Victory volunteers hold signs as Jackie Biskupski waves to voters.
LGBT voters have much to celebrate following the 2015 General Elections this Tuesday, despite some notable setbacks including the failure to approve an equal rights ordinance in Houston.
Overall, 45 Victory Fund endorsed candidates won election in 2015 nationwide: 29 won Tuesday night and 16 won in elections held earlier in the year.
Big wins in Utah
Salt Lake City will have its first openly LGBT mayor after Jackie Biskupski ousted the two-term incumbent. While the official polling numbers will not be in until November 17, Jackie’s 4.3 percent lead in the race is certain to carry her to the end. Victory staff was happy to help Jackie’s team in a last minute get-out-the-vote effort.
Also in Salt Lake City, Derek Kitchen has likely won a seat on the Salt Lake City Council after becoming known for being part of the court case that brought marriage equality to Utah. After the unofficial election results were released, Derek had 52 percent of the vote.
After facing anti-LGBT vandalism and homophobic attacks, Ken Siver came out on top in Southfield, Mich., becoming its mayor with 57 percent of the vote, earning the support of 7,119 voters compared to the opponents’ 5,350.
Shannon Hardin, the first openly LGBT African American to hold office in Columbus, Ohio, will continue to serve Ohioans as Columbus’ youngest-ever council member. He won his special election with an overwhelming 70 percent.
Zach Adamson will continue his legacy as the first openly LGBT person to win election to a county-wide office in Indiana, after winning reelection. He earned an impressive 85 percent of the overall vote in the race for Indianapolis City Council.
Incumbent South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who earlier this year came out as gay, won reelection with over 80 percent of the vote and with the support of all 85 of the city’s precincts.
Other Victory candidates who won elections on Tuesday include:
- Jose Cisneros, San Francisco Treasurer
- Geoffrey Kors, Palm Springs, California City Council
- JR Roberts, Palm Springs, California City Council
- Rochelle Galindo, Greeley, Colorado City Council
- Alex Morse, Holyoke, Massachusetts Mayor
- Denise Simmons, Cambridge, Massachusetts City Council
- Patrick Wojahn, College Park, Maryland Mayor
- Em Westerlund, Duluth, Minnesota City Council
- Gary Anderson, Duluth, Minnesota City Council
- Timothy Eustace, New Jersey General Assembly
- Reed Gusciora, New Jersey General Assembly,
- Michael DeFusco, Hoboken, New Jersey City Council
- Steve Napier, Cohoes, New York Common Council
- John McManus, Dayton, Ohio Board of Education
- Abbe Fletman, Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas
- Hugh Fitzpatrick McGough, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas
- Robert Gallegos, Houston City Council
- Mark Levine, Virginia House of Delegates
- Adam Ebbin, Virginia State Senate
- Paul Smedberg, Alexandria, Virginia City Council
- Joe McDermott, King County, Washington County Council
- Michael Scott, Bainbridge Island, Washington City Council
- Ty Stober, Vancouver, Washington City Council
Other LGBT candidates who won but didn't seek an endorsement from Victory include:
- Ron Hirth, Mayor of Golf Manor, Ohio
- Jon Voelz, Beverly Shores, Indiana Town Council
- Sean Murphy, Mayor of Telluride, Colorado
Running for: Indianapolis City-County Council
Zach Adamson is a small businessman and community activist running for reelection. Zach has been working in district on community development for 12 years and has been a small business owner for 18.
In 2011, Zach made Indiana history as the first openly LGBT person to win election to a county wide office when he won the city-county council at-large race. He remains the only LGBT voice on in Indianapolis government, and one of only five openly LGBT elected officials in Indiana.
Why we’re watching: Indiana is a diverse city that needs to keep and expand its LGBT representation, especially following the passage of the controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Running for: Salt Lake City Mayor
Jackie Biskupski was the first openly gay person ever elected to public office in the history of Utah. In 1998, she elected to the state legislature where she represented Salt Lake City’s 30th District for more than a decade. If elected, she will become the first openly LGBT mayor of Salt Lake City.
Utah has no LGBT-specific hate crime laws, public accommodations protections or statewide anti-bullying policy. Jackie is dedicated to protecting LGBT people in Salt Lake City.
