We Won So Many Things: LGBTQ+ People and POC Kicked Ass In the 2017 Elections

It’s impossible to overstate the bleak and demoralizing year we’ve suffered since Donald Trump was “elected” president. I still almost can’t bring myself to type it in a sentence. Every new day has unleashed some fresh horror as Trump has continued his relentless attacks on people of color, immigrants, Muslims, trans people, women, the poor, the foundations of our democracy, and reality itself. One of the most distressing things about 2017 is that that no one has been willing or able to stop the tide of the Trump administration. Each executive order, each proclamation via tweet: nearly all of his actions have gone unchecked and empowered the most loathsome people in this country to make their bigotry even more public. Yesterday’s 2017 election seemed like it would be more of the same, especially as the polls in the Virginia governor’s race tilted toward Republican Ed Gillespie, who cozied up to Trump and his white supremacist rhetoric the longer his campaign went on.

But no! Holy cats, no! Yesterday’s election was a sweeping victory around the country, at all levels of governance, for progressives who stand against Donald Trump. The Washington Post called it “a judgment on President Trump and the politics of polarization.” The New York Times said it was the “first forceful rebuke of President Trump and his party.” The Los Angeles Times named it “a night of political retaliation against President Trump.” And good ol’ CNN predicted that “Republicans will wake up Wednesday in a nightmare.” Welcome, Republicans!

Here are the things we won last night

+ Jenny Durkan will become Seattle’s first lesbian mayor.

+ In Virginia, trans woman Danica Roem unseated 25-year incumbent Bob Marshall, the very guy who wrote the bill to ban trans students from the bathrooms that match their gender identities. In total, four women beat four white men (three incumbents) in VA’s House of Delegates races.

+ Virginia also elected its first Latinas to the state House. Elizabeth Guzman and Hala Ayala both unseated Republicans.

+ Kathy Tran became the first Asian American to be elected to the VA state legislature.

+ In Minneapolis, Andrea Jenkins became the first openly trans woman of color to be elected to the city council of a major U.S. city.

+ Yesterday saw huge wins for black politicians at the mayoral level.

+ In Georgia, two Democrats unseated Republicans in state legislature races. From Vox:

The result in HD-117 should be particularly alarming for Republicans … Democrats are eager to take a big swing at the 2018 gubernatorial election and — if they can win it — have more influence on the post-2020 redistricting process and thus a better shot at the legislature. Special elections only tell you so much, but tonight’s wins bring Georgia Democrats that much more hope of winning a year from now.

+ Women with no political experience unseated the men who mocked them. From the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Ashley Bennett, 32, a psychiatric emergency screener from Egg Harbor Township who showed up at an Atlantic County Freeholder’s meeting to protest comments made by Freeholder John Carman mocking the Women’s March, and then decided to run for his seat, knocked Carman off the board Tuesday.

+ Tyler Titus was elected to the Eerie School Board.

+ New Jersey elected Democrat Phil Murphy as governor, which, as Rachel Maddow noted last night, was due in large part to Chris Christie being “the most unpopular politician in the history of political polling in the United States.” NJ also elected Sheila Oliver, the state’s first black Lt. Governor. At Murphy’s victory party, Oliver said, “This may not be the first glass ceiling I have broken, but it is certainly the highest. And I hope somewhere in this great state of New Jersey, a young girl of color is watching tonight and realizing that she does not have a limit to how high she can go.”

+ Ravinder Bhalla of Hoboken, NJ became the first Sikh American to be elected mayor of a major U.S. city.

+ Lisa Middleton became the first openly trans person to be elected to a non-judicial post in California.

+ Dems flipped governing trifectas in New Jersey and Washington. From New York Magazine:

In addition to an array of wins in Virginia, New York, Florida, and elsewhere on Tuesday, Democrats took full advantage of limited opportunities to begin to reverse lopsided Republican control of state governments. Going into this off-year election, Republicans had “trifecta” control of the executive branch and both legislative chambers in 26 states, while Democrats had just six. Now Democrats have two more.

