Connect with us

2022 Midterm Elections

Anti-transgender legislation fuels midterms ‘Rainbow Wave’

More than 70 trans, nonbinary candidates on the ballot



(Public domain photo courtesy of Bigstock)

In 2017, Danica Roem made history as the nation’s first out transgender representative elected to a state legislature and ran alongside a group of 20 other trans candidates. Now, five years later, the number of trans and nonbinary people running for office has nearly quadrupled to 72, according to the LGBTQ Victory Fund. 

Leigh Finke is among this historic group and if elected, she will become Minnesota’s first out trans person in the state legislature. She is running to represent District 66A in Minnesota, which encompasses part of St. Paul. Finke is a journalist, and filmmaker who focuses largely on civil rights and LGBTQ issues. 

Finke said her desire to run for office built up steadily as she watched politicians around the country attack LGBTQ people through legislative proposals and harassment campaigns online. One of things that pushed her decision was the 2021 proposed bill that would ban trans girls in youth sports in her state. 

“I realized that we’re just one election away from having the whole legislature flip and this legislation becoming law,” Finke said in an interview with the Washington Blade. “That really scared me and made me nervous, not just for myself but for the community.”

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, at least 191 anti-LGBTQ bills have been proposed in state legislatures around the country in 2022. 168 of these bills specifically target trans people. 

Victory Fund spokesperson Albert Fujii said in an email that the political attacks have fueled a “record-breaking Rainbow Wave” for the midterms.

“These candidates showed tremendous grit in the face of unrelenting bigotry on the campaign trail from transphobic bigots like Ron DeSantis,” Fujii said. “While we are confident they will perform well on Tuesday, their impact is already visible — we are seeing a new wave of trans and nonbinary candidates considering a run for office themselves. Voters’ voices are loud and clear: enough is enough.”

Alicia Kozlowski, a two-spirit and nonbinary candidate for Minnesota state house district 8B, said they are standing on the backs of other history-making figures like Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, Minnesota Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, and U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids (D-Kan.).

“When you elect queer folks and people of color to office, you change entire conversations, which leads to different results,” Kozlowski said in an email. “As a state representative, I won’t leave my powerful identities at any door to make others comfortable.”

Jessica Katzenmeyer, a candidate for the Wisconsin state Senate, said seeing trans people win elections creates a snowball effect, encouraging others to run. Roem’s 2017 victory inspired her own run for office.

“When you see other trans folks who are successful, it kind of makes you go ‘oh, maybe I can do this too’ and it just brings more encouragement to the rest of the community,” she said. “Even if I don’t win my race, I hope people see me and realize that they can do this too.”

Katzenmeyer, a longtime Wisconsin resident, Teamsters leader and LGBTQ activist ran in 2020 for the State Assembly but fell just short of winning. This time, she is running for state senate with the chance of becoming Wisconsin’s first out trans legislator and the nation’s second out trans person elected to a state senate.

“It’s been hard to really consider it because I’ve been so busy,” Katzenmeyer said of her historic run. “But to be the first trans person in the legislature would mean a lot to me and a lot to the community, not just in my district but also statewide. So, there’s a lot of responsibility with that.”

Another candidate who has been driven by the increase in anti-LGBTQ legislation is Emily Dievendorf, who is running to represent Michigan’s 77th House District. As attacks have ramped up from Republican politicians, Dievendorf said she has become increasingly frustrated at how members of her own party are responding. 

“In Michigan, trans and nonbinary people are the butt of the joke for Republicans. We are also the community that is taking the blame for supposed threats to children and the public,” Dievendorf said in an interview. “And we have the other party whose main strategy seems to be silence.”

If elected, Dievendorf would become the state’s first nonbinary state legislator and said she wants to be a voice to call out bigotry in both parties. 

“We’re seeing that Democrats in general want to stick to mild conversation to make sure that no one feels pushed out but what that actually does is condone extreme hate towards marginalized folks, making it easier to pass legislation that furthers the disposal of human lives,” she said. “So I’m excited — and a little scared — to be able to stand on the house floor and make my colleagues across the aisle see me be my authentic self.”

As an example of trans representation working to stop discriminatory legislation, Finke pointed to an anti-trans bill in Utah which was vetoed by the governor after he met with trans people and their families. 

“I don’t think [representation] is enough to change the trajectory of the country right now but it means something to have a voice in those rooms and make them at least have to look you in the eye when they say they’re taking away your healthcare or punishing your kids because they’re trans,” Finke said. 

The “Rainbow Wave” in the 2022 midterms will only be the beginning as communities push to change the demographic makeup of their leaders, Kozlowski said. If elected, they said they plan to fight for the civil rights of every community.

“Everything we do is interconnected — LGBTQ rights, climate justice, reproductive freedom, economic justice, racial justice — our liberation and sovereignty on all these issues are braided together,” they said. “This is more than one person stepping up to run for office, more than one election cycle, it’s about a movement about having a government that has our backs, it’s a movement for our shared future that’s at stake.”


2022 Midterm Elections

Republicans gain control of the U.S. House

Narrow GOP majority could bode well for blocking anti-LGBTQ bills.



U.S. Capitol
(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Certainty over Republicans’ control of the U.S. House of Representatives crystalized on Tuesday, while Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) fended off a bid for his position by fellow GOP Sen. Rick Scott (Fla.).

