2018 has more LGBT can­di­dates than ever

San Antonio Express-News (Sunday) - - From The Cover - NEW YORK TIME S

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Sharice Davids, a lead­ing Demo­crat in a key con­gres­sional pri­mary elec­tion Tues­day, fin­ished a White House fel­low­ship in the early months of the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion. As a les­bian and a Na­tive Amer­i­can, she be­came con­vinced that hard-won progress on is­sues such as gay rights and the en­vi­ron­ment would erode un­der Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and thought peo­ple in her dis­trict might sup­port her as a coun­ter­force to the pres­i­dent.

“We had to fo­cus on get­ting more peo­ple elected to de­ci­sion­mak­ing po­si­tions be­cause that’s the way that we off­set some­one who wants to de­stroy the EPA be­ing ap­pointed to run the EPA,” she said, re­fer­ring to Scott Pruitt, Trump’s now-de­parted agency ad­min­is­tra­tor.

Davids is among more than 400 gay, les­bian, bi­sex­ual or trans­gen­der can­di­dates run­ning for of­fice this year — a record num­ber, ac­cord­ing to groups that track such data. Most are Democrats, and sev­eral are mount­ing anti-Trump con­gres­sional bids with a mes­sage broader than gay rights. Davids says she talks mostly about is­sues such as health care and only had one ex­change with a voter who ques­tioned whether a gay per­son could win.

Around half these can­di­dates are run­ning for state of­fices, a pri­or­ity for ac­tivists who say many of the most im­por­tant civil rights bat­tles are hap­pen­ing close to home. Last year, more than 120 bills de­scribed as “an­tiLGBT” were in­tro­duced across 30 states, in­clud­ing adop­tion laws and so-called bath­room bills, ac­cord­ing to the Hu­man Rights Cam­paign. By Jan­uary, 12 of them had be­come law.

“We have seen a clear cor­re­la­tion be­tween the pres­ence of our leg­is­la­tors and pas­sage of that leg­is­la­tion,” said An­nise Parker, a for­mer mayor of Hous­ton and the CEO of the LGBTQ Vic­tory In­sti­tute, a bi­par­ti­san group that tracks and sup­ports gay and trans­gen­der can­di­dates.

Davids and other can­di­dates are also pur­su­ing a new kind of po­lit­i­cal strat­egy that treats sex­u­al­ity, race and gen­der as cam­paign as­sets that in­ter­sect with their crit­i­cism of Trump, their warn­ings about lost progress on civil rights, and their pol­icy ideas.

Like many racial mi­nor­ity or fe­male hope­fuls this year, many LGBT can­di­dates are aim­ing to ap­peal to broader au­di­ences than cam­paigns of the past, when gay can­di­dates of­ten ran in pre­dom­i­nantly gay ar­eas and tai­lored their pitches to those com­mu­ni­ties. To­day, LGBT can­di­dates might tout a law en­force­ment back­ground to ap­peal to the po­lit­i­cal cen­ter or cam­paign with their spouses and chil­dren to un­der­score an in­ter­est in pol­icy is­sues im­por­tant to par­ents.

“I am sure there are go­ing to be older peo­ple who are con­cerned about my be­ing out or be­ing a woman or be­ing a pro­choice can­di­date or some­thing,” said Davids, who is run­ning in a six-way pri­mary. “But I wouldn’t be run­ning if I thought that num­ber was so high that it was un­re­al­is­tic to be electable.”

The ris­ing num­ber of LGBT can­di­dates comes at a time when the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has moved to roll back pro­tec­tions for gay and trans­gen­der peo­ple. Its ac­tions have in­cluded an at­tempt to ban trans­gen­der peo­ple from serv­ing in the mil­i­tary and a Jus­tice Depart­ment de­ci­sion to ar­gue that the 1964 Civil Rights Act does not pro­tect gay work­ers.

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