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Meet five trailblazing LGBTQ candidates of 2022

These queer politicians are running to make a difference

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Each year, more LGBTQ candidates run and are elected to serve in local, state, and federal offices. And 2022 is shaping up to be no different. 

As of the 2021 election cycle, there are more than 1,000 out LGBTQ representatives in the United States. Several LGBTQ trailblazers are running for office in 2022; here are five candidates to keep your eye on this year. 

Jasmine Beach-Ferrara 

Current position: Buncombe County Commissioner

Position sought: U.S. House of Representatives, District 14

After serving as Buncombe county commissioner in North Carolina, Jasmine Beach-Ferrera is making a change and running for the U.S. House of Representatives.

Beach-Ferrara, who is a lesbian, was elected in 2016 and reelected in 2020. She is also an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ and the founding executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality.

She said it’s been a “tremendous honor” to serve as a county commissioner. During her tenure, Beach-Ferrara has been pushing for policy focused on early childhood education and opioid epidemic response, as well as pandemic relief projects. 

“Local government is such a powerful part of how government happens in our country. It’s so immediate in terms of impacting people’s lives so quickly,” she said. “Personally, I really just love having the opportunity to serve in that way and it’s been a big motivator for me in terms of why I’m now seeking to serve on the federal level.”

If elected, Beach-Ferrara wants to focus on building bridges and listening to what her constituents need, which are needed priorities that have been lost under toxic leadership in the state, she said. 

While on the campaign trail, Beach-Ferrara said being out has been a big strength for her. 

“The power of people running and being out is that the moment you come out, you’re communicating a few things … honesty and authenticity, and letting people know that you are showing up exactly as you are,” she said. 

Robert Garcia

Current position: Mayor of Long Beach, Calif. 

Position sought: U.S. House of Representatives, CA-42

Mayor Robert Garcia is running for the U.S. House of Representatives. 

As the mayor of Long Beach, Calif., Garcia forged a national model for testing and the COVID-19 vaccination rollout. Long Beach was the first municipality to vaccinate educators in California. He is the first mayor of Long Beach to appoint a majority of women to board and commissions, as well. 

Garcia, who is gay, immigrated to the United States from Peru when he was five years old. Becoming a citizen was “the best thing that ever happened” to him, he said. Now, he is running for Congress to help give people the same opportunities given to him. 

“Patriotism is about helping people. It’s about taking care of your neighbor. It’s about standing up for the values that made this country and that includes supporting kids like me who are immigrants,” Garcia said.

If elected, Garcia wants to focus on building infrastructure as he has as mayor, expand LGBTQ rights and provide pathways to citizenship for folks that are undocumented. 

“I understand the immigration system because I went through it,” Garcia said. “I know how people struggle and how folks navigate a complex and burdensome system.”

Michele Rayner-Goolsby 

Current position: Florida House of Representatives, District 70

Position sought: U.S. House of Representatives, FL-13

Former Civil Rights Attorney Michele Rayner-Goolsby wants to bring a fresh perspective to Congress.

Currently serving as the first out queer Black representative in the Florida Legislature, her priority is advocating for her constituents. 

“People are hungry for a different type of leadership — that is rooted in community, that is rooted in transparency, that is rooted in accountability,” she said. 

Rayner-Goolsby’s experience as a Black queer woman is her “best strength,” she said. 

“I’ve had to fight and earn everything that I have ever had in my life,” she said. That shapes the way I think about policy and legislation.”

As a statehouse representative, Rayner-Goolsby has spearheaded COVID-19 vaccine pop-up distribution sites and passed legislation like an urban agriculture bill to bring community gardens to food deserts and a workforce development bill that establishes an apprenticeship approach to becoming a certified nursing assistant. 

If elected, Rayner-Goolsby wants to build legislation that outlasts her tenure, she said. She wants to pass comprehensive voting rights legislation, environmental justice protections and address the affordable housing crisis. 

“We have got to come up with creative solutions,” she said. “And we’ve got to have the political will to figure it out. It’s not the lack of resources, it’s the lack of political will.” 

Brianna Titone 

Current position: Colorado House of Representatives, District 27

Position sought: Colorado House of Representatives, District 27

Brianna Titone, an incumbent in the Colorado Legislature, is seeking reelection after serving District 27 for two terms.  

