A Record Number Of LGBTQ Candidates Intend To Run For Office In Texas

The Texas LGBTQ community is ready for their voices to be heard.

The 2018 election cycle is gearing up to be one of the most diverse this country has ever seen, even in traditionally red states such as Texas. Though the Lone Star State has been trending in a more progressive direction over the last several years, it's still pleasantly surprising to see that more than 40 LGBTQ candidates have announced their intention to run for office in Texas — an impressive feat for even the bluest of locales.

OutSmart, a Houston-based LGBTQ magazine, reports at least 42 LGBTQ candidates have announced their intention to run for office next year, and hope to occupy various positions in the state government including governor, state senator, and Texas state representative.

The governor's race could shape up to be a particularly interesting one to watch, as any candidate who runs will be competing for the influential position with current Texas governor Greg Abbott, who gained notoriety last year when he unsuccessfully attempted to force an anti-trans bathroom bill through the legislature. According to INTO, LGBTQ candidates Jeffrey Payne, a Dallas gay bar owner and former foster child, and Lupe Valdez, who was Dallas County Sheriff for more than a decade, have both announced their intentions to seek the Democratic Party nomination and challenge Abbott.


Shortly after announcing his candidacy, Payne, who was partially inspired to run because of the aforementioned transphobic bathroom bill, told Dallas News, "There's no reason to think that someone who is gay can't do a job, and here it's being governor and representing people. I believe that the majority of Texans are going to sit back and say, 'I don't care that he's gay, what are his solutions?'"

Valdez, who is Hispanic and openly gay, took a somewhat similar approach when indicating her plans to run for governor at a press conference last month. "Opportunity in Texas ought to be as big as this great state, but it is out of reach for far too many, that's why I'm running for Texas Governor," she said, per The Texas Tribune. "I'm a proud Texas Democrat. I believe good government can make people's lives better, and I intend to do just that."

In addition to the LGBTQ gubernatorial hopefuls, there are ten LGBTQ candidates for the Texas House of Representatives, one LGBTQ person running for the Texas Supreme Court, and three LGBTQ candidates vying for a seat in the Texas Senate. As one Senate hopeful, Mark Phariss, told INTO, "There are spokespeople in the Texas Senate for LGBTQ equality, but it's time for there to be an LGBTQ person at the table in the Senate."

Mark Phariss and his spouse.

Given that more than 20 bills were put forward in Texas attacking queer and trans rights in 2017, this unprecedented influx of LGBTQ people intending to run for office doesn't exactly come as a shock. "I think for many, the motivation to run is in sync with the adage, 'If you're not at the table, you're on the menu,'", Equality Texas CEO Chuck Smith told INTO. "We have recently been witnessing a continuous assault on our rights and freedoms. It is only by raising our voices and securing our 'place at the table' that we can ensure our constitutional rights to equal protection under the law are preserved."

Other marginalized groups raising their voices by expressing interest in running for office include women and people of color. Like the LGBTQ community, both sects have seen their rights and freedoms attacked on the state and national level in recent months. EMILY's List reported 11,000 women were interested in running for office around the country in 2017, while many states recently elected people of color to positions of power for the first time. Though it remains to be seen what will happen in Texas, it's encouraging to know that the pool of political candidates is already so diverse.

Cover image via  michelmond I Shutterstock


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