Thanks to victories in primary runoffs Tuesday, Texas is poised to have its first Black gay male state legislators — and one Black lesbian, who won a special election just weeks ago to fill a vacancy, is likely to be elected to a full term.
Before Jolanda Jones’s victory in the special election, Texas had never had a Black member of the LGBTQ+ community in the state legislature. She won the special election May 7 in the Houston-area Texas House District 147 to succeed Rep. Garnet Coleman, who retired in February; that gave her the seat through December. In the Democratic primary runoff, she defeated Danielle Keys Bess, who had also been her opponent in the special election. In November’s general election, Jones will face Republican Damien Thaddeus Jones, but the district is heavily Democratic, so she is expected to win.
Jolanda Jones is a former member of the Houston City Council and the city’s school board. “Yet again, voters were excited by Jolanda’s exceptional experience and qualifications, proven track record and vision for the future,” Annise Parker, president and CEO of the LGBTQ Victory Fund, which had endorsed Jones, said in a press release. “She is a natural leader and fierce advocate who has dedicated her professional life to increasing fairness and equity in Texas, from increasing access to quality health care to improving public schools to safeguarding our right to free and fair elections. She knows how to build winning coalitions and get meaningful change done for her community. With so much prejudice plaguing our society, Jolanda’s win tonight is a beacon of hope and demonstrates voters are motivated to elect leaders that reflect the real America who are ready to enact meaningful change. We are confident Jolanda will continue being an effective leader and lawmaker and that her continued success will inspire many more LGBTQ and Black people to run for office.”
Venton Jones and Christian Manuel-Hayes are positioned to be the first Black gay men in the Texas legislature. Jones easily prevailed over Sandra Crenshaw in House District 100, in the Dallas area. No incumbent was in the race, and Jones’s only opposition in the general election will be Libertarian Joe Roberts. Jones, a veteran advocate for social justice and for HIV treatment and prevention, will be the first out HIV-positive member of the legislature.
Manuel-Hayes won in House District 22, centered on Beaumont. It was a narrow victory over Joseph Trahan in another race with no incumbent. One Republican and one independent are running in the general election, but again, the district is largely Democratic. Manuel-Hayes was a longtime staffer to the retiring incumbent, Joe Deshotel, eventually rising to chief of staff.
“In state legislatures across the country — and certainly here in Texas — we are seeing a disturbing rise in anti-Black and anti-LGBTQ laws passed by legislative bodies that do not represent our community,” Parker said in a statement. “Tonight, primary voters responded to those attacks by shattering a lavender ceiling and sending Venton and Christian to a general election where they are poised to make history. These two LGBTQ leaders are fighters and are determined to create a more accepting and equitable Texas and America. When they win in November, it will send a strong message that bigotry will not prevail long-term.”