The Advocate July/Aug 2022
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Gay Weatherman Could Be First Out Congressman From Illinois

Eric Sorensen

Illinois may get its first out member of Congress this year now that Eric Sorensen, a gay man, has won the Democratic nomination in the 17th Congressional District.

Sorensen bested five other candidates in the Democratic primary, finishing with about 38 percent of the vote by the latest count. The district covers portions of central, western, and northwestern Illinois.

The district leans Democratic and is currently represented by a Democrat, Cheri Bustos, who did not seek reelection. Sorensen’s Republican opponent in November will be Esther Joy King, a lawyer who ran against Bustos in 2020.

Sorensen is a veteran TV weather forecaster, having had stints at stations within the district —in Rockford and the Quad Cities metro area. He released this statement upon his win, Peoria’s ABC affiliate reports:

“I got into this race because to me, being the meteorologist on TV was about protecting my community. It was about being a trusted communicator who could be relied on to tell the truth. It was more than just telling you to put on an extra layer or to grab the umbrella, it was when to take your kids to the basement for a tornado, when to prepare for flash flooding, and when to take extra caution on icy roads. Through it all, I was working for the people in our community, not the TV station.

“In a moment where we are recovering from a global pandemic, seeing the rollback of reproductive rights, increasing gun violence, and painful inflation, it’s clear that we need more science and less partisan bickering. For two decades my job was to communicate truthfully to our community. Now, I am honored to be the Democratic nominee to go communicate our challenges and values to Congress.”

King is on the far right. Her website touts her opposition to abortion rights and gun restrictions, and in her 2020 run against Bustos, she was on the record as opposing the Equality Act.

The LGBTQ Victory Fund, which endorsed Sorensen, hailed his victory. “It has never been more important to defend our pro-choice, pro-equality majority in Congress,” Victory Fund President and CEO Annise Parker said in a press release. “As a meteorologist, Eric spent the last two decades keeping his local community safe by telling the truth and promoting a pro-science agenda. His success [Tuesday night] is a testament to his continued leadership and grassroots support, as well as a highly effective ground game focused on candid conversations about how to make our government work better for all Americans. Voters are clearly enthusiastic about Eric’s vision for a more equitable future. We trust Eric will be a vital voice in Congress come November. The stakes have never been higher.”

Another gay congressional candidate had less success Tuesday. Alex Walker had hoped to be the Democratic nominee against homophobic Republican Lauren Boebert in Colorado’s Third Congressional District. But he finished third in the Democratic primary, and businessman Adam Fritsch won the nomination. Boebert, the incumbent, easily won the Republican primary.

Walker had gotten much attention when he announced his candidacy in a scatological video lampooning Boebert, known for her outrageous statements and embrace of conspiracy theories. After his primary loss, he released a statement on Twitter.

In other news from Colorado, Gov. Jared Polis, the first out gay man elected governor of any state, was unopposed in the Democratic primary as he seeks a second term. His Republican challenger in November will be Heidi Ganahl, who positioned herself as a more moderate alternative to another Republican candidate, Greg Lopez, who has repeatedly denied that Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election. Ganahl is still solidly conservative, though.

In Illinois, remapping of congressional districts forced two Democratic incumbents who are LGBTQ+ allies, Marie Newman and Sean Casten, to run against each other in the Chicago-area Sixth District. Newman, who was formerly in the Third District, lost to Casten. Newman has been particularly outspoken on LGBTQ+ rights, as she has a transgender daughter, and has sparred with right-wingers such as U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. However, Casten does have a perfect 100 score on the Human Rights Campaign’s Congressional Scorecard.

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