334 Out LGBTQ+ Candidates Won Elections In 2020, More Than Any Other Year In U.S. History

If 2018 was a “rainbow wave,” activists say 2020 was a “rainbow tsunami” of historic LGBTQ+ wins across the country.

Pride flags decorate Market Square in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia during Pride Month on June 24, 2020. | Getty Images
Pride flags decorate Market Square in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia during Pride Month on June 24, 2020. | Getty Images

More than 300 out LGBTQ+ candidates won their elections in the U.S. in 2020, more than any other election year in American history, according to the LGBTQ Victory Fund.

The Fund, which describes itself as the “only national organization dedicated to electing openly LGBTQ people who can further equality at all levels of government,” released its demographic findings on Tuesday. According to their tally, a total of 334 out LGBTQ candidates won their races, “out of the 782 known out candidates who appeared on the ballot in 2020.” The Victory Fund endorsed nearly 400 of those candidates.

Annise Parker, the president and CEO of the Victory Fund, made history herself when she was elected mayor of Houston in 2009 — making her the first out gay mayor of the city and Houston the largest city in the U.S. at the time to have an openly gay mayor. (Chicago took over that title when they elected Mayor Lori Lightfoot in 2019.)

Of the history-making 2020 election wins, Parker said, “In one of the most vitriolic and unprecedented election cycles of our time, LGBTQ candidates continue winning elections in numbers and in parts of the country thought unthinkable a decade or two ago.”

She continued: “LGBTQ people span every community – we are people of color, women, immigrants, and people with disabilities – and we are able to use that life experience to connect with voters from many backgrounds. This beautiful diversity provides an opportunity to connect on some level with every single voter in America. That is the reason LGBTQ candidates are winning in unprecedented numbers, and this will only accelerate in the years ahead.”

Of these wins, nine were at the federal level, 139 were in state legislatures, 21 were judicial, five were mayoral, and 160 were local office wins (excluding mayor).

At the federal level, two Democrats from New York state, Mondaire Jones and Ritchie Torres, became the first out Black men to be elected to U.S. Congress. Bloomberg reported that the next session of Congress will have a “record of nine openly gay or lesbian House members,” in addition to two senators, Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), for a record of 11 total across both chambers. The Washington Post tallied the numbers this way: “Openly LGBTQ representatives will make up 2 percent of the House, putting the United States at 10th in the world in proportions.”

Bloomberg also noted that “at least 38 LGBTQ politicians [are] poised to be freshman state legislators, including three transgender candidates.” In Delaware, Sarah McBride became the first out trans candidate, period, to win a state Senate seat in the U.S.

In 2018, the LGBTQ Victory Institute (a separate organization from the Fund) estimated that the U.S. would need to elect 22,837 more out candidates “to achieve equitable representation.”

Other key takeaways from the data released Tuesday, according to the Victory Fund:

  • 42.7% of out LGBTQ candidates on the ballot won their races in 2020, and 57% of Victory Fund endorsed candidates won;
  • LGBTQ cisgender men ran in much higher numbers than LGBTQ cisgender women in 2020, but cisgender women candidates won at a higher rate (50% to 38.9%);
  • 36.9% of out trans women who ran for office in 2020 won their races;
  • 35.7% of LGBTQ candidates who ran in 2020 were people of color, and 37.1% won their races;
  • 76.4% of LGBTQ candidates ran as Democrats and 41.5% won, whereas only 2% of LGBTQ candidates ran as Republicans and 36.9% won.