Openly gay candidates poised to make historic wins in New York

by Oscar Lopez | @oscarlopezgib | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Wednesday, 24 June 2020 23:24 GMT

ARCHIVE PHOTO: Bronx City Councilman Ritchie Torres speaks during a news conference, outside 666 5th Avenue regarding the Kushner Companies allegedly falsifying work permits with the City's Department of Buildings, in New York, U.S., March 19, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

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For the first time, the U.S. House of Representatives could have two openly gay Black congressmen

By Oscar Lopez

MEXICO CITY, June 24 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Two openly gay Black candidates are on track to win seats in the U.S. Congress, a first for the nation that illustrates a "generation shift" in U.S. politics, experts and advocates said on Wednesday.

Following New York state's Democratic primary contest on Tuesday, attorney Mondaire Jones had 45% of the vote in one suburban race and City Councilman Ritchie Torres was well ahead of rivals for a New York City seat as of late Wednesday.

If elected, they would be the first openly gay Black men in Congress, part of a record number of LGBT+ candidates this year, according to the Victory Fund, a political advocacy group which endorsed and funded both of them.

More than 850 gay and trans people are on ballots across the country this year, it said.

"In (the midterms in) 2018, we talked about the rainbow wave. Now we're going to talk about the rainbow tsunami," said former Houston Mayor Annise Parker, head of the Victory Fund.

Both candidates still face Republican opponents in November, but both districts are heavily and historically Democratic and their victories are widely expected.

Primary results were not yet official as absentee ballots have yet to be counted.

Elsewhere in New York, progressive Jamaal Bowman was on track to defeat long-time Rep. Eliot Engel, while firebrand Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won a resounding reelection victory, part of what pundits said could be a left-wing turn for the country.

"The national implications of what occurred in New York are very significant," said Hank Sheinkopf, a veteran political consultant and strategist who has worked with prominent Democrats, including former President Bill Clinton.

"This is a generation shift in American politics," he said, adding that senior Democrats like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi may have to make room for the young and increasingly influential left wing of the party.

Jones was well ahead of seven other candidates in the contest to represent New York City's suburbs to the north, a seat opening up with the retirement of Democratic Rep. Nita Lowey after 16 terms in office.

Torres also topped a crowded field seeking an open seat in the city's South Bronx being vacated by retiring Rep. Jose Serrano.

Torres came in well ahead of another candidate, Councilman Ruben Diaz Sr., who has built a reputation for making anti-LGBT+ comments and opposing same-sex marriage.

Kentucky and Virginia also held primary elections on Tuesday to choose the Democratic and Republican nominees who will compete for Congressional seats in November.

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(Reporting by Oscar Lopez @oscarlopezgib; editing by Ellen Wulfhorst. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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