Why we’re watching: Jackie is running against a two-term incumbent, and she placed first in the primary. Recent polling puts her neck-and-neck with her opponent, leading likely voters by just two percent.
Running for: Mayor of Charleston
Ginny Deerin is running a historic race. Running to succeed the most long-term mayor in Charleston’s history is a feat. Running as Charleston’s first woman mayor and first LGBT mayor is an even bigger one.
Her race has been competitive, but Ginny has come out on top in terms of donations to her campaign. She’s been supported by Houston Mayor Annise Parker, who’s been rated one of the best mayors in the world.
Ginny knows that Charleston’s LGBT community needs her. South Carolina has no state protections for LGBT people, and Charleston only has a lowly 60/100 rating on HRC’s Municipal Equality Index.
Why we’re watching: This is a six-way race, and Ginny was the lead fundraiser in the third quarter. However, because she’s running against career politicians who had more name recognition, she had to spend her money early, leaving her with less cash on hand than her nearest opponent. With the retirement of Mayor Joe Riley – who is universally admired inside and outside Charleston – this is a race to fill big shoes. We believe Ginny – who put out policy proposals weeks before any of her opponents – is the woman for the job.
Running for: Mayor of Palm Springs
Ginny is a veteran to the progressive movement. She organized a bus ride for Martin Luther King’s March on Washington and served as president of California NOW.
Ginny Foat knows Palm Springs. Since being elected to the Palm Springs City Council in 2003, she’s dedicated her life to the city, and specifically to its LGBT community.
Palm Springs is one of the most LGBT-friendly cities in the country, and that is due in large part to Ginny. She is a former co-chair of the Los Angeles County Commission on HIV/AIDS services and a former executive director of Caring for Children and Families with AIDS. She’s a founding co-chair of the Palm Springs Gay & Lesbian Center.
Why we’re watching: Ginny could become Palm Springs’ first woman and first lesbian mayor. She has the support of the Desert Stonewall Democrats and two of the city’s biggest donors. This election is following the current mayor’s public corruption investigation by the FBI.
Running for: Columbus City Council, At-Large
Councilmember Hardin served as the mayor’s LGBT liaison, providing a strong voice for the community in city government and working with Columbus City Council to ensure that the city earned a score of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index. This is a historic feat in a state that has no LGBT protections.
Shannon’s work has changed lives in Columbus. The programs he has implemented in Columbus have empowered the citizens that need it most. His work on the Restoration Academy and Columbus Urban League on the African American Male Initiative has provided mentorship, job training and leaderships skills to countless people.
Shannon will continue to make a difference for the city of Columbus, and that’s why he’s running to stay on the council he was appointed to.
Why we’re watching: Shannon is the first openly LGBT African American to hold office in Columbus, and is only one of nine LGBT voices serving in Ohioan government at any level.
Running for: City Council, District 2 in Midvale, Utah
Sophia is a software engineer, US Navy veteran, and community council member running to unseat a longtime incumbent on the Midvale City Council. Her hope is to make Midvale a place more welcoming and celebratory toward diversity.
If elected, Sophia would be the first transgender elected official in the state of Utah and the only woman serving on the council.
Why we’re watching: The difference between Sophia becoming the first transgender elected official in Utah and her losing could be just a few votes in a small district like this. Her win will be historic, and will prove the strength of the LGBT community even in small suburbs like Midvale.
Running for: Salt Lake City Council, District 4
Derek and his partner are responsible for Utah striking its ban on same-sex marriage and today they run a local business selling packaged Middle Eastern food. If Derek wins his election, he’ll provide a strong voice for the LGBT people of Salt Lake City.
Why we’re watching: Derek’s story is a familiar one to those in LGBT politics. After leading a normal life, Derek was thrust into the spotlight after realizing the need to fight for what the LGBT community deserves. Now, he’s ready to continue this work on the City Council.
Running for: Houston City Council, At-Large
Lane is the Chairman of the Harris County Democratic Party and chief compliance officer at a charter school. He has spent most of his career of service aiding LGBT youth, and played a role in Lawrence v. Texas, the Supreme Court case that changed the country’s sodomy laws.
