PALM SPRINGS, Calif. — Tucked away in the California desert, where windmills line the sprawling hills and rainbows adorn the crosswalks, a sizable progressive L.G.B.T.Q. community has turned a once reliably Republican stronghold into a battleground in the fight for control of Congress, giving Democrats hope for picking up a House seat that has long been beyond their reach.
Representative Ken Calvert, a Republican who has served in Congress for three decades, has almost never faced a tough re-election contest in this ruby-red corner of Southern California. But a redrawn political map in the state has reshaped his district this year, adding Palm Springs, a liberal bastion that residents proclaim to be the gayest city in America. The new district lines have put his seat at risk as he faces off against an openly gay Democrat, Will Rollins, a former federal prosecutor.
The shift has made Mr. Calvert’s district one of only a handful of Republican-held House seats that Democrats have a hope of flipping in November’s midterm elections, in which they are bracing for losses that could cost them the House majority. While Mr. Calvert has an edge in fund-raising and the power that comes with years of incumbency, the shifting political ground has made his re-election race more competitive than it has been in over a decade.
Much of the shift has been driven by heavily L.G.B.T.Q. Palm Springs, which in this year’s primary election had the highest turnout rate in the district, with just under 54 percent of eligible voters casting a ballot, well above the 34 percent turnout level for the district overall, according to Political Data Intelligence, a California-based political and voter data firm.
“People flock here from across the Inland Empire for safety and comfort,” Christy Holstege, a bisexual member of Palm Springs’ all-L.G.B.T.Q. City Council, said of the surrounding region as she gazed up at the statue of Marilyn Monroe that overlooks the city. “They know that this is a little sliver of safety, and since our turnout is high, it makes us that much more powerful.”
The city was known in its early days as a retreat for Hollywood celebrities, and it later became home to thousands of gay men who relocated there during the AIDS epidemic for the warm climate, affordable housing and access to health care. It is now the epitome of kitsch and rich, with its midcentury architecture, pastel pink at every corner and a lively nightlife.
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