February 28, 2018 at 12:22 pm EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Gay Afro-Latino Md. House candidate running to ‘expand opportunity’

Gabriel Acevero is running for the Maryland House of Delegates. He would be the first openly gay man of Afro-Latino descent elected to the state’s General Assembly if he were to win. (Photo courtesy of Gabriel Acevero)

A gay man of color who is a candidate for the Maryland House of Delegates says he is running to “expand opportunity.”

“I’m running because we need to expand opportunity,” Gabriel Acevero told the Washington Blade on Feb. 23 during a telephone interview. “In my district there are a lot of hard working families who are struggling to make ends meet.”

Acevero is running in the Democratic primary to represent House District 39, which includes Montgomery Village, Washington Grove and portions of Germantown, Clarksburg and unincorporated Gaithersburg.

He would succeed state Del. Charles Barkley (D-Montgomery County) if he wins the general election in November. Acevero, 27, would also become the first openly gay man of Afro-Latino descent elected to the Maryland General Assembly.

“The historical significance of this race is not lost on me,” he said. “But I’m not running to make history, I’m running to make a difference.”

“My hope is that I won’t be the last,” added Acevero. “We need more LGBTQ+ representation at every level of government.”

Acevero is currently an organizer with the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1994 MCGEO.

Acevero worked on the campaigns in support of Maryland’s same-sex marriage law and Dream Act, which provides in-state college tuition to undocumented immigrants. Voters in 2012 upheld both laws in a referendum.

He was also a member of the coalition of activists and organizations that supported Maryland’s transgender rights law that then-Gov. Martin O’Malley signed in 2014. The National Black Justice Coalition has also named Acevero as one of its “100 Black LGBTQ Emerging Leaders to Watch” for his advocacy on behalf of homeless LGBT youth and for his efforts to reform Maryland’s criminal justice system.

“It’s important for us as a community to take care of those who are at the dawn of life, who are at the twilight of life and who are at the shadows of life,” Acevero told the Blade. “Those should include LGBTQ youth and LGBTQ seniors.”

Acevero also said he supports a bill that would allow trans and gender non-conforming Marylanders to obtain state-issued identification cards and driver’s licenses with an “unspecified” gender marker.

“We know this is an issue for our trans sisters and brothers,” he said.

Acevero is ‘a warrior’

Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett and Montgomery County Council Vice President Nancy Navarro have endorsed Acevero’s campaign. Acevero has also received the support of the immigrant advocacy group CASA, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 500 and a number of other labor unions.

“I’m excited to be supporting Gabriel’s campaign,” said Navarro in a press release that Acevero’s campaign issued last month. “District 39 is one of the most diverse districts in the state and country; it’s time that it reflects that.” 

“He’s a warrior, and that’s exactly what his district and Maryland needs right now.” added UFCW Local 1994 President Gino Renne in the same press release.

Acevero told the Blade he has also asked the Victory Fund for an endorsement.

Acevero among out Md. candidates running in 2018

Acevero is not the only openly LGBT candidate who is running for office in Maryland this year.

State Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County) is among the Democrats who are challenging Republican Gov. Larry Hogan. Gender Rights Maryland Executive Director Dana Beyer is running for the Maryland Senate seat that Madaleno is vacating.

State Del. Mary Washington (D-Baltimore City) is also running for the state Senate.

Madaleno could become the country’s first openly gay governor if he defeats Hogan in November. Beyer would become the first openly trans person elected to the General Assembly if she wins.

Alec Ross, a former State Department official who is running for governor, on Feb. 19 announced Julie Verratti as his running mate. Verratti would become Maryland’s first out lesbian lieutenant governor if she and Ross are elected.

“I’m looking forward to swelling the ranks of the LGBT caucus in Annapolis,” Acevero told the Blade.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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