Openly gay mayor of Lexington, KY announces run to unseat Rand Paul

Openly gay Lexington Mayor Jim Gray announced Tuesday plans to take his public service statewide. Gray filed to run as a Democrat for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Sen. Rand Paul.

In his campaign announcement video, Gray touted his fiscal successes as mayor, adding that he wants to extend the American Dream to more residents of Kentucky. Watch his announcement here.

Gray also went on the offensive against the junior senator of his state. “Sen. Paul confuses talking with getting results. He offers ideas that will weaken our country at home and abroad.” In an interview with the Lexington Herald Leader, Gray argued that Paul’s focus on his presidential campaign – and thus lack of focus on the interests of Kentucky residents – make Paul a vulnerable candidate in the Senate race.

When Gray was elected in 2010, Lexington became the third-largest city to have an openly gay mayor at that time.

In this election, Gray believes his sexual orientation will not hold him back. In the same Herald Leader article, Gray asserted that the people of Kentucky won’t focus solely on his identity, but rather on his ideas. “I know what it’s like to challenge conventional thinking and conventional patterns,” Gray said. “What I believe people want is performance and results. That’s what they are about. That’s what counts.”

Gray now heads into a Democratic primary against six other candidates for the seat. Paul also faces challengers within his party’s primary. However, the challenge for the Democratic nominee to unseat Sen. Paul will be to excite committed, liberal voters in the state of County Clerk Kim Davis and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Gray, the former CEO of Gray Construction – a family-grown company that has now expanded internationally – has previously stated that he sees his campaigns as “an investment,” and has largely self-funded his mayoral races. 

Eric Fanning receives bi-partisan praise during Senate hearing

Eric Fanning finally had his day before the Senate Armed Services Committee Thursday. While the date for the full Senate to vote on Fanning’s confirmation has not been set, the hearing on his appointment to be Army Secretary went proceeded with little debate.

During the hearing, Fanning received bi-partisan support from the committee members, who questioned him on his experience, positions and proposed plans for the army. There was no mention of his sexual orientation.

Sen. Lindsey Graham was especially in agreement of Fanning’s appointment and positions, calling him “well-qualified” and saying he “looks forward to voting for him.”

Should the vote go as smoothly as yesterday’s hearing, Fanning will become the first openly gay person appointed as Army Secretary. Fanning was appointed by President Obama in September, but his confirmation had been stalled by the Senate until now.

In the meantime, Fanning served as the Acting Army Secretary, but resigned earlier this month after Sen. John McCain expressed legal concerns with his role. His resignation led the Senate to proceed with his confirmation process.

You can watch the full hearing on C-SPAN here.

Fanning’s successful hearing and expected confirmation are a major victory for the LGBT community, particularly those in the armed services. 

First-time candidate Park Cannon heads into runoff

This week marked Victory’s first win of 2016, as Park Cannon earned the most votes in the special primary election to replace Rep. Simone Bell in the Georgia state House. Park now heads into a runoff election on February 16.

Despite getting 47% of the vote in Tuesday’s election, Park needs to win a 50-percent-plus-one majority in order to win Simone’s seat. In this extremely close race, only 23 more votes would have pushed Park over that margin.

This is a crucial time for LGBT equality, with 3 proposed anti-gay bills coming before the state House in the upcoming months. The latest of which would, “allow government employees to disregard federal law and deny services to legally married same-sex couples and their families,” according to The Georgia Voice.

Georgia needs Park at this crucial time, and we all need her leadership during this fight for equality across the country. In an interview last December, Park promised to continue fighting for LGBT equality, should she be elected.

“As a person who is outspoken about myself and outspoken about my truth, I hope to bring healing to people," Park said. "I hope to bring excitement to our community who is marginalized and underrepresented.”

Park is sure to perform well in February’s runoff, having already outraised her opponents in Tuesday’s election by far. Park’s campaign reported raising nearly $18,000 during the special election. 

Major Progress in Minnesota for Angie Craig

Angie Craig

With endorsements rolling in and opponents dropping out, Minnesota Congressional candidate Angie Craig's path to victory has become clear.

Last week, both of her primary challengers dropped out of the race, making Angie the presumptive DFL nominee. Angie would be the first openly LGBT person to represent Minnesota in Congress.

Today, Angie received the endorsement from the Minnesota Teamsters Union, citing Angie as a leading advocate for working families in Minnesota . This endorsement only adds to Angie’s increasingly growing list of supporters and endorsements.

