While LGBT activists mourned the defeat of Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance Tuesday night, a reason to celebrate came from an unexpected place, with preliminary results indicating Salt Lake City had elected its first lesbian mayor. There was also a gay victory in Palm Springs, Calif.
Jackie Biskupski (above), a former state legislator, was leading incumbent Mayor Ralph Becker 52 percent to 48 percent by an unofficial count Tuesday, reports The Salt Lake Tribune. Both are Democrats; the mayor’s race is nonpartisan. No further results will be released until after a November 17 canvass.
Becker did not concede, but Biskupski voiced confidence that her lead would hold. “I feel great,” she told supporters gathered at a Salt Lake City restaurant, according to the Tribune. “We maintained that lead we had, and we’re going to finish strong, I know it.”
Biskupski was the first openly LGBT person in the state legislature and now stands to make history in Salt Lake City as its first LGBT mayor and only the second woman to hold the post. She credited her victory to “a diverse group of people from all over the city.”
One of that group who praised her was state Sen. Jim Dabakis, a gay man. “Generations of LGBT people could’ve only dreamed of this,” he told the Tribune. “Jackie is now an iconic gay leader. This is a great moment for Salt Lake City — we’re not the stereotype people across the country think we are.”
While Salt Lake City is the capital of a deeply red state and home to the headquarters of the Mormon Church, it has elected some progressive Democrats as mayor, including Becker, who has served two terms, and Rocky Anderson, mayor from 2000 to 2008.
Of Biskupski’s electoral strategy, the Tribune notes that her “grass-roots campaign focused on change at City Hall and kept its momentum by painting her as the people’s candidate who would listen to constituents.”
Also in Salt Lake City, Derek Kitchen, the lead plaintiff in Utah’s marriage equality lawsuit, appeared to have won a seat on the City Council. He was leading Nate Salazar 52 percent to 48 percent Tuesday night, local TV station KSL reports. While these results will also not be official until after the November 17 canvass, Salazar has conceded.
In Palm Springs, a California desert community with many LGBT residents, the top candidates in the nonpartisan mayoral race were a gay man, Rob Moon, and a lesbian, Ginny Foat. Moon emerged victorious Tuesday night, besting Foat by more than 1,000 votes, The Desert Sun reports. He will succeed Steve Pougnet, also a gay man. Pougnet bowed out of the race after it was revealed that he had a lucrative consulting contract with a developer involved in several city projects. Moon is a retired military officer and longtime civic activist. Moat, who has a history of activism going back to Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington in 1963, is a member of the City Council.
In a race that at least touched on LGBT issues, Kentucky has elected a new governor in Matt Bevin, a Republican businessman who appeared at a rally for antigay county clerk Kim Davis. He beat Democrat Jack Conway, who had been the state’s attorney general and refused to appeal a federal court decision striking down its ban on same-sex marriage. The state hired private counsel for the appeal, and the ban was eventually struck down for good by the Supreme Court in June. But the race appeared to turn more on Obamacare than marriage equality, as Bevin had denounced incumbent Gov. Steve Beshear’s expansion of Medicaid in the state, an expansion made possible by the Affordable Care Act, The New York Times notes. Beshear, a Democrat, was ineligible to run again due to term limits.