June 27, 2019

By Conor Hicks

It’s Pride Month 2019!

In U.S. politics, members of the LGBTQ+ community are significantly underrepresented.

In 2016, roughly four percent of Americans identified as being part of the LGBTQ+ community.

In a perfect world of equal representation, that’d mean we’d see about four LGBTQ+ senators and 17 LGBTQ+ representatives in Congress.

As of 2019, however, our Congress has only two senators—Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)—and eight representatives—David Cicilline (D-RI), Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Mark Takano (D-CA), Angie Craig (D-MN), Sharice Davids (D-KS), Katie Hill (D-CA), and Chris Pappas (D-NH)—from the LGBTQ+ community.

While the 2018 midterms saw numerous candidates from the community elected to office, we still have work to do as a country to achieve equal representation for LGBTQ+ Americans.

At NDTC we believe that our differences enhance our strength as a political party – and as a nation.

Candidates of every background, race, culture, sexual orientation, and gender identity are joined in our trainings by one mission: to make their communities better places to live for everyone.

That’s why we’re excited to spotlight some of our incredible LGBTQ+ political candidates from across America!

These are people who are trailblazers in their communities. They work hard to provide our country with more equal representation.

Join us to take a look at these four NDTC-trained candidates who are leading the way to more equal representation among office holders:

Ashley Peele (D-SC) Ashley Peele – Candidate for Mayor of North Charleston, South Carolina

Ashley’s Facebook

Neil Pople (D-CA) Neil Pople – Candidate for California’s 4th State Senate District (2022)
Ramona Thomas (D-KY) Ramona Thomas – Candidate for Kentucky’s 28th State House District

Ramona’s Facebook

Ashton P. Woods (D-TX) Ashton P. Woods – Candidate for Houston City Council At-Large 5

Ashton’s Facebook

Why Politics?

Why is it Important to You, as a Member of the LGBTQ+ Community, to be Involved in Politics?

  • Ashley: “I’d like for our representatives to be more representative of us. We need the same kind of rich diversity that we have in our communities to be reflected in our elected officials. I have to believe this is possible even in a red state like South Carolina with only two openly LGBTQ+ elected officials statewide.”
  • Neil: “A big part of why I’m running for state senate is to represent my community. LGBTQ+ people are still woefully underrepresented at all levels of government, but especially at the state legislative level. “Decisions are made by those who show up,” and we have legislation that affects the LGBTQ+ community here in California every day. But beyond my identity, I want to speak up for everyday Californians who simply want better roads, better schools, and better fire protection.”
  • Ramona: “I feel like trans people are vastly underrepresented in politics, and it’s impossible to be trans in America today, much less in Kentucky, without being politically aware and active. I feel voices like mine are valuable and missing from our political landscape in Kentucky, and people who are determined to make progress against those who are determined to take away our freedoms, and help make life better for as many people as possible in the process.”
  • Ashton: “It is important that I be involved in politics because representation matters. Representation is not just about having someone who identifies like you in leadership roles, it is about fighting for the rights of the LGBTQ+ community.”
Why You?

Tell Us About Yourself. What Has Your Professional Life Looked Like? How Have You Been Involved in Your Community?

  • Ashley: “I was born and raised in the city I’m campaigning to represent, and I’ve put down roots here with my wife. I grew up poor in a two-bedroom trailer with eight other family members but ultimately broke the chain of generational poverty by getting a great job and working my way up to the executive leadership team. This has allowed me to see my city with dual perspective, and I use that perspective to bring attention to issues of inequality that are often overlooked or feigned unseen.”
  • Neil: “I’m currently a manager at a Heating & Air Conditioning company that also specializes in alternative energy. I love my job, but it’s opened my eyes to a slew of issues with our energy grid (one of the chief reasons why we ended up with the Camp Fire that devastated the City of Paradise right here in the district I’m running in). Before my current career, I used to be a speechwriter and political aide on presidential & congressional races. Marrying the two worlds has been fun and interesting, and I’ve stayed involved through a lot of community volunteering as well.”
  • Ramona: “I live in the house my parents raised me in; this community, and the people in it, are my entire life’s story. I’ve lived in Louisville my entire life, and I’ve been a member of the working class my entire adult life. From IT, retail, customer service, to owning my own business, I’ve gotten my hands dirty every day as far back as I can remember. I’ve been an activist my whole life as well; from Occupy back in 2011 all the way to protesting with teachers now, I throw myself at the causes I care about. I fully intend to bring my community, and its voices, into office with me.”
  • Ashton: “I wear many hats, as one of 200,000 New Orleanians who had to make Houston home after Hurricane Katrina I have taken an active role in politics. One of those hats is grassroots activism which led to my role in founding Black Lives Matter Houston, another is political consulting and campaign management and I have various roles within other grassroots organizations.”
Why Your Community?

