Openly–LGBT candidates performed well, as did progressives overall, on Election Day, but the big winners were transgender candidates who made history in races across the nation.
Tuesday, Nov. 7 was a good night for LGBT candidates and an historic one for transgender candidates.
There were at least 71 openly LGBT candidates on ballots in 23 states. Of those, 55 percent won, 35 percent lost, and some were still not settled as of deadline.
Lesbian Jenny Durkan handily won election as mayor of Seattle, one of the fastest-growing cities in the country and the eighth-largest container port in the U.S. Durkan replaces Seattle’s first openly-gay mayor, Ed Murray, who resigned in September after allegations surfaced from five men who said Murray sexually abused them as teenagers. (Murray denied the allegations.)
The Seattle Post Intelligencer said Durkan’s opponent tried to link her with Murray.
Though her opponent has not yet conceded the race, results suggest Durkan took more than 60 percent of the vote. She was the first openly-gay person President Obama appointed as a U.S. attorney.
Also in Seattle, lesbian challenger Mitzi Johanknecht, 58, appeared to defeat incumbent John Urquhart in a race for sheriff of King County.
Johanknecht is in charge of one of the sheriff office’s precincts and has been on the force for three decades. In campaigning against Urquhart, who had recently been accused of rape by a former female deputy, Johanknecht said he mistreated employees, especially women.
Danica Roem won a stunning victory in her race for a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates against a candidate who had made a name for himself trying to ban transgender people from public restrooms. The Republican incumbent, Bob Marshall, has served 26 years in the House of Delegates and has referred to himself as the state’s “chief homophobe.”
According to the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, which was supporting 61 of the 72 LGBT candidates, the win in Virginia made Roem the first out transgender person to win and serve in a state legislature and the only out transgender state legislator in the U.S.
A number of sources subsequently have pointed out that Althea Garrison, a Republican from Boston, was the first African-American transgender person to be elected to a statewide position. She won election to, and served a term in, the Massachusetts State House in 1992.
Garrison has never voluntarily identified as transgender, but following her election, a Boston Herald reporter outed her after finding a birth certificate indicating she had been identified as male at birth.
Virginia proved fertile ground for progressives all the way around, with Democrat Ralph Northam handily besting Republican Ed Gillespie, with 54 percent of the vote. Democrats wiped out the Republican majority in the state’s House of Delegates, winning at least 15 seats in a stunning upset. Four other races were too close to call at deadline, with control over the chamber hanging in the balance.
Of the 15 seats Democrats flipped, all were held by men, and 11 were won by women. Most of those women made history with their victories. In addition to Roem becoming the first openly trans state legislator, the state also saw the elections of the first open lesbian elected to the House of Delegates, and the first Asian-American woman and the first two Latinas elected to the General Assembly.
LPAC, a national lesbian political action committee supporting candidates that champion LGBTQ equality, women’s rights and social justice, noted that in addition to Roem, five of its other endorsed candidates won in Virginia: Peruvian immigrant Elizabeth Guzman, House of Delegates, District 31; Jennifer Carroll Foy, House of Delegates, District 2, a woman of color who graduated from the Virginia Military Institute; Kelly Fowler, House of Delegates, District 21; open lesbian nurse practitioner Dr. Dawn Adams, House of Delegates, District 68, who lives with her partner of 15 years; and Donte Tanner, House of Delegates, District 40, an Air Force veteran and small business owner.
Council, school board races
• In Minneapolis, Victory Fund-backed transgender candidates Andrea Jenkins and Phillipe Cunningham both won their races for seats on the Minneapolis City Council, making them the first openly-transgender people to win council seats in a major U.S. city.
Jenkins collected 70 percent of the vote in the race for the Ward 8 council seat, while Cunningham prevailed in a nail-biter that wasn’t decided until Wednesday afternoon, defeating the incumbent council president, Barbara Johnson, for the Ward 4 seat.
Lesbian activist Jillia Pessenda fell just short of victory in the race for the Ward 1 seat on the Minneapolis council.
• Tyler Titus became the first transgender candidate to win elective office in Pennsylvania. He won a seat on the school board for Erie.
