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Vermont Democratic gubernatorial candidate Christine Hallquist, center, a transgender woman and former electric company executive, embraces supporters after claiming victory during her election night party in Burlington, Vt., Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018.
AP Photo/Charles Krupa
Victory.
AMERICAN HISTORY

Christine Hallquist could become the first transgender governor in the US

By Alice Truong

Deputy editor

Christine Hallquist made US history today (Aug. 14) after winning the Democratic primary for governor in Vermont, becoming the first transgender gubernatorial candidate to be nominated by a major party.

She had defeated three other candidates and will face off Phil Scott, the incumbent Republican governor, on Nov. 6.

Hallquist was previously the CEO of Vermont Electric Cooperative for 12 years and publicly transitioned from male to female in 2015, becoming the first American CEO to do so while on the job, according to the Victory Fund, a political action committee focused on electing LGBTQ people to office.

“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 told CNN in June. “So this describes the beauty of Vermont. Now I’m at this point where I can’t do enough to give back to Vermont.”

She ran on a campaign to boost economic development, including broadband access, in rural Vermont. Though her victory is in a small progressive state, she will be up against one of the US’s most popular governors, and Vermont has not unseated an incumbent governor (paywall) since 1962. Scott’s popularity with conservatives, however, has suffered since April when he signed into law new gun-control restrictions, including enhanced background checks and raising the age for gun purchases to 21.

Still, Hallquist’s victory remains an important one for the LGBTQ community, which has a record number of candidates—more than 400—running for office this election cycle, according to the Victory Fund. Just this past weekend, another transgender candidate, Kim Coco Iwamoto, lost Hawaii’s Democratic primary for lieutenant governor. In September, Democrat Alexandra Chandler, a former naval intelligence officer who is transgender, will be on the ballot in Massachusetts for a House seat.

This election season has also seen another first, with Georgia’s Stacey Abrams, a Democrat, becoming the first black female gubernatorial candidate to be nominated by a major party in the US.

“Vermonters are going to elect me for what I’m going to do for Vermont,” Hallquist told CBS before the results came in. “Vermont has always been a leader in civil rights. We have some of the best transgender protection laws in the country. It’s a state that’s really welcomed me with open arms.”

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