In what’s being described as one of the most important elections in US history, Americans went to the polls to vote in the midterm elections on 6 November 2018.
All 435 seats in the United States House of Representatives and 35 of the 100 seats in the United States Senate were contested.
While much of the focus during the campaign has been on whether the Democrats could take control of the House of Representatives from the Republicans, one of the interesting features of these elections has been the number of LGBTQ candidates who have stood for office.
Political commentators have dubbed it a ‘rainbow wave’ - over 400 LGBTQ candidates on ballot papers across the country, a record number according to The New York Times.
Many of the LGBTQ candidates ran for positions at state level - a key battleground for LGBTQ equality and anti-discrimination legislation. Most of the LGBTQ candidates who stood for office in this election were standing for the Democrats, and the rainbow wave could be seen as a direct response to the increasingly anti-LGBTQ rhetoric of the Trump administration, which is reflected at state level in bathroom bills and limitations on adoption. But it’s clear that most LGBTQ candidates haven’t had a single-issue focus - most have been aiming to appeal to a broad cross-section of the electorate.
The New York Times looked at candidate Sharice Davids as a case-study. Davids, who identifies as a lesbian, stood for the Democrats in the Third Congressional District which includes Kansas City. During the campaign, Davids said that most of her conversations with electors revolved around healthcare, and the Washington Post reports that her Republican opponents targeted her on immigration policies.
At the time of publication, results are still being finalised but it looks as if Sharice Davids has won her contest and will be taking her seat in Congress.
According to The New York Times, Davids and other candidates pursued a new kind of political strategy that treats sexuality, race, and gender as campaign assets that intersect with their criticism of the Trump administration, their warnings about lost progress on civil rights, and their policy ideas. During the campaign we saw LGBTQ candidates touting military service or a law enforcement background to appeal to the political centre, and campaigning with spouses and children to underscore an interest in policy issues important to parents.
One of the clear trends that appears to be emerging as the votes are counted are that female candidates have performed particularly strongly. Another result worth noting is that Jared Polis is projected to win the Colorado gubernatorial race, becoming the first openly gay man to be a US governor.
As the results come in, it seems clear that the Democrats have successfully won a majority in the House of Representatives, but the Republicans have retained control of the Senate. This will strengthen the oversight that the Democrats will be able to exercise over the Trump Administration, and could further slow any legislative agenda.
According to Annise Parker of the LGBTQ Victory Institute, before these elections there were roughly 500 elected officials in the US who identified as LGBTQ, including one governor and seven members of Congress. That is 0.1 percent of elected officials.
As the results of the mid-term elections are being analysed, there’s every chance that those numbers will have dramatically increased.