Michaela Jae Rodriguez
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Election Day Produces LGBTQ+ Firsts Around the Nation

Andrea Jenkins and Gabriela Santiago-Romero

State and local elections Tuesday yielded some notable LGBTQ+ firsts and some important reelections.

Detroit elected its first out queer woman to its City Council. Gabriela Santiago-Romero,  who grew up in the city after immigrating from Mexico, was elected from District 6, easily defeating Hector Santiago (no relation); there was no incumbent in the race. She is a Democrat, but City Council elections are officially nonpartisan. A longtime community organizer, she is the first Latinx woman from the LGBTQ+ community to be elected in the state of Michigan.

Cleveland also elected its first out queer female City Council member, Rebecca Maurer. She narrowly beat incumbent Tony Brancatelli in Ward 12 in a nonpartisan race. She is a lawyer who has focused on housing and consumer law. In Ward 3, incumbent Kerry McCormack, a gay man, was reelected, defeating challenger Ayat Amin.

Transgender man Dion Manley became the first out trans person elected in Ohio by winning an at-large seat on the Gahanna-Jefferson City Schools Board in the suburbs around Columbus. There were just five other trans men in elected office around the nation; one of them, Phillipe Cunningham of the Minneapolis City Council, lost his bid for reelection Tuesday.

In Pennsylvania, Xander Orenstein won their race for the Allegheny County Magisterial District Court and became the first nonbinary person elected to a judicial position in the United States. In Massachusetts, Thu Nguyen was elected to the Worcester City Council, becoming the first nonbinary person in elected office in that state. Orenstein and Nguyen join nine other out nonbinary elected officials in the U.S.

Christopher Coburn, a queer man, was elected to the Bozeman City Commission in Montana, making him the first Black member of the LGBTQ+ community to be elected in that state. Coburn was appointed to the commission in April to fill a vacancy left by Michael Wallner’s resignation, while having to run for election in November to determine if he would serve the remaining two years of Wallner’s term. Coburn is one of just seven out LGBTQ+ elected officials in Montana.

While Cunningham was not reelected in Minneapolis, Black trans woman Andrea Jenkins easily won reelection to the City Council there. She and Cunningham were both originally elected in 2017. She represents Ward 8, which includes George Floyd Square.

“In the wake of George Floyd’s death, it was Councilor Jenkins who led the fight for racial and social justice,” JoDee Winterhof, senior vice president of policy and political affairs at the Human Rights Campaign, said in a press release; HRC’s PAC had endorsed Jenkins. “She understands firsthand the challenges facing transgender people today, especially transgender women of color. She has never stopped fighting on behalf of those on the margins of society and against the systemic racism and injustices that pervade our world. We congratulate her on her victory tonight. We look forward to continuing to work with her in the years to come.”

Jenkins also launched a “Pledge to End Violence Against Black and Brown Transgender Women” as part of HRC’s Transgender Justice Initiative.

After Floyd’s death at the hands of police, both Cunningham and Jenkins supported a plan to dismantle Minneapolis’s police force and replace it with a new Department of Public Safety. A ballot measure to this effect, Question 2, failed in Minneapolis Tuesday.

All the winning candidates were endorsed by the LGBTQ Victory Fund. Check back to The Advocate for more results from races with out candidates.

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