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Rainbow Wave Hits Midwest With Queer Women Winning Mayoral Bids

rainbow wave candidates

A rainbow wave seemed to spread across the Midwest on Tuesday night as openly queer women won their mayoral bids in major cities. Not only did Chicago elect a lesbian mayor — but so did the progressive university town of Madison, Wis.

And in Kansas City, Mo., another lesbian mayoral candidate won her primary, which will now advance her to a general election being held in June.

Satya Rhodes-Conway bested longtime Madison mayor Paul Soglin by 62 percent to 38 percent in a runoff election, the Wisconsin State Journal reports. She will become the first openly LGBTQ mayor in the city’s history and the second woman. 

Madison, which is the state's capital and home to the main campus of the University of Wisconsin, is largely Democratic, but the municipal elections are nonpartisan.

Rhodes-Conway, who served six years on the Madison City Council and now is managing director of the Mayors Innovation Project at the University of Wisconsin and works with mayors from around the state, emphasized in her campaign that she was prepared to meet those challenges.

She gave a short victory speech Tuesday night, thanking her volunteers and staff, her partner and family, and Soglin, noting his service to the city and the fact that his campaign focused on important issues.

“Tonight I am hopeful,” she told supporters at a Madison nightclub. “Hope for young people everywhere, but especially here in Madison [who] have felt left out or talked down to or bullied because of who they are. I have felt that way once upon a time and look where I am now. I am full of hope for our city.”

She also quoted gay political pioneer Harvey Milk, saying, “It’s not my victory. It’s yours and yours and yours.”

Rhodes-Conway will be sworn in April 16.

In Kansas City, a former Missouri state senator and current City Council member, Justus, topped the nonpartisan primary field of 11 candidates with nearly a quarter of the vote, The Kansas City Star reports.

Fellow council member Quinton Lucas was about four percentage points behind her, so the two will face each other in the general election June 18. The current mayor, Sly James, cannot seek reelection due to term limits — he has already endorsed Justus.

Justus was the first openly LGBTQ member of the Missouri Senate, where she served for a time as Democratic leader. If she wins in June, she will be the first out LGBTQ person to be mayor of Kansas City.

Victories across the Midwest for LGBTQ candidates on Tuesday night seem to show that the 2018 wave of LGBTQ candidates that won across the U.S. is not yet done. 

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