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Editor’s Note: This article is part of “Out for Change in 2018,” a monthly series on LGBTQ candidates in Texas, who were the subject of our January issue. For more, visit tinyurl.com/outforchange2018.
By Marene Gustin
As an openly gay man in conservative East Texas, Justin Mosley hasn’t always had the full support of his family.
“At first, my family thought it was a phase I would grow out of,” Mosley says of his sexual orientation. “Now, we just don’t talk about it much, except for my mom. She was the first in the family to support me.”
However, now that Mosley is running for justice of the peace in Angelina County’s Precinct 2, he’s confident that even his more conservative family members will get behind him—at least at the ballot box.
“It will probably be the first time they vote for a Democrat,” he says.
Mosley, 20, is among the youngest candidates for public office in Texas this year. He’s also one of 48 openly LGBTQ candidates statewide, which is by far the most in history.
Asked about his coming-out experience in Lufkin, Mosley says he has also encountered homophobia beyond his family.
“Some kids spray-painted ‘faggot’ on my driveway during high school,” says Mosley, now a freshman at Angelina College. “But other kids stood up for me when I got bullied for being gay.”
Mosley has been active in the local Democratic Party and has always planned on a career in politics. He wants to major in political science after finishing community college. But it wasn’t until recently that he decided to run for justice of the peace after learning that the incumbent, Republican Donnie Puckett, was running unopposed.
The duties of a justice of the peace include performing marriages, handling minor criminal and civil cases, and issuing warrants and eviction notices.
“One of my goals is to perform same-sex marriages,” Mosley says. “But even if I don’t win, I want to get younger and more diverse people out voting. If we want change, we have to do it ourselves.”
Mosley believes he has a 50/50 chance of winning, but that may be optimistic in a county that voted 72 percent for President Trump. Mosley is unopposed in the Democratic primary, so he will be on the general-election ballot in November. In the meantime, he has a lot of work to do.
“I’m doing social media now, but I plan on block-walking and fund-raising,” Mosley says. He hopes to raise between $1,000 and $1,500, which he thinks will be adequate since he has no paid staff.
Angelina County is home to about 87,000 residents. According to the most recent census, the population is more than 70 percent white, with a median age of 34. Mosley says the majority of county elected officials are white Republican men. Although he has faced anti-gay bias in his private life, his sexual orientation has not yet come up in the campaign.
“I’ve learned it can be a challenge to get people who are different from you on your side,” he says.
Win or lose, the campaign experience will be invaluable to Mosley since he eventually plans to leave his hometown and head to Austin, where he will likely run for higher office. But right now, his focus is on making a difference in the lives of fellow East Texans.
“I want to make sure the justice system is equal for everyone,” he says. “I don’t like the way our country is going right now, and I want to try and start changing that. When elected justice of the peace, I will improve the efficiency of the courts and fight for a fair, level playing field for non-attorneys in my courtroom. I will ensure an equal, balanced courtroom, and will give everyone a fair trial.”
Outside of politics, Mosley describes himself as a typical 20-year-old college student. He loves aviation and has three dogs—two Havaneses and a Chihuahua. He’s dating someone in Los Angeles, but admits that a long-distance romance between two very busy people takes work. And right now, he has his work cut out for him.
“If we can’t turn Texas blue in 2018, I’ll keep trying,” he says emphatically. “If it can happen in Alabama, it can happen here.”
This article appears in the February 2018 edition of OutSmart magazine.