Waves, Waves & More Waves!

URGENT: Ensure your provisional ballot gets counted!

Did you vote by provisional ballot on Tuesday? If yes, you may need to take extra steps to make sure your vote is counted! Call your county supervisor ASAP to confirm your vote counts. The deadline for this is 5:00PM TODAY, Thursday, November 8, 2018. Call 866-OUR-VOTE if you think your ballot was wrongly rejected or has a related problem.

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As I write, vote by mail ballots are still being counted, recounts have launched, and a flicker of hope remains alive in high-profile statewide races in Florida.

But we need not await those outcomes to celebrate the incredible breakthroughs in Florida and nationwide. The Rainbow Wave is real and it has altered the playing field for LGBTQ rights significantly. We emerge from the midterms with more support for statewide LGBTQ protections, more pro-equality lawmakers in the capitol, and more out elected leaders in local and state office than ever before.

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First, voters secured a critical check to the Trump administration’s attack on our community by putting Democrats in control of the U.S. House of Representatives. The net gain of about 30 seats will help protect access to healthcare and progress on an LGBTQ non-discrimination bill is now possible.

Second, women, LGBTQ people, people of color, and various faith communities all made historic gains. More openly lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people were elected Tuesday night than in any previous election. At least 153 candidates have won so far with more victories possible as close races are still being tallied.

U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin won her re-election. Two LGBTQ governors were elected - including Jared Polis in Colorado, the nation’s first openly gay governor, and Kate Brown in Oregon, who is openly bisexual. And a lesbian is one of the first two Native American women elected to Congress.

In states across the country, women ran in historic numbers – and more women were elected to the House than ever before.

In Florida, the only two Congressional seats flipped from Republican to Democrat were won by women – Donna Shalala and Debbie Murcasel-Powell. In fact, more than 100 women were elected to Congress, the largest number in a single year in U.S. history.

Jennifer Webb became the first out lesbian elected to the Florida Legislature, raising the number of out lawmakers in the Senate and House to three. She now joins State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith who won by huge margins in Orlando and Rep. Shevrin Jones who won re-election unopposed as the largest openly LGBTQ delegation in Florida’s history.

On the local level, Sarah Fortney notched a win in Polk County as the first out LGBTQ person elected to a Florida school board. Wilton Manors also made history as the first Florida city with an all-LGBTQ city commission.

Our allies won, too: Eighty-two of Equality Florida Action PAC’s 111 endorsed candidates won – a 74% success rate. Pro-equality candidates swept the Orange County School Board races while two pro-equality candidates won seats on the once notoriously anti-LGBTQ Hillsborough County Commission, flipping it to a pro-LGBTQ Democratic majority.

In ballot initiatives, Florida had perhaps the most prominent development with the passage of Amendment 4, restoring voting rights to felons who have completed their sentences and overturning a state law passed for the purpose of disenfranchising black voters. The change has the potential to add 1.5 million voters back onto the rolls by 2020.

In Florida, pro-equality Democratic candidates in the Florida House picked up a net gain of between five and seven seats (two seats remain in recount) making the Democratic caucus in Florida’s lower chamber the largest since 1998. The 2018 election ends with the largest bipartisan majorities in our history supporting statewide protections for Florida’s LGBTQ community. The call for leadership in both chambers to agenda the Florida Competitive Workforce Act has never been stronger.

Finally, some of the most virulently anti-LGBTQ elected officials were shown the door in states around the country. None more satisfying than Kentucky voters ousting notorious County Clerk Kim Davis who refused marriage licenses to same-sex couples in Kentucky.

The Rainbow wave along with the surge of women, black, and young voters is transforming our state and our country. This wasn’t a single wave. It has been many. And the waves haven’t crested, they are building and pushing our state closer to equality, justice, and respect for diversity.

We end the 2018 midterms invigorated, inspired, and ready to hold elected leaders of both parties accountable to our community. We aren’t slowing down between now and 2020.

Hard work remains but we have gained ground because you have stood with us at every turn. Thanks for helping us move closer to the state Florida that welcomes all of us.

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