Titone is the first transgender person to be elected to the Colorado Statehouse. 

After seeing three trans people win elections in 2017, Titone was inspired to run for the statehouse seat. Her background as a geologist and personal identity combined to give her a unique and powerful skillset. 

“As a scientist, I’m able to understand and look at the data,” Titone said. “And as a trans person, I know how to be empathetic to people’s issues and problems.”

One of her biggest accomplishments was bringing back and passing the bill banning the “Gay and Trans Panic Defense” after the legislation was nearly killed. 

“I pleaded with the Senate and the House leadership to get that bill back on the schedule. And we were able to do it,” she said. “I wasn’t going to let that issue have to wait another year to be passed.”

 Titone has been on the frontlines in pushing against efforts to remove trans kids from sports, as well. 

“I’m a big advocate for communities coming together,” Titone said. “And sports is a great way for people to come together and rally around the people in their community. When we leave kids out or we force kids out of that kind of activity, we’re really undermining community.”

Todd Delmay 

Current position: Entrepreneur

Position sought: Florida State House of Representatives, District 100

Todd Delmay, a father, husband, and entrepreneur, has been on the frontlines of LGBTQ advocacy for years. 

Delmay, who is gay, adopted his son with his partner in 2010 when it was still illegal in Florida. Delmay’s husband adopted their son Blake as a single parent, and Delmay was told to bring friends and “blend in the background” to not arouse suspicion. Later that year the law was overturned and Delmay adopted Blake as a second parent, but the process was humiliating and upsetting, he said. 

In 2014, Delmay and his partner were one of the couples that sued for the right to marry in Florida. In 2015, Delmay and his husband were one of the first gay couples to marry in the state. 

“That was a pretty empowering moment,” Delmay said. 

Delmay is excited to bring his unique perspective as a gay parent to the statehouse, he said. Adoption rights, for example, is an issue Delmay can speak to personally.

“When LGBTQ people are in the room, it changes the conversation,” Delmay said. 

Delmay is the CEO of Delmay Corporation, an event technology and software company. If elected, Delmay hopes to support small businesses, pass legislation concerning the environment and fight for civil rights. 

“It’s important that the legislature always reflect the people because there are so many different perspectives,” Delmay said. “And if we have any hopes of turning the state blue, we need to make sure that we are speaking to everyone and that the legislature represents everyone.”

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History making win- Out Lesbian could be Oregon’s next governor

“This will be a three-way race for the highest office in our state, and this will be an election unlike anything any of us have ever seen”

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Courtesy of Tina Kotek

The Democratic gubernatorial primary Tuesday win by Oregon Speaker of the House Tina Kotek, who had announced her run for the governor’s seat to replace incumbent Democratic Governor Kate Brown, who is term limited last September 1st, 2021, positions her to become the first Out Lesbian governor in the nation should she win the general election in November.

Kotek’s win comes during an uptick in the elections nationwide as more candidates running for office identify as LGBTQ”. More than 600 LGBTQ candidates are on ballots this year, according to the LGBTQ Victory Fund.

According to the Victory Fund, at least 101 people ran or are running for the U.S. Senate or U.S. House – with 96 still actively running as of February 21, 2022. That marks a 16.1 percent increase in LGBTQ Congressional candidates compared to the 2020 election cycle, when 87 people ran.

Speaking to her supporters after it became clear she had won over Oregon Treasurer Tobias Read, who was polling second among Oregonian progressives, “This will be a three-way race for the highest office in our state, and this will be an election unlike anything any of us have ever seen,” Kotek said.

Republican state legislator Christine Drazan along with an independent candidate, Betsy Johnson are slated to be on the November ballot.

Last Fall when she announced her candidacy, she said, “I am running for Governor because I know that, together, we can reckon with the legacies of injustice and inequality to build a great future for Oregon.” She also noted, “Oregonians are living through a devastating pandemic, the intensifying impacts of climate change, and the economic disruptions that leave too many behind. We must get past the politics of division and focus on making real, meaningful progress for families across our state.” 

“A victory for Tina would shatter a lavender ceiling and be a milestone moment in LGBTQ political history, yet she is running not to make history, but because there are few people as prepared and qualified to serve as Oregon’s governor,” said Mayor Annise Parker, President & CEO of LGBTQ Victory Fund. “Under Tina’s leadership, Oregon has led in passing legislation to improve roads and education, raise the minimum wage and ensure all residents are treated fairly and equally. As governor, Tina will make Oregon a role model for the nation.”