As the final votes from last week’s midterm elections continue to trickle in, by Wednesday evening it became clear that when the 118th Congress is seated in January, the legislature will be divided between the House and the U.S. Senate, where Democrats will either retain their 50-vote majority or win an extra seat, pending the results of Georgia’s runoff election in December.

It is the House, too, that will be divided, as the majority’s shift from blue to red was narrowly won, with only seven races whose results have not yet been tallied. Republicans’ control of the chamber comes with 218 seats, a feat they accomplished today. By 7:40 p.m. ET, Democrats had won 210 seats.

Leadership in both chambers has also been decided. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is poised to take over as House Speaker in January when the new Congress meets. McConnell, meanwhile, prevailed over a challenge for his Senate leadership by Scott, his Republican colleague.

“With a small Republican majority, we think there’s a greater chance of blocking anti-gay and anti-trans bills, which may now not even be brought up for a vote,” Geoff Wetrosky, campaign director for the Human Rights Campaign, told the Washington Blade by phone on Tuesday.

“Not only because of the composition of Congress, but also because last week’s election made clear that voters do not support this kind of extremism,” Wetrosky said.

Annise Parker, president of the LGBTQ Victory Fund, told the Blade by phone on Tuesday that “the first six months will be spent in internal warfare, but it’s clear that there won’t be anything positive coming out of the House for our community.”

There “very well may be negative bills,” Parker added, noting that with a slim majority in the lower chamber, there is unlikely to be much legislation, period.

Continue Reading

2022 Midterm Elections

Democrats retain control of the U.S. Senate

Catherine Cortez Masto won reelection in Nev.



U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) (Photo courtesy of Twitter)

Control of the U.S. Senate will remain in the hands of Democrats after U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) defeated Republican Adam Laxalt, the state’s former attorney general, in a hotly contested race.

The 58-year-old Cortez Masto has been serving as the senior U.S. senator from Nevada since 2017. Previously she was the state’s 32nd attorney general from 2007-2015.

Her reelection means that President Joe Biden maintains his ability to confirm judicial nominees and Cabinet secretaries. All eyes are now on the U.S. House of Representatives where the balance of power is at stake.

David Wasserman, a House campaign analyst with the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, told the Los Angeles Times Saturday that “it will absolutely come down to California,” which the Golden State’s 10 Congressional races are deemed most at risk of flipping and still too close to call.

Cortez Masto, the first Latina elected to the Senate, endured a tough reelection campaign made more protracted after the mail-in ballot counting with the results resting largely with the state’s most populous county, Clark County, home to Las Vegas, which posted updates once a day since Tuesday. 

NBC News reported that in the campaign’s closing days, Laxalt, a MAGA Trump loyalist who drew the former president as well as Donald Trump, Jr., to the state to stump for him, hammered a strict partisan message, vowing not to work with the left and promising to hold Senate hearings examining Biden’s top medical adviser Anthony Fauci and Biden’s son, Hunter Biden.

Laxalt had also questioned the results of the 2020 election, even saying the results were “rigged.”

“There should be consequences for people who undermine our democracy, who peddle the ‘big lie’ and conspiracy theories,” Cortez Masto said at an event in Reno, the state’s second largest city, in October.

Laxalt handily won the state’s 15 rural counties, in some counties winning 80 percent of the vote, while Cortez Masto steadily led the reliably blue Clark County.

Speaking in the Cambodian capital city of Phnom Penh, where he is attending the East Asia Summit, Joe Biden finished his remarks and then took a couple questions from reporters. When asked about the news of the Democrats retaining the Senate after Cortez Masto’s reelection victory the president said: “I feel good and I’m looking forward to the next couple years.”

In the press pool traveling with Biden, The Washington Post’s White House reporter Yasmeen Abutaleb, reported that the president made congratulatory calls to Cortez Masto at 10:08 a.m. local time and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) at 10:28 a.m. local time, (Cambodia.)

The president added that as he congratulated Schumer he noted their [Democrats] focus now is on Georgia.

“I’m not surprised by this … I think it’s a reflection of the quality of our candidates,” Biden said.

“It’s always better at 51,” he added and mentioned that with 51, Democrats don’t need to have an even makeup of committees. “It’s just simply better.”

“Republicans are going to have to decide who they are,”  the president reflected.

Continue Reading

2022 Midterm Elections

Trone wins reelection in Md. 6th Congressional District

Incumbent Democrat beat state Rep. Neil Parrott (R-Frederick County)



Maryland Congressman David Trone (Photo public domain)

Maryland Congressman David Trone has defeated his Republican challenger in the state’s 6th Congressional District.

Trone defeated state Del. Neil Parrott (R-Frederick County) by a 50.38-49.5 percent margin.

The Frederick County Republican had been ahead of the incumbent Democratic, in part, because the boundaries of the district, which includes all of western Maryland, had been redrawn during the last redistricting. Mail-in ballots had yet to be counted when Parrott was ahead of Trone immediately after Election Day. 

“I want to thank Del. Parrott for his phone call this afternoon conceding the race,” said Trone in a tweet. “My promise to him, and to all of the people of the 6th District, is this: I’ll continue to work across the aisle to deliver results and get things done. Thank you, Maryland! Let’s get back to work.”

Continue Reading

Sign Up for Weekly E-Blast

Follow Us @washblade