During such a heated presidential election season, when it’s hard to go two minutes without hearing or thinking the names “Trump” or “Clinton,” it’s easy to forget that there are many other important local races playing out across America. Among those races, record numbers of LGBTQ candidates—many of them women— are making their mark. And despite the obvious anti-LGBTQ rhetoric that still permeates some pockets of the political landscape, we as a nation are closer than ever to seeing candidates’ sexual orientation as a nonissue.
Towleroad reports that, “[T]here is much to be appreciated for how matter-of-factly the sexual orientation of most LGBT candidates is being regarded. Many LGBT incumbents face no opposition to reelection. Even in the South, in conservative and solidly red Kentucky, openly gay Democratic candidate Jim Gray told the Washington Post his being gay hasn’t been a problem on the campaign trail.”
According to reports, there is an unprecedented number of LGBTQ candidates running for US House seats in 2016. Six are incumbents and eight are running for the first time. There is one openly LGBT candidate running for governor (of Oregon) and four other running in statewide offices. At least 20 openly LGBTQ people are running for state senate seats, 70 running for state house seats, another 80 or so on various state and local courts. This totals 191—a new record—over 2010 when there were 164.
The fact that more viable LGBTQ candidates will appear on our ballots than ever before is cause enough for celebration. However, that so many of them identify as queer women of diverse backgrounds, races and ethnicities makes even more “herstory” in an election year that would already fill suffragettes of the late 19th and early 20th centuries with pride. Yes, we finally have our first female presidential nominee on a major party ticket—something momentous and hugely impactful—regardless of your political affiliation or the election’s outcome. But let’s not forget about our queer sisters hitting the campaign trail in cities and towns near you, all of whom have promised to serve their communities and strive to make our world a better, more acccepting place for everyone.
Here, we present 12 strong, qualified queer and transgender women running in local races, and why they say they deserve your vote. To learn about other LGBTQ political contenders in this year’s election, visit the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund’s voter guide.
Oregon Governor Kate Brown [Incumbent, D-Oregon], katebrownfororegon.com: Brown openly identifies as bisexual and took office in February 2015 when her predecessor resigned on the heels of a scandal. It appears she may easily retain her post, as a recent poll found her eight points ahead of her Republican opponent, Bud Pierce. Brown also previously served as secretary of state in Oregon. According to her website, “Kate worked successfully to raise the state’s minimum wage and guarantee paid sick leave to workers across the state; increase education funding by nine percent in order to prevent teacher layoffs and keep class sizes from increasing; signed into law a voluntary retirement plan which gives every Oregonian access to a professionally invested retirement account; and put Oregon at the forefront of the clean energy movement with legislation that ends Oregon’s use of coal power.”
Misty Snow for U.S. Senate (D-Utah), mistyksnow.com : Transgender candidate Misty Snow won the Democratic primary in Utah to challenge incumbent Republican U.S. Senator Mike Lee; however, her victory is considered a long shot. “I am unwilling to stand idly by as elected officials fail our communities, and unwilling to settle for an unfair system. I will bring a fresh perspective and a determination to change our country for the better. I will advocate on behalf of the working class, women, people of color, and the LGBT community instead of representing the greed of corporations,“ Snow states on her website.
Angie Craig for U.S. House (D-Minnesota), angiecraig.com: Ms. Craig, who was a vice president for a start-up medical devices manufacturer called St. Jude Medical in St. Paul, Minn., has left that position to run for the House of Representatives. On her website, Ms. Craig speaks of her record of public service and focuses heavily on goals of economic growth for her state. “In business, it doesn’t matter whether you always agree with the person sitting next to you. Everyone unites around a common goal,” she writes. According to Towleroad, “She’s the Democratic Farmer Labor party candidate for a seat opened up by retiring Republican John Kline, and she’s running against a former talk show host, Jason Lewis, whose provocative statements prompted The Atlantic magazine to dub him ‘Minnesota’s mini-Trump.’”
