State Watch

LGBTQ candidates have historic night in ‘Rainbow Wave’

Massachusetts Gov.-elect Maura Healey speaks during a Democratic election night party Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

A record-shattering 340 openly LGBTQ candidates running in the midterms this year won their elections Tuesday evening in a night full of political firsts for the LGBTQ community.

Annise Parker, the president and chief executive of the LGBTQ Victory Fund, an organization working to elect more openly LGBTQ people to public office, said Tuesday’s “Rainbow Wave” is a clear rebuke to actions taken by state and federal officials this year to curtail the rights of LGBTQ people, particularly transgender youth.

“With so much at stake this election, from the future of marriage equality to abortion, LGBTQ candidates’ grit and exceptional grassroots support is paying off,” she said in a statement.

Here are some of Tuesday’s most notable LGBTQ firsts.

Maura Healey becomes nation’s first out lesbian governor

Democrat and former Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey claimed victory Tuesday in the state’s governor’s race, defeating her opponent, Republican Geoff Diehl, with more than 60 percent of the vote to become the nation’s first openly lesbian governor.

Healey, 51, is also the first woman elected governor of Massachusetts.

“Tonight, I want to say something to every little girl and every LGBTQ person out there: I hope tonight shows you can be whatever, whoever you want to be,” Healey said Tuesday night in Boston after the race was called. “Nothing and no one can ever get in your way except your own imagination, and that’s not going to happen.”

Across the country in Oregon, Democrat Tina Kotek could be named the nation’s second openly lesbian governor in a contest that does not yet have a clear winner. 

Kotek, formerly the longest serving Oregon House Speaker, could be the first Democratic candidate to lose the state’s gubernatorial election in 40 years, in part because of a third-party candidate who divided centrists and independent voters.

Kotek held a narrow lead over Republican Christine Drazan on Wednesday morning with 67 percent of precincts reporting.

Vermont sends its first LGBTQ legislator – and first woman – to Congress

Vermonters on Tuesday overwhelmingly selected Democrat Becca Balint to succeed Senator-elect Peter Welch (D), making her the first openly gay person and woman in the state’s congressional delegation.

Vermont was the last state in the nation to elect a female representative to Congress.

“Today, we reaffirmed that Vermont, and this nation, is still a place where anything is possible,” Balint, 54, wrote in a Tuesday night Instagram post after the race for the state’s lone House seat was called. “We’re still capable of change and progress. Tonight, after 231 years, Vermonters are sending a woman and openly gay person to Congress for the first time.”

Balint, the state Senate’s president pro tem since 2020, added that her work in Washington will “stay rooted in our communities here in Vermont” and pledged to advocate for the state’s most vulnerable.

Robert Garcia is the first LGBTQ naturalized citizen elected to Congress

Democrat Robert Garcia on Tuesday became the first openly gay immigrant elected to Congress, defeating 74-year-old Republican John Briscoe in a race Garcia was highly favored to win.

Garcia, 44, previously the mayor of Long Beach, Calif., was born in Lima, Peru, and immigrated to the U.S. with his mother when he was 5 years old. He is the third openly gay representative elected to Congress from California.

Garcia dedicated his win to his mother, Gaby, who died last year due to complications from contracting COVID-19.

“That work of that hard-working woman who worked in clinics, who cleaned houses, who was a true immigrant in every sense of the word, is why I’m here today,” Garcia told a crowd of supporters Tuesday night after the race was called.

Garcia pledged to represent core American values in Congress and “take back” the true meaning of patriotism, which he said has been distorted and co-opted by extremist groups to spread hate.

“American patriotism is actually helping the people that are in your country,” he said.

Montana, Minnesota, New Hampshire elect first transgender state representatives

Transgender candidates claimed history-making victories in state legislative races in Montana, Minnesota and New Hampshire Tuesday evening.

Democrats Zooey Zephyr of Montana and Leigh Finke of Minnesota each defeated their Republican opponents in landslide wins to become the first transgender women elected to the state legislature.

Minnesota voters also voted to elect Alicia Kozlowski to the state House as the legislature’s first nonbinary member.

In New Hampshire, James Roesener, also a Democrat, became the first transgender man ever elected to a state legislature.

First openly LGBTQ non-incumbent Republican elected to Congress

Republican George Santos on Tuesday defeated Democrat Robert Zimmerman in the race for New York’s 3rd Congressional District — the first federal general election between two openly gay candidates — becoming the first openly LGBTQ non-incumbent Republican elected to Congress.

“I promised one thing throughout this entire campaign: to be your champion in D.C. Thank you for this opportunity to be your voice,” Santos tweeted in a message to his supporters early Wednesday.

Santos will be the only openly LGBTQ Republican in Congress.

Four former GOP House members have come out after they were elected.

First out LGBTQ candidates elected to state legislature in Alaska, South Dakota

Jennie Armstrong, Andrew Gray and Ashley Carrick — all Democrats — made history Tuesday evening, becoming the first openly LGBTQ lawmakers elected to the Alaska state legislature. All three will serve in the House.

Democrat Kameron Nelson also won his House race Tuesday in South Dakota, becoming the state legislature’s first openly gay member. Former state Rep. Angie Buhl, also a Democrat, came out as bisexual after being elected to her first term,

In two states — Louisiana and Mississippi — an openly LGBTQ person has never been elected to the state legislature.

Updated at 4:27 p.m.

Tags Annise Parker Becca Balint LGBTQ candidates LGBTQ Victory Fund massachusetts Maura Healey Maura Healey Robert Garcia Robert Garcia tina kotek Vermont
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