Christine Hallquist became the first openly transgender person to secure a major party’s nomination for governor after winning the Vermont Democratic primary Tuesday, The New York Times reports. Hallquist bested three other candidates and will face Republican incumbent Phil Scott in the general election, November 6th.
Per CNN, Hallquist ran on a very progressive platform that touted “Medicare for all,” a $15 minimum wage, expanding broadband access to rural communities, addressing racial bias in Vermont’s criminal justice system and building up renewable energy. Her campaign was backed by the Justice Democrats, the organization that also helped launch the succesful campaign of rising Democratic star, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
“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 Annise Parker, the chief executive of the LGBTQ Victory Fund, which promotes gay and transgender candidates. “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.”
Before running for governor, Hallquist spent 12 years as the CEO of one of Vermont’s largest utility companies. In 2015, while still at the helm of Vermont Electric Cooperative, she transitioned publicly, and was also the subject of a documentary made by her son.
In an interview with CNN this June, Hallquist said her public transition gave her the confidence to run for governor. “I was sure I was going to lose my job,” she said. “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.”
Though Vermont is a deeply blue state, the gubernatorial race will likely be competitive. Governor Scott remains popular, even among Democrats, though his standing among conservatives has faltered somewhat after signing a recent gun control measure. Vermont also hasn’t ousted an incumbent governor since 1962 and the nonpartisan Cook Political Report rates the seat as “safe Republican”.
Nevertheless, Hallquist’s historic nomination will likely garner national media attention, as well as fundraising dollars. It also marks another watershed moment for LGBTQ candidates. In 2017, Danica Roem became the first transgender person to be elected to the Virginia state legislature, while the Victory Institute estimates there are approximately 400 LGBTQ candidates running for office in 2018.