LGBTQ+ Candidate Profiles

Representation matters. That’s true for all those who have historically suffered bias and discrimination. And it’s no less important for the LGBTQ+ community. Many LGBTQ+ Americans continue to suffer, particularly in the name of “religious freedom,” a phrase many Republicans use to pit religion against us. But as former presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg proved, we are everywhere, even in religious communities.

Allies are important, but no one understands what it is like to grow up and live LGBTQ+ as well as LGBTQ+ people. That is why it is so important to have as many candidates and elected officials from our community as possible.

With that in mind, the Democrats Abroad LGBTQ+ Caucus is profiling candidates from our community from across the country, from liberal bastions to more conservative areas. These include candidates such as Jabari Brisport, who is running for New York State Senate from Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, as well as Gina Ortiz Jones, who is running for Congress from a Texas district currently held by a Republican.

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Scott Werner (CA-11)

Most politicians running for reelection just have to contend with challengers on the ballot. But this year Scott Wiener, a California state senator from San Francisco, has also had to deal with homophobia, anti-Semitism and death threats on social media from followers of QAnon conspiracy theories.


Wiener, who is Jewish and gay, was first elected to the District 11 senate seat in 2016. Prior to that, the 50-year-old attorney served on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, holding the seat once held by gay civil-rights pioneer Harvey Milk.

Wiener says he has been targeted for his Jewish identity in the past, and President Trump has only made the situation worse by fanning the flames of hatred in the United States. “In that world, it’s sort of par for the course,” he told Haaretz newspaper. “You attack the Jews, and that’s been unleashed under this president.”

On issues, Wiener can show a long list of praise. Among the honors, he was named Legislator of the Year by the California Sexual Assault Investigators Association and California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, for his work reforming California’s criminal justice system, and by the San Francisco Housing Action Coalition and California Building Industry Association for his work addressing California’s housing shortage.

Since 2016, Wiener has authored 36 bills that were signed into law. Among them are SB 35, a landmark bill to streamline housing approvals in cities not meeting their housing goals; SB 822, which enacts the strongest net neutrality protections in the nation; SB 700, which significantly expands access to renewable energy storage; SB 923, which modernizes California’s eyewitness identification standards to ensure innocent people are not sent to prison; SB 136, which reduces mass incarceration by repealing California’s most common used sentence enhancement; SB 219, which protects LGBTQ seniors in long-term care facilities; and SB 159, which allows pharmacists to provide HIV-prevention medications (PrEP and PEP) without a physician’s prescription.

For more information, visit his campaign website.

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Renitta Shannon (GA-84)

Renitta Shannon made a name for herself in Georgia politics by doing something many thought couldn’t be done — defeating incumbent state Rep. Rahn Mayo in the 2016 Democratic primary. Shannon credits her “bold progressive message” for her victory.

Shannon, 40, later came out as bisexual, making her the first bisexual legislator to serve in Georgia’s legislature. But it’s another part of her biography that has made the most news. At 22, in her final year at the University of Florida, she had an abortion. 

This experience has led Shannon to become an advocate on the subject. She says she is committed to ensuring that others have the infrastructure and guidance they need. She speaks on national platforms, such as the Reproductive Freedom Leadership Council and the Center for Reproductive Rights, about her personal abortion story and the importance of abortion rights.

In her first year as a legislator, Shannon was recognized as one of the “Most Valuable Legislators” in The Nation Magazine’s 2017 Progressive Honor Roll for her work on sexual assault policy. In 2018, she was the keynote speaker at the Center for Reproductive Rights conference.

Shannon was a part of the “Making Change at Walmart” tour, speaking about economic justice issues for workers. She also published a piece in The Brown Girl’s Guide to Politics during Pride Month on “Why It Matters to Elect Queer Black Women to Public Office.”

Shannon is also a fierce LGBTQ+ rights advocate. “It’s time we end legal discrimination in housing and employment for LGBTQ+ Georgians,” says Shannon. “Georgia law does not protect against employee discrimination, based on sexual orientation or gender identity. In most of Georgia’s cities there is zero protection from housing discrimination based on gender or sexuality, which many LGBTQ+ Georgians face. A person’s gender or sexuality should never be the reason you lose employment or housing.”

For more information, go to her campaign website.


Park Cannon (GA-58)

CNN has called Park Cannon “the queer black millennial who plans to shake up Georgia politics.” Following the death of Rep. John Lewis, Cannon was one of the final five candidates chosen to succeed him in the U.S. House of Representative. And at 28, she’s also the youngest member of the Georgia Legislature.

 

Cannon, a Georgia native, has held the 58th House District seat since 2016 and is up for reelection again this year, when Georgia is an important swing state for races up and down the ballot.

“I ran for this seat because I represent what is lacking at the Capitol. Women are dramatically underrepresented. We make up 54 percent of the state’s population yet are only 23 percent of the elected officials. The statistics involving African-American women are even worse. I have locked hair. I identify as queer. I grew up in a single parent household that was shaped by domestic violence,” says Cannon.

