By Bob Kecskemety
The LGBT community made major gains in last week’s general elections capturing more seats in state and local governments then they ever have in a single election cycle. These gains more than made up for losses experienced in the elections of 2010. Pro-LGBT causes were also big winners in November 2010. There were, however, some losers.
• Michael Smith won a spot on the Largo, Florida City Commission for seat 1. He beat out Mary Gray Black by 546 votes. Black had a history of anti-LGBT activism while sitting on the city commission.
• Annise Parker won re-election as mayor of Houston, Texas. Parker was first elected to mayor in 2009 becoming the first out lesbian woman to become mayor of a major US city. She won against five other candidates with a large enough margin to avoid a run-off. Prior to becoming mayor, Parker sat on the Houston City Commission and was the city’s comptroller.
• 22-year-old Alex B. Morse was elected mayor of Holyoke, Massachusetts becoming the youngest mayor in the country. The Brown University graduate and Holyoke-native beat out 67-year-old incumbent Elaine Pluta for the mayorship by nearly 1,000 votes. The main issue that propelled Morse’s win was his opposition to casino gambling in Massachusetts, an issue that Pluta rallied around as a way to boost Holyoke’s economy. Transforming Holyoke’s education system was also at the top of Morse’s agenda, as well as creating jobs through tax incentives and building upon Holyoke’s arts and entertainment district. Being mayor will be Morse’s first job since graduating from college.
• Adam Ebbin was elected to the Virginia State Senate District 30 to become the first openly gay senator in the state. He defeated Timothy McGhee by a margin of 67% to 33%. Ebbin was a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, representing District 49 since 2004 and was only the third openly gay elected official in Virginia. Ebbin is currently employed by the Service Members Legal Defense Network as its Director of Communications.
• Daniel Hernandez won election to the Tucson, Arizona school board. Hernandez received national attention earlier this year as an assistant to US Representative Gabrielle Gifford. He propped up Gifford’s head in a move that is credited with helping save her life after she was shot in the head in the parking lot of a Tucson shopping center.
• In a special election, Liz Mathis beat Cindy Golding for the Iowa State Senate. Mathis is a former television news anchor. This election was pivotal in keeping same-sex marriage legal in Iowa. Had Golding won, the Senate would have come under control of the Republicans who had vowed to end gay marriage in the state. The National Organization for Marriage poured money into Golding’s campaign. The election turned particularly nasty when voters started receiving robo-calls urging them to question her about “what homosexual acts she endorses.”
• Dr. Timothy Eustace won in a race for New Jersey State Assembly. Eustace had been the mayor of Maywood, New Jersey and became the first openly gay non-incumbent to win a seat in New Jersey’s state legislature. Eustace is a practicing chiropractor. Eustace will become one of two openly gay members of the New Jersey State Assembly.
• Pedro Segarra won reelection to his position as mayor of Hartford, Connecticut. His main opponent dropped out of the race prior to the election.
Segarra was president of Hartford’s City Council and succeeded former Mayor Eddie Perez who resigned after he was convicted by a state Superior Court jury of bribery and extortion in a political corruption case. Segarra is the first openly gay mayor of Hartford.
• In Missoula, Montana, Caitlin Copple became the first openly gay member of the Missoula City Council serving Ward 4. Copple’s work history includes marketing and fundraising the Missoula YWCA and serving as interim director of the Montana Innocence Project.
• Chris Seelbach became the first openly gay city council member elected in Cincinnati, Ohio. Seelbach, 31, was vice president and chief financial officer of the marketing and public relations firm, The Seidewitz Group. He was also the first openly gay candidate to run for city council in Cincinnati. Seelbach was elected in what the Cincinnati Enquirer referred to as a major shakeup of the Cincinnati City Council with the removal of four Republican city councilmen and replacing them with Democrats with the majority being African-American and a major issue being the future of a streetcar project.
• LaWana Mayfield became Charlotte, North Carolina’s first openly gay city council member. She was just part of a LGBT wave in North Carolina’s elections. Openly gay Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt won reelection. Lee Storrow won a seat on the Chapel Hill Town Council. Storrow, 22, became the youngest member to serve on the city council. Incumbent Alderwoman Lydia Lavell won reelection to the Carrboro, North Carolina town council.
• Bruce Harris was elected Chatham Borough, New Jersey’s mayor becoming the nation’s first gay, African-American Republican mayor. An attorney, Harris holds an MBA and has 15 years of corporate experience. He began volunteering in municipal government 13 years ago, and was selected to fill a seat on the council vacated by Dick Plambeck when he was elected to mayor. Harris was re-elected to the council in 2005 and 2008. This was his first mayoral campaign.
• Zach Adamson was elected as Indianapolis’ first openly gay city council member. Adamson was a small business owner in downtown Indianapolis for 13 years and community development advocate for nearly a decade.
• Mary Doran was elected to the St. Paul, Minnesota School Board. Doran is the mother of two girls who attend Saint Paul Public Schools and has, over the last two years, volunteered over 250 hours at their school. She also served on the Citizen’s Budget and Finance Advisory Committee for two consecutive school years and served as the Chair for the second term.
• Edwin Mah Lee won election as Mayor of San Francisco. He was appointed mayor by the Board of Supervisors on January 11 to serve out the remainder of former mayor Gavin Newsom’s term, after Newsom resigned to take office as Lieutenant Governor of California. At the time of his appointment, Lee pledged not to run for the office, but he later decided to join the race. Lee won his own election to the office last week to serve a full term as mayor.
• By nearly a two-to-one margin, the voters of Traverse City, Michigan supported an ordinance prohibiting discrimination on sexual orientation.
• By a margin of a mere 24 votes, Manuel Rodriguez, Jr. beat out Ramiro Fonseca in his reelection bid as Trustee for the Houston School Board. A week prior to the election, Rodriguez was accused of sending out an anti-gay ad against his opponent. The campaign brochure said about Fonseca: “his records show he spent years advocating for gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender rights … not kids.” The day after Rodriguez won reelection, he apologized for the campaign brochure.
• Rose Marie Belforti won reelection to town clerk for Ledyard, New York. She won with 62% of the vote. Belforti made national news earlier this year when, shortly after same-sex marriage became legal in the state of New York, she refused to sign same-sex marriage licenses claiming that being forced to sign the licenses violated her religious rights.