives for all Arizonans, not making them more difficult. We need Kyrsten not just because the LGBTQ community needs her, but because America needs her.”
The Human Rights Campaign also called out McSally’s anti-LGBTQ stances and praised Sinema; it has likewise endorsed her. The stakes in November could not be clearer,” said HRC Arizona state director Justin Unga in a press release
Also in Arizona, Joan Greene, who is lesbian, won the Democratic nomination in the Fifth Congressional District, beating Jose Torres by 60 percent to 40 percent. In November she will face anti-LGBTQ incumbent Andy Biggs, who back in 2015 called the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling “an affront to the millions of Americans who believe marriage is between a man and a woman.” Transgender woman Daria Lohman won the Democratic primary for state Senate in the 23rd District, meaning she could become Arizona’s first openly trans lawmaker, and gay man Andres Cano became the Democratic nominee for state House in the Third District.
In Florida, Baer, a lesbian who was a foreign policy adviser in President Obama’s administration, took about 60 percent of the vote in the 15th Congressional District, in the Palm Beach area, defeating attorney Pam Keith. Baer will face Republican incumbent Brian Mast in November.
“Democratic primary voters are demanding authentic, values-driven leaders who prioritize policies over politics – and they are finding those leaders in LGBTQ candidates like Lauren,” Parker said. “Lauren’s victory is the latest in a rainbow wave that represents an evolution in American politics, with voters trusting proud out LGBTQ leaders to best advance the policies that improve their lives and communities. This is not about sexual orientation or gender identity explicitly, it is about the struggles and experiences of LGBTQ candidates providing perspectives and priorities that resonate with voters.
“Lauren’s primary victory is a powerful moment for Florida – nominating an LGBTQ mother in a state where anti-LGBTQ adoption laws remained on the books until just a few years ago. Lauren now faces anti-LGBTQ incumbent Brian Mast, who supports marginalizing trans service members who fight for our country and supports Trump’s ban on recruiting trans troops. Lauren is a brilliant public official who served her country in promoting human rights and international law abroad. She is perfectly positioned to fight back against the Trump administration’s attacks on equality and the rule of law – and it will be all the more sweet when she defeats an anti-equality incumbent along the way.”
There are now more LGBTQ nominees for federal-level office than ever, with the total at 16, according to the Democratic National Committee.
Another out Florida victor was Jennifer Webb, who won the Democratic nomination for state representative from the 69th District. Webb, who identifies as queer, would be the first out woman in the state legislature.
In a non-LGBTQ victory of interest in Florida, Lori Aldaheff, a former teacher whose 14-year-old daughter Alyssa, was killed in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, was elected to the Broward County School Board “in a landslide,” the Miami Herald reports.
After the February 14 shooting, Aldaheff switched her party affiliation from Republican to Democratic. When she was accused of making the change simply because the area is heavily Democratic, she responded that it was because of her daughter’s death.
“I never thought my daughter would be shot 10 times,” she told the Sun Sentinel. “I changed parties because of gun control.”