“At 24, when I was elected to the Georgia House, I set out to work on the issues from the inside. I saw that my presence was so necessary. There were only two members from our LGBTQ community in the House. I started to realize that even the tiny resistances we could form as a rainbow caucus were important. The stance of my resistance became clear: when I am in the room, the stories of trans folks, intersex colleagues, two-spirit individuals are in the room — and at the table.”

Cannon calls House Bill 454, a piece of legislation she wrote, “has been one of my most proud moments as an out, queer person in the South.” The legislation calls on the Department of Public Health, through clinic protocol changes, to act on HIV prevention.

“Continuing to do the work of destigmatizing HIV in the Georgia General Assembly is a part of the queering of politics that I'm called to do,” says Cannon. “… Our voices matter.”

For more information, please visit her campaign website.


Ashley Bland Manlove (MO-26)

Politics runs in Ashley Bland Manlove’s family. Her uncle is former state Rep. Craig Bland, and her grandmother is former House member and state Sen. Mary Groves Bland.

Bland Manlove, 34, won her own seat in the Missouri House of Representatives in 2018. This year marks her first reelection race to keep the seat representing her native Kansas City.

  

“The goal is to create real and sustainable solutions to Missouri's issues; with the people being the first priority, not discrimination or capitalism,” says Bland Manlove. “Since my youth, summer months were spent working actively in voter registration drives, knocking on doors, encouraging adults to vote, and various election activities. This was integral to learning how to become effectively engaged in my community.”

Prior to serving in the legislature, Bland Manlove worked in the accounting industry, public and private sector. She also served as an intelligence analyst for the Missouri National Guard. She was recognized in 2013 with the Army Achievement Medal for outstanding service as an intelligence analyst.

In March 2019, The Missouri Times named Bland Manlove as one of the state legislature’s “Freshmen to Watch.” She’s also the only openly LGBTQ+ woman serving in the legislature.

“I am excited to serve the residents of the 26th district with strong leadership and a listening ear as I have had hundreds of meetings with constituents of the 26th and concerned Missouri citizens,” says Bland Manlove. “I stand ready to serve and engage in the hard work of addressing the critical issues that are creating crises in this community. Specifically I am working on addressing the criminal justice system, voter rights, a priority focus on the education of young people in the urban core with an eye on trauma informed supportive services, and job development.”

For more information, go to her campaign website.


Chris Pappas (NH-01)

New Hampshire once had a reputation as being one of the swingiest of swing states, even though its located in largely liberal New England. So it was a big deal when Chris Pappas was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2018 from the state’s 1st congressional district (the state only has two). He became the first openly LGBTQ+ person the Granite State has ever sent to Washington. And now he’s running his first reelection campaign.

During his first term in Congress, Pappas sponsored legislation to support New Hampshire’s small businesses, improve access to affordable healthcare, fight to get veterans the benefits they have earned, combat the opioid epidemic, and protect our drinking water.

Pappas serves on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee where he chairs the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, focused on holding the Department of Veterans Affairs accountable for providing the highest standard of care and services to our nation’s veterans. He also serves on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee where he is working to deliver transformational investments in New Hampshire’s roads, bridges, highways, airports, and rail systems.

Born and raised in Manchester, the state’s largest city, Pappas went to Harvard University in nearby Massachusetts and graduated in 2002. He returned to New Hampshire to help run his family’s 100-plus year old business, the Puritan Backroom Restaurant. Before his election to Congress, Chris managed the restaurant's day-to-day business and more than 230 employees.

“Ninety-nine percent of New Hampshire’s employers are small businesses,” says Pappas, “and I understand the unique challenges and pressures that small businesses face — especially during the current COVID-19 crisis.”

For more information, go to his campaign page.


Mark Pocan (WI-02)

Madison, Wisconsin’s capital city, has a very progressive reputation. It’s the city that Sen. Tammy Baldwin (the first out lesbian to be elected to the U.S. Senate) represented in both the Wisconsin State Assembly and the U.S. Congress. When Baldwin left the state legislature to go to Washington, fellow progressive Mark Pocan was elected to take her place. And, when Baldwin went to the Senate in 2013, Pocan again followed her and was elected to take her seat in the House.

Now, he serves as co-chair of both the Congressional Progressive Caucus and the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus. And Pocan, a native of Kenosha where his father was an alderman, is up for reelection once again.

Pocan came to Madison to attend college and, shortly after earning a degree in journalism in 1986, opened up his own small business — a union printing company he continues to own and run today. His active years at UW-Madison in College Democrats led to his election in 1991 to the Dane County Board of Supervisors where he served Madison’s downtown community for three terms.

He credits his political activism in part to an incident soon after he graduated from college, when two men followed him after he left a gay bar and beat him with a baseball bat while using anti-gay slurs. He says this incident spurred him to become active in Madison’s LGBTQ+ community.

Pocan and his husband, Philip Frank, were legally married in Toronto in 2006.

