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Texas Transgender Mayor Ousted After Anonymous Mailer

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Jess Herbst defeated in conservative Collin County.   

By John Wright

New Hope Mayor Jess Herbst, who last year became Texas’ first openly transgender officeholder, lost her bid for election to a full term on Saturday, May 5.

Herbst finished third in the New Hope mayor’s race, which was won by Angel Hamm, the widow of the former mayor who died suddenly prior to the 2016 election. New Hope is a town of 700 in Collin County, a conservative area north of Dallas.

Herbst, who had been elected to the town’s Board of Alderman in 2016, was subsequently appointed to replace Hamm’s late husband as mayor. Herbst came out as trans several months later, making national headlines.

The Dallas Morning News reports:

“I want to congratulate Angel Hamm on her win and express how proud I am of New Hope for a record voter turnout,” Herbst said Saturday in a written statement. “Democracies live by voter engagement or die by voter apathy, and democracy is alive and well in New Hope today.”

Hamm did not publicly bring up the mayor’s transgender identity during her campaign. But the race got personal for Herbst in the weeks leading up to the election when voters received an anonymous mailer featuring her social media posts. Residents argued on websites like Nextdoor.com over the mailer and the media attention Herbst’s transition brought to town.

Herbst was one of seven trans candidates running for office this year in Texas, which is by far the most in history. Four were defeated in the March 6 primary, while two more will be on the ballot in November. Several of the trans candidates have said they are running in response to Republican state lawmakers’ efforts to pass an anti-trans “bathroom bill.”

Finn Jones, a trans man who is the Democratic nominee in Texas House District 94, wrote on Facebook following Herbst’s defeat that she is one of his heroes.

“You have inspired me in so many ways,” Jones wrote. “You gave me the courage to run for the Texas House of Representatives to represent all of us. You are an inspiration to so many, young and old. I know that you are going to accomplish so much more. It is inevitable. You are a winner regardless of what the polls said. I love you so much my sister.”

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John Wright

John Wright is the editor of OutSmart magazine. He has spent two decades in the mainstream and LGBTQ media. Most recently, he served as senior editor of Dallas Voice, and covered LGBTQ issues in the state Legislature for The Texas Observer. Born and raised in Philadelphia, Wright earned his bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Florida. He resides in the EaDo area of Houston, where he is currently remodeling a 1930s row house.
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