Sheppard Express: More LGBTQ Candidates Seeking Political and Judicial Offices
Last week’s national elections continued the blue wave of the 2018 midterms, and within its wake, there was a rainbow wave. At various levels of government throughout the country, voters elected or reelected nearly 100 LGBTQ-identified candidates. Victories covered the full range of diversity with four transgender candidates winning, including Virginia state Rep. Danica Roem, who won her second term. The results bode well for the next election cycle in April 2020.
Locally, Milwaukeeans will again head to the polls to cast their ballots for a number of city and county offices, including for alderpersons in all Milwaukee aldermanic districts and for mayor. I wrote in May of this year that two LGBTQ candidates were running for the office of alderperson, JoCasta Zamarripa in District 8 and Peter Burgelis in District 11. Now, a third, Jason Auerbach, has announced his candidacy for alderman of District 14 (Bay View).
A long-term Bay View resident, Auerbach enters the political ring as a grassroots, progressive, non-partisan candidate with a platform built around community concerns. These span the spectrum from public transit, health and housing to environmental issues. Auerbach hopes to address those needs previously neglected by establishment politicians and improve the local quality of life. This challenge includes limiting big-box housing developments, improving infrastructure (potholes) and green spaces, pursuing strategies for lead-free homes, as well as expanding public transportation and bike lanes. His campaign does not accept donations from Political Action Committees (PACs), special interest groups or from liquor license holders.
A parody map of Milwaukee once defined Bay View as populated by “respectable gays” (hence “Gay View”) and “aging hipster homeowners.” Those certainly carry a modicum of truth, but the area is far more diverse than that, and its inhabitants are facing the very dilemmas Auerbach seeks to address. As a resident myself, I’m hoping for a sensible, socially conscious candidate to speak for Bay View and its population (gay, hipster or otherwise). Perhaps Auerbach is that voice.
Meanwhile, Brett Blomme, currently CEO and president of Milwaukee’s LGBTQ philanthropic organization, Cream City Foundation, and chairman of the Board of Zoning Appeals for the City of Milwaukee, is running for Milwaukee County Circuit Court Branch 5 judge. Formerly, Blomme served as a litigation attorney with the Wisconsin State Public Defender’s Office and Madison’s City Attorney’s Office as well as in the Wisconsin Bar Association’s Government Lawyer’s Division as an elected director. His LGBTQ activism implies a consciousness regarding the specific needs of our community. Married and a father, Blomme is also well aware of the particular needs of LGBTQ families.
Some might think the idea of celebrating the LGBTQ identity of candidates is of little import in the grander scheme of things. After all, a politician should be in tune with the greater constituency. But, like any other representative of underserved communities, there are certain sensitivities that LGBTQ political aspirants bring to the table that others, even allies, might not.
In these times, it is especially necessary for those directly affected by efforts of some to deny them the right to defend themselves. To accomplish that, participation in the political fray, whether through seeking political office, or, especially by voting, is our civic responsibility.