Washington state sees influx of LGBTQIA+ supporters elected

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Washington state sees influx of LGBTQIA+ supporters elected

With vote counting and runoffs expected to continue into December in certain parts of the country, election buzz is still circling around "the red wave" that wasn't, and the rainbow tsunami that blew the Democratic Party out of the water. Four hundred and thirty-six out LGBTQ+ candidates won their races in the 2022 general election across the nation, with historic victories for New Hampshire's James Roesener, the first out Trans man elected to a state legislature; SJ Howell, the first Nonbinary person elected to Montana's state legislature; and Leigh Finke, the first Trans person elected to Minnesota's state legislature.

Patty Murray  

Patty Murray won another term after a hard-fought battle against competitor Tiffany Smiley. Despite Smiley's strong ad campaigns and millions of dollars in donor money, Murray won a comfortable victory. In a roundtable with Queer voters in Capitol Hill, she promised to continue advocating for the community's rights, including those of Trans children, since the GOP continues to target them.

While there were historic wins across the country, thanks in part to the record-breaking voter turnout by young people, Washington elections boasted great progress for LGBTQ+ supporters. Thanks to Seattle Pride's voting guide and election-related events, thousands of Queer Washington residents showed up at the polls to give their support to candidates who are working hard to ensure a future of equality for all.

Marko Liias  

Queer candidates keep on winning!
While many candidates in Washington state displayed their support of Queer people during their campaigns, a few were a part of the community. Mary Yu, who was running for reelection to state Supreme Court Position 1, and Marko Liias, who was running for reelection to his position in the Washington State senate representing District 21, both won, with Yu earning 97.3% of the votes cast.

Both candidates have spoken openly about their support for the Queer community. According to his biography, Liias is the co-chair of the LGBTQ caucus and worked to protect LGBTQIA+ children and communities throughout Washington. Part of his advocacy has been championing bills that require public schools to adopt policies that protect Trans kids from bullying, increase access to HIV medication, and ban conversion therapy.

Mary Yu  

Although Yu's position as a state Supreme Court justice means she is not enacting policy and must remain strictly nonpartisan in her decision-making, she has expressed pride for her LGBTQ+ community and promised to "make sure that our life experiences are given all due consideration in court decisions and that everyone from our community is treated with respect when they access our courts." She also promised to "lend my voice on behalf of our youth who often have no power to change the institutions that feed the bias and intolerance that they face."

A seasoned judge, Yu made history upon her first appointment to the Supreme Court. "I was the first member of the LGBTQIA+ community to serve on the Supreme Court, because I believe we must be visible and at the table where decisions about our lives are made," she told Seattle Pride. "I was also the first judge to preside over a same-sex marriage in the state of Washington as soon as the law allowed us to marry."

Federal candidates
Seattle Pride evaluated two federal candidates, Suzan DelBene and Adam Smith. Both earned high marks from the organization, with DelBene rating a 3.5 out of 4 and Smith standing at a solid 3.

Suzan DelBene  

DelBene, who won her election with 72.37% of the vote, has represented Washington's First Congressional District since 2012 and has always stood strong as an advocate for Queer issues. "Every Congress, I introduce a resolution to recognize June 26 as 'LGBTQIA+ Equality Day' across the United States," she said to Seattle Pride. "The resolution honors the anniversary of three landmark Supreme Court victories that moved our country towards equality for LGBTQIA+ Americans, including Lawrence v. Texas (June 26, 2003), United States v. Windsor (June 26, 2013), and Obergefell v. Hodges (June 26, 2015). I will continue fighting for LGBTQIA+ equality."

In her career, DelBene has cosponsored the Respect for Marriage Act and the Safe Schools Improvement Act of 2021, which requires states to establish policies to prevent bullying and harassment on account of race, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, or religion. She also co-sponsored the Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act, which bans commercial conversion therapy. DelBene supported the Equality Act, the Do No Harm Act, and the International Human Rights Defense Act of 2019 as well.

