HOUSTON, Texas — At least 50 openly LGBTQ candidates are running for public office in Texas this election cycle, a number approximately three times higher than any previous election cycle in the Lone Star State.
Mark Jones, a political scientist at Rice University, said that the tripling of the number of LGBTQ candidates is a reaction to both the controversial “Bathroom Bill” legislation that passed out of the Texas Senate but was blocked by the more centrist Texas House in 2017, and the presidency of Donald Trump. Jones noted that the overwhelming majority of Texas’ LGBTQ candidates are Democrats and are part of a wave of Democrats (more than 100 for U.S. Congress alone) running for office this cycle, motivated in part by their opposition to Trump.
Jones added that while several LGBTQ candidates have been elected to the Texas Legislature, no openly LGBTQ candidate has ever been elected to represent Texas in the U.S. Congress. However, that could change this cycle.
“Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones, who is running in Congressional District 23, has a realistic prospect of victory in both the Democratic primary and the general election,” Jones stated. “Other prominent LGBTQ candidates include Democratic gubernatorial frontrunner Lupe Valdez, Republican Texas Senate (SD-25) candidate Shannon McClendon and incumbent state Reps. Celia Israel, D-Austin, and Mary Gonzalez, D-El Paso.”
Overall, Jones said, the large number of LGBTQ candidates, including a few Republicans, underscores their growing acceptance among Texas voters and a decline in discriminatory attitudes toward the LGBTQ community in the state, especially among Millennials and Generation X. Evidence of this attitudinal change can be seen in the city of Houston, where Annise Parker served as the first openly lesbian mayor of a major city from 2010 to 2016.
Jones is a leading expert on Texas politics and his research on the Texas Legislature has been widely cited widely in the media, as well as by numerous political campaigns.