Opinion

Rainbow Wave Overtakes Red Ripple—in School Board Elections!

Lauren Albrecht is the chair of the New Jersey LGBTQ Democrats, and Joe Forte is a National Victory Campaign Board board member, which is critical to electing LGBTQ leaders across the country. This first appeared in nj.com.

In New Jersey and nationally, a much-hyped “Red Wave” predicted for Tuesday’s election failed to manifest. In its place, a growing Rainbow Wave has swept local and national elections.

With tensions running high surrounding issues such as LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum, trans rights, DEI initiatives, and reproductive rights, being an openly-identifying LGBTQ candidate is still a fraught, and sometimes dangerous, undertaking.

However, LGBTQ candidates are running, and winning, in record-breaking numbers in New Jersey and around the country. In New Jersey, at least seven LGBTQ candidates won races in which they were not incumbent, and at least ten additional Candidates maintained their incumbency.

Trenton Mayor, Reed Gusciora has been re-elected in a landslide victory, and candidates from incumbent Union County Commissioner, Rebecca Williams to Asbury Park Schoolboard Member-elect, Dr. Michael Penna will begin 2023 as out and proud public servants, as well as newcomers John Jackson, and councilmember-elect in Red Bank, and John Kashwick, councilmember-elect in Clinton.

On a national level, Maura Healy of Massachusetts and Tina Kotek of Oregon were elected Governors of their respective states, becoming the first openly-identifying lesbian Governors in the country. Erick Russell was elected Connecticut state treasurer, becoming the first Black out-LGBTQ statewide official, and Colorado’s Gov. Jared Polis, a gay man, won re-election, while in New Hampshire, James Roesner became the first openly trans man elected to a state legislature.

According to Victory Fund, a national organization dedicated to supporting LGBTQ candidates, at least 486 LGBTQ people were elected to office on election day. This is a record-breaking number that increases year-over-year in a trend toward true equity-building on every level.

Equally as important are allies who have run and won hard-fought races against vocally homophobic candidates, particularly on our boards of education. Now, more than ever, LGBTQ students find themselves the subject of misinformation and the target of bias, intimidation and harassment. Electing allies who believe in truth, equality, and inclusive environments have become more than campaigns and politics, it has become paramount to saving lives and survival.

In New Jersey, several groups have cropped up with the singular aim of supporting candidates that are specifically anti-LGBTQ to run for school boards, operating under slogans such as “Vote to Protect Our Kids,” “Putting Students First,” “It Takes a Village,” “For the Kids,” “Reestablish Family Values,” and “Transparency Integrity Accountability.”

The slogans are intentionally misleading but informed voters should know it’s a clearly-defined and malevolent anti-LGBTQ platform, masquerading as such innocuous ideas as transparency and protection. New Jersey voters have overwhelmingly rejected this hateful agenda, thanks in no small part to vigilant advocates and concerned parents working tirelessly to ensure our public schools serve all students equally.

However, in other areas of our state, some of these candidates have been elected to school boards. This faction has politicized our educational system and targeted teachers, curriculum, and LGBTQ kids, and voters need to be aware of the agenda so we can send a clear message – there is no place for hate in our schools.

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