From Where I Stand
Beto O’Rourke lost. He lost by less than 3 percentage points, but still, he lost. And that means that LGBT Texans — indeed, LGBT people all across the country — will have to spend the next six years dealing with homo/transphobe Ted Cruz sitting in the U.S. Senate.
As I sat watching the election results trickle in, I felt my heart sinking ever lower as Cruz’s numbers crept higher. And when the national news prognosticators called the race for Cruz, I felt my heart breaking. It felt like 2016 all over again.
Don’t get me wrong: It wasn’t just the Senate race that broke my heart. I wanted to see Lupe Valdez beat Greg Abbott, to see Mike Collier beat Dan Patrick, to see Justin Nelson beat Ken Paxton. I wanted to see Lorie Burch and Gina Ortiz Jones headed to Congress, to see Mark Phariss headed to the Texas Senate, to see Finn Jones headed to the Texas House.
And so many more. So many, many more.
But Beto was the flag-bearer. I know that many of the others were long shots. But Beto — well, that one seemed so winnable. But Beto lost.
I felt that same dark cloud of anger, almost of hopelessness, that had engulfed me two years ago rushing back in. But I held it off, because I had work to do. I was blogging election results, and not just in Texas’ Senate race.
And when I stopped moping over Beto, I started realizing all the reasons we had to celebrate.
Start at the top: Democrats won control of the U.S. House of Representatives! Sure, not all Democrats are friends of the LGBT community. But we can dang sure rely on them more than we could the Republicans that controlled Congress. With Democrats in control of the House, we have somebody standing ready to rein in Donald Trump and his corruption. We have somebody standing between us and all the hateful anti-LGBT legislation.
Beyond that thought, we have a lot to celebrate, a lot to be proud of. There were openly-LGBT candidates running for office Tuesday at every level of government — from city council races all the way to congressional races. The LGBT Victory Fund endorsed 225 openly-LGBT candidates around the country, including 16 in Texas.
Of those, eight of the 14 running for federal offices won; 90 of the 135 running for state offices won, and 53 of the 78 running for local offices won. And those numbers could go up, depending on a couple of runoff elections and recounts.
Those winners include some historic firsts: Jared Polis in Colorado became the first openly-gay man elected governor of a U.S. state; Sharice Davids became the first lesbian elected to Congress from Kansas and one of the two first Native American women elected to Congress.
In Massachusetts, voters statewide upheld laws protecting transgender men and women from discrimination in that state. Statewide referenda used to be the bane of LGBT equality, and yet, at a time when our trans brothers and sisters have become the right-wing’s favorite targets, the people of Massachusetts stood up and told the bigots NO.
Of the 16 candidates the Victory Fund backed in Texas, 10 won, and two are in recount situations. Texas has five LGBTQ-identified women in the Texas House now: Celia Israel, Mary Gonzalez, Jessica Gonzalez, Erin Zweiner and Julie Johnson. Jessica, Erin and Julie are all newly-elected legislators, while Celia and Mary won re-election. And Julie’s victory was especially sweet since she beat Republican incumbent Matt Rinaldi, author of one of those detestable “bathroom bills” introduced in the last Texas Legislature.
And six LGBT candidates won judicial races in Harris County.
We saw some big wins here in Texas for candidates who are allies of our community: Colin Allred defeated Pete Sessions to win a seat in Congress. In Texas Senate races, Beverly Powell defeated anti-LGBT incumbent Konni Burton and Nathan Johnson beat anti-LGBT incumbent Don Huffines. Chika Anyiam defeated Stephanie Fargo for judge in Dallas County’s Criminal District Court 7 to become the first African immigrant in U.S. history elected as a state district court judge. The first Latinas to ever represent Texas in Congress were elected this week.
And there was more. So much more. Even in some of those races where we lost, we still saw some history being made. Lupe Valdez, an openly-lesbian Latina, pulled in more than 40 percent of the vote in a statewide race. In Texas. Openly-lesbian congressional candidate Lorie Burch earned nearly 45 percent of the vote in a heavily-
Republican district, while openly-lesbian congressional candidate Gina Ortiz Jones is looking at a recount after the initial count showed her less than 1 percentage point behind her Republican opponent. Mark Phariss finished his race for the Texas state Senate less than 3 percentage points behind the Republican in a deep red district.
And, in what I see as one of the most significant results in the state, openly transgender man Finnegan Jones won 44 percent of the vote against a Republican incumbent in another deep red district. Y’all, that’s HUGE!
The more I see, the better I feel. Yes, we lost some big ones. But look at the bigger picture; in the bigger picture, we won. And I believe we will keep on winning.
As Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller said the day after the election, on Tuesday “we saw the beginnings of an historic sea change in Texas … .” And it wasn’t just a blue wave, it was a rainbow wave of change, washing us all toward a brighter future.
Tammye Nash is managing editor of Dallas Voice and Out North Texas, and executive producer of DVtv. She has been a professional journalist for more than 35 years.