INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Democrat J.D. Ford emerged as the upset winner to unseat Republican Mike Delph in the Indiana Senate.
He is the first openly LGBT candidate ever elected to the Indiana General Assembly.
"I’m very honored, humbled and grateful to be here," Ford said Wednesday.
The newly elected District 29 State Senator was at the statehouse Wednesday to meet with leaders of the state's Democratic Senate Caucus.
Ford, 36, narrowly lost to Delph four years ago and entered this year’s race with a bigger war chest and an endorsement from the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce. He considers himself an unabashed liberal with progressive views.
His win has created a buzz in the local LGBTQ community, according to Indy Pride executive director, Chris Handberg.
"People are genuinely and enthusiastically excited that J.D. Ford got elected, because it is a member of the LGBTQ community in the statehouse," said Handberg. "My social media feeds were blowing up last night and this morning, because there is a renewed sense of hope that we haven’t had in a long time."
Handberg said people have wanted a voice in the statehouse for years. While Ford's political party is still a big minority in the statehouse, he brings a new perspective that could help supporters of a hate crime bill.
Ford said Wednesday he's looking forward to working with Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb who has said he supports hate crime legislation.
"He has the ability to reach across the aisle, to share his personal experiences to why the legislation is so important, and we know that is what really moves the needle and gets legislation passed," Handberg said.
District 29 includes parts of Carmel, Indianapolis and Zionsville.
With nearly all precincts counted, Ford won 53% to 47%, beating Delph by about 3,000 votes. His victory came on the day of his 36th birthday.
State Sen. Delph wrote a statement via Facebook Wednesday about the man taking his place at the statehouse. It goes, in part, as follows:
I would like to wish Senator-elect Ford a belated Happy Birthday. He worked hard and has a genuine desire to want to help others. We need to support him in his journey as he will be drinking water from a fire hose for the next several months.