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Amid a Rainbow Wave, Some Losses in Statewide and Congressional Races

Gina Ortiz Jones and Marko Liias and Georgette Gomez and Bryce Bennett

The LGBTQ+ community had much to celebrate in Tuesday's election, but there were some disappointments.

Amid the rainbow wave of out candidates being elected Tuesday, there were some heartbreaking losses at the statewide and congressional levels.

The three LGBTQ+ candidates for statewide office, all Democrats, all lost.

Marko Liias, a gay man, lost the race for lieutenant governor in Washington State. In the state's primary system, the top two vote recipients advance to the general election regardless of party, so Liias faced a fellow Democrat, Denny Heck, and there was a surprisingly strong showing by a write-in candidate. Heck, currently a U.S. representative, ended up with 47 percent of the vote, and Liias, a state senator, had 33 percent, The Seattle Times reports. The write-in candidate, Joshua Freed, racked up 19 percent "with a platform that said he was 'against raising taxes' and helping 'those afflicted by drug addiction,'" according to the Times. He's a former mayor of Bothell, Wash.

Bryce Bennett, also gay, lost the race for Montana secretary of state to Christi Jacobsen by a margin of 59 percent to 41 percent, Ballotpedia reports. Bennett is a state senator, and Jacobsen, a Republican, is deputy to the current secretary of state, Corey Stapleton, who did not seek reelection. Bennett, an advocate for making voting more accessible in the state, lost even though he out-fundraised Jacobsen and had the endorsement of several major Montana newspapers.

In North Carolina, Jenna Wadsworth, a bisexual woman who'd received rape and death threats after posting an anti-Trump video to TikTok, lost the contest for commissioner of agriculture to the incumbent, Republican Steve Troxler. Troxler received 54 percent of the vote, Wadsworth 46 percent, according to North Carolina TV station WFMY.

While two out candidates for the U.S. House, both Black gay men, won in New York City-area districts, three others were defeated around the country. They are likewise all Democrats.

Gina Ortiz Jones, a lesbian in Texas, and Jon Hoadley, a gay man in Michigan, both faced homophobic and transphobic attacks in their races. They would have been the first LGBTQ+ members of their respective states' congressional delegations.

Jones, although cisgender, faced charges that she would divert military spending to gender-reassignment surgeries, thus putting some troops out of work. Jones, a military veteran herself, opposes Donald Trump's transgender military ban, but if trans troops are allowed to serve openly and have their transition care covered, it would cost far less than what the military spends on Viagra, according to reputable studies. The National Republican Congressional Committee also sent out materials emphasizing that she has a female partner, without mentioning straight candidates' spouses. She lost to Republican Tony Gonzales by 51 percent to 47 percent in the 23rd Congressional District in southwest Texas. The incumbent, Republican Will Hurd, did not seek reelection; Jones had almost beaten him in 2018. She would have been the first Filipina member of the LGBTQ+ community to serve in Congress.

In Hoadley's run against incumbent Republican Fred Upton in Michigan's Sixth Congressional District, GOP groups distributed campaign materials and ran an ad that used out-of-context quotes from a blog Hoadley maintained 15 years ago to inaccurately characterize him as a pedophile, misogynist, and drug user. Upton ended up beating Hoadley 58 percent to 38 percent in the southwestern Michigan district, with a couple of minor-party candidates taking the rest of the vote.

In California, Georgette Gomez, a lesbian who would have been the first LGBTQ+ Latina in Congress, lost to a fellow Democrat, Sara Jacobs, by a margin of 60 percent to 40 percent in the state's 53rd Congressional District in San Diego. Under California's system, the top two finishers in the primary advance to the general election regardless of party. Gomez is president of the San Diego City Council, while Jacobs is a nonprofit executive who worked in President Obama's administration and was a policy adviser to Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential campaign. The district's incumbent representative, Democrat Susan Davis, did not seek reelection.

The next Congress will still have the largest and most diverse LGBTQ+ contingent ever. Five of the seven incumbents have been confirmed as reelected, and the remaining two are expected to win. With the addition of the New York winners, Mondaire Jones and Ritchie Torres, the total will be nine in the House, and the two out members of the Senate, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, will continue in office, as neither had to run for reelection this year.

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