KU study shows LGBTQ candidates continue to succeed despite hostility

Published: Aug. 1, 2020 at 12:08 PM CDT
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LAWRENCE, Kan. (WIBW) - A recent University of Kansas study shows LGBTQ legislative candidates are continuing to succeed despite an era of hostility.

The University of Kansas says a new study shows even in a period full of anti-LGBTQ backlash, these candidates are not facing new or significant hurdles when running for state legislative seats.

“The trend in almost every election cycle has been more candidates and more successful ones. And given the overall wave of candidates from underrepresented or nontraditional groups continuing into 2020, there’s no reason to see why that wouldn’t continue,” said Don Haider-Markel, professor and chair of political science at the University of Kansas.

Haider-Markel says his article “LGBTQ State Legislative Candidates in an Era of Backlash” is published in the current issue of Political Science & Politics which is published by Cambridge University Press.

“One of the ironies of Trump’s presidency is not just that it helped mobilize underrepresented groups and especially women to run for office, it also helped convince a lot of potential candidates to say, ‘Look, if someone with no political experience who has never held elective office can run for the presidency, why can’t I run for the city council? Or why can’t I run for the state legislature?’ That was an icebreaker for many people who would never have gotten off the bench before,” says Haider-Markel.

Haider-Markel says the article is co-written with KU’s Patrick Miller and Patrick Gauding with help from Andrew Flores, Daniel Lewis, Barry Tadlock and Jami Taylor. He says the article looks at the performance of LGBTQ candidates in the 2018 election cycle by looking at data from partisan state legislative elections in 45 states. He says it also addresses one of the key misconceptions about these candidates: They run on the basis of their identity.

“Just like other candidates for office, they’re running on particular kinds of issues. Oftentimes, these are very localized kinds of issues. Their identity is just part of who they are. What’s important for them is to be honest about who they are. It turns out voters tend to appreciate those kinds of stories that help humanize the candidate,” Haider-Markel said.

Haider-Markel also says various LGBTQ Republican candidates for office have only come out after they had already been elected as incumbents and a few have even been elected in states like Arizona, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

“Yet many of those retire after they come out,” he said. “This is typically because they’re running in districts where there’s not going to be a lot of support for them. It’s really illustrating that this isn’t generally an issue for LGBTQ candidates, this is an issue for Republicans.”

Haider-Markel says his most recent research builds on the work of a group called “Team Kansas” that he put together in 2014 to work together on researching transgender issues in politics. He says after producing nine articles the team published its first book, “The Remarkable Rise of Transgender Rights”, which was published by the University of Michigan Press in 2018.

“We’re at a very interesting and unique time in American politics,” said Haider-Markel, now in his 23rd year at KU.

“With increasing representation of previously underrepresented groups, 2018 was a remarkable year. We have LGBTQ candidates in enough numbers and in a number of state legislatures where they have their own LGBTQ caucus. What this says about the potential for democracy in hearing all interests — especially those who are underrepresented – is really positive, even though this seems to be such a dark time for democracy.”

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