Jun 21, 2022 - Podcasts

A new wave of LGBTQ candidates

A record number of LGBTQ candidates are running for all levels of office this year, with a 20% increase in LGBTQ candidates for Congress compared to 2020.

  • Plus: a big weekend of international elections.
  • And: DACA, 10 years after it began.

Guests: Axios' Sophia Cai; and journalist and founder of Define American, Jose Antonio Vargas.

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Lydia McMullen-Laird and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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NIALA BOODHOO: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s Tuesday June 21st.

I’m Niala Boodhoo.

Here’s what you need to know today: what’s ahead for DACA, 10 years after it began. Plus, a big weekend of international elections.

But first, a new wave of LGBTQ candidates – is today’s One Big Thing.

A record number of LGBTQ candidates are running for all levels of office this year with a 20% increase in LGBT congressional candidates compared to 2020. Axios congressional reporter Sophia Cai is reporting on why. Hi Sophia.


NIALA: Sophia we've also seen an enormous amount of legislation targeting LGBTQ Americans. Is that the main motivation for why there are so many candidates that are also LGBT running right now?

SOPHIA: It's one of the main reasons, yes. I think many of the candidates that you see running now have been vocal about the discrimination they've faced in their personal lives. So that certainly is a part of their motivation and part of their campaign.

NIALA: And as we see sort of, for example, like red state anti-trans laws, are there candidates who are specifically saying that's what's motivating them to run?

SOPHIA: In part, I mean, a lot of the candidates that you see running are in places that are more democratic, where they have a better chance. So while that may be something that they're keenly focused and aware of, they may not necessarily directly be able to do something about it.

NIALA: What are some of the challenges these candidates are facing in their campaigns?

SOPHIA: They have gotten harassed online. And so while during COVID those attacks move to zoom and move to Facebook DMS there are more and more in person events. A lot of them they straddle more than one marginalized identity, and that means that in addition to being queer, they may also be Black, they may also be female. Uh, and so it's not always their queer identity that, uh, is being attacked. In most of these cases, they are, you know, shattering some sort of record. For instance, in California, we have a guy named Robert Garcia who would be the first immigrant LGBTQ, elected. If he were successful, he just won his primary.

NIALA: What do we know about LGBTQ voters? What role do we see this voting constituency playing, particularly as we think about these midterm elections, Sophia?

SOPHIA: So LGBTQ voters are among some of the fastest growing parts of the electorate, particularly among young voters. And they make up a really small percentage of people elected to serve. In Congress there are only 11. And if you factor in all of the positions at all levels, they make up just 0.2%. In the general population, the, number of people who identify as, as queer is much, much higher. I've been chatting with the Victory Fund, which is an organization that works with and supports, queer leaders who may wanna run for office. And one of the stats that they shared is that to reach a more equitable representation, we would have to elect over 35,000 more LGBTQ people to office.

NIALA: Sophia Cai covers Congress for Axios. Thanks, Sophia.

SOPHIA: Thanks.

NIALA: And on a related note Texas Republicans on Sunday wrapped up their three-day convention by approving a new party platform that’s the beliefs and goals for the party. The revised platform declares homosexuality a quote “abnormal lifestyle choice” and commits to opposing efforts that validate transgender identity.

During the convention, the Texas GOP also approved a resolution declaring that President Biden quote was “not legitimately elected,” a lie that continues to be promoted by former President Trump and a number of other Republicans.

In a moment, the future for the 100,000 high school graduates this year who are also undocumented.

[ad break]

NIALA: Welcome back to Axios Today! I’m Niala Boodhoo.

Last week marked ten years since DACA – Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – first gave protection to undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children. It was intended to be a stopgap measure – but no more permanent protections have ever been put in place, and DACA is currently paused, with an uncertain future. I asked journalist and founder of Define American Jose Antonio Vargas – who himself came to the US as an undocumented child from the Phillipines, to look back on ten years of the program…and where it stands today.

JOSE VARGAS: I think it's just really important to remember that DACA happened because of the organizing of undocumented youth. As somebody who's a undocumented person who also happens to be a journalist kind of watching the organizing that was happening on the ground in California, in DC, all across the country, I think it's just important to kind of honor that. And that was in the Obama era, which many people would call the “Deportation in Chief” era, right. Followed by the Trump era. About a hundred thousand undocument students graduate from high school every year. And this is gonna be the first year that the majority of them are not eligible for DACA, which is on hold. So some friends of mine have said that this is arguably the lowest point in the immigrant rights movement since probably 9/11, which is when so much of immigration law changed right after 9/11, right. We got rid of the INS became ICE, Department of Homeland security and all that. So this is a really uncertain dark time. And I think because of that, I just try to to remind people that this is a marathon and not a sprint. And that we cannot have policies changed in this country until we actually have a real conversation about immigration in this country.

NIALA: And Jose Antonio Vargas will be back with us on Friday to talk about this coming weekend’s Unity March led by Asian American community leaders on the national mall in Washington DC.

Before we go - it’s election Day in DC! I’m headed to the polls - but here are three headlines about INTERNATIONAL elections to catch you up on what happened over the weekend.

Israel is headed to its fifth election in four years. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced Monday that the country’s governing coalition will vote to dissolve the current parliament – and call for an early election later this year. As Axios’ Barak Ravid writes from Tel Aviv - the collapse of this coalition government is proof that Israel is still engulfed in a political crisis that started in 2019.

In Colombia - Former Bogota mayor and rebel fighter Gustavo Petro is set to become the country’s first leftist president after Sunday’s elections.

GUSTAVO PETRO [in Spanish]: What we are writing right now is a new history for Columbia, Latin America, the world.

NIALA: That’s Petro in his victory speech, saying we are writing a new history for Colombia, Latin America and the world.

His running mate - Francia Marquez will become Colombia’s first Black vice president. The narrow win comes during a rise in support of leftist politicians in Latin America. Chile and Honduras last year also voted for left-wing candidates to replace conservative leaders.

Finally - French President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist coalition in parliament is set to lose its majority. Elections over the weekend showed a strong victory for Marine Le Pen’s far-right party and a coalition of five left-wing parties. Macron will now hold less than half of the 577 seats in the National Assembly – and will likely struggle to pass legislation on his agenda.

That’s all we’ve got for you today! If like us you had a long weekend to mark Juneteenth, I hope it was a restful and reflective one for you.

I’m Niala Boodhoo - thanks for listening - stay safe and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

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