In his four terms in Congress, Mark says he has been “a strong voice for progressive values.” He sponsored key legislation to ensure access to high quality public education, invest in clean energy, raise the minimum wage, ensure the right to vote, and close tax loopholes that allow large corporations to avoid paying their taxes in the United States and ship jobs overseas.

For more information, go to his campaign page.


Sharice Davids (KS-03)

Sharice Davids is a bundle of firsts. When she was first elected to Congress from Kansas in 2018, Davids became the first Democrat elected to represent a Kansas congressional district in a decade. Davids is the first openly LGBTQ+ Native American ever elected to Congress and the first openly LGBTQ+ person elected to Congress from the Sunflower State. Davids also happens to be one of the first two Native Americans elected to Congress, along with Deb Haaland of New Mexico, and is only the second Native American to represent Kansas in Congress.

She is also a former professional mixed martial arts fighter. And now she’s fighting her first reelection battle so that she can continue to represent Kansas’ 3rd congressional district, which encompasses most of her state’s side of the Kansas City metropolitan area.

Her first term in Washington was spent tackling the issues she says are most important to Kansas families, including strengthening public schools, lowering the cost of healthcare and prescription drugs, and making sure the government is working for the people.

Davids was raised by a single mother who spent more than 20 years serving in the U.S. Army. A graduate of Leavenworth High School, Sharice was the first person in her family to attend college. She worked her way from Johnson County Community College to Cornell Law School, juggling multiple jobs to put herself through school.

Davids went on to work in economic and community development on Native American reservations, helping tribes to create programs and initiatives for growth. This work inspired her to apply for the prestigious White House Fellowship program, where she served under President Barack Obama.

When she returned home to Kansas, she was disheartened by the way the 3rd District was being represented in Washington, she says. “I decided to run for Congress to give Kansans a voice who represents our values and interests, and to make sure everyone had the same opportunities to achieve their goals that I did."

For more information, please visit her campaign page.


Shevrin Jones (FL-35)

Shevrin Jones is the first black LGBTQ+ person to serve in the Florida Legislature. He was first elected to his state House seat representing Broward County in 2012, and came out publicly in 2018. Unable to run again for his seat due to term limits, he now has his sights set on the Florida Senate. If victorious, he would become the first out LGBTQ+ person elected to serve in the Sunshine State’s upper chamber.

Jones, a native of Miami Gardens, Fla., is the son of Eric Jones Jr., the current mayor of nearby West Park. He’s a former high school chemistry teacher, executive director of the AmeriCorps program Florida Reading Corps, and the founder of the South Florida Youth Summit, the largest gathering of young people in South Florida.

“As a Florida House representative, I’ve never stopped fighting to ensure the prosperity of Florida’s families and communities,” Jones says. “I firmly believe we can do more to protect our public education system. We can do more to keep dangerous weapons off our streets while preserving your rights. We can do more to support Florida’s critical industries and provide opportunities for gainful employment with a quality wage for Florida’s residents. Our government can and should work for the people. As senator for Florida’s 35th District, I will continue to fight for our needs, advocate for equal and fair treatment, and always put people first.”

His platform includes expanding funding for public education, expanding access to healthcare including reproductive health, passing a $15 per hour minimum wage, increasing affording housing options, passing common sense gun reforms, protecting the LGBTQ+ community from discrimination, supporting seniors, fighting back against attacks on Dreamers and immigrant families, reforming the criminal justice system, addressing the threat of climate change and sea-level rise, investing in infrastructure, improving transportation and supporting small businesses.

“This is the people’s movement,” says Jones. “Join us.” For more information, please visit his campaign website.


Beth Doglio

Currently a member of Washington State’s House of Representatives, Beth Doglio lives in the state capital of Olympia with her physician husband and their two sons. As an out bisexual, Doglio also hopes to become the first LGBTQ+ person to represent her state in Washington, D.C.

“The stakes are too high,” says Doglio. “We can’t afford the status quo. Washington, D.C., just isn’t working for us. I’ve been a leader in Olympia fighting for working people and taking on special interests. In Congress, I’ll fight for a better future.”

Doglio is hoping to become the new congressperson representing the Evergreen State’s 10th congressional district, currently held by fellow Democrat Denny Heck since 2012. He is running for lieutenant governor rather than seeking another term in Congress.

The daughter of public school educators and the granddaughter of coal miners, Doglio grew up in Kankakee, a small town in Illinois. “There I learned the importance of service and good government from a young age, joining my mother, a leader with the local League of Women Voters chapter, in encouraging voters to create a public health department,” Doglio says.

Having served in the state legislature since 2017, Doglio has become one of the state’s foremost leaders on the environment, housing, gun safety, and issues facing working families. Doglio helped lead the passage of legislation to empower workers through higher wages and improved protections, to make Washington a leader in the fight against climate change, and to provide more resources to address homelessness.

Doglio’s endorsements include Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Seattle Congress member Pramila Jayapal as well as the League of Conservation Voters, the Sierra Club, the Washington Federation of State Employees, the Washington State Labor Council and the Alliance for Gun Responsibility.

For more information, visit her campaign website.