Texas voters, even in the midst of a so-called "conservative uprising," managed to elect the first openly gay woman to the Texas House on Tuesday night.
Mary Gonzalez, to be more specific, will be both the first woman to win House District 75 in El Paso and the second openly gay candidate to secure a House seat. Gonzalez, a doctoral student at the University of Texas-Austin, beat two opponents in the Democrat primary and has no opponent in the fall.
"She didn't run as 'the gay candidate,' but she didn't avoid the topic of her personal life," wrote supporter Celia Israel, who organized a fund-raiser on Gonzalez's behalf in the more gay-friendly environs of Austin. "She was open and honest, and she worked hard to get the vote out. This is the first time in Texas history we will have a GLBT woman be represented in the Texas Legislature."
Gonzalez, who ran in an open seat against a school board member and college district trustee, will replace outgoing Rep. Chente Quintanilla, who decided to depart the House after ten years and take a run at county commissioners court.
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This election cycle, Texas had a historic high of four openly gay candidates running for office, including well-known Houston gay activist Ray Hill's unsuccessful effort to unseat incumbent Rep. Garnet Coleman. Elsewhere in Houston, Democrat Ann Johnson will face conservative Rep. Sarah Davis, whose district includes West University.
Longtime Fort Worth incumbent Rep. Lon Burnam fended off gay activist Carlos Vasquez's challenge in the Democrat primary. On his Web site, former Fort Worth ISD trustee Vasquez protested that Burnam had been a well-intentioned but highly ineffective lawmaker and promised he would tout education.
The legislature has gay members, but the policy amongst the press corps has generally been of the "don't ask don't tell" variety. The last, and only, openly gay member was Austin Rep. Glen Maxey, who left the House in 2003.