What Stops More Queer Women From Being Elected to Office Is Not Enough Run

Jenny Durkan

Out lesbian Jenny Durkan (pictured) secured herself a spot in the Seattle mayoral race this November when she came out on top in this week's primary, in which the two leading vote-getters advance to the general election. And her achievement just happened to come at the same time the Victory Fund found that queer women who run for office “win their elections at a significantly higher rate” than queer men, according to a press release from the group. 

The finding came from a Victory Institute analysis of Victory Fund election data of more than 1,160 candidates over the past decade. The analysis found that women won their races “70.3 percent of the time, compared to 60.9 percent for Victory Fund-endorsed men.” The statistic stands out because women and men as a whole win elections at the same rate, according to the release. 

“LGBTQ women candidates outperform all other candidates because we are typically better prepared and more qualified,” said Victory Fund president and CEO Aisha C. Moodie-Mills. “The barriers to entry for LGBTQ women are significant — and we tend to wait until we are exceptionally qualified before entering a race. But when we run, we win, because most voters want leaders with experience and a deep understanding of the issues important to them. If more LGBTQ women run, we can address the severe underrepresentation we face at every level of government.”

Women in the LGBT community win at higher rates than men despite also running less frequently, according to the analysis. 

The Victory Institute looked at data from 2007 to 2016, during which only 31 percent of the Victory Fund–endorsed candidates were women, yet the women endorsees elected during that time were some of the highest-profile politicians in the country, including U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, and former Houston Mayor Annise Parker. 

When New York Times columnist Frank Bruni asked Parker her opinion on why women in the LGBT community are elected more often than men, she said, “We’re less threatening, I think,” adding that lesbians generally don’t face “the long-dispelled shibboleths about gay men being sexual predators.” She also said she believes that being out signals to voters that the candidate is trustworthy. “There’s a little bit of the dynamic that if you’re honest about that, you’ll be honest about everything,”

What the Victory Fund gleaned from its own data, according to the release, is that the factor stopping more queer women from being elected to office is that not enough of them run. Because of that, the fund is recruiting and training women from the LGBT community to run for office in an attempt to shore up representation, especially considering that there are currently only seven openly lesbian, gay, or bisexual members of Congress, notes the Times. 

Tags: Politics, Women

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