Out Candidate Jared Polis Wins Colorado's Democratic Governor's Nom

Jared Polis

Jared Polis has won the Democratic nomination for governor of Colorado, positioning him to be the first out gay man elected governor of any state.

“The Associated Press declared Polis the winner at 7:45 p.m. [Mountain time] as early results showed him with 43 percent of the vote,” The Denver Post reports. “Former state Treasurer Cary Kennedy stood a distant second at 26 percent alongside former state Sen. Mike Johnston at 24 percent. Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne remained a distant fourth place at 8 percent.”

Polis, currently a member of the U.S. House, will face Republican Walker Stapleton in November. Stapleton, the state treasurer, easily bested three opponents in the primary to become the gubernatorial nominee. The incumbent governor, Democrat John Hickenlooper, is prevented by term limits from running again.

“Together, we can prove that in our America, in our Colorado, anything is possible. Let’s get to work,” Polis told supporters at a hotel in Broomfield, Colo., The Colorado Independent reports.

He also thanked his fellow candidates and issued this statement: “This campaign is about bold ideas that put Colorado families first, from protecting our access to health care to ensuring universal pre-K in every community. I'm running for governor to protect our Colorado way of life from the special interests who try to stack the deck in their favor. “We're going to fight to ensure that every Coloradan can live, work, and raise a family in this state we are so lucky to call home."

The LGBTQ Victory Fund, which had endorsed Polis, responded enthusiastically to his win. “Tonight Jared Polis pulled off a huge victory and is on track to become the first openly gay man elected governor of a U.S. state,” said Victory Fund  president and CEO Annise Parker in a press release. “While it is a historic and promising night for the LGBTQ community, primary voters chose Jared not because he could be a historic first, but because of his unquestionable integrity and positive vision for Coloradans. Voters will have a stark choice in November — between a longtime public servant who governs with values, and the Republican nominee who stands behind the divisive rhetoric and destructive policies of Donald Trump. I am confident Coloradans stand with Jared.”

Some Republicans doubt the sincerity of Stapleton’s support for Trump. During the primary, one of Stapleton’s opponents, former state Rep. Victor Mitchell, “accused him of pretending to embrace President Donald Trump for political gain, the Post reports. “Stapleton frequently mentioned Trump in his campaign ads, promising to take a hard stance on immigration and ‘sanctuary cities.’” Stapleton, by the way, is a second cousin of former President George W. Bush, who campaigned for him in Colorado.

In a recent interview with The Advocate, Polis, a five-term congressman, said he ran for governor because states needed to fight Trump’s agenda. “With Trump moving us backward on so many issues, we really need bold leadership at the state level,” he said. “I feel I can make more progress back home in Colorado.”

Polis’s victory in the primary “represents a sharp leftward shift that will test whether Colorado is a true blue state,” the Post reports. “Polis ran a campaign aimed at diehard Democrats with promises to implement all-day pre-school and kindergarten for every child and a single-payer, Medicare-for-all health care system in Colorado — both of which were ballot initiatives rejected by voters in prior elections.”

Several Colorado Democrats issued statements of praise for Polis. Jared is a strong leader who I am proud to support,” said U.S. Representative Ed Perlmutter. “I know Coloradans across our state will support Jared as he offers innovative solutions to the infrastructure challenges we face, to tackling affordable housing, funding our public schools, and creating good paying jobs in every Colorado community.” 

Added Colorado Speaker of the House Crisanta Duran: “The choice in this race is clear: Jared Polis, who has a plan to provide affordable health care to every Coloradan, or Walker Stapleton, who wants to rip health care away from our families. Jared Polis, who built schools for new immigrants, or Walker Stapleton, who wants to use our tax dollars to terrorize and tear apart immigrant families. Jared Polis, who has spent his career serving our community and lifting up others, or Walker Stapleton, who has made clear from Day One that he will serve only the special interests, and himself."

Another out gay man who sought a governor’s office, Rich Madaleno, has finished out of the running in Maryland’s Democratic primary. With 97 percent of votes counted, he is in fifth place with 5.7 percent of the vote, The Baltimore Sun reports. Former NAACP president Ben Jealous leads with 39.8 percent, followed by Rushern L. Baker III, the Prince George’s County executive, with 29.4 percent. The winner will face incumbent Larry Hogan, who was unopposed in the Republican primary.

Madaleno, currently a state representative, had also characterized his gubernatorial run an act of resistance to Trump, whom he called “unhinged” in an Advocate interview. During his campaign he ran an ad during the airing of Fox & Friends, the president’s favorite news program, in the Washington, D.C.-area market, detailing all the things he’s done that would make Trump mad — such as supporting public education, Planned Parenthood, and an assault weapons ban — and closed the commercial by kissing his husband, Mark Hodge, and saying, “Take that, Trump.” It may have been the first same-sex kiss in an American campaign ad.

The first out gay man to be a major party's guberatorial nominee was Maine's Mike Michaud, who won the Democratic nomination, unopposed, in 2014, after coming out the previous year. He lost the general election to incumbent Paul LePage, an intensely anti-LGBT Republican, in a close race. 

Kate Brown, who is bisexual, broke the state-level rainbow glass ceiling when she became governor of Oregon in 2015, following Gov. John Kitzhaber’s resignation; Oregon has no lieutenant governor, so as secretary of state she succeeded him. She was elected in her own right in a special election in 2016 and is running for reelection this year. Jim McGreevey, the former governor of New Jersey, wasn’t out when elected, and when he came out as gay in 2004, he immediately resigned, having admitted to an extramarital affair.

Other gubernatorial candidates trying to make LGBT history this year include Lupe Valdez, who has won the Democratic nomination for governor of Texas and will face anti-LGBT incumbent Republican Greg Abbott in November; and Christine Hallquist, a transgender woman who is seeking the Dems’ nomination for governor of Vermont. Her primary is August 14.

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