Why we’re watching: Lane has been an outspoken advocate for the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), which is on the same ballot as his race. Opponents of HERO have put out nasty ads implying that transgender people are pedophiles.
Running for: Mississippi State Auditor
Joce owns her own engineering firm and has been the forefront of the battles against Mississippi’s same-sex marriage ban and RFRA law. Her advocacy inspired many locals that encouraged her to run for office. If elected, she will be the sole LGBT elected official in the state of Mississippi.
Why we’re watching: Not only will Joce be the only current LGBT elected official in Mississippi, she will be the first person to win after running as an openly LGBT candidate.
Running for: Mayor of Southfield, Michigan
Ken, an LGBT advocate and former teacher, served the Southfield City Council for 14 years before running for mayor. As a council member, he helped pass the Southfield Human Rights Ordinance.
His opponent is the council president, who has been staunchly opposed to marriage equality. That difference creates a high-stakes election for the LGBT people of Southfield.
Why we’re watching: The days of homophobic attacks are alive and well in this race. He’s had several of his campaign signs destroyed or vandalized with anti-gay slurs. His opponent, Sylvia Jordan, has said “I don’t think I knew a gay person until late, late in life. Now it’s being slapped in your face every day.”
The Transport Security Administration (TSA) has changed its policies regarding transgender travelers. New guidelines will not refer to trans people’s genitalia as “anomalies.”
Prior to this change, the software TSA used for their body scanners would indicate an “anomaly” on a person’s body if it appeared different from the program’s guidelines of what a “male” or “female” body look like. TSA agents decide which passengers will use the “male” guidelines and which use the “female” guidelines by judging their appearance on sight.
The decision comes after a social media campaign, #travelingwhiletrans, allowed trans people to describe their experiences with the TSA, including the experiences of Shadi Petosky (pictured), a trans woman who live-tweeted her interaction with TSA while being kept in a room and subjected to a humiliating 40-minute pat-down, which caused her to miss her flight.
Members of Congress reacted to this story by writing a letter to the TSA urging them to change their practices. The letter was signed by 32 members of Congress, and encouraged the TSA to stop using body screenings that rely on gender subjectively chosen by the TSA agent. The letter was signed by four of the seven openly LGBT members of Congress, Reps. David Cicilline, Mark Pocan, Jared Polis and Mark Takano
While the new policies will not use the word “anomaly” to refer to human body parts, the system will still rely on the agent selecting the perceived gender of the passenger.
The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) is working with TSA so they can better serve transgender travelers. NCTE also has a resource guide explaining the rights transgender people have when going through airport security.
Arizona could be the next state to elect an openly LGBT member of The U.S. House of Representatives. The Victory Fund today announced it has endorsed Matt Heinz for the task of representing Tucson, Arizona in the 2016 race.
Heinz is a physician at the Tucson Medical Center. As a presidential appointee with the Department of Health and Human Services from 2013 to 2015, he served as the Director of Provider and LGBT Outreach in which he worked to educate the LGBT community about their healthcare options under the Affordable Care Act.
Previously, Heinz has worked closely with LGBT groups such as Equality Arizona to defeat discriminatory legislation and policies, including the same-sex marriage bans in Arizona. As a legislator in the Arizona House of Representatives from 2008 to 2012, he earned a reputation as an effective and bipartisan lawmaker as he fought discriminatory bills, including one to make same-sex adoption more difficult.
Lea Krauss also received Victory Fund’s endorsement in her 2016 race for Judge of the Circuit 17 Court in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. After earning her law degree at the University of Miami, she served for three years as a prosecutor with the Broward County State Attorney’s Office. She then went into private practice as a criminal defense attorney and started her own law firm. Lea has handled thousands of cases ranging from simple misdemeanors to complex felonies. Additionally, Lea serves as President of the Gay and Lesbian Lawyers Network (GLLN), and formerly served as Director of the Pride Center at Equality Park.
Victory is also endorsing all four of Nevada’s incumbent openly-LGBT state legislators in their 2016 elections: Senator Kelvin Atkinson, Assemblyman Nelson Araujo, Senator David Parks and Senator Pat Spearman. All of these public servants have demonstrated leadership on issues that directly affect LGBT people, from marriage equality to the safety of transgender students.
