The state of Texas is seeing an unprecedented number of LGBT candidates seeking office during the midterm elections, reports Houston’s OutSmart, fueled, in part, by state lawmakers attempts to pass a North Carolina-style bathroom bill.
“I think that this is in response to what we experienced in 2017,” Chuck Smith, the CEO of Equality Texas, told KUT 90.5. “Almost seven continuous months while the Legislature was in regular and special session targeting the LGBT community for discrimination.”
Of the at least 48 queer candidates vying for office, three are running for state Senate, 11 for the state House of Representatives, eight for Congress, and dozens for different judicial seats—including Texas Supreme Court candidate Steve Kirkland. The gubernatorial race will see two gay candidates going face-to-face in the Democratic primary: gay bar owner Jeffrey Payne and lesbian Dallas County sheriff Lupe Valdez.
— Lupe Valdez (@LupeValdez) December 8, 2017
“The fact that in the State of Texas, a gay man and a lesbian can seek the highest office in the state is amazing, and shows how far we have come as a society,” Payne said in a statement. “This is a proud moment in Texas history, as far as I see it.”
In all, six candidates are incumbents seeking reelection, six identify as trans, and 11 are people of color. (There are currently 18 out officials in Texas government).
Five of the hopefuls are actually running as Republican—not entirely surprising, given Texas’ history as a deep red state—while others are trying to break the party’s stranglehold on local politics. Kirkland says he was inspired to run by the Texas Supreme Court’s ruling against allowing the city of Houston to grant benefits to married same-sex partners of city employees.
“[They’ve] entered far too many decisions recently that reek of politics and it’s time to change that,” he told Texas Lawyer.