Record Number of LGBTQ Candidates Set to Run in U.S. Election

At least 574 openly LGBTQ candidates to appear on ballot November 3, a third more than in 2018 midterm elections ■ Public support for same-sex marriage at 62 percent

Former Democratic 2020 presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg (L) waits with his husband Chasten to watch the 2020 vice presidential campaign debate in Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S., October 7, 2020.
Former Democratic 2020 presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg (L) waits with his husband Chasten to watch the 2020 vice presidential campaign debate in Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S., October 7, 2020. Credit: REUTERS/Brian Snyder

A record number of LGBTQ people will run for office in next month's U.S. election, reflecting stronger support for LGBTQ rights among Americans that is eroding concerns about the electability of gay, bisexual and transgender candidates.

A report by the LGBTQ Victory Fund, which seeks to elect gay, lesbian, bi or trans lawmakers, said this week at least 574 openly LGBTQ candidates would appear on the ballot for the November 3 election.

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That would be a third more than the number who contested the 2018 midterm elections.

"LGBTQ people are running for office in numbers thought unthinkable just a decade ago and the impact will be enormous if this growth trend continues," Annise Parker, head of the LGBTQ Victory Fund, said in an email.

"Every LGBTQ candidate who runs chips away at the misconceptions some have toward our community and together these candidates transform our culture and politics," Parker said.

People cast their ballots for the upcoming presidential elections as early voting begins in Ann Arbor, Michigan, U.S., September 24, 2020.Credit: REUTERS/Emily Elconin/File Photo

If the U.S. primary elections are included too, at least 1,006 openly LGBTQ people ran or are running for political office this year, up 41 percent since 2018, the report found.

The unprecedented number of LGBTQ candidates running this year coincides with rising support for LGBTQ people in the United States.

Support among Americans for same-sex marriage, largely seen as synonymous with support for wider LGBTQ rights, has risen to 62 from 36 percent in 2007, according to the Public Religion Research Institute.

'Electability concerns'

The recent success of several high-profile LGBTQ candidates has also encouraged others to run for office, said Gabriele Magni, a professor of political science at Loyola Marymount University who researches LGBTQ representation in U.S. politics.

"For a long time there were a lot of electability concerns around LGBTQ candidates," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"The victory of these LGBTQ candidates is important because it's increased the visibility of LGBTQ people in office and has sent a clear message that LGBTQ candidates can run and win."

Among the most high-profile LGBTQ candidates in recent months was Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who was a presidential candidate for the Democratic nomination.

After making history for becoming the first openly LGBTQ candidate to win the Iowa caucus, Buttigieg bowed out of the presidential race in March and endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden's candidacy.

Other prominent LGBTQ wins include Lori Lightfoot, the mayor of Chicago, the third-largest U.S. city, and Sharice Davids, a U.S. Representative from Kansas, both elected in 2019.

LGBTQ candidates in 2020 are also more racially and ethnically diverse than the overall U.S. candidate pool, the LGBTQ Victory Fund report said.

The proportion of them who identify as people of color is 31 percent, compared with 10 percent of the general candidate population.

Alabama is the only state where no openly LGBTQ candidates ran in 2020, researchers said, while California, Texas and Florida had the greatest number of LGBTQ candidates who ran or are running for office.

Despite the progress, advocates noted that the number of transgender people running for office had decreased between 2018 and 2020 from 48 to 34 candidates.

Previous reports by the LGBTQ Victory Fund have shown that gay and trans people hold 0.17 percent of elected positions nationwide while making up 4.5 percent of the U.S. adult population.

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