This will be Atkinson’s first time running as an openly gay candidate. In 2013, during a debate on repealing Nevada's gay marriage ban, Atkinson announced on the Senate floor that: "I’m black. I'm gay." It was the first time he had publicly identified as gay. He then proposed to his partner on the floor, and they became the first same-sex couple to marry in Nevada.
Other candidates receiving Victory’s endorsement in October are:
Michael Scott - City Council - Ward 4, Bainbridge Island, Washington
Ty Stober - City Council - Pos. 5, Vancouver, Washington
JR Roberts - City Council, Palm Springs, California
The Democratic primary to replace Rep. Loretta Sanchez in California’s 46th District now includes two openly gay candidates.
Jordan Brandman (left), a city council member in Anaheim, California, came out as gay, making him the first openly gay council member in Anaheim’s history. He is joined in the race by Garden Grove Mayor Bao Nguyen (right) – who came out as gay earlier this summer – as well as state Sens. Lou Correa and Joe Dunn.
So far no Republicans have jumped into the race to replace Sanchez, who’s running for the U.S. Senate.
Brandman’s announcement came after he “found personal happiness” with his current partner, the Orange County Register reports. “I’ve found personal happiness in my life, and now is the times to share it with family and friends. It’s an entirely personal decision to make this announcement, based on the circumstances of my life,” he said.
If Brandman wins the seat, he will join Rep. Mark Takano as the second openly-LGBT Californian in the U.S. Congress. There are six other U.S. representatives and one U.S. senator who are openly LGBT. These are Rep. Jared Polis, Rep. David Cicilline, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, Rep. Takano, Rep. Mark Pocan, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema and Sen. Tammy Baldwin.
Other non-incumbent LGBT candidates for Congress include Brian Sims of Pennsylvania, Angie Craig of Minnesota, Matt Heinz of Arizona and Bill Phillips of Florida. More openly LGBT Congressional candidates are expected to announce in the coming weeks.
If elected, Brandman says he will fight for working families, help businesses create jobs, defend Social Security and Medicare, protect the environment and ensure every child has access to a 21st century education.
Brandman is a lifelong resident of Orange County and received his Bachelor’s degree from the University of California at Irvine. He has been an education policy advisor to California Governor Gray Davis and as a legislative assistant to Assembly Member Tom Umberg. Before becoming a member of the Anaheim City Council, he served as the director of workforce development for the Orange County Business Council and a member of the Anaheim Union High School District board.
California’s 46th Congressional District includes portions of the cities of Anaheim, Orange, Santa Ana and Garden Grove. It is also the home to the Disneyland theme park.
To read more about Bao Nguyen's campaign, read our previous blog post.
Bao Nguyen, openly-gay Mayor of Garden Grove, California, has announced he is running for U.S. Congress.
Nguyen, who came out publically in July, is running in the 46th Congressional District, currently represented by Rep. Loretta Sanchez, who is running for the Senate seat held by Sen. Barbara Boxer.
"I'm excited to announce that I will be running for Congress in the place I have always called home,” said Nguyen in his candidacy announcement. “I can't wait to take my passion, and the passions of so many others around me, to bring reform to Washington, D.C.”
Nguyen could be the first openly-gay immigrant to serve in Congress. He was born in a refugee camp in Thailand and came to the U.S. when he was three months old, and earned his citizenship when he was 12 years old.
If Nguyen wins the seat, he will join the six other U.S. representatives and one U.S. senator who are openly LGBT. These are Rep. Jared Polis, Rep. David Cicilline, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, Rep. Mark Takano, Rep. Mark Pocan, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema and Sen. Tammy Baldwin. He could join Rep. Takano as the second openly-LGBT Californian in the U.S. Congress, and as the only openly-LGBT people of color in the U.S. Congress.
Other non-incumbent LGBT candidates for Congress include Brian Sims of Pennsylvania, Angie Craig of Minnesota, Matt Heinz of Arizona and Bill Phillips of Florida. More openly LGBT Congressional candidates are expected to announce in the coming weeks.
