Vermont’s Christine Hallquist made history Tuesday in becoming the first out transgender person to win a major party’s gubernatorial nomination anywhere in the U.S.
With 79 percent of precincts reporting, Hallquist had received 48 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary, making her the party’s nominee, The New York Times reports. Her closest competitor, James Ehlers, had 22 percent. There is no provision for a runoff, so this means Hallquist, the former CEO of the Vermont Electric Cooperative, will face incumbent Republican Phil Scott in November.
In an Advocate interview published last month, Hallquist said her priorities include fighting poverty and encouraging economic development in the state’s rural areas, promoting renewable energy and fighting climate change, raising the minimum wage, enacting paid family leave, working toward single-payer health care, and revamping the school funding structure, while resisting efforts to privatize schools and instead assure every child receives a quality public education — and taking further steps to empower LGBTQ Vermonters in a state that already has some of the strongest LGBTQ civil rights protections.
She decided to run, she said, because Vermont, where residents have typically come together to solve problems, is “in the midst of an identity crisis.” “Our governor has focused his politics on division rather than unity and solidarity,” she explained. “I cannot idly sit by and watch.”
Hallquist, who came out as transgender three years ago, making her the first U.S. business leader to transition on the job, joins two other history-making gubernatorial candidates: Jared Polis of Colorado, only the second openly gay man to win a major party’s nomination for governor, and Lupe Valdez of Texas, the first lesbian to achieve this distinction. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, who is bisexual, was the first governor elected from the LGBTQ population, and she is running for reelction this year. All are Democrats.
Hallquist had the endorsement of the LGBTQ Victory Fund, which hailed her achievement. “Christine’s victory is a defining moment in the movement for trans equality and is especially remarkable given how few out trans elected officials there are at any level of government,” said Victory Fund president and CEO Annise Parker in a press release. “Many thought it unthinkable a viable trans gubernatorial candidate like Christine would emerge so soon. Yet Vermont voters chose Christine not because of her gender identity, but because she is an open and authentic candidate with a long history of service to the state, and who speaks to the issues most important to voters.” Hallquist’s “business experience and progressive vision for Vermont means she’s perfectly positioned to take on Governor Scott,” Parker continued.
If Hallquist wins in November, she would be the highest-ranking transgender officeholder in the U.S., Victory Fund notes. There are 13 openly trans people in elective office, and Victory Fund has endorsed seven trans candidates, including Hallquist, in this election cycle.
She was also endorsed by the National Center for Transgender Equality Action Fund. “When I started NCTE 15 years ago, I knew transgender people could and should lead this country into a more equitable and prosperous future,” said a statement issued by NCTE executive director Mara Keisling. “But the historic nature of Christine’s primary win cannot be overstated. Our mission as an organization is deeply rooted in bringing transgender people into the center of society, and Christine’s nomination is a massive step forward in that fight. We extend our most sincere congratulations to Christine and her family and hope every Vermonter knows she is the leader their state needs. The National Center for Transgender Equality Action Fund will continue to work hard for Christine‘s victory.”
Congratulations came from Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez as well. “The DNC is proud to congratulate Christine Hallquist, Vermont’s Democratic nominee for governor and the country’s first-ever openly transgender nominee for governor, along with all of tonight’s Democratic nominees in the Green Mountain State,” he said in a prepared statement. “Christine’s historic victory tonight is an inspiration to LGBTQ people everywhere, and we are excited to stand behind her and the entire slate of fantastic Democratic nominees in Vermont. There’s no doubt that Christine and her fellow nominees will join a strong ticket this November that will fight for our values and serve as dedicated advocates for Vermont’s working families. Vermont voters know that Democrats have their backs and share their values, and they’re ready to organize to turn more seats blue this November.”
The Trans United Fund and the Working Families Party likewise issued celebratory statements. “With tonight’s primary win, Christine is a huge step closer to becoming the first openly trans governor in U.S. history.” said Daye Pope, organizing director for Trans United Fund, a national trans-led political group. “Tonight shows that Vermont — and the country — is ready to vote for trans and nonbinary candidates who care about the people and can get things done. In our mission of building trans and nonbinary political power across the country, Christine is a champion we’re proud to support.”
“Tonight’s win is proof positive that Christine’s platform of raising wages, funding public schools, and expanding broadband opportunities for rural Vermonters is resonating across the state,” added Georgia Hollister Isman of the Working Families Party, a national organization that supports progressive candidates. “Hallquist is the progressive champion Vermont needs, and we’re proud to support her historic candidacy.”