With a projected dominant win in the 181st District, Malcolm Kenyatta is set to make history by becoming the first openly gay person of color to join the Pennsylvania statehouse.
Kenyatta, a 28-year-old Temple University graduate, takes over a district held for decades by Rep. W. Curtis Thomas, who did not seek reelection. The majority black district includes large portions of North Philadelphia and Northern Liberties. Temple University also falls within the district, injecting young voters into his constituency.
"We decided to choose love over hate. We decided to choose the future over the past. We decided to choose innovation over stagnation. And we decided to choose a vision of our city and of our district where we get things done together," Kenyatta said of his historic win.
During the campaign, Kenyatta positioned himself firmly against President Donald Trump's "racist, homophobic and hateful priorities." The rhetoric espoused by the president, Kenyatta said, has seeped into local politics.
Kenyatta was the subject of homophobic attacks over the course of his run for office. Flyers that depicted a red "No" symbol superimposed over a picture of him and his ex-husband were distributed during the May primary.
In the general election, homophobic slurs were directed at Kenyatta, according to Sean Meloy, senior director for the LGBTQ Victory Fund, which backed the candidate.
Kenyatta, however, believes that his victory demonstrates that the majority of the electorate rejects such views. "People made it clear that bigotry has no place in our politics," he said.
Running on a platform of better schools, housing security for seniors and raising the minimum wage, Kenyatta handily beat out Republican opponent Milton Street, garnering more than 95 percent of the vote with 82 of 84 precincts reporting Wednesday afternoon.
Kenyatta, who was also backed by Run for Something, a group dedicated to electing young progressive candidates, said he hopes he can serve as a beacon for other young people thinking of running for office and for marginalized groups who have not had role models to look up to in the past.
"I really do hope that it inspires other kids who might be LGBTQ or young, or come from a poor background, or may feel left out and left behind, that they can run, that they can organize their communities and that they can win," he said.