Nguyen is running on a platform of immigration reform and education. He supports a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and supports lowering college tuition rates. He also supports LGBT equality, women’s rights and income equality.
As Mayor, Nguyen was appointed by the Governor to serve on the Orange County Fair Board of Directors, California 32nd District Agricultural Association. He has also served as a Commissioner of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange County.
Before serving as Mayor of Garden Grove, Nguyen served as a trustee of the Garden Grove United School District Board of Education. Prior to that he was a school teacher in the Garden Grove school system, the same schools he attended. While attending the University of California, Irvine, Nguyen interned for the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. He also has a Master’s degree from Naropa University.
Ginny Deerin, a Victory-endorsed Charleston mayoral candidate, raised $285,729 in the third quarter of the campaign, which ended on September 30. She outraised her nearest competitor, Leon Stavrinakis, by over $60,000.
Over the course of the campaign, Ginny has raised $755,304 from over 2,000 contributors, including those supporting her through the Victory Fund. These numbers highlight Ginny’s grassroots approach.
“We’re proud to be leading in fundraising, and even prouder that nearly 2,000 contributors have invested in this campaign,” Ginny said in a release. “Our message is resonating and creating true grass-roots support. I’ve worked alongside Mayor Riley for decades, founded WINGS for Kids, and have a bold and comprehensive traffic plan. Charlestonians are excited about a leader with a reputation for thinking big, and turning bold ideas into reality.”
— Ginny Deerin (@GinnyForMayor) October 12, 2015
Below are the overall fundraising totals for all Charleston mayoral candidates.
Candidate Third Quarter Total Overall Total
Ginny Deerin $285,729 $755,304
Leon Stavrinakis $225,000 $750,000
John Tecklenburg $178,319 $600,653
William Dudley Gregorie $7,613 $65,465
Maurice Washington $27,195 $44,345
Toby Smith N/A $300
Source: Post & Courier, 10/12/2015. Does not include in-kind contributions or personal loans.
Ginny’s platform includes improving transportation, supporting education and responsible economic growth that respects the city’s culture and the surrounding environment. She is the founder of WINGS for Kids, a multi-million dollar nonprofit in Charleston, her home of over 40 years. She could be the first woman to be the mayor of Charleston, and the first openly LGBT mayor of Charleston.
Ginny’s election is on November 3. If no candidates get more than 50 percent of the vote in that election, a runoff election will occur between the two top vote earners. You can find out more about Ginny and donate to her campaign on her Victory endorsee page.
Pennsylvania State Rep. Brian Sims announced this morning that he will be running for U.S. Congress.
Brian declared his bid to run for Pennsylvania’s 2nd congressional district, which includes much of Philadelphia, the area Brian currently represents in the Pennsylvania State House. The Congressional seat is held by 11-term Rep. Chaka Fattah, who was recently placed under federal indictment as a result of alleged racketeering and corruption.
As the first openly-gay representative elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, Brian has always stood for equality, supporting marriage equality and introducing legislation to eliminate the gender wage gap. He also cosponsored the Pennsylvania Fairness Act, which would add sexual orientation, gender identity and expression to Pennsylvania’s nondiscrimination law. During his past two terms, Brian made a point to foster bipartisanship between the Democratic and Republican parties in the House.
Brian is running on a platform of justice and civil rights. He also supports investing in education, economic fairness and opportunity and increased gun regulation.
If Brian wins the seat, he will join the six other U.S. representatives and one U.S. senator who are openly LGBT. These are Rep. Jared Polis, Rep. David Cicilline, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, Rep. Mark Takano, Rep. Mark Pocan, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema and Sen. Tammy Baldwin. He will be the first openly-LGBT U.S. Congress member from Pennsylvania.
Brian’s race will rely heavily on the Democratic primary nomination, as the district has an overwhelmingly Democratic majority. You can visit Brian’s website to learn more about his campaign and find out how you can join.
Watch Brian's campaign announcement below.
