Diversity of ballots: more LGBTQ people, black women show up in US

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It’s a cloudy and rainy Sunday afternoon, and Sarah McBride is walking down a tree-lined residential street in Wilmington, Del. She and her mother leave election brochures in mailboxes when they notice a driver slowly passing by.They can’t quite tell, but the man seems to be greeting McBride. He pulls his vehicle to the side of the street, pulls over and jumps behind the wheel.

“I gave you a helping hand. I voted for you in the primary, ”he said, letting McBride know she had her vote in Tuesday’s Senate election.

McBride is expected to win his race and become a senator representing District 1 of the Delaware State Senate.

If she wins, her race will be marked in the history books, as she will become the first transgender person elected to a State Senate in the United States.

“I realize the powerful message this election can send to a young person here in Delaware, or really anywhere else in this country,” McBride said. “That our democracy is big enough for them too. That they can live their truth and dream big dreams at the same time. “

41% increase in LGBTQ applicants

In this election year in the United States, there are more LGBTQ candidates than ever before, according to the Victory Fund advocacy group.

The organization provides campaign, fundraising and communications support to increase the number of openly LGBTQ elected officials, according to its website.

“We currently know 1,006 LGBTQ candidates running in 2020, including 574 in the ballot in November,” said Sarah LeDonne, spokesperson for the group.

According to a report prepared by the organization, this represents a 41% increase from 2018, when 716 openly LGBTQ candidates were on different ballots across the United States.

“As the main findings show, the number of excluded applicants increased from 2018 to 2020 in almost all categories. Only the number of openly trans applicants has declined, ”LeDonne said in an email.

WATCH | McBride on the importance of running for office:

If Sarah McBride wins her race, she would become the first transgender person elected to a state senate in the United States. 0:29

The record numbers reflect “the monumental strides we have seen in LGBTQ equality across our country over the past decades,” said McBride. “It’s also a by-product of LGBTQ people who see our community under attack and recognize that we deserve a seat at the table, like everyone else.

In 2017, US President Donald Trump announced that his administration would ban certain members of the transgender community from serving in the military.

When speaking to voters in Delaware, McBride said she receives very few questions about her gender identity. In the rare cases that this happens, she said most often, it is “voters who are excited about the opportunity to have more diversity at the table.”

McBride is proud of her identity, but says she is not posing as a transgender candidate.

“I am running as a candidate who was born and raised in this district. A candidate who treated my husband, whom I lost to cancer. I am running as a candidate who has already helped pass meaningful legislation here in Delaware for my neighbors. ”

As 2020 figures show a significant increase in the number of LGBTQ candidates, the Victory Fund says thousands more in the community must run for public office and win, for there to be representation that reflects American society.

LeDonne said the organization found that 22,544 more LGBTQ people must be elected to all levels of government to achieve this goal.

Gap in representation of black women

Black women who run for office face a similar gap. As record numbers of black women are running in this electoral cycle, gains have yet to be made for elected representation to reflect society.

“The 23 million black women in this country are underrepresented and underserved,” said Glynda Carr, president of Higher Heights for America, a political advocacy group that works to get black women elected.

“Black women make up only 4.3% of Congress. Black women make up eight percent of the US population, ”Carr said, adding that voters elected only“ two black women to sit in the US Senate: Carol Moseley Braun in 1992, and Kamala Harris in 2016. ”

Maryland Congressional candidate Kim Klacik speaks via a video stream during the largely virtual 2020 Republican National Convention airing on August 24. A record number of black women are running in this electoral cycle. (Republican National Committee / The Associated Press)

At least 130 black women are running for Congress this year, according to a Higher Heights for America analysis: 98 Democrats and 32 Republicans.

It’s a record for both sides.

“Black women are not a voting monolith, nor a political ideology monolith,” Carr said. “We cover the spectrum, and what you see is more women who believe they have the vision and the expertise to represent their districts. And that includes Democrats and Republican women. ”

The current political climate under the Trump administration, along with the national calculation of racism, injustice, and inequality, are major factors in the record number of black women deciding to run, she said.

“This environment has certainly created the urgency for black women to leave the scenes. “

‘Tired of the old status quo’

This sense of urgency is one of the reasons Christina Henderson decided to run, seeking a seat on the local council in Washington, DC as a whole.

After spending years working behind the scenes on that same board, as well as on Capitol Hill, she said she thought it was the right time for her.

WATCH | Henderson explains why she decided to put her name on the ballot:

She has spent years working behind the scenes of the Washington, DC council as a whole. Now she’s running for her own seat. 0:15

“I think for many of us who threw our hats off in the race, we are tired of the old status quo,” she said as she handed out flyers to voters outside a school in the northwest district.

“We want to see the change that is happening, and so far we feel that we really need to be at the table to really move this agenda forward. “

Challenges

Henderson said his race was not without challenges.

At the start of the race, she said, the Washington Post ran an article about the top four contenders in her race, but when she read the article, she noticed something was wrong.

“They included me among the top four contenders, but they did not include my photo, even though they included the photo of all the men,” she said.

The newspaper then approved it, so Henderson has no hard feelings.

“I feel like we’re making people think about what that looks like in terms of performance, not just on the surface, but what that means for actual performance,” she said.

While she hasn’t given it much thought at this point, if Washington, DC ever gets statehood, she says she would like to run for Congress.

” Why not? ” she says.

For now though, she is focused on the race ahead of her.

“I feel like part of that is building the bench, and a lot of it starts with local races,” she said. “Do you support black women who show up at local offices so that you can have a bench for people to show up to Congress and the Senate and that sort of thing?”

Having a bench force is one way to tackle the current representation deficit, Henderson said, so that halls of power better reflect the people they serve.

“When the time comes for a free seat in the Senate, you don’t say, ‘There are no qualified women. There is no one here. »You have a bench ready for use. ”

WATCH | The United States sees more diversity in the ballots, but gaps remain:

There are a record number of women of color and LBGTQ candidates running for the United States this year, but many say there is still a long way to go to achieve thoughtful representation. 2:09


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