A STRONG showing by gay candidates in the early stages of the 2020 presidential race and the election for Chicago’s next mayor have been hailed as a “sea change” in US politics.

Lori Lightfoot won a landslide victory to become Chicago’s mayor-elect while Pete Buttigieg is gaining traction and donations in the early stages of the race for the Democratic nomination for the White House.

The ascendance of Lightfoot and of Buttigieg, the two-term mayor of South Bend, Indiana, highlights the remarkable progress made recently by gay and lesbian politicians.

Both have talked comfortably about LGBT issues and their own same-sex marriages.

“The real news is not that openly gay candidates are successful, but that being openly gay has become irrelevant,” said Richard Socarides, a former Clinton White House adviser on gay issues. “Here are two people with fresh ideas and a new vision for the future. Voters don’t care about their sexual orientation. That’s a sea change.”

It was only in 1998 that Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin became the first openly gay person to gain a seat in the House of Representatives. There are now eight LGBT members of the House, and two in the Senate, Baldwin and Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema.

Lightfoot’s victory in the third-largest US city, along with lesbian Satya Rhodes-Conway’s win in Madison, Wisconsin, brings the number of LGBT mayors to 37, according to the LGBTQ Victory Fund, which recruits and supports LGBT candidates. In Colorado,

Jared Polis was inaugurated in January as the nation’s first openly gay governor.

Annise Parker, a lesbian who served three terms as mayor of Houston and chief executive of the Victory Fund, said LGBT candidates such as Polis and Lightfoot “are achieving positions that cause folks to sit up and take notice”.

“It’s not a fluke or an oddity,” she said. “These are dedicated, hardworking public servants who bring a directness and integrity to their service... they’re being open about who they are.”

Buttigieg, at 37, the youngest prominent contender in the Democratic presidential race, has received rave reviews for many of his public appearances and reported raising $7 million in the first fundraising period of the campaign.

Meanwhile, congressman Tim Ryan has become the latest Democrat to announce he is running for president.

The 45-year-old from Ohio announced his bid on ABC’s The View. A political moderate, he made an unsuccessful bid to replace Nancy Pelosi as House Democratic leader in 2016. He has served in Congress since 2003 and, before that, spent two years in the Ohio Senate.