Rainbow wave

Meet the 21 openly LGBTQ nominees for U.S. Congress in this record-breaking year

Here’s a reason to feel patriotic: It’s been a record-breaking year for LGBTQ politicians. 430 openly LGBTQ people ran for government office this election cycle, and 244 are still in the race.

The Victory Fund reported those statistics, calling the influx a “rainbow wave.”

And the good news didn’t stop there. The number of LGBTQ women-identified major party Congressional nominees, for example, rose 160 percent since its record high in 2016.

Plus, a record seven known LGBTQ candidates ran for governor this year and four received a major party nomination.

And in a 24 percent increase from 2016, 21 openly LGBTQ candidates — all of whom are Democrats — won primaries for congressional seats this year. Here are their names and backstories.

Eric Holguin

Holguin is running for Texas’ 27th district now — hoping to become the first openly gay Latino elected to Congress — but he has been working his way up the political ladder for years. In fact, he ran for City Council in Corpus Christi when he was just a college student.

Kyrsten Sinema

Sinema, who has served Arizona for three terms in the House of Representatives as the only openly bisexual member of Congress, is now the first-ever openly bi U.S. Senate nominee.

Tammy Baldwin

This incumbent Senator from Wisconsin became the first out lesbian elected to Congress when she defeated former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson in 2012.

Related: 8 reasons Pete Buttigieg should be president

Joan Greene

Greene, a small business owner and a lesbian, is running to be the representative for Arizona’s 5th district against Republican incumbent Rep. Andy Biggs, a man who once called gay marriage “an affront to millions of Americans who believe in marriage between a man and a woman.”

Katie Hill

This candidate for California’s 25th district, who runs a homeless-services nonprofit, told The New Yorker she’s “providing an inside look into what politics looks like in this post-Trump moment.”

Mark Takano

Takeno won the U.S. Representative seat for California’s 41st district in 2012 and in so doing became the first openly gay person of color in Congress. He’s a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus.

Lauren Baer

This candidate for Florida’s 18th district — who’s raising a daughter with her wife — served an official in the Obama Administration and a senior advisor to former Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry. She currently works as a consultant for a global strategy firm founded by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

Sharice Davids

Davids is an attorney, a member of the Ho-Chunk nation, a former MMA fighter, and a former White House fellow from Obama’s administration. If elected by Kansas’s 3rd district, she’ll be the state’s first openly gay representative. “It’s amazing how long we’ve been in a country, but we’re still having firsts,” she told the Kansas City Star.

Related: Straight white politician suggests he might be a gay black man by proxy

Angie Craig

Two years after losing the race for representative of Minnesota’s 2nd district by just two points, Craig is back at it again — and all the while, this former Fortune 500 executive is raising four kids with her wife.

Kathy Ellis

Having worked as a psychotherapist, an alcohol and drug counselor, a clinical social worker, and a halfway house director, Ellis will become Missouri’s first openly LGBTQ congresswoman if elected by the state’s 8th district.

Chris Pappas

In his time so far as a civil servant, Pappas has fought the opioid epidemic, endeavored to expand Medicaid, and defended civil rights. If chosen to represent New Hampshire’s first district, the 38-year-old will become the youngest LGBTQ member of Congress.

Sean Maloney

Already the first openly gay person elected to Congress from New York, Maloney is seeking reelection in the Empire State’s 18th district. Previously in his career, he served as a senior White House advisor during Bill Clinton’s presidency.

Tracy Mitrano

Mitrano, whose commitment ceremony was covered by MSNBC back in 2004, is a cybersecurity expert running to represent New York’s 23rd district in Congress, where she will “work to ensure the integrity of our elections and the security of our digital borders,” according to her website.

Rick Neal

Neal, who is raising two daughters with his husband, is the first openly gay man from Ohio to run for Congress. During his years in the Peace Corps, he worked in Morocco, Cambodia, Afghanistan, and Liberia. Now he’s seeking election in Ohio’s 15th district.

Jamie McLeod-Skinner

She became the first lesbian elected to the Santa Clara City Council, and now this former city manager is hoping to break new ground by defeating 10-term Republican incumbent Rep. Greg Walden.

David Cicilline

This Rhode Islander made history as the first openly gay mayor of a U.S. capital when he served as Mayor of Providence from 2003 to 2011, after which he became the U.S. Representative for Rhode Island’s 1st congressional district.

Gina Ortiz Jones

If elected to represent Texas’s 23rd district, this former Air Force intelligence officer would be the Lone Star State’s first lesbian, first Filipina-American, first Iraq War veteran congressperson.

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Lorie Burch

“For the LGBTQ community this is huge to have people that are not only advocating for them but [are] actually at the table who understand what it is like to walk in their shoes,” this attorney, an out lesbian, told an NBC affiliate. She’s running to represent Texas’s 3rd district.

Lee Castillo

This candidate for Utah’s 1st district is a social worker who has worked at Hill Air Force Base’s Family Practice Clinic, the Utah Division of Child and Family Services, and the Utah State Hospital — where he worked with county inmates living with mental illness.

Mark Pocan

A successor of Tammy Baldwin’s in both the Wisconsin State Assembly and the House of Representatives, Pocan has represented Wisconsin’s second district since 2013. He and his husband, meanwhile, have been married since 2006.

Margaret Engebretson

Engebretson served in the U.S. Navy for three years and then in the National Guard and Reserve for 21 years. She tells Ballotpedia she’s running to represent Wisconsin’s 7th district “to defend our democracy and to make sure that people have an advocate in Washington who will fight for them every single day.”


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