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Karine Jean-Pierre on her firsts: ‘I am a Black, gay, immigrant woman’

High praise for first out WH press secretary

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Karine Jean-Pierre is no stranger to progressive politics.

She takes on the role of White House press secretary as part of a long career working on building political coalitions and as a spokesperson for advocates before coming to the Biden administration, which has won her close allies and admirers who continue to cheer her on. Jean-Pierre’s new position as top spokesperson for President Biden — and the first Black, first openly gay person to become White House press secretary — is the latest endeavor she pursues in that broader mission.

Rahna Epting, executive director of MoveOn.org, knew Jean-Pierre from when she worked at the progressive organization and she quickly became a rising star “because she’s so incredibly skilled at communicating in a way that real people understand.”

“She was incredibly relatable to people that were watching her at home on TV,” Epting said. “And she could speak to you know, she she did that role during the Trump era for MoveOn and she really spoke to the hearts and minds of what people were feeling and thinking during that time.”

It was during Jean-Pierre’s time with MoveOn when she was serving as a moderator for a panel with Kamala Harris and famously rose to block an animal-rights activist who was physically threatening the candidate.

When protests emerged during the Trump era over policies such as his travel ban on Muslim countries, efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and the two impeachment votes seeking to remove Trump from office, Epting said Jean-Pierre was key in MoveOn.org being at the front lines of those efforts.

“Karine was on TV and she was representing the movement in ways that sparked or electrified the energy that was actually being felt out there,” Epting said.

Jean-Pierre, 45, has a distinctive story of rising to become White House press secretary as an immigrant from a Haitian family whose parents brought her to the United States, where she was raised in Queens, N.Y., from the age of five. Jean-Pierre cared for her younger siblings growing up as her mother worked as a home health aide and her father worked as a taxi driver.

Despite these humble beginnings, Jean-Pierre nonetheless reached astonishing heights. After receiving her master’s degree from the School of International & Public Affairs at Columbia University, Jean-Pierre went on to work for President Obama, serving as regional political director for the White House Office of Political Affairs during the Obama administration’s first term, before returning to the White House after Biden was elected president.

Michael Strautmanis, now executive vice president for public engagement at the Obama Foundation, worked with Jean-Pierre in the 2008 presidential campaign and at the White House under Obama and said the first thing that came across to him was how she “always had it covered.”

“She never came and asked me for advice on something where she didn’t already have one or two or three possible solutions to the challenge that she always had,” Strautmanis said. “She was always very, very well prepared, so she just sort of stood out to me.”

Jean-PIerre brings all this background to the role of White House press secretary in addition to achieving many firsts in the appointment as a Black woman, an LGBTQ person and an immigrant. Her partner is Suzanne Malveaux, a CNN reporter and former White House correspondent.

In her maiden briefing on Monday as White House press secretary, Jean-Pierre said the opportunity granted to her in her new role was not just an achievement, but the culmination of work from many who came before her.

“I am obviously acutely aware that my presence at this podium represents a few firsts,” Jean-Pierre said,. “I am a Black, gay, immigrant woman, the first of all three of those to hold this position. I would not be here today if it were not for generations of barriers — barrier-breaking people before me. I stand on their shoulders. If it were not for generations of barrier-breaking people before me, I would not be here.”

Asked by April Ryan of The Grio, a Black news outlet, about the many firsts she achieved by taking on the role as White House press secretary, Jean-Pierre recognized the signal that sends and brought up an article from a newspaper that went to her elementary school in Hampstead, N.Y.

“And these kids wrote me a letter,” Jean-Pierre said. “And in the letter, they talked about how they can dream bigger because of me standing behind this podium. And that matters. You know, as I started out at the beginning: Representation matters. And not just for girls, but also for boys.”

A White House spokesperson said Jean-Pierre was unable to make the Washington Blade’s deadline in response to an interview request for this article. Among the questions the Blade planned to ask was whether or not she feels a special obligation to represent and speak for the communities in her role as White House press secretary.

It wasn’t a straight line for Jean-Pierre to get to the position as White House press secretary. Although she worked for Harris in the Biden campaign, she came to the White House as deputy White House press secretary under Jen Psakl, who was responsible for Biden. (At the start of the Biden administration, Politico reported that Jean-Pierre’s relationship with the vice president became strained and Jean-Pierre was effectively estranged in the final five months of the campaign.)

