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Lupe Valdez Becomes America’s First Out Latina Lesbian Sheriff

Published in NYTimes 11/10/04 Published Caption: Sheriff-elect Lupe Valdez outside her dismantled campaign office. (Photo by Mark Graham for The New York Times)
Published in NYTimes 11/10/04 Published Caption: Sheriff-elect Lupe Valdez outside her dismantled campaign office. (Photo by Mark Graham for The New York Times)

Even after over 20 years working in law enforcement, Latina, lesbian, former migrant farm worker Lupe Valdez was seen as the underdog in her race for Dallas County Sheriff. However, the 2004 vote swung in her favor and was elected as the first Democrat in the position in 25 years and the first woman elected to the role by a 17,000 vote margin. Valdez also made history as the first out lesbian Latina to be elected as a county sheriff anywhere in the United States. Valdez was reelected four more times and unsuccessfully ran for Governor of Texas in 2018. 

In its 2004 Annual Report, LGBTQ+ Victory Fund emphasized its close partnership with the Valdez campaign:

Lupe Valdez won a stunning victory in Dallas County, Texas, where she was elected Sheriff. Lupe, who has over 20 years of experience in law enforcement, promised to bring integrity back to the office that had been embroiled in scandal over the misuse of funds. In the final weeks of the campaign, Lupe’s opponent was accused of violating campaign finance law, which, combined with Lupe’s experience and appeal, was enough to put her over the top. Lupe and her campaign manager attended the Leadership Institute’s Candidate & Campaign Training in April and received additional strategic advice throughout her campaign. Victory Fund donors provided $10,000 to her campaign.

Rives Kistler Becomes First Out State Supreme Court Justice

Rives Kistler
Rives Kistler

In 2004, a coordinated and largely preemptive backlash to the idea of marriage equality was well underway, resulting in many states voting on the issue on their November ballots. LGBTQ+ Victory Fund operatives were concerned that, with anti-LGBTQ+ amendments on the same ballot as LGBTQ+ candidates, they should fear for the worst. 

Oregon was one of the states weighing a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in the same year that it was set to elect appointed gay State Supreme Court Justice Rives Kistler to a full term. His partisan identity as a Democrat was of little comfort in a state that presidential candidate Al Gore had won by less than 7,000 votes four years earlier. The Oregon Christian Coalition – one of the groups behind the marriage amendment – supported Kistler’s conservative opponent. Polling leading into the elections rightly troubled marriage equality advocates and Kistler supporters alike. 

Rives Kistler had studied law at Georgetown University in the 1980s and clerked in the Fifth Circuit as well as at the U.S. Supreme Court. He worked in private practice and then as a state prosecutor in Oregon before being appointed by Governor John Kitzhaber to the Oregon Court of Appeals in 1999. Governor Ted Kulongoski appointed Kistler to the Oregon Supreme Court in 2003, making him the first out gay member of any state supreme court in U.S. history. 

“I didn’t want to be known as the gay judge. I’d hope to be known as the good judge,” Kistler told Newsweek in a 2004 profile of his race.

Kistler largely got his wish: his sexual orientation wasn’t a major issue in his campaign. (The Christian Coalition even told USA Today in 2006 that it didn’t have a problem with gay judges per se – just those pushing a “pro-homosexual agenda.”) Though the anti-gay marriage amendment passed with 57 percent of voters approving, Justice Kistler won his election with over 60 percent of the vote. 

Kistler ran unopposed in 2010 for another six-year term and again in 2016. He chose to retire in 2018 after over two decades on the court. Coincidentally, Kistler’s retirement allowed the country’s first out governor, Kate Brown, to appoint his replacement. 

Over the course of his tenure, Kistler earned the respect of his colleagues. “Justice Kistler is a brilliant thinker who cares deeply about the law and the people it affects,” said Supreme Court Chief Justice Martha Walters. 

Kistler's 2010 campaign ad: 

Julia Boseman Shatters North Carolina’s Lavender Ceiling

Julia Boseman in 2004
Julia Boseman in 2004

North Carolina had never elected an out LGBTQ+ candidate to its state legislature until Julia Boseman’s state Senate run in 2004. A one-term New Hanover County Commissioner, Boseman took on incumbent Republican Sen. Woody White with LGBTQ Victory Fund’s endorsement. She won her race by 885 votes, shattering North Carolina’s lavender ceiling and becoming the first out LGBTQ+ state legislator in the state.  

