March 4, 2020 / 11:06 PM / a month ago

LGBT+ candidates win big in U.S. Super Tuesday contests

NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Most of the openly LGBT+ candidates competing in this week’s Super Tuesday elections won their races, campaigners said, showing acceptance and momentum building among the nation’s largest-ever field of gay and trans people running for office.

At least 28 LGBT+ candidates won primary races to become their political party’s nominee in the November election, according to the Victory Fund, a nonpartisan group that supports lesbian, gay, bi and trans candidates.  

Fourteen U.S. states on Tuesday held political primary contests, most closely watched as the Democratic Party chooses its nominee to challenge Republican President Donald Trump in the Nov. 3 election.

Lower-echelon party contests included the mayoral race in San Diego, California, where openly gay candidate Todd Gloria defeated finished first in the city’s primary, and in southwestern Texas, where Gina Ortiz Jones won the Democratic Party nod in her bid to be the first openly LGBT+ member of the U.S. Congress from Texas.  

In all, 38 Victory Fund candidates were on ballots on Tuesday. Of those, 28 won and three races remained too close to call.

“We are building toward a rainbow revolution in November, with historic LGBTQ candidates running in parts of the country and for levels of government that we never have before,” said Annise Parker, head of the LGBTQ Victory Fund in an emailed statement. 

“We are rewriting the rules on electability and embracing the fact that America is ready to elect LGBTQ candidates up and down the ballot.”

More than 730 openly LGBT+ candidates are running for elective office nationwide this year, the largest number ever, according to the Victory Fund.

Political experts said credit was due to Pete Buttigieg, the first openly gay candidate to make a competitive run for the U.S. presidency.

The former mayor of South Bend, Indiana and a relative unknown narrowly won the Iowa caucuses, the first measure of the Democratic Party’s nominating process in February, and followed with a close second in New Hampshire’s primary.

But his early momentum did not hold, and Buttigieg dropped out of the race on Sunday.

“There’s one very obvious reason here: The candidacy of Pete Buttigieg has inspired more LGBTQ people to run for office,” Alan Abramowitz, a political science professor at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“There’s a greater acceptance of the LGBT community among the public and a willingness to vote for LGBTQ candidates in many parts of the country.”

Also, efforts to trim LGBT+ rights by the Trump administration, such as banning trans people from serving openly in the military and proposing that firms with federal contracts be allowed not to hire gay and trans workers on religious grounds, gave momentum to LGBT+ candidates, experts said.

“The mainstream position now is one of acceptance for LGBT people and the challenger position is for those who don’t,” said Susan Burgess, a political science professor at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio.

“And that’s huge,” she said.

According to an exit poll conducted in 12 of the 14 states by NBC News, one in 10 voters identified as LGBT+.

This year’s field of LGBT+ candidates follows a historic 161 openly gay or trans candidates winning office in 2018 out of 225 candidates endorsed by the Victory Fund.

Reporting by Matthew Lavietes and Oscar Lopez; Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org

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