Illinois – especially this past year – has been a leading state on ensuring LGBT rights and extending protections to the LGBT community. Gender identity was added to Illinois hate crime statutes. The Youth Mental Health Protection Act, which banned conversion therapy, passed in the Illinois House and unanimously in the Illinois Senate. In Spring elections, the Chicago City Council added two new openly LGBT members, making 10 percent of the council openly LGBT. Nearly 75 percent of all Illinois voters support legal recognition of same-sex relationships—a 25 percent leap in only two years.
This advances would have been impossible if not for two outstanding openly LGBT elected officials who paved the way for LGBT rights. On Sunday, September 27, Victory honored Illinois state Representative Kelly Cassidy and Chicago City Council Alderman Tom Tunney at its Windy City Toasts reception (pictured) with the Victory Leadership Award.
Representative Kelly Cassidy has been a champion for LGBT rights in the Illinois House since taking office in 2011. She worked hard to ensure new anti-bullying laws were fully inclusive of LGBT students. After sharing her personal experience of being in a mother with her partner, Illinois welcomed marriage equality a year before the Supreme Court decision, proving that when openly LGBT people are elected, they can make a difference for all LGBT people.
Alderman Tom Tunney has paved the way for an LGBT-inclusive Chicago City Council ever since becoming the first openly LGBT member in 2003. His efforts have expanded the Broadway Youth Center, which provides services citywide to LGBT youth. For the first time, Chicago has a LGBT Caucus in its City Council, comprised of the five openly LGBT aldermen. This caucus will address issues specific to the LGBT Chicago community, including issues within healthcare, homelessness and education.
It has always been Victory’s mission to help elect openly LGBT officials. We know that these officials use their position create the changes LGBT citizens everywhere need. Representative Kelly Cassidy and Alderman Tom Tunney have made an undeniable impact in their communities, and Victory is proud to honor them and their work.
Thousands of police officers in full riot gear protected Pride marchers in the Serbian capital of Belgrade. Extremist groups in the region planned on attacking the event, and several were detained.
That was September 20. Days before, findings of a poll regarding perceptions of LGBT people in the Balkans were presented to members of Parliament from across Europe in the same city.
Those findings were stark, yet offered reason to be hopeful. According to the poll, a significant portion of the Balkan population does not fully understand who is included in the LGBT community. But researchers also found that when a person knows an openly LGBT person, they are more likely to respect and understand the community as a whole. The poll also supported the idea that political parties do not receive backlash when they support openly LGBT candidates—an idea that was well received by the pro-equality parliamentarians.
This presentation took place at a meeting at the House of the National Assembly of Serbia aimed at increasing political participation of underrepresented minorities and to inviting them into the political process. The meeting prefaced the “Democracy for All: Political Participation of LGBTI Persons in the Western Balkans” conference on September 15-17.
— Jerry Buttimer TD (@jerrybuttimer) September 15, 2015
This conference – which was co-sponsored by the Victory Institute, Labris and Hirschfeld Eddy Stiftung – was the first ever gathering held in the Balkans devoted to the political participation of the LGBT community.
Over 110 people attended with the goals of getting more LGBT citizens involved in civil society, advancing the movement within state institutions and helping elected officials in the region share ideas.
The result was two days of discussions and training. Topics ranged from LGBT allyship, recruiting transgender candidates for office and the power of social media in the equality movement. The conference’s organizers intentionally wanted to strike a balance of activists and elected officials.
A recurring theme emerged: Elected officials can do small things to create a big impact for the LGBT community. Respecting the pronouns, names and genders of trans members of the community, and sticking up for the trans community when they are disrespected, can set a tone for an elected official’s constituents. Leading by example can teach and encourage the larger population to learn about and respect their LGBT neighbors.
— Alex Cooper (@wgacooper) September 17, 2015
The geographic distribution of attendees was wide, and included Liljana Popovska (pictured), Member of Parliament from Macedonia, Wiktor Dynarski of the Trans-Fuzja Foundation in Poland, Anđela Čeh of the Serbian Office for Human and Minority Rights and Montenegro Councilmember for Civil Control of the Police Sasa Zekovic.
This is not the first time Victory has been to Serbia. In 2014, Victory partnered with Labris, a Serbian lesbian rights organization, to host five two-day educational sessions for becoming an effective LGBT official.