Openly gay state representatives and senators increased by forty seats nationwide in last night's historic elections.

Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund President Chuck Wolfe called 2008 a “watershed election” for gay candidates.

“Our government became more representative and our democracy became stronger,” Wolfe said. “As we near the 30th anniversary of the death of Harvey Milk, it's enormously gratifying to see this dream realized in so many brave men and women heeding the call to run for office, and doing so openly, honestly and unafraid.”

Candidates vying for state representative or assemblyman won as many as thirty seats, while the ranks of openly gay senators increased by another ten members nationwide.

The New England states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut led the nation with approving the highest number of openly gay members to their state assemblies; the region generated a total of fourteen wins.

In Massachusetts, U.S. Representative Barney Frank cruised to an easy victory Tuesday to retain his seat in Congress. Add to that four out of the five Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund endorsed state representative candidates winning, with only Sara Orozco losing her bid for state senator. Democrats Carl Sciortino, Sarah Peake, Kate Hogan and Cheryl Coakley-Rivera each won a seat in the state House.

In Connecticut, all three of the state's openly gay representatives won re-election – Democrats Mike Lawlor, Beth Bye and Jason Bartlett. Jason Bartlett remains one of only two openly gay African-American legislators in the nation.

Bartlett came out to a whimper of media attention during his freshman term as state representative, but told us he did not believe sexual orientation made a difference to voters in re-electing him. “I believe that there was more vitriol and negative attacks to try to take advantage of that fact, but in the end it was not addressed in any public forum and had no impact on the voters,” Bartlett said in an email.

New Hampshire will be sending three openly gay candidates to Concord. Three Democrats, David Pierce and Jim Splaine and Ed Butler, each won a seat in the state House.

Larry Bliss (D) won his race for a Maine Senate seat. And Democrat Frank Ferri secured one of the seventy-five Rhode Island House seats.

Gay candidates in New York and California took a total of nine state seats.

In the Empire State, three openly gay state assemblymen will be heading to Albany. Democrat Daniel O'Donnel won his fourth term as assemblyman and will be joined by Micah Kellner (D) and Matt Titone (D). In the New York Senate, Thomas Duane, who became the first openly gay/openly HIV-positive New York state senator in 1998, was re-elected.

Voters in California approved all four of their openly gay candidates, where Democrat Tom Ammiano will be filling the seat vacated by Assemblyman Mark Leno, who won his run for state senator. Christine Kehoe (D) will join Leno in the state Senate, while John Perez will join Ammiano in the state House.

Out west, Colorado had a good showing too, where Democrat Jared Polis won his Congressional House bid to become the first openly gay male representative to Congress.  (Massachusetts Representative Barney Frank confirmed he's gay while serving his second term.) Additionally, voters chose to retain Representative Mark Ferrandino (D) and take a shot at freshman Representative Sue Schaefer (D).

And in McCain country two more Democrats Matt Heinz and Kyrsten Sinema won seats to the Arizona House.

Another nine openly gay representatives were elected last night in various other states including Democrats Kathy Webb of Arkansas, Jackie Biskupski and Christine Johnson of Utah, Jamie Pedersen and Marko Liias of Washington, Deborah Mell and Greg Harris of Illinois and Michael Colona and Jeanette Mott-Oxford of Missouri.

And five openly gay state senators were approved by voters including Democrats Julia Boseman from North Carolina, Nicole LeFavour of Idaho, Joe McDermott of Washington, David Parks of Nevada and Christine Kaufmann of Montana.

Wisconsin's openly lesbian Representative Tammy Baldwin was re-elected to Congress, but South Carolina's Linda Ketner (D) lost her bid to incumbent Congressman Henry Brown.