Christine Hallquist becomes the first openly transgender candidate for governor in US history
For the Democratic party, Tuesday night was a night of many firsts. In Minnesota, Ilhan Omar, a Somalian refugee who immigrated to the United States as a teenager, won her primary, making her likely to be the first Muslim woman elected to Congress. In Connecticut, Jahana Hayes, who won national teacher of the year in 2016, won her primary, meaning she could be her state's first black Democrat in Congress. And in Vermont, Christine Hallquist, a former energy executive, won her primary, making her the first openly transgender candidate for governor in US history.
Hallquist, 62, defeated three other Democrats running for the candidacy, including a 14-year-old boy. (In Vermont, there is no age requirement for the position.) She ran on a progressive, populist platform, supporting a $15 minimum wage, free higher education and Medicare for All (aka universal health care). However, Hallquist doesn't embrace the "socialist" label, which is still used a pejorative in some Republican circles. Rather, she says she's fighting for a civilized society.
"I'm not a person that's big on labels because I found labels are used to separate people," Hallquist told CNN's John Berman. "I look at the platform of a living wage and health care for all, that is called civilized society. I don't know even how that became socialism or Republican or Democrat. Let's be a civilized society. ... I'm not sure I even know what socialism is."
After pursuing a career in engineering, Hallquist moved to Vermont in 1976. She joined Vermont Electric Cooperative in 1998, and become CEO of the company seven years later. Early on in her marriage, she came out as a woman, but didn't publicly identify as one until 2015. Previously, she told reporters she was inspired to run for office as a result of Donald Trump winning the 2016 presidential election.
During his campaign, President Trump promised to fight for LGBT rights. However, since taking office, he has attempted to ban transgender soldiers from the military, failed to acknowledge Pride Month for two years in a row, rolled back regulations to protect LGBT workers, and created a "religious liberty devision" to defend healthcare workers with religious objections from treating LGBT patients.
Last June, Hallquist told CNN that the public's positive response to her transition gave her the confidence to get into politics: "I was sure I was going to lose my job. I was sure I was going to lose respect. But that didn’t happen. So this describes the beauty of Vermont. Now I’m at this point where I can’t do enough to give back to Vermont."
According to the Victory Institute, during this election cycle, a record 400 LGBT candidates are running for state or federal office. Many of them were inspired by Virginia Democratic delegate Danica Roem, an openly transgender woman elected in 2017. Currently, 13 openly transgender people are serving in elected office. Mayor Annise Parke, the president and CEO of the LGBT Victory Fund, issued a statement of support for Hallquist:
"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."
On Twitter, Senator Bernie Sanders, progressive Congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and political trailblazer Danica Roem congratulated Hallquist on her win. As she celebrated her historic victory in Burlington, she said, "I'm proud to be the face of the Democrats tonight." In November, she will face off against the incumbent governor, Republican Phil Scott.