Meet the 2020 'Rainbow Wave' of LGBTQ+ Election Victories
Meet the 2020 Rainbow Wave
While the top prize was still unconfirmed on Election Night, 2020 saw a new rainbow wave of LGBTQ+ victories. There were nearly 600 out candidates on the ballot (312 endorsed by the LGBTQ Victory Fund), and so far 160 of the Victory Fund-endorsed candidates have won their races, ushering in a new generation of representation. Ninety-five of the races involving Victory Fund candidates remain undecided.
In particular, there were historic wins among transgender people and people of color that earned the praise of LGBTQ+ leaders, including GLAAD CEO Sarah Kate Ellis. "Tonight's wins for LGBTQ people of color and transgender Americans across the country are historic and long overdue," Ellis said. "Their victories represent a leap forward for LGBTQ acceptance and a demand for more of the progress and equality that their very presence demonstrates. We can't wait to see them shine in their new roles."
The number of out LGBTQ+ people in the U.S. House of Representatives will increase from seven to nine when all members are sworn in, by Victory Fund's count, although one of the reelection races has not been called by other sources. Six of the seven currently serving have been reelected; two new ones, both Black gay men, will come in from New York State; and the reelection race of Sean Patrick Maloney in New York has not been called yet by any source but Victory Fund, although both are leading. In any case, this LGBTQ+ congressional delegation will be the most diverse ever. In the U.S. Senate, the two out members, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Kyrsten Sinema, will continue in office, as neither was up for reelection this year.
Meet some of the members of the new class below.
Note: This list is developing as election results are announced.
Angie Craig, U.S. House from Minnesota
Rep. Angie Craig bested her Republican challenger, Tyler Kistner, to win again in Minnesota's Second Congressional District, which includes areas south of Minneapolis and St. Paul. A onetime journalist and health care executive, the politician initially triumphed in this district in 2018, becoming the first lesbian mom elected to Congress.
Raised in a rural town in South Carolina, Jackson has called Georgia home for over a decade and lives on a farm with her partner and pets. She is an advocate for public education, criminal justice reform, ending the death penalty, and of course, LGBTQ+ equality. "I felt really early that I wanted to make a difference in the world," she told The Advocate in a 2020 Champions of Pride profile.
Shevrin Jones, Florida State Senate
The Sunshine State elected its first out LGBTQ+ state senator, Shevrin Jones. He will represent District 35 in the State Senate.
Jones will become one of the only out Black men serving in U.S. state senates; he will share that distinction with Jabari Brisport, who successfully ran in New York. Jones, who came out as gay in 2018, has served several terms in Florida's House.
Mondaire Jones, New York's 17th Congressional District
This spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign was victorious on Tuesday and became the nation's first openly transgender state senator. McBride has a long history in politics, interning in the Obama White House (becoming the first trans person to do such), speaking at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, working for Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, and banking victories at Equality Delaware.
Michele Raynor, Florida's House of Representatives
Michele Rayner is the first Black queer woman to win a seat in the Florida legislature. She will represent District 70 in the State House.
Raynor is a civil rights attorney and social justice advocate and lead counsel of Civil Liberty Law, her own law firm. In addition, Raynor is local counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and the Fred G. Minnis Bar Association.
Torrey Harris, Tennessee's House of Representatives
Torrey Harris won his race to represent District 90 in Tennessee's State House; he will also become the first out LGBTQ+ member of the state legislature.
Harris has lived in Memphis since 2011. He worked in human resources and serves as a board member for the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, Friends for Life Corporation HIV/AIDS Care & Prevention Services, and other progressive groups.
Jabari Brisport, New York State Senate
A third-generation Caribbean-American and a public school teacher born in Brooklyn, gay man Jabari Brisport will represent New York's 25th district in the state Senate while making history as the state's first LGBTQ+ legislator of color.
A community activist, Brisport ran unopposed on Election Day, having beaten his Democratic challenger, New York Assembly member Tremaine Wright, in the primary. "Jabari will fight to provide a home for every New Yorker, to guarantee quality healthcare to all, to invest in public schools, to empower workers, to tackle the global climate crisis, and to create a world where Black Lives Matter," his campaign website reads.
Stephanie Byers, Kansas House of Representatives
A recently retired teacher from Wichita, Democrat Stephanie Byers made history twice on election night, becoming Kansas's first transgender elected official after winning her bid for the Kansas House of Representatives' 86th District seat. And she is the first Indigenous trans person elected to any state legislature. A recipient of the GLSEN-Kansas State Educator of the Year and the GLSEN National Educator of the Year, Byers was up against Republican challenger Cyndi Howerton for the seat vacated by Democrat Jim Ward to run for the state Senate. Born in Oklahoma, Byers is a member of the Chickasaw Nation and has lived in Wichita for 30 years.
