Maryland has a chance of electing the nation’s highest number of out lesbian, gay or transgender people to a state legislature on Sept. 14, when nine such candidates will be on the Democratic primary ballot for seats in the state’s General Assembly.
A tenth candidate, gay consultant Byron Macfarlane, is running for the state post of Register of Wills.
Four of the nine General Assembly candidates are incumbents who are expected to win re-election, according to the head of Equality Maryland, a statewide LGBT advocacy group.
“It’s exciting that we have all these LGBT candidates,” said Morgan Meneses-Sheets, the group’s executive director. “They are talking about jobs and the economy as well as LGBT issues.”
Meneses-Sheets and others familiar with the races say as many as four of the LGBT challengers have a shot at winning, which could raise the number of out LGBT members of the General Assembly – the state legislative body that consists of the House of Delegates and Senate – from four to eight.
One of the candidates hopeful of victory is eye surgeon turned political activist Dana Beyer of Montgomery County, who has been endorsed by the Washington Post and the Montgomery Gazette for a District 18 seat in the House of Delegates.
If she wins her primary race in the overwhelmingly Democratic district, Beyer is expected to easily win in the November general election, making her the nation’s first out transgender person to be elected to a state legislature.
As a legislative adviser to a member of the Montgomery County Council and an outspoken advocate for LGBT equality, Beyer’s status as a transgender woman has been widely reported in the media for at least four years or longer.
“It was a novel thing four years ago,” Beyer said. “Now, nobody cares. Now it’s about my being a physician, surgeon, county staffer, advocate and activist. And somebody with a record who can get things done and is willing to stand up and speak clearly,” she said.
“I think that matters more than anything else. The fact that I’m trans is not relevant.”
In the Maryland General Assembly, most legislative districts include three House of Delegate seats and one Senate seat. In District 18, Beyer and one other challenger are competing against three delegate incumbents. The district includes the areas of Chevy Chase, Kensington, Silver Spring and Wheaton.
The incumbent senator in the district is Richard Madaleno, the first out gay person to win election to the Maryland General Assembly. Madaleno, who also received endorsements from the Post and Gazette, is expected to win election to another term.
The other incumbents considered strong favorites to win re-election to the House of Delegates are lesbians Anne Kaiser of District 14, which includes Damascus, Olney, part of Silver Spring, and Burtonsville, among other areas in Montgomery County; Heather Mizeur of District 20, which includes Takoma Park and part of Silver Spring; and Maggie McIntosh of District 43, which includes north-central Baltimore and surrounding areas.
Among the four challengers seeking seats in the General Assembly include gay trade association legislative director Tim Quinn, who is running for a state Senate seat in District 37, which includes the cities of Easton, Cambridge, and Salisbury. Lesbian civic activist and environmental group director Mary Washington of Baltimore is seeking a House of Delegates seat in District 43, the same Baltimore area district that McIntosh represents.
Gay Anne Arundel County Assistant State’s Attorney Luke Clippinger is running for a House of Delegates seat in District 46, which includes south and southeast Baltimore, including parts of Federal Hill, Fells Point and Patterson Park.
Lesbian teacher and National Education Association Foundation official Bonnie Cullison is running for a House of Delegates seat in District 19, which includes the Montgomery County jurisdictions of Gaithersburg, Aspen Hill, Wheaton and Olney.
Macfarlane, who is running for the Register of Wills position, is a resident of Howard County and serves on the county’s Democratic Central Committee.
Meneses-Sheets said the expected increase in the number of LGBT state legislators along with an expected boost in the number of LGBT-supportive straight allies to the legislature will put the state on track for passing a same-sex marriage equality bill within the next year or two.
“It looks good that our numbers will increase and we will have some real outstanding champions and allies supporting our issues,” she said.