But Jean-Pierre quickly won high praise in her role as a Biden spokesperson. In May 2021, when she gave her first on-camera briefing as a substitute for Psaki, Jean-Pierre was considered effectively to have knocked the ball out of the park and reportedly won a round of applause from her colleagues upon retuning to the press office.

Ester Fuchs, who was an instructor for Jean-Pierre when she was at Columbia University’s School of International & Public Affairs and later her colleague when she returned as a lecturer, said key to understanding Jean-Pierre’s success in communications is her balance of optimism and realism.

“She showed really a deep understanding of American politics, and particularly divisions in American politics,” Fuchs said. “But she was very much committed to the idea that the American Dream was still real for people like her, but with a kind of realpolitik understanding of what were the roadblocks, and always very committed to equity and fairness and making sure that people who were new immigrants or from high -needs population had a chance to be heard.”

The high praise Jean-Pierre receives from her former colleagues and friends undermines the argument in conservative media she was selected for the role of White House press secretary only because she checks off numerous boxes in the base of the Democratic Party’s coalition. Tucker Carlson of Fox News, for example, aired a segment last week deriding the appointment as the latest example of identity politics. Carlson mocked supporters for saying being LGBTQ is “the only thing you need to know” about Jean-Pierre, essentially ignoring the commitment and achievement she has made in getting there.

But there’s also a boon of having a good personality. Jean-Pierre’s smile as a means of being effective in disarming and comforting people was one of her features that came up two times independently among the people close to her the Blade consulted for this article.

Strautmanis said he’ll be watching to see whether or not Jean-Pierre’s humor comes out in her new role in White House press secretary as well as her capability to make people around her implicitly trust her, but ultimately predicted she would “kick ass.”

“She just engenders a tremendous confidence,” Strautmanis said. “And so, I think that’s the other thing that people are going to see, which is that as she speaks, you’re just gonna have a sense that, ‘You know, I trust what this person is saying,’ and I think that’s a really hard thing to do in that in the work that she’s done before in that job. But I think that’s why she transitioned from being a political staffer into communications, because she has that ability in communications to be up front, be direct, be honest, and yet still kind of push forward a particular agenda. I think that’s a rare combination.”

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Politics

Task Force targets five battleground states in ‘Queer the Vote’

LGBTQ rights organization raises over $15,000 at D.C. event

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LGBTQ Task Force Executive Director Kierra Johnson (left) speaks to a crowd of supporters at Metrobar on Friday, May 13. (Blade photo by Michael Key)

Nearly 50 people attended the National LGBTQ Task Force’s Reunited and Resilient fundraiser at Metrobar on Friday, May 13.

Task Force board member Peter Chandler announced at the first in-person D.C. gathering of the organization since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, “we all are thirsty and hungry for community right now.”

Following remarks by Task Force Executive Director Kierra Johnson and Deputy Executive Director Mayra Hidalgo Salazar, the organization raised more than $15,000 in pledges of donations from guests.

“I think a lot of us are seeing this bill pop up,” Salazar said, referring to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law. “And some of us can feel hopelessness, but I’m really thrilled to share with you that the Task Force is super determined to make sure that we are driving the political power of the LGBT movement through our ‘Queer the Vote’ work in Florida.”

Johnson elaborated on the Task Force’s “Queer the Vote” initiative. “As we look to the 2022 midterms, the Task Force is moving our resources into civic engagement across five states: North Carolina, Texas, Florida, Ohio and Michigan,” said Johnson.

“That’s not by accident: that’s intentional,” continued Johnson. “These are battleground states. These are states where we are seeing not only attacks on LGBTQ issues, we’re seeing attacks on abortion, we’re seeing attacks on voting rights, we’re seeing attacks on immigrants. We’re seeing multi-front attacks on our people, and that’s exactly where the Task Force wants to be: at those intersections of social justice issues and LGBTQ liberation.”

“The states that we are going to — we could change the impact on elections. In some places the margin is one percent; it is a one percent margin of whether we win or lose. And the majority of states in this country are 10% LGBTQ voters. That plus BIPOC [Black, Indigenous, and people of color] voters, we have the power to impact elections and make real change.”

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