WASHINGTON – Transgender political candidates scored wins in the first U.S. elections since Donald Trump became president, a sign of their growing acceptance in parts of the country, experts said on Wednesday.
Five transgender candidates were victorious, among them a woman who won a heated race for state legislature in Virginia, the highest elected office ever for a transgender candidate, experts said.
The results came in the first nationwide elections since Trump, a Republican, was elected last year.
Democrats won high-profile governorships in Virginia and New Jersey, providing a boost to those who wanted to turn grassroots resistance to Trump into election victories.
The transgender candidates were mostly Democrats. None was believed to be Republican, experts said.
Trump has pushed back on transgender rights, rescinding protections for transgender students over bathroom use and trying to ban transgender people from military service.
The election results show the risk of “moving too far to the right,” said Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public Affairs at Princeton University in New Jersey.
“The nation has clearly changed in its attitudes,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “It’s more evident that on many issues that socially and culturally the nation has become very liberalized.”
At least nine transgender candidates ran for office, with five winning, three losing and one race undecided. It brings the number of openly transgender elected officials to 11 from six, experts said.
“It’s such a small base, but revolution starts small,” said Douglas Muzzio, professor of political science at Baruch College’s Marxe School of Public and International Affairs.
“Ten years ago you wouldn’t even have a transgender candidate,” he said.
The winner in Virginia was journalist Danica Roem, the first openly transgender person to win a state legislative seat, said the Victory Fund, which supports LGBT candidates and had endorsed eight candidates including Roem.
Roem unseated a 25-year conservative incumbent who had fought a failed effort to limit bathroom access for transgender people, called himself Virginia’s “chief homophobe” and used male pronouns to refer to her on the campaign trail.
Other transgender winners were women voted onto city councils in Minneapolis, Doraville, Georgia, and Palm Springs, California, and a man elected to a Pennsylvania school board.
Republican strategist Steven Stites said the results partly reflected a rising tide for Democrats but that the winning candidates simply ran good campaigns.
“If you run a campaign on the issues, you do well,” he said.
So far, 30 races in the 2017-2018 election cycle have a transgender candidate, compared with 13 in 2015-2016, according to Logan Casey, a research associate at Harvard University tracking them.