Palm Springs is not Donald Trump’s America.
Voters made that abundantly clear Tuesday as they took their unbridled resistance from their homes and the streets to the polls to elect the first out transgender person elected to a non-judicial office in California and a millennial who identifies as bisexual.
Lisa Middleton, 65, who came out publicly in 1995, and Christy Holstege, 31, the first millennial to run for a seat on the five-member City Council emerged victorious Tuesday to make history. Each garnered about 30 percent of the vote. Henry Hampton, a Republican, came in a distant third. The two women fill the seats that Ginny Foat and Chris Mills vacated.
“The current administration has energized Democratic and progressive people across this country, but I believe it is also energizing individuals who are Republican, thoughtful, progressive Republicans,” Middleton said in a telephone interview with Uken Report. “But people who are as conservative as George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush have condemned this administration.”
Holstege did not return a phone call on Thursday.
Equality California endorsed both candidates and spent thousands of dollars in direct contributions, independent expenditures and member-to-member communications to help elect them.
“In light of the repeated attacks on transgender people from the federal government, (the) wins by Lisa Middleton in Palm Springs and other transgender candidates in Minneapolis and Virginia are a beacon of hope that voters have embraced values of equality and inclusion,” Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur said in a prepared statement. “By becoming the first out transgender person to be elected to a non-judicial office in California, Lisa is paving the way for others to follow in her footsteps in California and across the nation. Her first place finish out of a field of 6 candidates demonstrates that a glass ceiling for transgender people who want to serve in elected office was not only broken, but was shattered in Palm Springs.”
With the election of Lisa and Christy Holstege, the city of Palm Springs will now be represented by a city council that is 100 percent LGBTQ.
Equality California spent thousands of dollars in direct contributions, independent expenditures and member-to-member communications in support of both candidates.
“Diversity and inclusion make cities stronger, not weaker,” Middleton said. “Look at the renaissance of Palm Springs over the last 20 years. The growth in the number of restaurants, the expansion of our hotels, the quality of the entertainment options that people have in Palm Springs and you can, I think, draw a direct line from the increased inclusion of LBGT people in Palm Springs to that growth and that renaissance.”
There has been significant emphasis on Middleton, a retired senior vice president of Internal Affairs for the State Compensation Insurance Fund, being transgender. But it is not what catapulted her to victory.
“I’m very proud of my city and very proud that in Palm Springs I feel that I was judged by what I can contribute and what I had previously accomplished,” Middleton said. “The voters responded to that positive message. I think our city is one of those places where people do evaluate others based on qualifications not based on who they are. Unfortunately that is not the case throughout the country.”
Middleton has been bombarded with media attention, which will give her multiple platforms on which to speak about issues of equality, diversity and LGBTQ significance.
Whether she becomes a role model for others who wrestle with their sexuality or fear coming out about being gay or lesbian remains to be seen.
“I don’t think anyone can plan to be a role model. You do your job as well as you can and if others find that admirable then you suddenly find that people are recognizing you,” Middleton said. “I will have the opportunity through Equality California, through Victory Fund … and other places nationally to be able to talk about my experience and why diversity and inclusion makes cities stronger not weaker.”
As the media attention subsides, Middleton will take office along with Holstege in December. While she is “proud” to have made history, she was elected for a reason.
“The first thing I have to do is just simply go to work and do the things that the people in Palm Springs elected me to do, which is deal with homelessness issues, respond to our budget challenges, work on increasing the police and fire services that our city wants, expand the staffing,” she said nearly running out of breath. “I could go on and on, but it’s all of the basic kinds of services that any City Council member is responsible for acting on.”
Middleton was one of several transgender candidates who emerged victorious on Tuesday Nov. 7, 2017, which could well be dubbed “transgender Tuesday.”
Tuesday was a historic night for the nation’s transgender community, which watched as at least six transgender people won elections and paved the way for others to join them in leadership positions in the coming years.
In Virginia, Danica Roem became the first openly transgender person elected and seated in a state legislature. She bested 13-term incumbent Robert G. Marshall, who proudly called himself Virginia’s “chief homophobe.” He also introduced a so-called “bathroom bill” that would have restricted what bathrooms Roem could use. Andrea Jenkins and Phillipe Cunningham, reportedly the first openly transgender black people elected to public office in the United States, were elected to the Minneapolis City Council.
The Erie School Board in Pennsylvania will be joined by Tyler Titus, the first openly transgender person to hold office in Pennsylvania. In Doraville, Ga., Stephe Koontz, an openly transgender woman, won a seat on the city council.