Regarding her historic run, she has said, "For me, being transgender is just another aspect of who I am. I'm also a member of the Chickasaw Nation. I ride a motorcycle. I'm a musician. I have bachelor's and master's degrees in education.... I do realize that it could be Kansas historic for me to be elected into office and have a person who is transgender serving in our legislature. But it's not the main emphasis of what's going on."
Charmaine McGuffey, Hamilton County, Ohio, Sheriff
McGuffey, a lesbian, will be the first woman and first LGBTQ+ person to hold this position in Ohio's third most populous county, which includes Cincinnati. She beat her former boss, Sheriff Jim Neal, in the Democratic primary, then defeated Republican Bruce Hoffbauer, a Cincinnati police lieutenant, in the general election. She now is one of a very few LGBTQ+ people ever elected to a county sheriff's position in the nation.
Sam Park, Georgia House of Representatives
Park was reelected to the Georgia House, serving District 101. He is he first openly gay man and first Asian-American Democrat elected to the Georgia State Legislature and currently serves as an attorney at Positive Impact Health Centers, the largest AIDS service organization in Georgia, working to end the HIV epidemic in the metro-Atlanta region.
Taylor Small, Vermont's House of Representatives
Taylor Small is now Vermont's first transgender legislator, winning a spot in the state's House of Representatives. The progressive Democrat, who worked at the Pride Center helping LGBTQ+ Vermonters, won one of the seats in the Chittenden 6-7 district.
"The impact of Taylor's groundbreaking victory cannot be overstated," LGBTQ Victory Fund CEO Mayor Annise Parker wrote in a statement. "There are so few transgender people in elected office that nearly every win is a historic one, yet with each barrier broken comes more trans people inspired to do the same."
Greg Razer, Missouri State Senate
Razer, a Democrat, was elected to the Senate in this deep-red state, becoming the only out LGBTQ+ representative in the chamber. A lifelong Missourian and grandson of a farmer, Razer previously served in Missouri's House and also worked for former U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill.
Eddie Mannis, Tennessee's House of Representatives
Eddie Mannis, a Republican, triumphed in his Knoxville district to become a Tennessee state representative. He and Democrat Torrey Harris are the first out LGBTQ+ people to join the state's House of Representatives.
"I'm excited for things to come, I'm excited for what we can do for District 18. I'm excited to have gone through this process with all of you," Mannis told WTVF, a CBS affiliate in Nashville.
Mannis previously served as Knoxville's deputy mayor and the city's first chief operating officer.
Alex Lee, California State Assembly
Alex Lee won his election in Assembly District 25, which includes California's Alameda and Santa Clara counties. At 25, he is the state's youngest Asian-American assembly member and the first out bi person elected to the assembly.
The progressive Democrat and South Bay native has advocated for causes including public safety, housing, education, and climate change.
Tiara Mack, Rhode Island State Senate
Tiara Mack bested an anti-LGBTQ incumbent Democrat in the primary, then easily defeated an independent to win the District 6 seat in the Rhode Island State Senate. She will be the the first Black LGBTQ+ person to serve in the state legislature. A queer educator and activist in Providence, Mack went from teaching sex-ed in public schools to working as a recruiter for a more diverse teachers' pool.
Chris Pappas, U.S. House from New Hampshire
Chris Pappas, a gay Democrat, beat Republican challenger Matt Mowers by 53 percent to 45 percent to win reelection to the U.S. House from New Hampshire. Libertarian candidate Zachary Dumont took the remainder.
David Cicilline, U.S. House from Rhode Island
David Cicilline, a Democrat who's represented a Providence district since 2011, won reelection with 70 percent of the vote. He had no Republican opponent but beat two independent candidates, Frederick Wysocki and Jeffrey Lemire.
Mark Takano, U.S. House from California
Mark Takano won reelection to the House by a margin of 65 percent to 35 percent over Republican Aja Smith. He's represented a district in Southern California's Riverside County since 2011, when he became the first gay person of color in Congress (he is of Japanese descent).
Mark Pocan, U.S. House from Wisconsin
Mark Pocan, a Democrat, easily won reelection from his district in Madison, a progressive city that's the state capital and home to the main campus of the University of Wisconsin. He bested Republican Peter Theron by 71 percent to 29 percent.
Adrian Tam, Hawaii House of Representatives
This Penn State grad and son of immigrants won election to Hawaii's House. Tam has displayed a knack for politics and LGBTQ+ causes, previously serving as a legislative aide and managing the office of state Sen. Stanley Chang, where Tam was instrumental in passing the state's ban on so-called conversion therapy and advocating for an end to the "gay panic" defense. Tam will rep District 22, which encompasses Waikiki on the island of Oahu.
