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LGBTQ group LPAC welcomes historic night in Jane Castor race against David Straz

Her win would mark a progression in LGBTQ equality not only locally, but nationally.

If Jane Castor is elected Mayor Tuesday night she’ll be the first openly LGBTQ Mayor to lead a southeastern U.S. city and the third of such elected to a major American city this year.

It’s widely expected that Castor will make that history when the polls close at 7 p.m. She leads both polls conducted in the past two weeks, ahead in one by 36 points, a nearly insurmountable lead for her opponent, David Straz.

Her win would mark a progression in LGBTQ equality not only locally, but also nationally.

“I think it shows that Americans at the municipal level and the local level are choosing people who can get stuff done,” said Stephanie Sandberg, executive director for LPAC, an equality group that supports LGBTQ women, which endorsed Castor.

That support, Sandberg said, is coming more and more despite previous prejudices against LGBTQ candidates.

“The 2019 cycle may seem like a quiet off-year, but queer women are recreating what local leadership looks like in America’s major cities,” Sandberg said.

Earlier this year, lesbian women were elected in Chicago and Madison Wisconsin; Jolie Justus faces a June runoff election in Kansas City, Missouri, as well.

“From a historic perspective it doesn’t even get to a percentage point, but for the LGBTQ community it’s certainly a new thing that shows progress,” Sandberg said.

But she cautions the LGBTQ community and its allies not to get too comfortable. She doesn’t want to see a false narrative that says, “ hey, it’s over. Everyone has gotten with the program.”

“On the one hand, of course, it’s such a welcoming sign, but at the same time in the majority of the U.S. one can still be fired for being gay.”

That false sense of comfort washed over American politics in 2008 as voters elected its first African-American President. Some declared his election marked the beginning of a “post-racial society.” Yet more than a decade later, African-Americans, particularly men, are facing the often violent ramifications of racist behaviors. The Obama years saw the birth of the Black Lives Matter movement.

“He helped shed all kinds of conventions, but it didn’t mean the American electorate had gone past racial tensions,” Sandberg said.

Sandberg considers herself a glass half full kind of gal. While she sees that there is still work to be done, she also recognizes successes within the LGBTQ community as valuable opportunities to move the needle even further.

For Castor, Sandberg suggests, if she’s elected, to continue her forward-facing involvement for equality, not just for the LGBTQ community, but for all residents.

“I know her well enough to know that her experience and her example was very visible,” Sandberg said.

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a die-hard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and contentious issues surrounding transit. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also a devoted wife and mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder.

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