Victory Fund Endorses First Trans Candidates

Amanda Simpson in 2004

In 2004, for the first time in its history, LGBTQ+ Victory Fund endorsed two transgender candidates: Robert Haaland for San Francisco Board of Supervisors and Amanda Simpson for Arizona state House. While transgender candidates had long sought public office, it was the first time two such candidates met Victory Fund’s viability criteria, convincing the board that they could indeed win their races. 

Unfortunately, neither Simpson nor Haaland prevailed, but both outperformed expectations and opened the door for more transgender candidates to run. 

LGBTQ+ Victory Fund Endorsed Candidates in 2004

LGBTQ+ Victory Fund endorsed 65 candidates 2004


Tammy Baldwin (D), U.S. House of Representatives, Wisconsin

Jackie Biskupski (D), State House, Utah

Julia Boseman (D), State Senate, North Carolina

Karen Clark (D), State House, Minnesota

Karla Drenner (D), State Assembly, Georgia

Donna Groman (D), Los Angeles Superior Court, California

Christine Kehoe (D), State Senate, California

Nicole LeFavour (D), State House, Idaho

Liz Malia (D), State House, Massachusetts

Jamie McLeod (D), Santa Clara City Council, California

Jeanette Mott Oxford (D), State House, Missouri

Patty Sheehan (D), Orlando City Council, Florida

Jennifer Veiga (D), State Senate, Colorado

Sam Adams (NP), Portland City Council, Oregon

Dan Baker (D), Long Beach City Council, California

Jarrett Barrios (D), State House, Massachusetts

Larry Bliss (D), State House, Maine

Kevin Copher (D), Evans City Council, Colorado

Dave Coulter (D), Oakland County Commissioner, Michigan

Thomas Duane (D), State Senate, New York

Art Feltman (D), State House, Connecticut

Ed Flanagan (D), State Senate, Vermont

Barney Frank (D), U.S. House of Representatives, Massachusetts

John Frederick (D), Albany County Legislature, New York 

Patrick Gossett (D), Rehoboth Beach City Council, Delaware

Rives Kistler (D), Oregon Supreme Court, Oregon

Chris Kolb (D), State House, Michigan

John Laird (D), State Assembly, California

Mark Leno (D), State Assembly, California

Jason Lorber (D), State House, Vermont

Babak Movahedi (D), Washington Advisory Neighborhood Council, DC

Daniel O'Donnell (D), State Assembly, New York

Peter O'Donnell (D), Portland City Council, Maine

David Parks (D), State Assembly, Nevada

Greg Pettis (D), Cathedral City City Council, California

Carl Sciortino (D), State House, Massachusetts

Craig Sherritt (D), Wilton Manors City Council, Florida

Daniel Stewart (D), Plattsburgh Mayor, New York

Lupe Valdez (D), Dallas County Sheriff, Texas

Ken Yeager (D), San Jose City Council, California

Zeke Zeidler (D), Los Angeles Superior Court, California


Celia Israel (D), Travis County Commissioner, Texas 

Janice Kando (D), State House, New Mexico

Tina Kotek (D), State House, Oregon

Sarah Peake (D), State House, Massachusetts

Donna Red Wing (D), State House, Colorado

Amanda Simpson (D), State House, Arizona

Cathy Woolard (D), U.S. House of Representatives, Georgia

John Boyd (D), Sacramento City Council, California

Ray Buckley (D), New Hampshire Executive Council, New Hampshire

Tim Carpenter (D), U.S. House of Representatives, Wisconsin

Corey Corbin (R), State House, New Hampshire

Terry Crow (D), State House, Missouri

Harley Diamond (D), Kings County Civil Court, New York

Robert Haaland (D), San Francisco Board of Supervisors, California

Bill Hedrick (D), Ohio Court of Common Pleas, Ohio

Scott Herman (R), State House, North Carolina

Ken Herndon (D), State Senate, Kentucky 

McKim Mitchell (D), State Senate, New Hampshire

Michael Schaeffer (D), Vanderburgh County Council, Indiana

Charlie Smith (D), State House, South Carolina

Thom Von Hapsburg (R), State House, Arizona

Alex Wan (D), State House, Georgia


Kecia Cunningham (D), State House , Georgia

Jim Stork (D), U.S. House of Representatives, Florida

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