Posted on www.advocate.com
By Julie Bolcer
Openly LGBT candidates made gains in primary elections across the country Tuesday, with wins in states including California, Montana, and Maine.
According to the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, which supports out candidates, "Openly LGBT candidates won political races literally from coast to coast last night, with key wins in California, Montana and Maine. At least 16 of the Victory Fund’s 21 endorsed candidates on the ballot yesterday either won their races outright or advanced to general elections."
Winners include gay Palm Springs mayor Steve Pougnet (pictured, right), a Democrat, who will face Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack, the widow of the late congressman Sonny Bono.
Also in California, the Victory Fund reports, "the State Assembly is likely to welcome three new openly gay and lesbian lawmakers after key primary wins last night put them on the road to victory this November. Toni Atkins (Dist 76), Rich Gordon (Dist 21) and Ricardo Lara (Dist 50) won their Democratic primaries in overwhelmingly Democratic Assembly districts. With one gay lawmaker leaving the California Senate due to term limits, the state is now likely to have a total of seven openly gay and lesbian state legislators in the next term, up from five currently."
An influx of viable LGBT candidates in California could be crucial for several pro-gay bills currently pending in the state legislature, including one that would allow gay youths to access mental health services without parental permission. Legislation calling for the addition of sexual orientation and gender identity information on government forms is also being considered.
LGBT judicial candidates also fared well in California, including Victoria Kolakowski, a transgender administrative law judge who won her race for Alameda County superior court judge. Kolakowski faces a runoff in November.
"We're really thilled to see [Kolakowski] come in first by the large margin one of our highest-priority races," said Equality California executive director Geoff Kors. "Her strong finish really sets stage for what will be a national historic election. People everywhere, not just in the Bay Area, need to pay attention to this."
Looking ahead to November, Kors said his organization has focused on defeating Andy Pugno, an attorney for the pro-Proposition 8 group Protect Marriage who won his primary election in the state's fifth district. Kors said Californians can expect a "slew of anti-LGBT bills" if Pugno is elected.
Meanwhile, out lesbian Jill Barkley won her primary for the Maine state house and is favored to win in the general election. And in Montana, Bryce Bennett and Aaron Kampfe advanced in their Democratic primaries for state house seats.