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Transgender Candidates Make History in Four States

A community under attack breaks through on Election Night.

From Staff and Wire Reports

In a night of many firsts, several transgender and minority candidates won local elections that echoed the blue wave in which Democrats won races large and small.

Four openly transgender candidates won races, as well as the first Sikh mayor in New Jersey, and the first African-American mayors in other major cities.

“Hostile political forces at every level of government are targeting the trans community with legislation and policies that deny their equality,” said Aisha C. Moodie-Mills, president and CEO of the Victory Fund, which backs openly LGBTQ candidates nationwide. “Tonight was about fighting back – an unprecedented number of brilliant trans candidates asking for the votes of tens of thousands of Americans, and getting them. They are victorious because they focused on the local issues that matter most to their constituents – better schools, improved transportation and civil rights for all people. But it is also an undeniably historic night for the LGBTQ movement and for trans equality, having moved the needle on what is possible for a trans leader who aspires to run for office and make positive change. Now we have more trans voices in the halls of power, and 2017 will be remembered as the year of the trans candidate.”

First openly trans state lawmaker in Virginia

Danica Roem defeated incumbent delegate Bob Marshall, who had been elected 13 times over 26 years, for a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates. When Roem takes office, she will be the first openly transgender candidate to be elected and serve in a state legislative body.

Althea Garrison, elected in Massachusetts, was the first openly transgender person to serve in a state legislature, but did not campaign as an openly transgender person during her race in 1992.

The race between Roem and Marshall to represent Virginia’s 13th district, which encompasses Prince William County and Manassas Park, had been rooted in ideological opposites.

Marshall had been at odds with LGBTQ issues and had proposed a state bill in 2015 that would allow anyone who has a license with the state to refuse services to gay people and earlier this year introduced a bill to restrict transgender people’s access to public restrooms, CNN local affiliates reported.

During the campaign, Marshall refused to use Roem’s correct pronouns.

Roem was open about her gender identity and had backing from LGBTQ groups.

“To every person who has ever been singled out, who has ever been stigmatized, who has ever been the misfit, who’s ever been the kid in the corner, who’s ever needed someone to stand up for them when they didn’t have a voice of their own because there is no one else with them, this one is for you,” she told her supporters Tuesday night.

Prior to running for office, Roem worked as a journalist.

Andrea Jenkins (Facebook)

First trans person of color elected

Andrea Jenkins won a seat in the Minneapolis City Council to represent the city’s 8th ward, the Star Tribune reported. She won more than 70 percent of the votes, the newspaper reported.

Jenkins had served as a senior policy aide to two Ward 8 city council members. She touted more than 25 years of public service experience as a policy aide, nonprofit executive director, consultant and employment specialist on her website. She also described herself as a poet, writer and performer.

“Andrea Jenkins shattered a glass ceiling tonight – becoming the first out trans woman ever elected to the city council of a major U.S. city,” the Victory Fund’s Moodie-Mills said. “Andrea ran on improving the lives of constituents in her ward, but the significance of her victory for the trans equality movement is undeniable. Americans are growing increasingly aware of trans equality and people, and this win will surely inspire other trans people to run for office and further inclusion in their communities.”

Additionally, results were still coming in for Phillipe Cunningham, who ran for Minneapolis City Council’s ward 4 seat. If he wins, Phillipe would join Jenkins as the only out trans people to be elected to the city council of a major U.S. city.

Tyler Titus (Facebook)

First trans elected official in Pennsylvania

Tyler Titus won his race for the Erie School Board this evening, becoming the first out trans person ever elected in the state of Pennsylvania.

“Tyler Titus shattered a lavender ceiling in Pennsylvania today – and his victory will resonate well-beyond state boundaries,” Moodie-Mills said. “Trans people remain severely underrepresented in our politics and government, and now more than ever we need trans voices like Tyler’s in the halls of power. This is a historic night for trans candidates across the country – and Tyler is part of a vanguard of leaders who are determined to be part of the conversation on issues that affect their lives.”

Lisa Middleton (Facebook)

First trans non-judicial elected official in California

Palm Springs City Council Candidate Lisa Middleton will become the first out transgender person elected to a non-judicial office in California with her commanding first place win in Tuesday’s election.

Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur issued the following statement in response to Middleton’s victory:

“In light of the repeated attacks on transgender people from the federal government, tonight’s wins by Lisa Middleton in Palm Springs and other transgender candidates in Minneapolis and Virginia are a beacon of hope that voters have embraced values of equality and inclusion. By becoming the first out transgender person to be elected to a non-judicial office in California, Lisa is paving the way for others to follow in her footsteps in California and across the nation. Her first place finish out of a field of 6 candidates demonstrates that a glass ceiling for transgender people who want to serve in elected office was not only broken, but was shattered in Palm Springs.”

First lesbian mayor elected in Seattle

Jenny Durkan is projected to win the mayoral race, which would make her the first lesbian mayor in Seattle, reported the Seattle Times.

Durkan was born in Seattle and attended law school at the University of Washington. In 2009, she became the nation’s first openly gay US Attorney after being appointed by then-President Barack Obama.

The mayor’s race unexpectedly became wide open earlier this year after former Seattle mayor Ed Murray ended his re-election bid and resigned amid accusations of sexual abuse.

“We are thrilled Jenny will become the first lesbian mayor of Seattle – and just the second woman elected to the position,” Moodie-Mills said. “Both women and lesbians are severely underrepresented in all levels of government, especially executive positions. While Seattle voters chose Jenny because of her proven track record of leading innovative reforms and fighting for all communities, it is also an undeniably proud moment for the LGBTQ community, which continues to see this strong leader break down barriers.”

First Sikh mayor elected in New Jersey

Hoboken voters chose Ravinder Bhalla, who became the first Sikh mayor to be elected in the state of New Jersey.

Bhalla, who had served in the Hoboken City Council for two terms was backed by the city’s mayor Dawn Zimmer, who decided not to seek another term.

“Thank you Hoboken. I look forward to being your Mayor!” Bhalla tweeted on Tuesday night.

Bhalla was born and raised in New Jersey. After finishing law school, he moved to Hoboken to work at a law firm. He won Tuesday in a six-person race for the mayor’s seat.

The race had become divisive recently as campaign fliers popped up with a picture of Bhalla in his turban that read “Don’t let TERRORISM take over our town,” reported

Here are some more historical firsts from Election Day:

• Vi Lyles became the first black woman to be elected mayor of Charlotte.

• Kathy Tran became the first Asian-American woman to be elected to the Virginia House of Delegates.

• Melvin Carter III was elected St. Paul’s first mayor of color.

• Zachary DeWolf became Seattle’s first openly gay school board member.


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