What Change Do You Hope to Make in Your Community?

  • Ashley: “In a city that is gentrifying fast, I hope to be a barrier to the displacement of vulnerable people while still fostering our city’s growth and economy. As we continue to grow, I’ll put a focus on racial justice and equality, sustainability, preservation of our natural resources and green spaces, improved infrastructure to support the influx of people, and support for our small business, especially minority- and women-owned.”
  • Neil: “I’ve been driven by the knowledge that folks affected by climate change, particularly in regards to the wildfires that run rampant throughout the state, haven’t been heard. The photo ops and tweets are sweet, but displaced Paradise residents are still waiting for housing options. Children are facing increased asthma rates due to smoke inhalation. There weren’t enough roads to evacuate citizens from the fire and some died in their cars stuck in traffic. I want to get active and do something to help get these people back on their feet and find new ways to prevent this kind of horror from happening again.”
  • Ramona: “Being a member of the working class, I want to ensure workers have better protections, that they’re compensated better, and that they have fewer obstructions to union organization. I believe teachers are the most important professionals in the world and that they need to be treated as such. I believe that our state is suffering from a drug crisis, a healthcare crisis, and a poverty crisis that requires massive efforts to start tackling. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I have seen firsthand the effects of hate and intolerance, and if elected, I want to do everything I can to protect my siblings. I want to push Kentucky in the right direction and set an example for other states to follow.”
  • Ashton: “The biggest changes I’d like to see and make  is for everyone to have access to equity, increased life chances and have an overall better quality of life. We do this through job creation and training, decriminalization, providing access to health care and better investment in education.”

How Have the NDTC Trainings Helped You to Prepare for Politics?

  • Ashley: “I’m not a politician; I’m a regular person with a strong connection to my community. I believed we needed less politicians and more regular people in elected office, and the NDTC helped me believe that I could be that kind of candidate. I’ve gone from no campaign knowledge to being fluent in the in’s and out’s of running a successful campaign with the help of NDTC’s in-person training and its video training resources.”
  • Neil: “I’ve been so grateful to NDTC for keeping me on track. Even though I’ve been involved in politics for a while, it gets nerve-wracking trying to figure out which steps to take and when. NDTC has been encouraging and informative. Kelly’s videos are informative and even as an experienced campaign staffer I have learned so much!”
  • Ramona: “The transition from direct action resistance to electoral politics has been a shift in perception, and actually running for office is a very different skill set than what I’m used to. The NDTC has helped me learn the process from the candidate’s side much more than I’ve had access to in the past, even having volunteered for other campaigns in the past. Everything they’ve taught me has been eye-opening.”
  • Ashton: “The NDTC trainings were helpful for me because of the ability to train remotely. We can’t always attend in – person events and the remote training option gives us the important info we need to be great and organized candidates without hurting our busy schedules.”
Progressive, Proud, and Fighting for Change

These four candidates are taking the leap, running for office, and working to improve their communities. We can’t wait to cheer them on every step of the way.

Here at NDTC, we’re proud to have trainees from diverse backgrounds dedicated to making equal representation a reality in our country.

From all of us at NDTC, Happy Pride Month 2019, everyone!

Interested in running for office? Check out NDTC’s Candidate Training courses!

Conor is a seventh-generation Oregonian, born and raised in the Central Oregon town of Redmond. While he has deep roots in both the Northwest and Midwest, he currently lives most of the year in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, where he studies Political Science at Boston College. At NDTC, Conor is a member of the Communications team.