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Openly Gay Candidate Announces Run for Texas Senate District 18

Democrat Josh Tutt’s progressive platform is resonating with voters.

Josh Tutt during a visit to PFLAG in Brenham, Texas (courtesy photo)

Josh Tutt, an openly gay candidate, announced his candidacy for Texas Senate District 18 on December 9. He was contacted in early December by several community leaders who urged him to run in SD-18 instead of House District 17 because Texas Democrats need a strong challenger to go against Republican incumbent Lois Kolkhorst in the general election.

“After Madeline Eden announced her candidacy in HD-17, I knew that House race was in good hands with an amazing, progressive candidate who has a history of serving our community,” Tutt explains.

“I was urged to run for Texas Senate District 18 by community leaders within the district,” says Tutt. “As the filing deadline approached, it became apparent that someone was needed to stand up for our neighbors in SD-18.”

With a population of 956,463, SD-18 is a predominately white Republican district that has been represented by Brenham’s Lois Kolkorst since 2000. 

“Since then, she’s never had a serious Democratic challenger. Period. She has a long history of winning elections with no opponents and getting her seat back for free, then using her office to pass harmful legislation. It’s time somebody did something about that,” Tutt emphasizes.

The 29-year-old seventh-generation Texan lives on a vineyard in Burleson County with his husband, Rick, and dog, Trinity. Tutt has a computer-science degree from Texas A&M. He built up a strong campaign while running for the House seat this year, so switching gears to run for a Senate seat should build on that momentum. 

Still, given the demographics, it will be an uphill battle. “My campaign manager, Ashley Timberlake, is an amazing person with over 20 campaigns on her résumé,” Tutt says. “We have a growing team of volunteers we are recruiting and training. We’ve raised over $13,000 in the last nine months alone, and we’ve got a strong online presence already. 

“My campaign manager, as much as I love her, is a dork. The other day, she called our central strategy a Texas two-step—Step 1: show up. Step 2: keep showing up. With such an outpouring of support and resources, the real job is to show up in every county—every community—and introduce myself to our neighbors so they know there’s somebody out here fighting for them. My platform was built by listening to the people in my House district, and my platform will continue to grow to meet the needs of my Senate district. The issues most central to my campaign are informed by the things I keep hearing in every conversation I have with folks in our community: robust rural infrastructure, public education, and healthcare access. That’s what rural Texans tell me matters most to them. We deserve better.”

Tutt’s platform is a progressive one, focusing on rural infrastructure, environmental stewardship and climate justice, affordable health care, voting rights and election integrity, and criminal-justice reform. Tutt supports safe and legal abortion access and wants to pass legislation that reduces unwanted pregnancies. He also believes in responsible gun ownership.

“My husband and I are gun owners,” he emphasizes. “I support responsible gun ownership, especially training and safe storage. This year, my opponent, Lois Kolkhorst, co-sponsored House Bill 1927, which was commonly called ‘the permitless carry bill.’ With the passage of this law, Kolkhorst and other conservatives in the Texas Legislature took things much too far and made our state less safe for everyone who lives, works, and visits here.”

And he thinks there are many SD-18 voters who are like-minded.

“Honestly, I’ve been meeting with folks in SD-18’s Burleson, Grimes, Fayette, and Lavaca counties since March,” Tutt notes, “and I’m finding that there are a hell of a lot more voters out there who are ready for something to change than people think. Folks around here like to keep that kind of thing quiet, because they feel like they’re alone. Part of my hope with this campaign is to show that we’re not alone. We don’t have to be isolated. We can show up and we can be loud about insisting on the kind of representation we deserve in Texas.”

For more on Josh Tutt, visit

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Marene Gustin

Marene Gustin has written about Texas culture, food, fashion, the arts, and Lone Star politics and crime for television, magazines, the web and newspapers nationwide, and worked in Houston politics for six years. Her freelance work has appeared in the Austin Chronicle, Austin-American Statesman, Houston Chronicle, Houston Press, Texas Monthly, Dance International, Dance Magazine, the Advocate, Prime Living, InTown magazine, OutSmart magazine and web sites CultureMap Houston and Austin, Eater Houston and, among others.
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