by Megan Smith
The Gay & Lesbian Victory fund announced its “10 Races to Watch” list yesterday, featuring top openly LGBT candidates to keep an eye on during this election cycle.
The Victory Fund, the national LGBT advocacy group that raises money and provides campaign support for LGBT candidates for public office, endorsed a total of eighty-five out candidates for 2013, an all-time high for a non-presidential election year. In 2012, the fund endorsed 180 LGBT candidates and 124 of them won their races. “2013 isn’t an off year,” Victory Fund Political Director Lucinda Guinn said. “It’s definitely on at the Victory Fund.”
Among those to watch is Houston’s Mayor Annise Parker, who is running for her third and final term. Parker is considered to be a favorite among voters, according to a KUHF/KHOU poll conducted in September by Rice University.
Fifty-four of the 2013 Victory Fund-endorsed candidates are running for local and state offices throughout the country in the general election November 5. “We have a set of criteria for endorsing candidates,” Victory Fund spokesperson Jeff Spitko said. “We want to confirm that they are qualified, have a campaign plan and a path to victory. We want to make sure they are viable.”
Mayor, Houston, Texas
As mayor of the fourth largest U.S. city, Annise Parker is one of the most visible and respected LGBT leaders in the country. Running for her third and final term, she faces a self-funder who has already invested over three million dollars of his own money.
Mayor, Seattle, Washington
State Senator Ed Murray has represented the 43rd Legislative District of Washington’s State legislature since 1995 and currently serves as the Senate Democratic Leader. He finished ahead of all other candidates in the August 6 primary and faces the incumbent mayor in the November election. If elected, Murray would become the city’s first-ever openly gay mayor.
Texas House of Representatives (District 50)
A recognized leader in the LGBT and Latino communities, Israel would join Rep. Mary González in the legislature and become the second openly LGBT member of the Texas House of Representatives.
Minneapolis City Council (District 6), Minnesota
Lilligren’s background of community activism led him into elected office in January 2006. Now vice president of the Minneapolis City Council, he has been an outspoken advocate for the LGBT community. Lilligren is running to remain the lone LGBT member of the Council.
Water System Commission, Charleston, South Carolina
LaFond was inspired to run for office after a screening of Breaking Through, the documentary about openly LGBT-elected officials and their journey of running for elected office. If elected she would be the first person in South Carolina to run as an openly LGBT candidate in a contested election and win.
Mayor, Miami Beach, Florida
Now in his second term, Gongora was Miami Beach’s first and only openly gay elected commissioner. He faces a self-funded millionaire in his fight to become the city’s next mayor.
St. Petersburg City Council (District 2), Florida
Rice has spent the last three years as the president of the St. Petersburg League of Women Voters. Her win would add an authentic voice for the LGBT community to the council.
New Jersey State Assembly (District 38)
Nearing completion of his first term, Eustace is one of only two openly gay legislators in the New Jersey State Assembly and the first to be elected as an out candidate. Along with Rep. Reed Gusciora, Eustace authored the New Jersey Marriage Equality bill.
Charlotte City Council (District 3), North Carolina
Mayfield was elected in 2011 and is currently serving her first term. After the election Mayfield became the Council’s second African American-elected female and the first openly LGBT-elected official in the city of Charlotte.
Cincinnati City Council (At-Large), Ohio
Running for his second term, Cincinnati City Council Member Chris Seelbach made history in 2011 when he became the first openly gay person ever elected in Cincinnati. Seelbach was recently named by the White House as a Harvey Milk Champion of Change.