By Lizbeth Diaz
MEXICO CITY, June 2 (Reuters) - Gay, lesbian and transgender candidates are competing for votes in Mexico's midterm election, aiming to upset politics as usual in the largely Roman Catholic, socially conservative Latin American country.
A total of 117 candidates, or nearly 2% of more than 6,000 hopefuls running for office on Sunday who responded to a survey by national electoral institute INE, identified as part of the LGBT community.
About 21,000 local and national races are being contested in the vote, including 15 governorships and all 500 seats in the lower house of Congress, in a pivotal election for the agenda of leftist President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador during the second half of his six-year term.
Mexico's political parties were already required to nominate equal numbers of men and women, and new INE rules adopted last January added the obligation to also nominate candidates from vulnerable groups, including the LGBT community.
Like others aiming for jobs in politics, LGBT candidates are emphasizing public safety and the economy, but also specific obstacles for those who are often marginalized.
"That's exactly why I want to serve in Congress, to fight discrimination everywhere and shake things up with a representative voice," said Maria Garcia, a transgender candidate for Congress in Mexico City.
Garcia is running under the banner of the ruling National Regeneration Movement (Morena) of Lopez Obrador, who has seldom championed LGBT causes and has sided with conservatives on same-sex marriage.
Gay activist-turned-candidate Aurelien Guilabert said the need to tackle a growing number of hate crimes targeting LGBT people helped motivate him to run for the capital's local congress.
"We're suffering through one of the worst crises," he said.
Guilabert is with the Citizen Movement (MC) party. According to the INE survey, nearly 32% of the LGBT candidates running on Sunday are from the party, the highest percentage of any party.
(Reporting by Lizbeth Diaz; Additional reporting by Carlos Carrillo and Roberto Ramirez; Writing by David Alire Garcia Editing by Robert Birsel)
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