Amid wave of opposition, some LGBTQ candidates eye epic wins

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For LGBTQ activists, the home stretch of the midterm election campaign is a phenomenon of good news and bad news.

A record number of LGBTQ candidates are running for office, according to recently compiled data, and some decisive victories are likely. In Massachusetts, Democrat Maura Healey is favored to become the first openly gay candidate elected governor of the state. Another lesbian, Democrat Becca Balint, is favored to win Vermont’s only seat in the U.S. House, becoming the first woman and openly gay person to represent the state in Congress.

Yet these potential milestones, and the large cohort of LGBTQ candidates, coincide with aggressive efforts by some Republican politicians to target LGBTQ people, particularly transgender Americans, with a wave of hostile rhetoric and legislation.

“This November, we have the opportunity to elect more LGBTQ people than ever before,” said Annise Parker, President and CEO of LGBTQ Victory Fund. “Sitting on the sidelines is not an option when our rights are under threat.”

The Victory Fund, a national organization dedicated to electing LGBTQ leaders to public office, said in a report Wednesday that at least 1,065 LGBTQ people have run for elected office this year, the most in the world. ‘story. He said 678 of those candidates won their primaries and will appear on the ballot in November, an 18% increase from 2020.

According to the fund, 2022 is the first year that openly LGBTQ candidates have run in all 50 states, ranging from 178 in California to one in Mississippi. Of the candidates, 416 ran for state legislative seats, 119 for Congress, 335 for local offices and 41 for statewide offices.

Among the potential precedent setters is Erick Russell, candidate for Connecticut state treasurer. The fund said he would be the first black LGBTQ person elected to statewide office. In Oregon, Democrat Tina Kotek is in a race for high-level governorship; she and Healey offer the prospect that the United States would have a lesbian as governor for the first time.

Along with Vermont, voters in North Carolina, Oregon, Maryland and Illinois have the opportunity to elect the first openly LGBTQ candidate to represent their state in Congress, according to the Victory Fund.

People of color made up about 38% of LGBTQ applicants, up from about 31% in 2022, according to the fund. He also reported an increase in the number of transgender, non-binary or gender-nonconforming applicants – they made up 14% of all LGBTQ applicants, up from around 8% in 2020.

The partisan divide is one of the most striking statistics in the fund’s report: 89.3% of LGBTQ candidates ran as Democrats and only 4.5% as Republicans.

This gap reflects partisan division in Congress and state houses across the country, where Democrats have generally favored the protection and expansion of LGBTQ rights, while many Republicans have sought to push LGBTQ activism. as a threat to children.

Last week, for example, Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives introduced a bill with similarities to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, seeking to ban any school or other institution receiving federal funds to provide “sex-based” programs for children under 10. .

“The Democratic Party and their cultural allies are on a misguided crusade to immerse young children in sexual imagery and radical gender ideology,” said a statement from the bill’s lead sponsor, Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana. .

In Michigan, where Republican Tudor Dixon is trying to unseat Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Dixon launched a similar attack during their recent debate.

Whitmer “would be happy to put little boys in your daughter’s locker room,” Dixon said. “She didn’t stand up for parents who said, ‘Why do we have adults whispering sex and gender in our little kids’ ears? “”

In Nashville, Tennessee, Republicans held a rally last week to call for tough anti-transgender policies. GOP leaders in the state Senate and House have said the first bill introduced for the 2023 session will be a ban on gender-affirming care for minors.

Florida already has such rules, and GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis defended them during a Monday night debate with his Democratic challenger, Charlie Crist. At one point, DeSantis compared gender-affirming medical care “to “the chemical castration of young boys.”

Becca Balint, who served four terms in the Vermont Senate, sees the wave of anti-LGBTQ laws as a response to widespread gains for LGBTQ rights and inclusion.

“There’s always a backlash,” she told The Associated Press. “That’s what we’re seeing right now – people stirring up hate and fear.”

Even as a political veteran, she finds it “an incredible honor” to be on the brink of history as an LGBTQ political pioneer.

“I remember it every time parents bring their kids to meet me at events,” she said. “They see me as an example of how we are able to send a woman and a queer person to Congress who is going to be able to represent all of Vermont.”

Healey, who was the nation’s first openly gay attorney general, feels similar emotions.

“I consider that an important part of my role here — to help open doors for other LGBTQ+ people,” she said via email. “I think about what my election as governor could mean for young girls and LGBTQ+ youth across the country who finally see themselves reflected in leadership.”

Crary is the director of religious news for the AP. Associated Press religious coverage receives support through the AP’s collaboration with The Conversation US, with funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. The AP is solely responsible for this content.

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