Adam Smith  

Adam Smith also won his election, with 71.57% of the vote. As a representative for Washington's Ninth Congressional District, Smith has cosponsored the Equality Act, which, if passed, would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation as prohibited categories regarding discrimination. Like his colleague DelBene, Smith also supports making June 26 LGBT Equality Day and has also cosponsored a bill to recognize the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia.

Smith promised Queer voters that he would continue to fight for them. When President Trump banned Trans service members from the military, Smith stood up against him. Now, he is aiming his sights on passing the Equality Act. "The priority is the passage of the Equality Act, which I am an original cosponsor of," he said. "I voted for it when it passed in the House and will continue to advocate for its passage in the Senate."

Steve Hobbs  

Secretary of State
Washingtonians voted to retain Secretary of State Steve Hobbs, who was appointed to the position in 2021. Seattle Pride rated Hobbs a 3.1 out of 4 for his dedication to the Queer community. Hobbs beat his competitor, Julie Anderson, with 65.28% of the vote.

So far, Hobbs has supported the Gender-Affirming Care Act, which helped to establish the Washington State LGBTQIA+ Commission, and has promoted access to benefits for Queer veterans. Hobbs has vowed to use his office as an open space for dialog when it comes to advancing Queer rights, and he is currently working on the project "Love, Equally," which will commemorate Washington's passage of same-sex marriage ten years ago.

"The Office of the Secretary of State oversees elections, cybersecurity and information response, corporations and charities, state archives, and state libraries, but also serves as an executive advocate for disproportionately affected communities," Hobbs said. "Helping our LGBTQIA+ friends and neighbors navigate housing security begins with a commitment from the leading Washington voices to better educate the public to the best our resources allow."

Leesa Manion  

Prosecuting Attorney
In a close election, Leesa Manion beat out Federal Way's mayor, Jim Ferrell, with just 57.52% of the vote to become King County's new prosecuting attorney, after serving as chief of staff for the former prosecuting attorney, Dan Satterberg. Manion made headlines earlier this year after favoring community-based diversion programs over more criminal prosecutions for fentanyl dealers in King County.

Manion received a 3.8 rating from Seattle Pride and has already secured resources to form a new Hate Crimes Unit in the Prosecuting Attorney's Office. "Hate crimes against a person's sexual orientation is the second most common type of hate crime charged by the PAO. Of the 223 hate crimes filed by the PAO between 2018 and 2021, 39 involved hate against a person's sexual orientation," she said. "Hate crimes against a person's gender or gender expression is the third most common type of hate crime charged by the PAO. Of the 223, 21 involved hate against a person's gender or gender expression."

Manion believes that one of the best ways to help communities is to learn from the people in them. That is why she employs mostly BIPOC, female, and/or LGBTQIA+ people in the Prosecuting Attorney's Office. "I will continue to advance diversity and inclusion within the PAO. I will also invite the participation of the LGBTQIA+ community in the work of our office — both to improve regular and continued engagement with the LGBTQIA+ community and to learn how best to share PAO outcomes on work that directly impacts our LGBTQIA+ community," she continued.

"As an elected leader, I will also lend my voice to speak out on issues important to our LGBTQIA+ community by speaking out against hate and speaking in favor of legislation to support and advance LGBTQIA+ rights and inclusion."

Claire Wilson  

State Senate
Several candidates vied for seats in the state Senate as well, including many members of the Queer community, like Claire Wilson, who won her race with 54.5% of the vote. "First and foremost, I identify as a Lesbian woman, coming out when I was 19 years old. I bring this perspective to every aspect of my work in the Washington State Senate," she said to Seattle Pride.

Wilson represents Federal Way, which she admits "has a history of anti-LGBTQIA+ sentiment and a strong religious, conservative faction."

Wilson says she is committed to fighting for social issues important to her. "As one of four LGBTQIA+ lawmakers in the Washington State Senate, I will continue to press on local and statewide social justice issues related to our LGBTQIA+ community, as well as issues related to police accountability, the delivery of services and supports, and other legislation that is inclusive of all protected classes."

