7 Out Millennial Politicians Shaking Up the System
By Advocate.com Editors
Young Queer Officials X 750
In April, The Advocate profiled Huey Rey Fischer, a 23-year-old Democrat running for a seat in the Texas House of Representatives.
Fischer, the son of a Jewish father from Brooklyn and a Catholic, formerly undocumented mother from Mexico, campaigned for votes using dating apps such as Grindr and Tinder. Though he did not win his primary, his campaign motivated us to find other queer elected officials under the age of 30. Here are seven of them, all paving the way for more young queer politicians to come.
Alex Morse is in his third term as mayor of Holyoke, Mass. — where he was born in 1989. Morse first won the job in 2011 at age 22. It started by defeating the incumbent and taking 53 percent of the vote. Two years later he won 54 percent. Then last year he won again with 53 percent. All these wins means we’ve gotten to the rare treat of seeing what a small-town gay mayor’s inaugural ball looks like. And he’s gotten to help revitalize the town with an economic investment plan. But maybe the town should’ve seen it coming when Morse founded the first gay-straight alliance at his high school.
Daniel Hernandez Jr.
Everyone remembers the intern who heroically came to the aid of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. The congresswoman was severely injured during a mass shooting in Arizona, and Daniel Hernandez put his own life at risk to help save Giffords, now a noted champion of gun control, as is Hernandez. He wrote a book about the experience: They Call Me a Hero. He went on to win a seat on a Tuscon-area school board. Hernandez faced down an antigay petition campaign to recall him from that Sunnyside Unified School District seat in 2013. (“Daniel Hernandez is LGBT,” it said. “We need someone who will support Sports and cares about our kids.”) And now Hernandez has got his eyes set on a higher office. With education big on his agenda, Hernandez is running in a very competitive race for the state House District 2 seat. The Victory Fund has endorsed him.
Justin Chenette has always surprised people. After managing a lauded student-run television network at his high school, Chenette worked as a teenage journalist at a Maine TV station, graduated early from college, and interned with former U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe. Four years ago, he ran for Maine's House of Representatives — and won. At age 21, Chenette became Maine's youngest legislator and the nation's youngest openly gay politician.
Chenette was no flash in the pan; he was reelected by a comfortable margin in 2014. Now, after working on issues relating to youth, women, and criminal justice, Chenette is hoping to making the leap to Maine's Senate. The current senator from his district, Linda Valentino, decided not to run for reelection, but she happily endorsed the rising Democrat. Could this be our future gay president?
Park Cannon, a 24-year-old queer black woman, was elected to the Georgia state legislature in February. She is one of three openly LGBT House members in Georgia. Prior to running for the Georgia House's District 58, she served as coordinator for a black women's wellness program with the Feminist Women's Health Center. Cannon has also worked on several campaigns in support of women's reproductive rights and access to public education. As a member of the house, her focus is "fighting for minimum wage" and affordable health care, Deborah Scott, Cannon's mentor, told CNN.
“I identify as a person who is carrying with me at all times genderqueer people, asexual people, transgender individuals. That is very different and that is a good thing here in the state of Georgia," Cannon told the Georgia Voicein December.
Ryan Fecteau, 23, is a state representative from Maine's District 11. The young politico was elected two years ago, at the age of 21. He is currently the youngest LGBT state representative in the country. In 2012, Fecteau, who was the first openly gay speaker of Catholic University's Student Association General Assembly, fought to get his college administration to formally recognize CUAllies, an LGBT student organization, notes the Washington Blade, but the group's proposal was rejected by Catholic University. Fecteau was the recipient of the Trevor Youth Innovator award from the Trevor Project at its TrevorLive: New York event in 2015. Before joining the House of Representatives in Maine, Fecteau worked as a field organizer the state, where he led a grassroots team of volunteers to advocate for marriage equality, according to the Trevor Project.
Jeremy Moss was just 28 years old when he stepped onto the floor of the Michigan House of Representatives in January 2015 as the only out member of that chamber. He’d won the seat representing Michigan’s 35th State House District with a whopping 83 percent of the vote, compared to his Republican challenger’s 17 percent. A lifelong resident of the district he represents (which includes Southfield, Lathrup Village, Beverly Hills, Bingham Farms, and Franklin), Moss caught the political bug early. Before reporting for duty at the state house, Moss made history as the youngest member of the Southfield City Council (he was just 25 when elected), which allowed him to work in public policy at state and local levels. Less than six months after settling into capitol digs in Lansing, the 29-year-old was named the highest-ranking Democrat on the House Local Government Committee and assistant floor leader for the Democratic Caucus. He is also a member of the House committees on Commerce, Trade, and Regulatory Reform. Moss is currently seeking his second term, and recently earned the endorsements of every single one of the elected officials in his hometown.
First elected to the Nevada General Assembly in 2014, Nelson Araujo is a proud progressive voice for the marginalized. A lifelong Nevada resident, Araujo was born to parents who fled civil war in El Salvador in the 1980s, and was raised by his mother in Las Vegas, according to the Democrat’s profile at the Victory Fund’s website. Araujo, a first-generation college graduate, served as the political cochair of the Las Vegas chapter of the Human Rights Campaign prior to taking office. He currently serves on the Nevada Health and Human Services, Judiciary, Transportation, and Natural Resources, Agriculture and Mining Committees. An outspoken advocate for LGBT and immigrant rights, he has sponsored several bills impacting the community, including one that sought to make it easier for transgender residents to update their birth certificates to reflect their gender identity, in addition to bills that have become law, one updating health care provider protocol when a person tests positive for HIV, and another removing language requiring that adoptive parents must be a married husband and wife.