At least 1,008 LGBTQ people are running for office — of all levels — so far in 2022, according to the group’s data, shared first with CNN. The organization, which only endorses candidates who back abortion rights, has seen an uptick in LGBTQ candidates of color, transgender candidates and gender non-conforming candidates.
“The writing is on the wall for the LGBTQ community and our allies: our rights are on the ballot this year. The people we elect this cycle will make decisions about what our kids are allowed to learn and say in the classroom, what health care choices people will be allowed to make about their own bodies and possibly, whether we will continue to be allowed to marry those we love,” Annise Parker, president and CEO of LGBTQ Victory Fund and the former mayor of Houston, said in a statement shared with CNN.
The group has kept data on everyone who has asked for its endorsement since its founding in 1991 and started maintaining a comprehensive database from partner organizations in 2018, which it calls the “rainbow wave” because of the sharp uptick in LGBTQ candidates that year.
By far, the most LGBTQ people — more than 400 — are running for state legislature, compared to other offices, according to LGBTQ Victory Fund.
Democrat Leigh Finke, who, if elected, would be the first out trans person in the Minnesota state legislature, according the group’s data, told CNN she started talking about running for office “because of the coordinated national attacks against trans people.”
“We have a divided legislature, so it wasn’t that these bills were going to pass, but the conversation itself damages my community. It hurts trans kids. It just became very important for me to have a trans person in the room where these conversations are taking place,” she said.
Though a number of candidates have made clear they’re not just running to make history, they’ve noted that their identities plays a key role in their candidacies.
“I’m not running to be the first,” former Oregon state House Speaker Tina Kotek, a Democrat running for governor, said in a statement to CNN. “But, let me say this: I’m really proud to be running, openly and authentically, at a moment where the extreme right is once again going after the LGBTQ+ community, especially our kids.”
If elected, Kotek could become the first out lesbian governor in the United States, according to the group. That first could also be secured by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, a Massachusetts Democrat.
“Given the political climate that we’re in, what a better way to stick it to the legislature [than] by sending the first LGBTQ parent to the legislature after having this atrocious bill, ‘the don’t say gay,’ where they dubbed it ‘the parental rights bill,’ but they completely ignore my rights as a parent as well and the rights of my children, and the rights of so many children,” said Perez, who, if elected, would be the first out woman from the LGBTQ community in the Florida state Senate and the first LGBTQ parent in the state legislature, according to the group’s data.
“I hope that with my candidacy a lot of people that come after me can see that they can have this too,” she added.
Meanwhile, in Connecticut, state Treasurer candidate Erick Russell commended those stepping up to run, even amidst an unprecedented number of anti-LGBTQ state bills. If elected, Russell would be the first out Black LGBTQ statewide elected official in the country, according the group’s data.
“I think people realize more now than ever that there is no time to sit on the sidelines, that we all need to step up and really do our part. And I think that that representation, particularly when so many of our communities are under attack right now, is really important,” Russell said.