Jesse Salomon  

Another state senator who won reelection in 2022 was Jesse Salomon, who Seattle Pride rated 2.4 out of 4. Salomon previously worked in the Senate to pass legislation against hate crimes and bullying, particularly against members of the Queer community. "My hate crimes bill explicitly added criminal penalties for assault and harassment based on one's gender identity and expression. It also increased civil penalties and allowed victims to sue for a variety of damages after suffering a hate crime," he explained.

Jamie Pederson  

Jamie Pedersen, who will again represent Legislative District 43 following his reelection, was also rated highly by Seattle Pride, with a 2.9. Pedersen is passionate about working with community organizations to make sure that LGBT+ people have access to housing and legal name change rights.

"I am working with QLaw, Gender Justice League, and other stakeholders on legislation that will allow Trans folks to seal records of their name changes," he said. "I will continue to advocate for safe housing and other spaces for Queer youth. I am working on a capital budget request for Lambert House."

Manka Dhingra  

Another state senator who has promised to support Trans rights is Manka Dhingra, who won her seat as the senator for District 45 with 63.2% of the vote. "I have been a big supporter of bills that mandate insurance coverage for gender-affirming care, access to HIV drugs for individuals on Medicaid, and anti-bullying statutes to name a few," she said of her support for the Queer community.

Javier Valdez  

Winning in a landslide, with 84.6%, was Javier Valdez, who will represent the 46th District. Valdez admitted he has more to learn when it comes to advocacy for the LGBT+ community, but he is willing to put in the work and stand firm for the rights of Queer and Trans voters. "I think that the biggest issues that we will see in the next few legislative sessions will be protecting and expanding access to gender-affirming and reproductive healthcare," he said. "Our previous legislation on LGBTQIA+ homelessness and access to healthcare will also need to be updated."

Claudia Kauffman  

Claudia Kauffman, who will represent Washington's 47th District, has always been a proponent of same-sex marriage and hopes to "remove barriers." "While in the Senate [in] 2007—2010, I voted for the Domestic Partnership bill and supported marriage equality," she said. She has also been an advocate for Queer Native Americans and hopes to help bring more resources to the Native American AIDS Project.

Laurie Jinkins  

House of Representatives
Washington State's House of Representatives races saw members of the LGBTQ+ community competing, including Laurie Jinkins and Jessica Wadhams.

Jinkins won reelection with 71.4% of the vote. "As the first Lesbian elected to the legislature and speaker of the House, I consider myself a leader in advancing rights for the LGBTQIA+ community," she said.

Jinkins chaired both Tacoma's Hate Crimes Task Force and Hands Off Washington, "the first statewide grassroots Queer organization in Washington."

As mentioned, Jinkins has served as speaker of the Washington House, and while this means she no longer sponsors legislation, she is continuing to promote pro-Queer laws by working with the bicameral LGBTQIA+ caucus.

Wadhams lost her race for a seat from the 39th District to Republican Carolyn Eslick.

(l-r) Bill Ramos, Beth Doglio, Emily Alvarado, Nicole Macri, and Tana Senn  

State representatives who will be joining Jinkins in the House, advocating for legislation that advances the rights and causes of LGBTQ+ people, include Bill Ramos (Fifth District), who leads the Members of Color Caucus; Beth Doglio (22nd District), who served on the LGBTQIA+ State Legislative Caucus and helped get Gender X identities on driver's licenses; and Emily Alvarado (34th District), who has served as a community housing justice leader, as well as Nicole Macri (34th District); and Tana Senn (41st District), both of whom helped to pass laws that ban conversion therapy.

Hundreds of Queer lawmakers and allies won hard-fought battles to make a difference. Thanks to voters, Americans are now hopefully looking toward a bright future, and lawmakers are now getting to work, preparing to make those dreams a reality.