This is a wacky thing to say, but I’m not sure that’s even all the good news to come out of yesterday. If I missed anything, let me know. In the meantime, don’t relax! We’ve got to keep resisting at every level in every way!

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Heather Hogan

Heather Hogan is an Autostraddle senior editor who lives in New York City with her wife, Stacy, and their cackle of rescued pets. She's a member of the Television Critics Association, GALECA: The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics, and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer critic. You can also find her on Twitter and Instagram.

Heather has written 1718 articles for us.


    • Love that picture of Mitzi Johanknecht!!
      Have to agree with the below commenters though — Durkan is not a big win for Seattle.
      That being said, all these other great firsts throughout the country give me hope.

  1. I feel the complete opposite of how I felt when I woke after the last election to hear that T had won, I am just so giddy with joy today. It a great win for LGBT folks everywhere. Big BIG wins.


  2. Amazing coverage Heather! Also in VA Democrats picked up 14 delegates and at least 2 more up in the air which means VA is looking solidly Democratic right now.
    I must also say how truly humbling it is to live in the state that elected Danica Roem. It is not loss on any of us the significance of her win, but to beat an incumbent like Bob Marshall by nearly 10% is truly a testament to Danica’s appeal and the great campaign she ran. I’ve lived in Virginia my entire life and since I can remember Marshall has been trying to hold back progress for everyone but really zeroing in on the LGBTQIA community! Luckily Danica has proven it’s going to take alot more than ignorance and fear to hold us back and stifle our voices!

  3. Quick correction!
    “Women with no political experience women unseated the men who mocked them” should have one less “women”.

  4. Thanks for this great roundup! It’s a breath of fresh air, and a good reminder that things really can change, resistance does work, and things maybe won’t stay this terrible forever. A good anniversary for last year’s election, even if we still have far to go! This isn’t quite the same type of win, but Maine voters passed a Medicaid expansion referendum as well. (The governor is resisting it, but still, it sounds like progress from my relatively uninformed, outsider’s perspective.)

  5. I’m so happy for and encouraged by all of the positive news from yesterday!

    Unfortunately the result from St. Louis City isn’t as positive. 60% of the voting population chose to raise the sales tax rate 0.25% to give our police more money. This is the same police force that kills POC at a ridiculous rate and engaged in illegal practices during the most recent protests. From a financial standpoint, the department also got in trouble just this past summer (pre-verdict) for going $5 million over budget on overtime without actually logging when they were doing said overtime. Sigh.

  6. Last year, I was sitting alone in my living room, long after everyone had gone to sleep, watching that TV screen light up red and sobbing. I wasn’t out yet, and now I was terrified if I ever would be with all the hate that was coming. 365 Days later, I’m happier than I have been in a very long time, and finally hopeful for the future.

  7. I am crying happy tears! Possibly because I almost forgot what it’s like to win a thing politically, but also it’s so moving to see LGBTQ people kicking ass in the very same public legal space republicans don’t want us to exist.

  8. I grew up in the city in Virginia that just elected Danica Roem to the house of delegates and, without exaggeration, this is the first time in my entire life that I am proud to say I’m from Manassas, VA. I live far away now, but my little Virginian heart is SO DAMN PROUD.

  9. This is what I wanted to feel like last year! I live in Virginia and always have so it makes me very happy to know that so many of these positive changes happened in my state. Of course, my county voted Republican as it always does, but I always enjoy seeing my district not get what it wants.

    I’m sure I won’t be able to keep up this feeling of optimism for long, but I’m sure as hell going to enjoy it while it lasts!

  10. I was on a treadmill at the Gym when the news Danica Roem one. I did a victory dance on the spot. Same applied when I saw Andrea Jenkins won too. Also, ecstatic to know that Lisa Middleton won. As a refresher, Palm Springs is where Dinah Shore is hosted yearly and has a large lgbtq(mostly men) retirement community.

