November 8, 2017 at 8:52 pm EST | by Chris Johnson
Phillipe Cunningham makes history as Minnesota trans male candidate

Phillipe Cunningham is the firs transgender man elected to public office in the United States. (Photo courtesy Cunningham campaign)

Building on a night of historic firsts for transgender people, Phillipe Cunningham made history Tuesday night in Minnesota by becoming one of the first openly transgender men elected to public office anywhere in the United States.

According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Cunningham won a seat on the Minneapolis City Council by beating out the incumbent Bara Johnson of Ward 4 by a margin of a fewer than 200 votes. The certification of the results was delayed until the day after Election Day because the results were so close and yet to be final.

Both Cunningham and Tyler Titus, who was elected Tuesday night to Erie School Board in Pennsylvania, are the first openly transgender men elected to public office anywhere in the United States.

Cunningham’s win means Minneapolis will have two openly transgender council members. Transgender poet and activist Andrea Jenkins, whose win was announced election night, was also elected to the body. Both Cunningham and Jenkins are the first openly transgender people elected to the city council of a major U.S. city and first openly transgender people of color elected to public office in the United States.

A native of rural Illinois, Cunningham moved to Chicago for his college education at DePaul University and became a special education teacher in Chicago Public Schools. Afterward, Cunningham moved to Minneapolis and was a mayoral appointee to the Youth Violence Prevention Executive Committee, later becoming a senior policy aide to Mayor Betsy Hodges for education, youth success, racial equity and LGBT rights.

Danni Askini, national co-chair of the Breakthrough Fund, which seeks to elect transgender candidates, hailed the news both Cunningham and Jenkins won their elections.

“Today is an historic day for all trans people and especially trans people of color,” Askini said. “We have elected two brilliant, black candidates to the Minneapolis City Council — our co-founder, Andrea Jenkins — and Phillipe Cunningham. And it was the nation’s only trans focused PAC, led by a majority of people of color, that made those victories happen.”

CLARIFICATION: An initial version of this post declared Cunningham the first openly trans man elected to U.S. public office without mentioning Titus’ win. The two both share that distinction.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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