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Transgender activist Emma Curtis announces run for vacant Lexington-based House seat

 A blonde woman with glasses smiles at the camera. She wears a pink cardigan open over a white button down shirt. She stands in front of green grass and trees.
Courtesy Emma Curtis
Emma Curtis calls herself a “pragmatic progressive” who wants to build bridges with Republican legislators.

Emma Curtis, a filmmaker and transgender activist from Woodford County, announced her candidacy for House District seat 93, which was left vacant after state Rep. Lamin Swann’s death last month.

Emma Curtis testified in March in front of lawmakers against Senate Bill 150, an anti-trans measure that banned gender-affirming care for trans kids and limited conversations on gender and sexuality in schools.

Her comments on the harm that anti-trans legislation would cause for LGBTQ+ youth became part of the national conversation around transgender rights and anti-LGBTQ+ legislation.

Now, she’s vying for the Democratic nomination for House District 93 in hopes of becoming the first transgender House representative in Kentucky history. The seat became vacant after Swann’s recent death.

“I'm hoping that we can send a message of hope to young people, including young trans people, that the future of Kentucky includes them and they have a spot in our commonwealth, and that we are going to move this state forwards not backwards,” Curtis said.

House District 93, which includes part of Fayette County, is a largely Democratic stronghold. Swann defeated Republican candidate Kyle Whalen in 2022 by almost eight percentage points.

Curtis is the second transgender person to run for the state House. Ramona Harris unsuccessfully ran against incumbent Democratic state Rep.Charles Miller in southwestern Jefferson County in the 2020 primary for the House 28th District seat.

Last year, Rebecca Blankenship became the first transgender elected official in the state after her win in the Berea Independent School district election.

Curtis said she’s a “pragmatic progressive” who believes in reproductive justice, economic justice and building a Kentucky that is more just and equitable for everybody.

“That being said, I am also pragmatic about the current political climate, I am conscious of the fact that Republicans hold supermajorities in both chambers. So more so than sticking to my rigid ideals, I care about doing tangible good for the people of the 93rd District,” she said.

Curtis said she thinks she can find common ground with Republicans by highlighting hurdles LGBTQ+ people face in their daily lives are the same as many residents in the commonwealth.

“Trans people have the same issues that everybody else has. We all want to have affordable housing, a job that pays well, infrastructure that works well. I think that they are areas where we can work together and do tangible good for everybody in the state,” she said.

The special election for the seat will be held on November 7th, the same day as the general election for governor and other statewide offices.The Fayette County Democratic Party will choose a nominee by mid-September.

Divya is LPM's Race & Equity Reporter. Email Divya at dkarthikeyan@lpm.org.