Palm Springs Mayor Pro Tem and city council veteran Lisa Middleton has announced that she is running for the California State Senate. If elected, Middleton would be the first openly trans state legislator in the state’s history and only the country’s second trans state senator.
As a veteran local politician, Middleton has already made history once before. In 2017, she became the first openly trans person to be elected to political office in California when she won a seat on the Palm Springs City Council, joining what was believed to be the nation’s first all-LGBTQ+ city council. Last year the queer mecca claimed yet another page in the record books by electing the nation’s first bisexual mayor: Middleton’s predecessor, Christy Holstege.
But even with the backing of power players like former Senator Barbara Boxer and the California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus, Middleton’s race will be hard-fought. The 28th district — which includes Coachella and Temecula — is solidly purple, and in the 2020 presidential election, it went to Joe Biden by only two points.
And although the recent Republican-led recall failed to oust Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom, it did prove that Republican resentment in the Golden State is still at a boil. Democrats in purple districts may face tough opposition in 2022.
Nevertheless, Middleton is hopeful about her electoral prospects. “It is going to take a tremendous amount of work, no matter how the lines end up getting drawn,” she tells them. over the phone. “I think with the right message, the right temperament, we can and we will win people over.”
A longtime public servant, Middleton notes that trans rights have progressed significantly since her childhood in East Los Angeles and since she first came out almost three decades ago. “When I came out in 1995, I was working for the state of California, and the health care programs that were made available to state employees in 1995 had what had been on the books for decades: an absolute restriction on the provision of any health care related to transgender healthcare,” she says.
25 years later, she herself sits on the board of CalPERS, the organization that manages health care for California’s 1.5 million public employees, and was personally appointed by Governor Newsom. “I’m listening to our health director, our medical doctor, talk about her efforts to ensure that there’s an adequate network of doctors to provide care for transgender employees,” she tells them. “That is progress.”
In terms of legislative priorities, Middleton is clear that there is no future for California without an acknowledgement of the ways in which climate change is fundamentally altering the state. She lists green infrastructure, renewable energy, public transportation, universal internet access, and homelessness as major issues she hopes to take on if elected.