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The midterms are being called a 'rainbow wave' of LGBTQ candidate victories

ELISSA NADWORNY, HOST:

The midterm elections have propelled a record number of LGBTQ candidates to office. As NPR's Melissa Block reports, advocacy groups are hailing the results as a rainbow wave.

MELISSA BLOCK, BYLINE: According to the nonpartisan LGBTQ Victory Fund, this was the first year with openly LGBTQ candidates on the ballot in every single state. And the group says more than 350 have won, from congressional and governors' races all the way down to school boards and city councils. Among the notable firsts emerging from the midterms, Democrat Maura Healey of Massachusetts, the state's current attorney general, will become the country's first openly lesbian governor. She offered this message in her victory speech.

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MAURA HEALEY: Tonight, I want to say something to every little girl and every young LGBTQ person out there.

(CHEERING)

HEALEY: I hope - I hope tonight shows you that you can be whatever, whoever you want to be.

(CHEERING)

BLOCK: Another game changer...

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BECCA BALINT: Thank you, Vermonters.

(CHEERING)

BLOCK: Vermont will be sending its first openly gay person to Congress. That's Democratic state Senator Becca Balint. She'll also be the first woman to represent Vermont on Capitol Hill. As a gay woman, Balint campaigned with what she called empathy for people on the margins. She spoke to supporters last night in Burlington.

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BALINT: Vermont is a place where the daughter of an immigrant dad and a working-class mom can be the first woman and the first gay person to represent Vermont in the U.S. House of Representatives.

(CHEERING)

BLOCK: In state houses, two transgender women - Leigh Finke and Zooey Zephyr - will be the first trans lawmakers in the Minnesota and Montana legislatures, respectively. And in New Hampshire, 26-year-old James Roesener becomes the first trans man elected to any state legislature in U.S. history.

SEAN MELOY: That is a huge win.

BLOCK: Sean Meloy is vice president of political programs with LGBTQ Victory Fund.

MELOY: Only six trans men serve in any office in the United States of America. And breaking that barrier I think is going to be important to showcase to trans men and trans and non-binary people that they need to keep stepping forward to run, and they can win.

BLOCK: These victories run counter to a wave of anti-LGBTQ legislation that's been passed in state legislatures. Meloy says the election results show that those measures have backfired.

MELOY: We saw a record amount of anti-LGBTQ piece of legislation and a ton of anti-LGBTQ attacks trying to be used as a wedge issue in so many races across the country. I think that voters largely saw that that rhetoric was being used to demonize our community for votes and largely ignored it.

BLOCK: The LGBTQ winners are overwhelmingly Democrats. One Republican victory comes from Long Island, N.Y., where, for the first time in history, two openly gay candidates faced off in a congressional general election. Republican George Santos was the victor there. Melissa Block, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As special correspondent and guest host of NPR's news programs, Melissa Block brings her signature combination of warmth and incisive reporting. Her work over the decades has earned her journalism's highest honors, and has made her one of NPR's most familiar and beloved voices.