Election 2020

At Least 400 LGBT Candidates Vowing Political Wave This Campaign Season

Katie Hill, a Democrat running for California's 25th Congressional District, speaks in Newhall, Calif., on May 26, 2018. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

Wearing a “tasteful maroon lace and sequin dress” and “surrounded by a plaid and denim-clad crowd,” the Vermont Digger reported, Christine Hallquist launched her campaign for governor of Vermont.

Hallquist is the first transgender gubernatorial candidate in the nation. She faces two other Dems in the Vermont August primary — one, a middle-school student.

The fact that she is a transgender woman comes as no surprise to voters. Hallquist, a former CEO of Vermont Electric Cooperative, moved from one gender to another in a very public way a few years ago. Now, Hallquist, a Democrat, hopes voters are ready to put her transition aside.

“I don’t want people to vote for me because I’m transgender, or write me off because I’m transgender,” she said.

However, Hallquist is one of two dozen candidates endorsed by the LGBTQ Victory Fund, in large part, because they are not straight.

“Vermont gubernatorial candidate Christine Hallquist will become the first transgender gubernatorial nominee of a major American political party if she defeats her three primary opponents in August,” read the LGBTQ Victory Fund endorsement, which awarded Hallquist “Game Changer” status.

“With a November election win, she would become the first out trans person to serve as governor, and just the second openly LGBTQ governor ever elected,” the Victory Fund announcement added.

While we have heard much of the Blue (Democrat) Wave and the Pink (Women) Wave of candidates, the Washington Post raised the possibility in an article on political spouses that the U.S. is also in the midst of an LGBTQ political wave.

After all, Hallquist is only one of close to 400 gay, lesbian and transgender candidates running for political offices in 2018, according to the Victory Fund.

Six of seven of the Victory Fund-endorsed candidates won their Pennsylvania primary elections May 15. In addition, three other candidates backed by the LGBTQ Victory Fund PAC — Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, Oregon state Rep. Karin Power and Idaho state Rep. John McCrostie — were victorious in their primary races.

A month later, at least 14 Victory Fund-endorsed candidates advanced or won in the June 5 primaries.

Katie Hill, an openly bisexual congressional candidate, advanced to California’s November ballot, where she will take on Republican Rep. Steve Knight in the state’s 25th District.

Houston Mayor Annise Parker, who is also the president and CEO of LGBTQ Victory Fund, called Knight an “anti-LGBTQ incumbent.”

“Katie’s victory sets up a general election battle between her positive, solutions-oriented vision for the district and the politics of hate and destruction her opponent thrives on,” Parker said in a statement. “Steve Knight and his family made careers out of attacking LGBTQ people and working to roll back equal rights.”

Hallquist might like to see her sexuality pushed to the background, but Hill said on her campaign website that her sexuality has and will play a role in her campaign. LGBTQ rights are part of her platform.

“I’ve identified as bisexual since I was a teenager, and if we want to achieve equality for all in our policies, we need more voices from the LGBTQ community in Congress,” Hill stated on her campaign website. “The federal government has no business in restricting basic human rights based on sexual orientation, and I am ready to protect equality at every turn in Congress.”

Hill is more than one of the Victory Fund’s favored candidates. Democrats are hoping she will be able to defeat Knight, a Republican seeking his third term in Congress. After all, every flipped seat helps as the Democrats hope to retake control of the U.S. House.

Back in January, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee put CA-25 on its list of seven House districts that would be targeted with national money.

“Everybody is going to target this race,” Tim Allison, an adjunct political science professor at CSU Channel Islands in Camarillo, told the VC Star. “I think both sides are going to attack each other.”

The Los Angeles Times reported the district is close to evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. But one-fifth of the district’s voters view themselves as independents with no party preference.

Knight said he has heard it all before. The idea that the Democrats are going to bring in millions of dollars from outside the district to defeat him is nothing new.

“Hundreds of articles said we would lose,” Knight said. “We did exactly what we do. We fought really hard.” And he won — twice.

In addition to Hill’s victory, Ricardo Lara won enough votes to advance to the November election for California insurance commissioner. If he wins, Lara would be the first openly gay statewide officeholder in California.

Hill is a newcomer to politics. But she won’t be a pushover. Her mettle has already been tested. The day before the June 5 primary, Hill, her husband and several rescue animals had to run from their home because of the Stone Fire that was burning in the Agua Dulce area.

So, whether it’s Blue Wave or Gay Wave, Hill vowed to do whatever it took to win in November. And the ultimate goal transcends her sexual identity. Hill said she was motivated to enter politics because of one man: President Trump.

“How do we take our country in the direction we need to go?” Hill told NBC News. “It starts with taking back the House of Representatives.”

Hallquist said she decided to run because she didn’t like where Gov. Phil Scott was taking Vermont. And she probably doesn’t want to see a middle-school student running the state. But Hallquist said, like Hill, she too doesn’t like what she sees from the Trump administration.

“We must be bold in the face of headwinds in Washington,” Hallquist said. “We must be bold in the face of continuing unpredictability from Congress, and we must be bold in the face of the chaos of the White House.”