GLAAD Media Institute Alumni Win Big in Midterm Elections

By Lex Gilbert by | November 14, 2022

The GLAAD Media Institute trains and consults with tens of thousands of LGBTQ people and organizations, helping them enhance their advocacy with strategic media engagement. It’s no surprise that several GLAAD Media Institute alumni have gone on to run for office. Now that most of the results from the 2022 midterm elections are finalized, we can celebrate with the GLAAD Media Institute alumni who won races all over the country. 

Some alumni attended a GLAAD Media Institute course, while others received training and consultation as a partnership between GLAAD and the Victory Institute, who supports LGBTQ candidates, elected and appointed officials. GLAAD has often presented at the Victory Institute International LGBTQ Leaders Conference, where GLAAD addresses elected leaders and provides attendees with opportunity to practice interview techniques. 

Between both the Victory Institute and the GLAAD Media Institute courses, participants learned strategies for talking about legislation that impacts the LGBTQ community and how to talk about themselves and their work in the face of anti-LGBTQ attacks. Some attendees said they felt “inspired, confident, and motivated” to move change forward in their communities. 

“The impact of the GLAAD Media Institute is reflected in the amazing LGBTQ leaders who were elected to serve their communities and states,” said Ross Murray, Vice President of the GLAAD Media Institute. “They demonstrate their leadership in a variety of ways, and we are happy that they can incorporate the skills we teach to all LGBTQ and allied advocates.”

Learn more about them and congratulate them with us.

Leigh Finke made history as the first trans person to be elected into the Minnesota state legislature. Finke has attended and organized GLAAD Media Institute courses in the Twin Cities, placed several op-eds through GLAAD, and even supported GLAAD’s work on the 2020 election with a Twitter takeover to give perspective on the Republican and Democratic National Conventions. Leigh won a seat in the Minnesota State House.

white woman with pink dyed hair smiling gently at camera. Wearing green sweater and gold earrings

Park Cannon was also reelected to Georgia’s House of Representatives, making her one of only 3 LGBTQ women serving in the House for Georgia. She collaborated with Sam Park to introduce the bill recognizing June 5, 2022 as HIV Long-Term Survivors Awareness Day. She continually works with GLAAD to get things accomplished, especially on laws and policies that protect the most vulnerable among us (e.g. elderly, LGBTQ, houseless).

Black woman with locs and glasses smiling at the camera. Yellow sweater

Sam Park from Georgia is entering their fourth term in the House of Representatives. He was the first openly gay man to be elected into office in Georgia. He focuses on helping small businesses, improving industry and labor employee opportunities, and coordinating across larger and smaller government agencies/ functions. Earlier this year Park introduced a bill recognizing and supporting the commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout the State of Georgia and another bill to recognize June 5, 2022 as HIV Long-Term Survivors Awareness Day. Both bills were passed, demonstrating his commitment to making positive strides for the LGBTQ community. 

Headshot of Asian man with short hair in a suit and tie smiling at the camera

Leslie Herod is representing LGBTQ Colorado in the House of Representatives. She was the first Black LGBTQ woman to be elected in Colorado. This year she sponsored a bill to create a statewide Equity Office which has a goal of “providing best practices, resources, and guidance for state agencies in offering equitable services to the residents of Colorado.” After hearing the GLAAD Media Institute present at the Victory Conference, she invited Ross Murray, the Vice President to train her legislative staff in media engagement.  

Black woman with long hair smiling at camera. Wearing earrings, a black blouse, and two necklaces

Evelyn Rios Stafford was re-elected as Justice of the Peace in Washington County, Arkansas, the first trans person to hold elected office in Arkansas history. In this role, she hears minor civil cases, misdemeanors, and petty criminal cases. She is an advocate for affordable housing and ending jail overcrowding. 

Grey background. Headshot of Evelyn Stafford (white person) smiling. Red lipstick. Wearing blazer and necklace

Mauree Turner is returning to Oklahoma’s House of Representatives. They were the first nonbinary person to be elected into state legislature in the U.S. As a Muslim, they have focused their efforts on combatting religious discrimination and breaking down barriers. GLAAD is thankful to have been able to help give them some of the tools they need to succeed in this position.

Ross Murray (White older man) holding a microphone out to Mauree Turner (Black nonbinary Muslim person wearing a maroon jacket and black shirt)

Adrian Tam from Hawaii is returning to serve in the House of Representatives. His interests include ending homelessness, and bringing queer voices into finances and the arts. Tam conducted interview practice at the 2021 Victory Institute International LGBTQ Leaders Conference and spoke about anti-LGBTQ attacks on the community.

Ross Murray (White older man) holding a microphone out to Adrian Tam (Pacific Islander man wearing a suit and tie)

Brianna Titone is also in the Colorado House of Representatives making her the first trans person to be elected into state legislature. In this role, she has passed 52 bills into law, including banning the gay and trans panic defense. The first ever “right to repair” act, which allows wheelchair users to maintain their own chairs or seek help from an independent repair shop, was passed, too. Titone was also elected as co-caucus chair within the House. She encourages those around her to move away from settling people into political boxes. She takes time to get to know those around her and those she represents. 

Ross Murray (white older man) holding microphone out to Brianna Titone (White person wearing a cream jacket, glasses, and orange ish hair)

Brandon Woodard, representative in Kansas, wants to implement a statewide non-discrimination act. Currently, according to his campaign website, “LGBTQ+ Kansans can be fired from their job, denied housing or business, or bullied because of who they are.” He also wants to add gender identity and sexual orientation as protected rights under state law, which would apply to businesses and housing (like landlords). These are definitely laws GLAAD is excited to see implemented!

Headshot of White man smiling, wearing a dark blue suit with red and blue tie. Styled dirty blonde hair

Mike Simmons was the first openly gay person in the Illinois State Senate. He has worked to raise the eligibility threshold for Medicaid, give tax credit to struggling parents, support survivors of sexual assault, keep local law enforcement from collaborating with ICE, and prevent schools from discriminiating against Black students based on their hair. In this role, he has shared about his experience coming out. He is able to connect with LGBTQ youth and LGBTQ voters by speaking honestly about his past experiences.

Ross Murray (White older man) and Mike (Black man in a suit) holding a microphone