Palm Springs City Council will be 100 percent LGBTQ, thanks to historic election

With the historic win in Tuesday’s election, the five-member Palm Springs City Council will be completely LGBTQ — possibly the first council in the United States with 100 percent queer representation. Photo: City of Palm Springs

PALM SPRINGS – With the historic win in Tuesday’s election, the five-member Palm Springs City Council will be completely LGBTQ — possibly the first council in the United States with 100 percent queer representation.

RELATED: Transgender candidate Lisa Middleton makes California history

Lisa Middleton made history as the first openly trans candidate elected to a nonjudicial office in California, according to unofficial results from the Riverside County Registrar of Voters.

Victoria Kolakowski was elected an Alameda County Superior Court judge in 2010. Kolakowski also is the first transgender judge in the U.S.

Middleton and attorney Christy Holstege, who identifies as bisexual, won the two open council seats. Middleton received about 31 percent of the vote, and Holstege received about 30 percent of the vote in a field of six candidates according to unofficial results.

“It’s all because of all of you that we are here tonight, celebrating a victory, a historic victory for our city and for our state,” Middleton told supporters Tuesday night, according to the Desert Sun.

Palm Springs City Council candidate Lisa Middleton made history Tuesday night as the first transgender person elected to a non-judicial office in California, according to unofficial election results. Photo: Lisa Middleton campaign.


Middleton, retired from the California State Compensation Insurance Fund, is a member of the City’s Planning Commission and chairwoman of the Organized Neighborhoods of Palm Springs. She also is a member of the boards of directors of the Desert Horticulture Society and the Desert LGBTQ Center, where she was interim executive director in 2014.

On the planning commission, Middleton has advocated for downtown renewal, increased use of solar energy, and cooperation between developers and neighborhoods.


Holstege is an attorney who focuses on assisting underserved communities in the area, including people with disabilities, LGBTQ people, people who are homeless, injured workers, personal injury victims, and victims of discrimination and violence.


Equality California endorsed both candidates and spent thousands of dollars in direct contributions, independent expenditures, and member-to-member communications to help elect them, the group said in a statement.

“In light of the repeated attacks on transgender people from the federal government, Tuesday’s wins by Lisa Middleton in Palm Springs and other transgender candidates in Minneapolis and Virginia are a beacon of hope that voters have embraced values of equality and inclusion,” Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur said in a statement.


“Lisa is paving the way for others to follow in her footsteps in California and across the nation. Her first place finish out of a field of 6 candidates demonstrates that a glass ceiling for transgender people who want to serve in elected office was not only broken, but was shattered in Palm Springs,” he said.

Zbur said Equality California wants to build on Tuesday’s success and elect more queer candidates and pro-equality allies across the state.


Tuesday’s election also was significant because it means the city has completely shed its connections to the Steve Pougnet era, the Desert Sun reported.

RELATED: Ex-Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet, 2 developers enter not guilty pleas in corruption case

The former mayor is the centerpiece of a Riverside County District Attorney’s criminal complaint, alleging that he’d sold his vote — and his influence — in exchange for $375,000. He and two prominent developers have pleaded not guilty.

The six candidates in Tuesday’s election competed for two open seats because longtime Council members Chris Mills and Ginny Foat didn’t seek re-election.

After votes are certified at the end of this month, Middleton and Holstege will join the three sitting councilmembers who were elected in late 2015 after promising to restore trust in the process, according to the Desert Sun.

The council is considering an ordinance that would strengthen its ethics and disclosure rules, the Desert Sun reported.

Attorney Christy Holstege, who identifies as bisexual, was elected to the Palm Springs City Council Tuesday night and will become another LGBTQ voice on the council. Photo: Christy Holstege campaign.

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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