Last week, Angie’s campaign announced that she had received the support of nearly all DFL state legislators in her congressional district. Previously, Angie had received support from numerous organizations and individuals, including Senator Al Fraken, EMILY’s List and the Victory Fund.

“I’m overwhelmed by the support that I’ve received, now from almost every DFL member of the CD2 delegation to the Minnesota legislature,” Angie said last week. “I’m excited, not just because of the vote of confidence from these great public servants, but also because these endorsements show that the DFL in the Second District is united and ready to take back this seat in November.”

Angie's district is winnable for Democrats, and it's one of the few remaining swing districts. The seat is currently held by anti-LGBT Republican Rep. John Kline, who announced that he is not seeking reelection.

Primary field clears in Minnesota’s 2nd District Congressional race, boosting Angie Craig

Victory-endorsed Congressional candidate Angie Craig has effectively cleared the DFL primary field in Minnesota’s District 2, with her main opponent Mary Lawrence dropping out of the race Tuesday.

That news was followed by a report Wednesday that the other DFL primary contender, Roger Kittelson, will also end his campaign.

From The Uptake:

That would leave Craig as the only announced DFL candidate to replace retiring Rep. John Kline for Minnesota’s second congressional district. Minnesota holds its caucuses on March 1. Delegates selected at those caucuses will later determine who gets the party’s endorsement, which presumably would go to Craig unless another candidate quickly emerges.

If that happens and no other DFL candidate files to run in the August 9 primary, Craig would likely face one of five candidates vying for the GOP endorsement in November. Those candidates are former talk show host Jason Lewis, former state Senator John Howe, former state Representative Pam Myhra, David Gerson (who ran against Kline two years ago) and a newcomer to the race, David Benson-Staebler. Three of the candidates — Myhra, Howe and Lewis are scheduled to debate at the University of Minnesota Humphrey Institute on January 21.

Despite having been in Republican hands since 2002, Minnesota’s second congressional district is rated a toss-up. While Kline has won victories by double digit margins in most elections, thanks to redistricting a majority of the district voted for President Obama in 2012. Also DFL candidates have won several of the suburban legislative districts that used [to] be Republican.

You can make a direct contribution to Angie’s campaign on our website

Victory Endorses 3 Legislative Candidates in Georgia

The Victory Fund has endorsed three openly LGBT candidates running for the Georgia House of Representatives in 2016. If all three candidates win this November, Georgia will have five openly LGBT members of the House of Representatives for the first time ever, joining Karla Drenner and Keisha Waites.

Park Cannon is a reproductive health educator and advocate running to represent District 58 in a special election. This is a significant race for the LGBT community, as the seat is being vacated by openly gay representative Simone Bell, Park’s friend and mentor. Bell became the first black lesbian legislator in the country when she was elected in 2009. The fight is on to keep the seat safely in LGBT hands, and Park Cannon’s strong campaigning and engagement in advocacy lends her a promising path to victory.

One district over, openly gay therapist and pastor Joshua Noblitt hopes to represent District 59, a seat vacated by an aspiring mayoral candidate. Joshua faces a tough race against two other Democrats where a runoff is a near certainty. But between his field-oriented campaign strategy and impressive fundraising, Joshua has a fighting chance.

In District 62, openly gay Delta Air Lines program manager Rafer Johnson is running to represent another open seat. Rafer has been a community advocate in his district for many years, and his reputation combined with his strong campaigning have given him a strong start.

Joshua and Rafer’s races are particularly significant to the LGBT community in Georgia because both of them could be the first openly gay men ever elected to the legislature in the state.

Park Cannon and Joshua Noblitt received Victory’s endorsement last month. Rafer Johnson was endorsed in September.

Election Day Roundup: Victories across the country for LGBT candidates

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.

Midwest success

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

Victory Fund's 2015 10 races to watch

Zach Adamson

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.

Jackie Biskupski

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.


Ginny Deerin

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.

Ginny Foat

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.

Shannon Hardin

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.

Sophia Hawes-Tingey

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.

Derek Kitchen

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.

Lane Lewis

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.

Joce Pritchett

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.


Ken Siver

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.”


#TravelingWhileTrans sparks TSA change

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.

Victory announces new endorsements for 2015 and 2016 elections

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


Subscribe to Gay Politics