The LGBTQ+ Victory Fund, which supports candidates who are out and meet certain other standards, has identified several developments to watch for in the election, in which 312 LGBTQ+ people are running for office — more than in any previous election in an odd-numbered year. That includes 166 candidates endorsed by Victory Fund.
It could mean the most out candidates elected in an odd-numbered year. Fifty-two have already won this year, so if 133 win office Tuesday, 2023 will beat 2021’s odd-number record of 184.
Some of the most closely watched races are in Virginia. Danica Roem, currently a member of the state’s House of Delegates, is running for state senator in the newly drawn 30th Senate District, and she could become the first out transgender senator in Virginia and in any southern state, and the second nationwide. The first in the nation was Sarah McBride in Delaware.
Several other LGBTQ+ candidates are running in Virginia; like Roem, they’re all Democrats. Three out members of the House of Delegates, Kelly Convirs-Fowler, Marcia Price, and Mark Sickles, are seeking reelection, as is one state senator, Adam Ebbin. LGBTQ+ nonincumbents running for the House include Laura Jane Cohen, Joshua Cole, Rozia Henson, and Adele McClure. Cole’s election will determine if the House has a pro-equality and pro-choice majority, according to Victory Fund. Virginia is the only southern state that has not imposed severe limits on abortion.
In New Jersey, Luanne Peterpaul, a lesbian, is running is running to be the first woman from the LGBTQ+ community in the state Assembly. The Democrat is a former Monmouth County prosecutor and has been a municipal judge in the cities of Long Branch and Asbury Park. She has been board chair for Garden State Equality, and in that post she was instrumental in creating the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, which passed with bipartisan support in the state legislature. She was co-counsel defending challenges to the New Jersey law prohibiting conversion therapy for minors and played a significant role in bringing marriage equality to the state.
In Mississippi, Fabian Nelson, a Black gay man, is pretty much assured of being the first out state legislator. In August, he won a Democratic primary runoff against Roshunda Harris-Allen in Mississippi House of Representatives District 66, located in the Jackson metro area. There is no Republican running in the general election, so Nelson is expected to win Tuesday, although Harris-Allen has mounted a write-in campaign. Louisiana will be the only state that has never elected an out lawmaker.
In another Mississippi race, Democrat Justin Lofton, a same-gender-loving man, won the August primary runoff for the Board of Supervisors in Pike County, in the southwestern part of the state, and he has no opponent in the general election. He will be the first out county supervisor in Mississippi.
Democrat Rue Landau, a lesbian, is running to become the first out LGBTQ+ member of the Philadelphia City Council. She was director of the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations and the Fair Housing Commission for 12 years. She also has been an attorney with Community Legal Services, and early in her activist career, she was a member of ACT UP and other grassroots organizations. She and her wife, Kerry, were the first same-sex couple in Pennsylvania to receive a marriage license. Landau has no significant opposition in Tuesday’s election. John C. Anderson, a gay man, served one term on the council, from 1979 to 1983, but was not out at the time. He died during his 1983 reelection campaign.
Around the nation, 23 Victory Fund-endorsed candidates are running for school boards, and 10 LGBTQ+ school board candidates have already won in 2023. This comes in an environment in which LGBTQ+ students and content are under attack, with efforts to out trans students to their parents, ban instruction on LGBTQ+ issues, and remove LGBTQ-themed books from classrooms and libraries.
Among those running Tuesday is Amelia McMillan in York, Pa., who would become one of just 14 out gender-nonconforming people in any elected office in the U.S. Sheena Barnes, who previously made history as the first out LGBTQ+ woman of color elected to a school board in northwest Ohio, is running for reelection to the Toledo Board of Education. Dr. Karen Bolton is running to retake her seat as a school board member in Bremerton, Wash.
Robyn Lady and Kyle McDaniel are running for seats on the Fairfax County School Board, which has furthered pro-equality policies. Incumbent Karl Frisch is running for reelection to the Fairfax County School Board.
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Pictured, from left: Fabian Nelson, Rue Landau, and Luanne Peterpaul