  11. Crying happy tears on train while scrolling through this. Also, while she is not LGBT+, Laura Curran became the first woman elected to serve as Nassau County Executive and the third Dem to hold the title (and she’s from my town, to boot). And Laura Gillen, another Dem, was elected Hempstead Supervisor. So many gains for Long Island, I’m elated

  12. Here in Colorado Springs, a traditionally conservatively intractable city that can’t pass taxes for anything, we passed THREE TAXES last night, one for education (I volunteered on that campaign a bit, yay!), one for storm water, and one for road maintenance and construction.
    Honestly it sounds small but in a non presidential year in Colorado Springs it is an ABSOLUTE MIRACLE and we are all super stoked!!!! It bodes well for 2018!!!!

  13. I’m English but so happy for America with what’s happened here & hoping it’s the start of the world starting to leave the horrible stuff of last year behind for the goodness of this instead :)

  14. Today I’m feeling the exact opposite of how I felt this time last year & almost every day since. I’m so happy that people showed up and voted

    • THANK YOU. Durkan is *not* a win. The new KC sheriff isn’t terrific either; she opposes safe consumption sites in the middle of an opioid crisis.

      Banking on the Council to see us through (& I sincerely hope to see Kirsten Harris-Talley back on the dais in two years representing District 2).

      • Eh, all the candidates were a mixed bag, in my opinion. I had worries about both Durkan and Moon, but feel there are also positives with both (i.e. electing a progressive woman as mayor). Even the Stranger was driven to publicly endorse the new KC sheriff as the lesser of two evils, despite stating they didn’t agree with her on safe injection sites.

        Overall, I think it is a win.

    • As a Seattle resident and voter, I agree. I voted for Nikita Oliver in the primary and then (much more reluctantly) Moon in the general. Jenny Durkan supports the new youth jail and that I can’t abide by.

  15. Another fact I learned: Dawn Adams, who also flipped a Virginia House of Delegates seat with a male Republican incumbent, is a lesbian!

  16. Congratulations USA.!!!

    This looks like a turning point, hopefully the beginning of the end for the haters, inadequates and bigots.

  17. OK, this is overall fabulous, and has lifted a touch of my depression about the state of our country and the world. But my comment is mostly to give kudos to whomever put that cat in the title block, because I seriously chuckle out loud to myself every time I see its “brain freeze” shocked face. So thank you for the laughs.

  18. I had already heard about most of these through Facebook and Twitter friends but coming here and seeing it all laid out on Autostraddle still made me tear up with joy. I’m excited for us to keep this momentum going into the general. THEY CAN’T TAKE OUR SHINE.

  19. Got another one for you! In Knoxville, TN we got a leftist DSA member elected to the City Council, Seema Singh Perez. This is the first time we’ve had a woman of color on City Council (and we have two now! a Black woman was elected in another district) and the first time a South Asian woman has been on City Council. She ran with the City Council Movement, a grassroots movement dedicated to participatory democracy, on a platform of affordable housing, affordable healthcare, and participatory budgeting. Our City Council has been run by real estate developers for a long time, and one of our movement’s primary goals is fighting the gentrification they’ve been pushing.

    In an even wilder turn in this story, we also had another candidate running who tied in her primary, Amelia Parker. She’s a badass lawyer and organizer who cofounded Black Lives Matter Knoxville, served as a director for SOCM (a local community organizing group), and has generally spent the last few years pushing Knoxville public officials to do better. City Council decided to break the tie themselves and voted 9-0 for the other candidate, a white dude career politician (surprise!). So we ran Amelia as a write-in candidate and got more than 2,000 write-in votes, or 18% of the vote in a threeway race. Feels like a different kind of win to me.

    Now that Seema is elected we’re going to form a cabinet of community members to work with her and hold her accountable to the goals we had during the election, and help her push City Council. This is our first election, and getting a candidate elected is a huge win for a leftist movement in Knoxville. I’m excited to see where we go from here (something I haven’t been able to say about Tennessee politics for a long time).

    Our FB has more info and pics of the candidates https://www.facebook.com/citycouncilmovementknoxville/

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