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Crashing through the lavender ceiling: Election day sees historic wins for LGBTQ+ candidates nationwide

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Photo by Charles Mostoller / Reuters / Illustration by SGN
Photo by Charles Mostoller / Reuters / Illustration by SGN

LGBTQ+ candidates prevailed in elections across the country amidst a wave of anti-Queer hate from the right. Becca Balint was elected to Congress in Vermont, serving as Vermont's first openly LGBTQ+ Congress member and its first ever congresswoman. Tina Kotek (D - OR), and Maura Healey (D - MA) will serve as the first Lesbian governors of their respective states, and the first openly Lesbian governors in the nation.

Trans, Nonbinary, and Two-Spirit candidates also saw historic victories in races in Montana, Minnesota, and New Hampshire. Openly Queer candidates were elected to office in all 50 states.

These fights were won despite over $50 million spent on anti-LGBTQ+ ad campaigns in 25 states in the final days leading up to the midterms, according to the HRC.

Breaking records, breaking ceilings
A record number of LGBTQ+ people ran for office this year. That number, 678, is an 18% increase of Queer candidates over the record set in 2020. At press time, at least 340 of those candidates have won their elections, again beating a record — 336 — set in 2020, according to the LGBTQ Victory Fund.

Maura Healey — Photo by Michael Dwyer / AP  

Following her victory, Gov. Healey, who could arguably be seen as the most iconic win of this year's election, tweeted "To every little girl out there, we want you to know — there's no ceiling you can't break."

Robert Garcia — Photo couretsy of @robertgarcia / Twitter  

In California, Robert Garcia secured a victory in the state's 42nd congressional district, and will be the country's first out Gay immigrant to join Congress. Iowa elected Liz Bennett, a Queer woman who currently serves in the state's House of Representatives, to the Iowa State Senate. Arizona elected their first out Lesbian Latina, Patricia Contreras to their state's House of Representatives.

These are only a few of the notable wins for our community rolling in at press time, and the numbers continue to rise as more votes are tallied.

Where woke goes to die
The 2022 midterms weren't all wins for the LGBTQ+ community, however. Notably, several anti-LGBTQ+ incumbent governors in Florida, Alabama, Oklahoma, and Texas were reelected to their seats.

"Florida is where woke goes to die," exclaimed Florida governor Ron Desantis proudly to a cheering crowd.

Former Trump press secretary Sara Huckabee Sanders was elected as Governor of Arkansas, and while she will be the state's first woman to serve as governor, she is avidly and openly against reproductive and LGBTQ+ rights.

In the wake of her election, clips of comedian Michelle Wolf's roast of Sanders at the 2018 White House Correspondents' Dinner have been circulating on social media. "Every time Sara steps up to the podium, I get excited, because I'm not really sure what we're going to get," Wolf famously quipped. "Y'know? A press briefing, a bunch of lies, or divided into softball teams."

Tina Kotek — Photo by Beth Nakamura / The Oregonian via AP  

The rainbow wave
This midterm election surprised analysts, many of whom suspected the US was in for a "red wave," as has happened during Democratic presidencies of the past. However, many high-profile Republicans running on anti-LGBTQ+ platforms failed. In Pennsylvania, for example, Trump-backed candidate Dr. Oz lost his race for Senate.

In light of what's now being called a "rainbow wave" after a harsh year for LGBTQ+ rights, activists are seeing glimmers of hope.

"Bigots tried their best to undermine our political power — but their hate backfired and motivated more LGBTQ people to run and win than ever before," said LBTQ Victory Fund President and CEO Annise Parker in a press release. "Tonight's Rainbow Wave is a clear rebuke to the increased homophobia and transphobia sweeping our communities — and proves voters want to elect qualified LGBTQ leaders. 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."