'Rainbow wave': A record number of LGBTQ candidates are running for office in 2021

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WASHINGTON – LGBTQ candidates are seeking office in record numbers this election year, advancing a sea change in the nation's political landscape, according to a report to be released Tuesday.

At least 410 LGBTQ candidates ran or are running for office in 2021, a 7% increase over the last odd-numbered election year of 2019, says the report from the LGBTQ Victory Fund.

“With LGBTQ lives increasingly used as a political weapon in school boards, city councils and state legislatures across America, LGBTQ people are motivated and stepping up to run in historic numbers,” said Annise Parker, the former Houston mayor who is now president and CEO of LGBTQ Victory Fund.

Annise Parker, who was mayor of Houston from 2010 to 2016, is executive director of the Victory Fund, a political action committee in Washington, D.C., that works to grow the number of openly LGBTQ public officials in the United States.
Annise Parker, who was mayor of Houston from 2010 to 2016, is executive director of the Victory Fund, a political action committee in Washington, D.C., that works to grow the number of openly LGBTQ public officials in the United States.

More: These 6 LGBTQ politicians won big on Election Day 2020. Here's what you should know about them.

LGBTQ Victory Fund is a nonpartisan political action committee that seeks "to achieve and sustain equality by increasing the number of openly LGBTQ elected officials," the organization says.

Most of its endorsed candidates are Democrats, because relatively few Republicans run openly as members of the LGBTQ community. The organization, however, hailed last year's win by Republican Eddie Mannis, who along with Democrat Torrey Harris became the first openly LGBTQ members of the Tennessee state Legislature.

The growth in the number of LGBTQ candidates in this off-year election continues a pattern evident in even-numbered years, when there are more races on the ballot that include congressional offices.

A record number of 1,006 LGBTQ candidates ran during the nationwide elections of 2020; that was up from 716 candidates in the elections two years before that.

In the 2020 elections, a total of 334 LGBTQ candidates won their elections, an increase from 300 winners in 2018, a continuation of what the LGBTQ Victory Fund calls a "rainbow wave."

More: Pete Buttigieg makes history again for LGBTQ Americans as first gay Cabinet nominee

Diversity among LGBTQ candidates

One difference among the 2021 list of LGBTQ candidates: more people of color.

Overall, 36% of this year's LGBTQ candidates identify themselves as people of color, the report said, compared with 32% in 2019. As a result, the report said, this year's list is "significantly more racially and ethnically diverse than U.S. candidates overall, and the most diverse group of LGBTQ candidates in history."

One shortcoming, the report said: a dearth of women of color.

Though women of color make up about 20% of the U.S. population, according to census data, the report says they comprise only 10% of the LGBTQ candidates on this year's ballots.

More: Could the parents of LGBTQ kids decide the presidential election? Advocates say yes.

Meanwhile, the number of Black LGBTQ candidates has increased, as well as the number of Asian and Pacific Islander LGBTQ candidates, according to the report.

Among the more prominent LGBTQ candidates include India Walton, who is running for mayor of Buffalo, N.Y.; Sheila Nezhad for mayor of Minneapolis; and Mariah Moore for the New Orleans City Council.

Winners last year included two new members of Congress: U.S. Rep Ritchie Torres, D-N.Y., and Rep. Mondaire Jones, D-N.Y. They became the first out LGBTQ Black members of Congress. And Todd Gloria became the mayor of San Diego – the first LGBTQ male elected to lead an American city in the top 10 in terms of population.

More: 'We've always been there': LGBTQ History Month highlights key trailblazers, past and present

Transgender candidates making history

Also last year, Sarah McBride was elected a state senator in Delaware, the first out transgender state senator in U.S. history.

McBride introduced a bill in May to give Delaware workers up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave, which had been a staple of her campaign.

LGBTQ candidates' priorities range from health care to police reform, Victory Fund said.

Tyler Titus, a candidate for executive of Erie County, Pa., who is transgender, said they want their campaign to transcend gender identity.

"My whole life has been spent on figuring out how to make the system work better for everybody – not just some, but everybody," Titus told the Erie Times-News, part of the USA TODAY Network. "Because when you lift up the most vulnerable, the whole community rises."

Like Titus, more than four-fifths of this year's LGBTQ candidates are running for local offices, including city councils and judicial offices from Florida to Washington state.

Overall, candidates who identify as LGBTQ are running in 39 states. The only states without LGBTQ candidates are: Arkansas, Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nevada, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, West Virginia and Wyoming.

More: How Joe Biden became the most LGBTQ-friendly president in U.S. history

As candidates across the board pursue office, the LGBTQ Victory Fund hopes to set more records with actual victories.

Its goal for the year is 170 winners, surpassing the 169 LGBTQ victors during the odd-numbered elections of 2019.

Parker, the first gay woman to serve as mayor of Houston, said the diversity of LGBTQ candidates makes them "critical voices to so many policy challenges facing our nation right now."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: LGBT politicians running for office hits new off-year record in 2021

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