By Layla Hussein
Justin Lofton, an experienced nonprofit executive, consultant, and entrepreneur who ran for Pike County District 1 Supervisor, won his election on Nov. 7, becoming the first out LGBTQ county supervisor in the state of Mississippi. Lofton achieved this historic win after defeating incumbent Tazwell Bowsky, Pike County’s longest serving supervisor of 24 years, who attempted to use Lofton’s identity against him in the campaign.
A McComb, MS, native—Lofton is passionate about criminal justice reform, reducing wasteful government spending, and investing in local small businesses and new industries. He has already made strides locally by fighting to increase teacher salaries, expand Medicaid accessibility for mothers, and address critical infrastructure needs of the community. Lofton won the votes of Pike County residents with 27 more votes against his incumbent, Bowksy.
Lofton’s historic win also marks a bright future of visibility, inclusion, and accelerated acceptance of LGBTQ people not only in his local community, but the South more broadly. Lofton is eager to use his platform to build community bridges in embracing Black and queer histories through more civic engagement among young people in Pike County.
Justin Lofton speaks to teens during the 2023 Mobilizing Youth Summit in Mississippi. (Image: Courtesy of Justin Lofton)
“One of the things I want to leverage in this particular seat is not just the impact that I have on the Board [room] table, but it is the impact that I can have through engaging young voters and educating them on why voting locally is important and how that goes all the way up to legislative and national races as well,” Lofton said.
In an interview with The Advocate, Lofton shared his joys and tribulations during his election journey as a Black queer man.
“When you decide to run for office as a queer person, as a Black person, you obviously know that you’re gonna have odds put against you,” Lofton said. “So preparing yourself mentally for that and those challenges and how to own the narrative rather than let the opponent own the narrative […] but most importantly, it’s recognizing and owning who you are.”
Justin Lofton stands with supporters on the campaign trail in Mississippi. (Image: Courtesy of Justin Lofton)
“I chose not to respond, “Lofton said of his political opponents anti-LGBTQ tactics. “I used that as ammunition to fight a little bit harder, knock on more doors, call more people, and reach more voters.”
In addition to fostering more civic engagement and educational resources for young people in Pike County, Lofton’s vision for the future during his matriculation as District 1 Supervisor includes reforming the jail and criminal justice system, providing restorative justice alternatives that examines the systemic impact of folks in the prison system, developing the district’s economy, and continuing maintenance of infrastructure.
Lofton is committed to continually educating LGBTQ youth in Pike County on their voter rights and their limitless possibilities for stepping into office. Reflecting on his election journey, Lofton shared his insights for young queer folks interested in politics.
“No matter the naysayers out there that say it is not possible or you’re not ready yet or mature enough […], you can still run and you can still win,” Lofton said. “You just need a strong platform, a strong message, and one that is fostered and created in partnership with the communities whose voices aren’t heard.”