Five Trailblazing Queer Lawmakers of Color Win 2016 Elections
Five groundbreaking LGBTQ candidates of color won election to state legislatures in 2016, beginning an upward trend in the number of LGBTQ state legislative candidates of color who would run for office.
Park Cannon and Sam Park elected to the Georgia House
In a special election for the Georgia state House, voters elected 24-year-old Park Cannon to replace Simone Bell, who was the first Black out lesbian elected to a state legislature. Cannon became the first person elected to Georgia’s House who identified as queer. Then in November, Sam Park unseated an entrenched anti-LGBTQ representative to become the first gay man and first Asian American elected to the Georgia state House. (Former State Rep. Rashad Taylor had come out in 2011 while in office).
Carlos Guillermo Smith Wins Florida House Seat
Carlos Guillermo Smith won his election to the Florida state House less than five months after 49 people were massacred at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, where Smith lived. On that tragic morning on June 12, 2016, Smith – who was then the government affairs manager at Equality Florida – recalled waking up and making panicked phone calls to ensure friends and loved ones were safe. In the days that followed, he became one of the most outspoken local voices demanding tolerance and acceptance for people of color, LGBTQ people and the Muslim community.
Two months after the shooting, he overwhelmingly won his primary and was unopposed in the general election, becoming Florida’s first out LGBTQ Latinx state lawmaker.
Leslie Herod Emerges Victorious in Colorado House Race
Also on that night in November 2016, Leslie Herod became the first Black out LGBTQ person elected to the Colorado state legislature. An alumna of Victory Institute’s Candidate & Campaign Training, she spent years in the state capitol working for high-level elected leaders with a focus on building bridges across the political spectrum. Those skills came in use shortly after the 2016 election when the vehicle of a transgender woman in her district was vandalized with vicious anti-trans and pro–Donald Trump messages. Although not yet in office, Herod quickly organized a town hall on “ensuring civil rights for all” to calm fears and start dialogue. She quickly became among the most influential representatives on civil rights issues, including police and criminal justice reform as well as LGBTQ equality. Known as one of Colorado’s most prolific and successful lawmakers, Herod was elected chair of the powerful appropriations committee in 2021.