Openly gay and lesbian candidates swept to victory in local and state races across the country last night, according to results released today by the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund.  The group, which endorses openly lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) candidates, endorsed a slate of 79 contenders for 2009 races, a new record for a non-federal election year.  Of those, 49 won their races outright and six are still unfinished.  Thirteen additional openly gay candidates also won Tuesday.

“This has been the most successful non-federal election year in the Victory Fund’s history,” said Chuck Wolfe, the group’s president and CEO.  “More candidates were endorsed and more candidates won than ever before.  But just as important is where they won.  Some of these are true breakthrough victories that  have the potential to change the political landscape in some communities,” Wolfe added.

The Victory Fund now turns its attention to several runoff elections, including Annise Parker’s historic run to become the next mayor of Houston.  “We’re thrilled Annise finished in first place Tuesday night, but this race has six more weeks left, so there’s really no time to celebrate.  We’re focused on the finish line now,” Wolfe said.

Some highlights from Tuesday night returns:

Annise Parker advanced to a runoff in her race to become the next mayor of Houston.

Charles Pugh will become Detroit’s first openly gay city councilmember after finishing first among 18 candidates for 9 at-large seats.  Placing first also means Pugh will become city council president.

Steve Kornell won his race for the St. Petersburg, Fla. City Council, becoming the first openly LGBT candidate to do so.

Sandra Kurt overcame anti-gay attacks to become the first openly LGBT member of the Akron, Ohio City Council.

Simone Bell advanced to a runoff election in her race for the Georgia State House of Representatives.  Bell will become the country’s first openly lesbian African-American state legislator if she wins her runoff election.

Eric Resnick won a seat on the Canton, Ohio school board.

Mark Kleinschmidt was elected mayor of Chapel Hill, N.C.

Full results for all 79 Victory Fund races will be available shortly on an Election Scorecard at www.victoryfund.org.