Contact: Cathy Renna, Communications Director, National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund,, 917-757-6123


September 24, 2022, Washington, D.C………With staff and canvassers on the ground in Lakeland and Hillsborough Counties the past several weeks, the National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund released the following statement following last night’s primary results.

The following statement can be attributed to Mayra Hidalgo Salazar, Deputy Director, National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund:

“It was difficult, as someone who grew up in Lakeland and Central Florida, to see non-partisan races sullied by intense partisan politics. At a time where young people have been the target of bills and rhetoric that do everything BUT keep them safe, we will all need to redouble our efforts following last night’s primary.

Sarah Fortney was ousted by conservative Republican candidate Rick Nolte. Sarah is a candidate supported by the National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund. Nolte ran on a ticket of candidates endorsed and promoted heavily by the Polk County Republican party. It is hard to watch as these candidates have consistently used “safety” and “parental choice” to stifle the growth and education of some of the most vulnerable in our community- at a time when our support is needed the most.

Rick Nolte’s campaign was like other conservatives that stood behind DeSantis’ assaults on public schools and educators for having a “woke ideology.” This governor has influenced the state legislature to discriminatory, harmful legislation that puts LGBTQ youth and families at risk and at their most extreme erase our lives and experiences in any way possible. And now DeSantis has taken it a step further, doing all he could to influence school board races, packing these district races with candidates that have stood behind DeSantis’ so-called “education agenda.” School boards are now overwhelmingly represented by right-wing, ideology driven candidates that put DeSantis’ “education agenda” above the health, safety, and comprehensive education of our children. Rather than rallying behind protections for vulnerable students or investments into PPE for staff/students, we see candidates such as Nolte use dog whistles such as “CRT” and “parent choice” to propel their anti-Black and anti-Queer policies that restrict student and staff’s free speech and freedom of expression.

Nolte, like many of his conservative peers running in these nonpartisan races, avoided talking to reporters during their campaign. Fortney taught science for 33 years and it is heartbreaking to lose not just a competent leader in our public schools but also an educator.

We are very happy to have Kay Fields and Lisa Miller succeed in these races despite smear campaigns by conservative PACS in Florida and out-of-state. These incumbents have been instrumental to Polk county’s response in continuing COVID-19 safety protocols and ensuring that all students in the school district have access to books without fear of reprimands associated with bans.

Florida law requires school board candidates receive more than 50% of the vote to win election. Because of this we hope to see Lisa Miller campaigning in November and are excited to stand behind this candidacy. The Action Fund will also stand with Karen Perez as she will continue into another term in Hillsborough County.

The Action Fund is committed to fighting the fight in Florida with our partners and community members on the ground and will not let these setbacks slow us down. With misinformation proliferating on the local level in many of our Florida races, our campaign to Queer the Vote will get ahead of this misinformation and create engagement infrastructure that funnels voters into fact-based decision making rather than fear based and reactive political rhetoric.”

The National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund reaffirms our commitments to community in rural areas in Florida and across the country and continue to drive “Queer the Vote” to educate and mobilize LGBTQ+ rights supporters during key election cycles and legislative assaults on the LGBTQ+ community.”

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