U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (Incumbent, D-Arizona), kyrstensinema.com: Kyrsten Sinema was the first openly bisexual person elected to Congress and is the U.S. Representative from Arizona’s 9th congressional district, first elected in 2012. She is challenged in the 2016 race by Republican David Giles. Her site states that Ms. Sinema “worked to pass tough immigration laws, securing funding for vets, working to provide business incentives for job creation and fighting back against attempts to gut basic health care for kids, cuts to services for the elderly and dramatic drops to school funding. Sinema is committed to helping our country return to the values that make America great—the same values that have guided her life so far: hard work, access to public education, fairness and opportunity.”
Grace Hanlon for New York State Supreme Court (D-New York), hanlonforsupremecourt.com: As principal law clerk to the Chautauqua County Court Judge, openly lesbian candidate Grace Hanlon hopes to become the first State Supreme Court Justice elected from Chautauqua County in nearly 25 years. She says, “It’s about treating people with dignity and respect,” and goes by the motto, “The experience to serve. The integrity we deserve. Dedication to our community.”
Misty Plowright for U.S. House (D-Colorado), mistyforcongress.com: Misty Plowright is one of the first two openly transgender people in the United States to be a candidate representing a major political party for a national office. Plowright is running against Republican incumbent Rep. Doug Lamborn. Ms. Plowright’s website says she is “self-taught and craves absorbing information on technology, science, and politics. Her own personal experience gives her greater understanding of what national policy is doing to destroy those who are already marginalized. As a transgender woman, Misty can personally relate to those who have been pushed to the fringes of society. These experiences foster the empathy that drives her political philosophy.”
Tina Podlodowski for Secretary of State (D-Washington state), votersfortina.com: Former Seattle City Councilmember Tina Podlodowski is running for Secretary of State in Washington state, against Republican incumbent Kim Wyman. Ms. Podlodowski’s campaign say, “Tina’s strong belief in equality for all guides her work in leadership roles with Washington Citizens for Fairness, the Pride Foundation and The Human Rights Campaign.”
Toni Atkins for State Senate (D-California), toniatkinsforsenate.com: Toni Atkins is San Diego’s first-ever Speaker of the State Assembly. She is also the first openly gay woman, and only the third woman ever to hold the position. Her campaign says, “She’s been a pioneer in the fight for housing, veterans, the environment, women’s health and LGBT rights. Toni Atkins has balanced budgets while investing in California’s future – and fought hard for working families.”
Beth Tuura for U.S. House (D-Florida), bethforflorida.com: Beth Tuura is a television producer and winner of three Emmys for sports coverage. The Advocate reports that, “Tuura, a lesbian, is one of five LGBT candidates running for Florida’s House […] She won a three-way primary in House District 47 in August, and she will face Republican incumbent Mike Miller November 8.” Ms. Tuura says, “Orlando is my home and I want to protect it. I will keep dangerous chemicals from fracking out of our drinking water. I will fight for equal pay for women and protect a woman’s right to choose. And I will stand up against discrimination of any type to make sure everyone in our community feels safe.”
Peggy Moore for Oakland, Calif. City Council (D-California), mooreforoakland.com: Peggy Moore Moore is an out lesbian and former senior adviser to Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. Ms. Moore says her platform and policy priorities include housing affordability, restoring public trust, community investment and jobs, transportation, youth and seniors.
Kimberly Alvarenga for San Francisco Board of Supervisors (D-California), kimalvarenga.com: Running for Supervisor in San Francisco’s District 11, lesbian family woman Kimberly Alvarenga pledges to “keep neighborhoods working, healthy and safe; support small business, working families and responsible economic development; prioritize parks and open spaces, and promote policies that help families stay in San Francisco.”
Jenifer Rene Pool
Jenifer Rene Pool for Harris County Commissioners Court in Houston (D-Texas), jeniferrenepool.nationbuilder.com: Running in Houston against a Republican incumbent as the Harris County Commissioner Precinct 3 Democratic candidate, Jenifer Rene Pool is the first openly transgender person to win a primary in Texas. Ms. Pool says, “When our taxpayer dollars are used for services, hospitals, mental health and libraries, we all benefit and our communities are better served. With your vote […] I will use your tax dollars to bring Precinct 3 communities the services we need while maintaining safety and facilitating growth and prosperity in our communities.”