A ‘rainbow wave’ of candidates made history. What’s next for them?
When James Roesener answered the phone to speak to a reporter on Thursday, it was impossible not to hear his smile.
Roesener, a 26-year-old high school graduate and store manager in Concord, N.H., was two days removed from making history: becoming the first out transgender man to ever be elected to a state legislature.
He had seen plenty of enthusiasm for his campaign in the months leading up to his election, Roesener said: “Actually, a lot of people didn’t know that there weren’t any trans men in legislative office yet, so they were really hyped to be part of that.”
Still, the outpouring of attention — “overwhelmingly positive,” he said — took Roesener by surprise.
He’s still coming to terms with the gravity of his historic achievement.
“We can move mountains as a community, and we’re just kind of getting started,” Roesener said. “I’m excited to be in a time where I get to see the people who do that.”
He was reminded that he was one of those people.
Roesener laughed in response. “That’s true,” he said. “Maybe it hasn’t sunk in.”
Roesener was part of an unprecedented “rainbow wave” of LGBTQ candidates who ran for office in record numbers and won in record numbers. According to the Victory Fund, an LGBTQ political PAC that tracked queer and trans candidates across the country, out of 714 out LGBTQ candidates who appeared on Tuesday’s ballots, 436 won their races, with the possibility of even more gains in the coming days. (As of Friday morning, 25 races were undecided.)
It was also the first time out LGBTQ candidates were on the ballot in all 50 states — as well as D.C., Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands. But their unprecedented success comes at a time when LGBTQ rights are at risk across the country.
Some of these trailblazing candidates will work in statehouses that have made curbing the rights of LGBTQ people a legislative priority. Others will be in a position to help codify more LGBTQ protections. As many of these barrier breakers come to terms with their historic success and what it means to their communities, they must also look ahead to what’s next.
The midterms brought more good news for LGBTQ candidates beyond their record wins. Nevada voters passed an Equal Rights Amendment that is considered the most comprehensive in the nation, prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and “gender identity or expression,” among other attributes. And there were cisgender candidates who pledged to protect queer and trans people, such as Pennsylvania Gov.-elect Josh Shapiro (D), who were embraced by large shares of voters.