We're ThisClose to Having an Openly Transgender Governor

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Vermont’s Christine Hallquist made history in August by becoming the first out transgender person to win a major party’s gubernatorial nomination anywhere in the United States. With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Hallquist received 48 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary, making her the party’s nominee. (Her two nearest Democratic competitors each earned just over 20 percent of the vote.)

Hallquist, the former CEO of the Vermont Electric Cooperative, will face incumbent Republican Phil Scott next month. In an interview with The Advocate this summer, Hallquist said her priorities include fighting poverty and encouraging economic development in the state’s rural areas, promoting renewable energy, 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. She also pledged further steps to empower LGBTQ Vermonters in a state that already has some of the strongest LGBTQ civil rights protections.

Hallquist decided to run, she says, because Vermont, where residents have typically come together to solve problems, is “in the midst of an identity crisis,” adding, “our governor has focused his politics on division rather than unity and solidarity. I cannot idly sit by and watch.”

Hallquist — who came out as transgender three years ago, becoming one of first leaders of a major U.S. business to transition on the job — joins two other history-making gubernatorial candidates: Jared Polis of Colorado, the second out 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 (out) LGBTQ population, and she is running for reelection this year. All of these candidates 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,” Annise Parker, Victory Fund president and CEO, said 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.… Business experience and progressive vision for Vermont means she’s perfectly positioned to take on Governor Scott.”

If Hallquist wins in November, she would be the highest-ranking out transgender officeholder in the U.S., Victory Fund notes. There are 13 out trans people in office, and Victory Fund has endorsed seven trans candidates, including Hallquist, in this election cycle.

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“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,” Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez 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, the nation’s first trans PAC. “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.”

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