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Vermont's Christine Hallquist could be the country's first transgender governor

Posted: 7:55 AM, Aug 14, 2018
Updated: 2018-08-14 11:55:20Z

Christine Hallquist's bid to become the first transgender governor in American history -- and the first trans person elected to any statewide position in Vermont -- will face its first electoral hurdle on Tuesday in the state's Democratic primary.

If she wins Tuesday night, she will become the nation's first transgender gubernatorial nominee for a major political party.

A former energy company executive, Hallquist is already a trailblazer. She was the first CEO to transition while in her job, according to the Victory Fund, a political action committee backing Hallquist and "dedicated to electing openly LGBTQ people" up and down the ballot.

 

"My path to being my authentic self was certainly not easy," she said at a campaign kickoff event earlier this year. "However, it's always been important to me to live openly and honestly. I chose to transition in a very public way because I felt I owed it to those at Vermont Electric Cooperative who put their trust in me."

In a June interview with CNN, Hallquist explained how that experience gave her the confidence to seek an even higher-profile position.

"I was sure I was going to lose my job. I was sure I was going to lose respect. But that didn't happen," she said. "So this describes the beauty of Vermont. Now I'm at this point where I can't do enough to give back to Vermont."

If Hallquist can emerge from a field of four Democratic hopefuls, one of them a teen boy, she would likely take on Republican Gov. Phil Scott, who has regularly ranked among the most popular governors in the country during his brief time in office. But his standing has taken a hit recently, at least among his own base, following his decision to sign a bill tightening gun restrictions.

A July survey from Vermont Public Radio and Vermont PBS suggests the race to unseat Scott, should he win his own Tuesday primary, could be an unpredictable one, with most voters saying as recently as a few weeks ago that they were unfamiliar with his challengers. Hallquist, though, had the best name recognition numbers of the bunch, at 41%, 12 percentage points ahead of fellow Democrat Brenda Siegel.

Hallquist is one of more than 400 LGBTQ candidates running in this cycle, a record according to the Victory Institute. This past weekend, Hawaii's Kim Coco Iwamoto fell short in her bid for the lieutenant governor nomination in the state's Democratic primary. Another trans candidate, Democrat Alexandra Chandler is running in a crowded primary field for the chance to replace Rep. Niki Tsongas in Massachusetts' 3rd Congressional District.

Hallquist voted for her potential future opponent, Scott, in 2016 but like so many other Democrats this year has framed her campaign, at least in part, as an effort to put the brakes on President Donald Trump.

"This is not a time in American history to sit back and be apathetic," she said at that first campaign event. "We must be bold in the face of the headwinds from Washington, we must be bold in the face of continuing unpredictability from Congress, and we must be bold in the face of the chaos from the White House."

Hallquist's policy pitch has been focused on building renewable energy and boosting the rural economy by expanding broadband access. She also supports raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour and addressing racial disparities in the state's criminal justice system.