• Gerri Cannon won a seat on the Somersworth School Board in New Hampshire this week and has reportedly said she intends to run for the state’s House of Representatives.
State office races
There were only five LGBT candidates for state legislative offices Tuesday. In addition to Roem in Virginia, three of them were incumbents who won re-election — Tim Eustace and Reed Gusciora of New Jersey and Mark Levine of Virginia — and Luis Lopez advanced to a run-off for a California Assembly seat representing Los Angeles on Dec. 5.
Of the 72 LGBT candidates Tuesday, 67 ran for local offices — 12 for mayor, 41 for city council seats, seven for local school boards, and seven for various other local positions.
Only five out of the 12 mayoral candidates won Tuesday night: Durkan in Seattle and four incumbents — Alex Morse in Holyoke, Mass.; Sean Strub in Milford, Pa.; Lydia Lavelle in Carrboro, NC; and Patrick Wojahn in College Park, Md.
• In Atlanta, long-time lesbian activist and politico Cathy Woolard came in third among 12 candidates for mayor. Woolard, a former Atlanta City Council president, garnered 17 percent of the vote behind the second place winner. The top two vote getters will battle it out in a run-off Dec. 5.
• In Hoboken, N.J., Councilman Michael DeFusco, 35, failed in his bid to become the city’s first openly-gay mayor. The six-person race was marred near the end when anonymous flyers tried to portray the campaign leader and eventual winner, a Sikh, as a terrorist.
The flyer included De Fusco’s name in a way that made it look like his campaign created the ad. But DeFusco’s denounced the flyer as racist and “disgusting.”
• Paul Prevey, an openly-gay former member of the Salem City Council, came up short in his bid to unseat three-term incumbent Mayor Kim Driscoll of Salem, Mass.
Other city contests
• In Atlanta, Councilman Alex Wan was the top vote-getter in a race for city council president, but he must now face the second place candidate in a run-off.
Lesbian newcomer Liliana Bakhtiari almost won a Council seat from an incumbent. At midnight, she was leading with 54 percent of the vote, but by morning, she had garnered only 49 percent, and the incumbent had enough votes to avoid a run-off. But two gay male candidates, Bill Powell and Kirk Rich, fell short in their bids for Atlanta City Council seats. And Josh McNair came in third in his bid for a seat on the Fulton County Commission.
• In Boston, newcomer Mike Kelley, an aide to former Mayor Tom Menino, came within 500 votes of winning a council seat against the son of another former Boston mayor, Ray Flynn. The seat represents the district that includes heavily gay South End.
• In Cambridge, Mass., long-time incumbent Denise Simmons, the first openly-lesbian African-American mayor in the U.S., appears to have easily won re-election to her ninth term.
• In Cincinnati, openly-gay Ryan Messer was the top vote-getter out of 13 candidates vying for four seats on the city’s board of education. Lesbian candidate Renee Hevia appears to have come in fifth place, just 100 votes behind the fourth place winner. But the vote is so close, there may be a recount after provisional ballots are counted.
• In New Orleans, gay candidate Seth Bloom has won the right to a Nov. 18 run-off against another challenger for a vacant seat. Bloom was the top vote-getter, with 40 percent of the vote. His run-off challenger garnered 27 percent, and four other candidates split the remaining 33 percent.
• In Lansing, Michigan, openly-gay school board member Pete Spadafore won an at-large seat on the city council, while newcomer Jim McClurken lost his bid for a district council seat.
• In Palm Springs, voters gave their two vacant city council seats to a transgender woman and a bisexual woman.
Lisa Middleton’s victory makes her the first transgender person to win a non-judicial elective office in California. Middleton and Christy Holstege, who is married to a man but identifies as a member of the LGBT community, were the top two vote-getters in a field of six candidates.
Now, every person on the Palm Springs council is a member of the LGBT community, according to news reports.
• Stephe Koontz became the first openly-transgender elected official in her hometown of Doraville, Ga., when she won a seat on the city council there.
• A gay candidate for city council in Cape Coral, Fla., found a flyer on this front door in August, threatening him with a “nice visit” from the Ku Klux Klan.
