While Colorado Rep. Jared Polis is making national headlines as the first openly gay man elected governor, other Colorado candidates are making history, too.
An unprecedented number of LGBTQ candidates ran in this election and Colorado is leading the way in what is being called a nationwide rainbow wave.
Six LGBTQ candidates ran for seats in the state house, and right now two have been declared winners, two are leading as ballots continue to be counted, one is waiting for ballots to be counted, and the state’s first state house transgender candidate is locked in a virtual tie.
“People are starting to realize they want a government that represents them, and it’s time for people like me to step up and run to make sure our government represents who we are,” said Daneya Esgar, who retained the house seat she won in 2015.
Denver’s Leslie Herod does not have to wait. The first African American LGBTQ woman to win a Colorado house seat ran unopposed in this election. She won by a large margin two years ago. “I think more LGBTQ people are running [for political office] because they’ve seen LGBT people like me run for office and win,” she said.
Boulder county’s Sonya Jaquez Lewis also ran unopposed, but only after her republican opponent dropped out of the race after racist and homophobic comments he wrote in a blog were discovered.
“To have a republican candidate in Boulder county saying homosexuality is a disease in 2018 tells you the kind of work I’ll be doing at the state capital,” she said.
All three women said they plan to work on areas that impact everyone. Education, equal employment, fair wages, and affordable housing top the lists. “During the debates it was said I would ‘run a gay agenda.’ In the last four years, I’ve proven the gay agenda is everyone’s agenda,” said Esgar, the first openly gay LGBTQ person to run from Pueblo.
There are a lot of firsts in this election. Brianna Titone could become the first transgender member of the Colorado State house. She is a geologist from Arvada and will likely have to wait for a recount. As of the writing of this article, Titone was in the lead by a small margin.
Arvada is the city of the only other transgender politician in Colorado. Joanne Marie Conte served on the Arvada City Council from 1991-1995.
Rochelle Galindo, a lesbian running out of Weld County, is also in a holding pattern at the time of this writing.
“No one really represented my values; that’s why I stepped up and said I might as well take this into my own hands. And I think a lot of LGBT people found the same calling within themselves,” said the Greeley native.
Alex Valdez, an LGBTQ man running out of Denver, is leading by the very wide margin of 78 percent, but only half the ballots in his district have been counted. With a lead that high, it’s likely he will win that Colorado house seat.
Of the candidates OUT FRONT spoke with, all credit the Trump presidency with creating the rainbow wave now washing over the country and Colorado.
“Threats coming from the Trump administration have people on edge. We’ve worked so hard to get where are that people were inspired to stand up and run to protect the rights we have,” said Jaquez Lewis.
While federal threats may have brought more LGBTQ to the ballots, Herod warns Colorado’s gains may signal a backlash in the opposite direction.
“Just because we have a gay governor does not mean hate has gone away, that homophobia has gone away; it actually means we have more work to do, but we now have an army that can do it,” she said.
This article will be updated as the results come in.