US elections: Leigh Finke makes history as first trans person elected to Minnesota House

Minnesota state representative Leigh Finke

Leigh Finke has become the first ever trans Minnesota state representative, joining a rainbow wave of new queer lawmakers in the state.

The US midterm elections saw Finke, of the Minnesota Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party (DFL), win 81 per cent of the vote to Republican Trace Johnson’s 18 per cent for the district 66A seat.

She ran on a strong platform of racial justice, reproductive rights, preventing gun violence, supporting a state-wide equal rights amendment and explicit protections trans and gender non-conforming young people, as well as improving mental health support in schools.

The parent-of-two also runs her own film production business, having produced documentaries like White Saviour: Racism in the American Church, and attended the ultra-conservative Christian Bethel University.

Finke is among 11 openly LGBTQ+ legislators elected in Minnesota during the midterms, in a history-making rainbow wave.

Celebrating her win on Twitter, Finke said: “Many stories will be written about Minnesota’s elections. One undeniable story is the rise of Queer Political Power. 11 LGBTQ Candidates for the legislature: 11 victories.

“In those 11 victories are many firsts. Let’s. Make. Trouble. Onward! #QueerAndForeverHere.”

Mayor Annise Parker, president and CEO of LGBTQ Victory Fund, which endorsed Finke, said: “Leigh made history tonight because she is ready to disrupt the status quo and fight for real change on behalf of her community.

“From safeguarding abortion rights to addressing societal inequities, she has a vision for the future that voters are clearly enthusiastic about.

“Her win is a clear and deafening rebuke to the transphobia currently sweeping our communities and her success will inspire other trans people to step up and run. When our rights are on the ballot, we cannot stay silent.

“Leigh proves we must continue running for office in record numbers because when we run, we win.”

Finke’s friends and colleagues also celebrated her trailblazing win, with Wes Burdine, owner of a queer bar in St Paul, Minnesota, and fellow Bethel alumnus, tweeting: “I met Leigh Finke 21 years ago at an evangelical college.

“Fast forward and I own the best damned queer bar on the planet and she’s the first openly trans member of the Minnesota House! Congrats to my wonderful friend of so many years.”

Mitra Jalali, St Paul city councilwoman, added: “Proud of Leigh Finke, who ran as her full self, a proud trans woman with a clear vision for equity and inclusion for everyone in Minnesota.

“Tonight you will make history as MN’s first openly trans legislator.”