James Schneider, 54, said, “I’m a gay, Jewish, German man,” and that he considers the flyer a hate crime.
The flyer said, “We know where you live faggot….quit now….” He told the local News-Press that photos of him with gay slurs have also been posted on Facebook in the area.
Meanwhile, another local paper, the Cape Coral Daily Breeze, endorsed Schneider’s opponent, who won with 68 percent of the vote.
© 2017 Keen News Service. All rights reserved.
Just more than 15 million Texans are registered to vote. But less than 6 percent of them turned out to cast their ballots on Tuesday, Nov. 7.
There were no actual candidates on most ballots in Texas, so those who did go to the polls were voting on seven proposed constitutional amendments statewide and on local issues, such as city bond proposals in Dallas, and a proposed school bond in Fort Worth.
Still, in 2015’s constitutional amendment election, turnout was at 11 percent. And in last year’s presidential election, nearly 60 percent of registered voters in Texas cast ballots.
All 10 bond proposals passed in Dallas by an overwhelming majority. Between 48,666 and 49,912 voters cast a ballot on each of the 10 bond issues.
Repairing streets received the most yes votes. Repairing and improving Dallas City Hall and other city facilities received the most no votes.
More people voted on the bond issue to repair and improve cultural and performing arts facilities.
Some supporters of new facilities for the homeless were worried before the election that voters would reject that bond issue. That proposal won with the highest percentage of yes votes.
Dallas City Councilman Omar Narvaez said he was excited all 10 bond proposals passed.
“We couldn’t kick the can down the road anymore, because the can fell into a pothole,” Narvaez said.
About half the $1 billion in bond money will go toward road repair.
“We’re going to fix streets and parks and put the money to good use for the city,” he said.
Narvaez expects work to begin on streets in the first quarter of the year, even though the first bonds will probably not be sold until about May. Going forward, he said, the city manager will include maintenance in the budget so additional bonds for streets won’t have to be floated.
All seven constitutional amendments passed.
Proposition 7 was written by Dallas state Rep. Eric Johnson. The amendment allows financial institutions to award random prizes to encourage savings.
Johnson, who was recently appointed as the third delegate nationally to represent the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee on the Democratic National Committee. He’s also considering entering the race for Texas Speaker of the House to replace Joe Straus.
“I am thrilled that voters approved Proposition 7,” Johnson said. “I’ve been working for years on ways to increase the personal wealth of lower income Texans. The Texas Savings Promotion Act will help ensure every family in Texas has enough personal savings so that they will not need to turn to predatory lenders in times of need.”
The amendment doesn’t require financial institutions to participate.
“It’s now up to our financial institutions — banks and credit unions — to offer the types of prize-linked savings accounts authorized by the TSPA, and for our most financially insecure citizens to take advantage of these accounts,” Johnson said.
Amendment 4 says before ruling on the constitutionality of a state law, a court must give the Texas attorney general 45 days’ notice. That gives the state more time to defend a law but also prevents a court from blocking a state law whose constitutionality is questionable.
Dallas County Schools
Dallas County voters decided by a 17-point margin to close Dallas County Schools.
Before his election to the Dallas City Council, Narvaez served on the Dallas County Schools board. He said school districts left DCS during his term on the board and they wanted to come back because they weren’t happy with the service they contracted. He said he heard one district increased its costs by $500,000 after leaving.
He said districts will now have to buy buses, build barns to store buses and maintain buses as well as employ bus drivers. DCS provided crossing guard service for Irving, which will have to do that itself. Also, Irving got workman’s comp through DCS saving that city at least $150,000.
“If taxes go up, thank Sen. Huffines,” Narvaez said. Huffines big campaign issue was to eliminate DCS and wrote the legislation to put it on the ballot.
Fort Worth ISD
Voters in Fort Worth approved a $750 bond package, the largest ever in Tarrant County. But because property values are going up in Tarrant County, there won’t be a tax rate increase needed to pay for the bonds.
Most of the bond money will be used for much-needed renovations and repairs at the district’s 14 high schools.
— David Taffet