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Harris County’s Many LGBTQ+ Candidates Strengthen Our Democracy

Top Left: Mo Jenkins, Lauren Ashley Simmons, Ann Johnson, Jolanda Jones, Kim Ogg and Julie Johnson

 

By Annise Parker, President & CEO of LGBTQ+ Victory Fund

When I first ran for office in Houston 33 years ago, Rep. Glen Maxey was the first and only out politician in Texas. Fast forwarding to next month’s primary election, several LGBTQ+ candidates are representing our community on the ballot in Harris County alone.

It’s my sixth year as President & CEO of LGBTQ+ Victory Fund, where I’ve had the honor of helping elect out candidates to public offices large and small around the country. It’s always a special honor when our organization endorses candidates in my hometown, as was the case several times over this year. As members of the LGBTQ+ community in Houston, you can be proud of these candidates – some new faces as well as some incumbents – knowing that every Victory Fund endorsed candidate has been screened thoroughly by our team and is determined to be a viable pro-equality, pro-choice, out-and-proud candidate.

Democracy only works when we all have a seat at the table, yet the fact remains that we must elect more than 36,000 more LGBTQ+ officials in the U.S. before we’re adequately reflected in our own government. According to our research at LGBTQ+ Victory Institute, there is no state or office level in which LGBTQ+ people have achieved equitable representation. In states like Texas, this underrepresentation is downright dangerous and we’re all suffering the consequences.

In the March 5 primary, LGBTQ+ Victory Fund candidate Molly Cook, who’s running to replace John Whitmire, could make history as our state’s first out senator and bring desperately needed representation to the upper chamber. —Annise Parker

Take for example the fact that no out LGBTQ+ person has served in the Texas Senate in history. This may seem like a trivial fact, but it matters. In contrast to the House, where multiple LGBTQ+ representatives are successful in slowing, watering down or stopping anti-LGBTQ legislation, those bills sail through the Senate. In the March 5 primary, LGBTQ+ Victory Fund candidate Molly Cook, who’s running to replace John Whitmire, could make history as our state’s first out senator and bring desperately needed representation to the upper chamber. 

Making progress in Texas also means taking on Democrats who are not allies of the LGBTQ+ community. In 2024, no Harris County Democrat should be against equal rights, yet some are. In District 146, we’re proud to support Lauren Ashley Simmons as she campaigns to unseat one such incumbent, Rep. Shawn Thierry. Thierry made headlines during Pride Month last year when she voted to strip away lifesaving health care for transgender young people. Her betrayal of her trans constituents is unacceptable – a stark contrast to Lauren’s lifelong work of serving our community.

Another exciting potential newcomer, Mo Jenkins, would make history if she wins in House District 139. Not only would she be the first out Black trans woman elected in Texas, she’d be the first such legislator in any state. With her extensive background in state politics, I’m confident Mo will make us all very proud this election year and could bring an important perspective to Austin that’s never been heard before.

We must not forget about our incumbent LGBTQ+ leaders either. Supporting the reelection of Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg, as well as the LGBTQ+ members of our legislative delegation, Ann Johnson and Jolanda Jones, are all top priorities for Victory this year as well. When we make progress increasing the diversity of our elected officials, we cannot afford to turn back.

While so much is at stake in our elections here in Houston, it’s also important to remember that Texas is the largest state to have never sent an out LGBTQ+ representative to Congress. State Rep. Julie Johnson is an outstanding candidate to replace Colin Allred in the Dallas County-area 32nd Congressional District and I encourage you to consider supporting her campaign.

It’s on all of us to make democracy work. LGBTQ+ candidates in Texas are a fierce rebuke to the loud minority of Texans who’ve taken up far too much space in our politics. Let’s all do what we can to make sure more out, pro-equality and pro-choice candidates win.

Whomever you support, I implore you to exercise your right to vote in the March 5 primary election. Visit harrisvotes.com to make sure you’re registered to vote and verify your polling place. To learn more and support LGBTQ+ candidates in Texas and around the country, visit victoryfund.org.

Annise Parker is the President and CEO of LGBTQ+ Victory Fund and served as the Mayor of Houston from 2010 to 2016

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Annise Parker

Former Houston Mayor Annise Parker is the President & CEO of LGBTQ Victory Fund and LGBTQ Victory Institute. A complete list of Victory Fund-endorsed candidates is available at victoryfund.org/ourcandidates.
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