LGBT incumbents in Congress plan runs for leadership positions
Lisa Keen | Keen News Service
Media organizations on Monday night, Nov. 12 — nearly one full week after the Nov. 6 elections — finally called Arizona’s U.S. Senate race for U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema. That makes Sinema the first openly bisexual person to be elected to the U.S. Senate.
Sinema’s victory is a major one for the LGBT community. The only other openly LGBT person in the Senate is Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin.
LGBTQ Victory Fund President Annise Parker declared, “An LGBTQ woman winning a U.S. Senate seat in a state that voted for Trump is a game-changer, both for the LGBTQ community and the Democratic party.”
With both Baldwin and Sinema in the Senate, she added, “the U.S. Senate will certainly find our community more difficult to ignore.”
Information from the Arizona Secretary of State on Monday night showed Sinema more than 38,000 votes ahead of her Republican competitor, Rep. Martha McSally. Sinema was behind when the polls closed, but Arizona had an unprecedented number of “early ballots” handed in on Election Day, causing a delay in reaching a final count.
But Associated Press went ahead called the race for Sinema at 8 p.m. EST, and several other major media followed suit. McSally soon thereafter posted a video message on Twitter, saying she had just called Sinema to congratulate her for becoming Arizona’s first female U.S. senator.
The credit for the Democrat’s success in the heavily Republican state is being given largely to her moderate record and approach to issues. According to the political analysis group fivethirtyeight.com, during her three terms in Congress, Rep. Sinema voted “in line with” President Trump’s position 57.4 percent of the time. That compares with the more liberal Sen. Baldwin’s 22.1 percent.
Sinema’s win brings to 10 the number of openly LGBT people who will be serving in Congress next session: two senators and eight members of the House. It will represent the largest number of openly LGBT people ever to serve in any Congress, surpassing 2013 when there were seven.
Of the eight House members, four are first-time members: Chris Pappas of New Hampshire, Sharice Davids of Kansas, Angie Craig of Minnesota, and Katie Hill of California.
Hill’s race, another cliffhanger, was called the day after the election. She defeated well-known anti-LGBT incumbent Steve Knight.
The five incumbents re-elected included Baldwin of Wisconsin and Reps. David Cicilline of Rhode Island, Sean Patrick Maloney of New York, Mark Pocan of Wisconsin and Mark Takano of California.
The outcome of one important LGBT candidate’s race is still in limbo. In Texas, election officials have until Nov. 20 to call the winner for Congressional District 23. Initial media reports indicated Republican incumbent Rep. Will Hurd had beat his lesbian Democratic challenger Gina Ortiz Jones. But within hours of that call, Jones had a surge in votes that put her on top. Then, election officials said they made a clerical error and that Hurd was still in the lead.
At last report, Jones was trailing by about 1,100 votes but had indicated she would make sure all votes were counted and, if necessary, ask for a recount. According to the Dallas Morning News, Jones must pay for the recount, an expense that could amount to $100,000.
Two of the four House incumbents are now planning to run for leadership positions in the next session of Congress: Cicilline is one of two announced candidates now for the House leadership position of Assistant Democratic Leader, and Maloney is one of four candidates for chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign, which oversees the party’s efforts to elect Democrats to the House.
In the Senate, where the Democrats are in the minority, Baldwin is expected to hold onto her sixth-ranking position as secretary of the Senate Democratic Conference.
Although the outcomes of two Senate races are still in limbo, Republicans have won enough seats to retain the majority and, therefore, control of confirmations to judicial seats. The importance of that role was underscored two days after the election when news emerged that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had been hospitalized following a fall. Ginsburg has been one of the court’s strongest supporters of equal rights for LGBT people, unlike both of President Trump’s two Supreme Court appointees thus far.
But the wins by Democrats pushed them into the majority of the U.S. House, a development that brings some relief to the LGBT community.
In another important win for the LGBT community on Election Day, lesbian attorney Dana Nessel won her race to become Michigan’s attorney general. Nessel beat her Republican opponent by three points. She is the second openly-LGBT person to be elected attorney general of any state. Maura Healey of Massachusetts was the first, in 2014.
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