The pendulum swept toward Democrats in Pennsylvania on election night on both a state and federal level, though Republicans still control both houses of the state assembly.
In the Philadelphia suburbs and surrounding counties, Democratic women who are also LGBTQ allies scored major congressional victories.
Democrats took control of the U.S House of Representatives with a 28-seat majority, fueled at least in part by the strong showing in Pennsylvania: Mary Gay Scanlon of District 5, Chrissy Houlahan, whose daughter is queer, of District 6; and LGBTQ ally Susan Wild of District 7. All three candidates have said they would support the Equality Act if elected.
On a state level, Malcolm Kenyatta will join Brian Sims as the second openly gay representative in Harrisburg. Kenyatta soundly defeated his Republican opponent, T. Milton Street, with 95.3 percent of the vote (20,722 votes) compared with Street’s 4.7 percent (1,014 votes) for the 181st District in North Philadelphia. W. Curtis Thomas (D) held the seat since 1989.
At his victory speech, Kenyatta hit on notes of unity and inclusion to achieve common goals.
“I come with a message that anything is possible. The sky is not the limit for the work that we’re going to do together — the sky is the floor. This is not about me. This is victory is about us and the work that we have yet to do together,” Kenyatta told a roomful of supporters.
The newly elected representative said he will be actively working on creating tangible results for the issues he ran on, including an increase in minimum wage to $15 an hour, more economic opportunities for low-income residents in Philadelphia and fair funding in education.
Sims held onto his seat in the 182nd District in a landslide victory against Independent candidate James McDevitt. Sims received 90 percent of the votes (26,687 votes). The district covers part of Rittenhouse, Fitler Square, Logan Square, the Gayborhood, Washington Square West, Bella Vista, Hawthorne, Fairmount, Queen Village, Market East and parts of East Passyunk.
Sims thanked his supporters in the Commonwealth and beyond in a video he posted to his Twitter account after his race was called, saying he would “continue to fight for you in the House.”
Out candidate Kristin Seale (D) was unable unseat Republican incumbent Christopher Quinn in the 168th District for the state legislature. Quinn edged out Seale with 51.2 percent of the vote.
Seale told PGN Wednesday morning that she was “proud of the campaign that [she] ran” and will work towards “building an LGBTQ bench across the state to get more of us elected.” Seale currently serves as a commissioner on the Pennsylvania Commission on LGBTQ Affairs and said she will be focusing on the “important work of the commission.”
More than 50 seniors at the John C. Anderson Apartment building in the Gayborhood held an election-results watching party in the Kelley Community room. Participants clapped and cheered when Kenyatta was projected to win his district.
“This election was monumental for LGBT candidates,” said resident Elizabeth Coffey Williams. “We’ve had so many people in the community running for positions all across the country. It’s great to be a part of history where more out people are trying to take away important seats that have been held by representatives who are doing little for the LGBT community.”
Mary Groce, another resident, attended the gathering at the Anderson residence and expressed elation at a wave of Democrats winning positions in the state and in Congress.
“Although Democrats weren’t able to secure the majority in the Senate, we do have control of the House and that’s huge. We live in a pretty blue state but to see how many Democrats are being elected elsewhere proves that a change may be taking place.”
Wade Albert, Kenyatta’s election chairman and endorsement committee chair at Liberty City LGBT Democratic Club, attended the watching party and noted the importance of having “elected officials who truly understand the issues, who are fair, have empathy and connect with voters on an individual level.”
Albert, who is an attorney, announced that he would be running for a judgeship in Philadelphia as a way of bringing about political change.
“City Council members, state representatives and judicial representatives have direct access to people within the community and that access is what helps to create legislation and policy based on the needs of the people.”
Democrats held onto governorship and the single Senate seat that was up for grabs.
Gov. Tom Wolf won a second term against Scott Wagner by more than 16 points, with 57.7 percent of the vote. In a letter to supporters released the morning after his victory, Wolf reiterated his support for the LGBTQ community: “I’m so excited to keep moving Pennsylvania on a path forward — to fight for a severance tax, a higher minimum wage, protections against discrimination and so much more.”
Sen. Bob Casey defeated Republican candidate Lou Barletta, receiving 55.6 percent of the vote.
In a statement on the Pennsylvania elections, HRC President Chad Griffin applauded the re-election of Wolf and Casey, adding, “We also celebrate those of new pro-equality members of Congress, including Brandan Boyle, Dwight Evans and Michael Doyle.” HRC had eight staff members on the ground in the commonwealth in what it called “part of the largest grassroots expansion in the organization’s 38-year history.”
Griffin detailed the effort it took to elect pro-equality candidates: HRC staff and volunteers knocked on thousands of doors, helped more than 2,200 Pennsylvanians register to vote and led field-organizing canvassing efforts with partner organizations.
Other LGBTQ candidates running in the general election from the state included Daniel Smith Jr., who ran against incumbent Daryl Metcalfe in the 12th District. Metcalfe held onto his seat, which he has filled since 1999, receiving 58.4 percent of the vote against Smith.
In New Jersey, Lambertville elected LGBTQ candidate Julia Fahl (D) as mayor. She ran unopposed. Meanwhile, Daniel Ward, the out Democrat who ran for Township Committee, lost his bid to fill an open seat in Barnegat.