Brianna Titone, Colorado's House of Representatives
In Colorado, Brianna Titone, a trans woman who was first elected during the blue wave of 2018, was reelected to the state House of Representatives from District 27.
Mauree Turner, Oklahoma's House of Representatives
Oklahoma saw a first for LGBTQ+ people when Mauree Turner won their race for Oklahoma's House of Representatives for District 88, making them the first openly nonbinary person elected to a state legislature. Turner is also the first Muslim legislator in the Sooner State. The 27-year-old Democrat beat their Republican opponent, Kelly Barlean, with 71 percent of the vote.
After their win, Turner commented on being a "vessel" for visibility and representation for the queer and Muslim communities and the intersections of both. "I think about the adults who messaged me who no longer live in Oklahoma. I think about Muslim queer youth, especially, who lived in Oklahoma who no longer live here who have reached out and feel a little bit more empowered to use their voice," they said.
Ann Johnson, Texas House of Representatives
Running for the seat in the Texas House of Representatives District 134, Ann Johnson beat the Republican incumbent Sarah Davis with 52.3 perecent of the vote. It was the only seat in the Texas House that flipped from red to blue in this election.
"Let's fight for working families, education, common sense gun reform & Medicaid expansion. I will work with Reps & Dems to ensure we're investing in ordinary Texans & small businesses during this pandemic so our communities can build back from this economic recession stronger," Johnson said following her win.
Allison Dahle, North Carolina House of Representatives
In North Carolina, Allison Dahle won her reelection run for North Carolina's House District 11 with 68.5 percent of the vote. She was first elected to the state House in the blue wave of 2018 when she defeated two challengers.
Sharice Davids, U.S. House from Kansas
Sharice Davids, a former MMA fighter, was reelected to the U.S. House of Representatives for Kansas's District 3. A lesbian, Davids made history in 2018 when she was one of the two first Indigenous women elected to Congress and the first Indigenous woman from the LGBTQ+ community.
Jill Rose Quinn, Cook County (Ill.) Judge
Jill Rose Quinn, a Chicago lawyer, has become the first openly transgender person elected in Illinois by winning a Cook County Circuit Court judgeship. A Democrat, she was unopposed for the vacant judicial seat.
David Ortiz, Colorado House of Representatives
Veteran David Ortiz, who uses a wheelchair since he was paralyzed in a helicopter crash while serving in Afghanistan, won his run for Colorado's House of Representatives District 38, making him the state's first bisexual legislator. The Latinx Democratic candidate beat the Republican incumbent with 56.6 percent of the vote.
Ortiz served as a warrant officer in the army. He has previously worked to help resettle those displaced in Hurricane Katrina. He also worked at the City of Houston Mayor's Office of International Affairs and Development where he advocated for better care and rehabilitation for service members and veterans with spinal cord injuries.
"I am incredibly humbled, honored, and excited to declare victory in the race for Representative of State House District 38," Ortiz tweeted following the results.
Christy Holstege, Palm Springs, Calif., Mayor
Christy Holstege is on track to become the nation's only out bisexual mayor. She appears to have been reelected to the Palm Springs City Council; not all the votes are counted, but she has a strong lead that she is likely to maintain. Palm Springs rotates the mayoral position among council members, and when Holstege is sworn in, in December, it will be her turn. She will also be the first woman mayor in the desert city east of Los Angeles, and likely the youngest ever, at age 34.
She was first elected to the council in 2017. She has emphasized social justice issues such as homelessness and economic concerns, and she has overcome biphobia and misogyny, with some people questioning whether she's actually bi (she is married to a man, but that relationship doesn't define her sexual orientation) and whether, as a new mother, she can handle the duties of the office. "There is a reason we don't have equal representation of women in office, a reason why we've never had a female mayor in 83 years, why we don't have many pregnant/mothers in elected office, why there are so few openly bi elected officials across the country, and why women and LGBTQ candidates are routinely discriminated against and underrepresented," she wrote in a social media post calling out such prejudices.
Another City Council member, transgender lesbian Lisa Middleton, was reelected with no opposition. She was also first elected in 2017, when Palm Springs, a queer mecca, elected an all-LGBTQ+ council.
Jessica Benham, Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Jessica Benham is the first out LGBTQ+ woman elected to the Pennsylvania state legislature. The Democrat will represent PA House District 36. Benham, who is bisexual and autistic, is the director and cofounder of Development for the Pittsburgh Center for Autistic Advocacy (PCAA), the only LGBTQ+ autistic-led advocacy group in the Pittsburgh area.