In night of primary elections, Christine Hallquist makes history as the first transgender nominee for governor for a major party
Democrats in Vermont have nominated America’s first transgender nominee for governor for a major party, in a night of primary elections that also saw Minnesota Republicans reject a familiar face of the Republican old guard in favour of a candidate more aligned with President Donald Trump.
Minnesota also picked a woman who could be the first Somali-American member of Congress, and Connecticut Democrats nominated a candidate who could become the first black woman from the state to serve in Congress.
“Tonight we made history,” Hallquist, 62, told supporters during her victory speech. “I’m so honored to be part of this historical moment.”
Hallquist told CNN on Wednesday morning that she had not necessarily run to make history, but as a reaction to the election of Trump to the White House.
“The reason I’m here is because of what happened in 2016,” she said. “In physics we say for every action there’s an opposite and opposing reaction. Well, I’m definitely a reaction to 2016.”
Hallquist follows in the footsteps of Danica Roem, the Virginia Democrat who in 2017 became the first transgender state legislator in the US.
She will face incumbent Republican Phil Scott in November. Scott, a moderate who faced a primary challenge on the right fueled by his support for gun control, is considered the favorite of the two. According to one recent poll the incumbent Republican has a 61% approval rating from Vermont Democrats.
Last week she spoke to the Guardian about her chances of becoming the Democratic candidate, saying: “I tell people this isn’t the hardest thing I ever did. In fact, I think after transitioning everything else looks pretty easy.”
Her success caps a remarkable journey, which has included decades of internal strife over how her family would accept her as Christine, the five-year transition process before she felt ready to present herself as a woman in her job as a high-powered CEO, and even dodging an exorcism attempt as a child.
Hallquist said she was inspired to run for governor when Trump became president.
“November 8, 2016, I realized the world changed,” she said.
“I went to bed, and of course like any other trauma I was in political depression and I just didn’t know what to do. I mean, many of us in this country shed a lot of tears for what happened on November 8.”
In Minnesota, Tim Pawlenty lost the Republican nomination for Minnesota governor on Tuesday after his opponent repeatedly attacked him for calling Trump “unfit” for the White House in the aftermath of the Access Hollywood tape.
In Minnesota, Pawlenty, who was governor from 2003 to 2011 and mounted an unsuccessful president bid in 2012, had been considered the favorite in the primary and was one of the GOP’s best hopes for picking up a governor’s mansion in an unfavorable national environment. However, like a number of other establishment Republicans his past criticism of Trump proved to be his Achilles heel.
Instead, Republican Jeff Johnson will face Congressman Tim Walz in November.
Hallquist was not the only candidate to make history on Tuesday.
Ilhan Omar is poised to become the nation’s first Somali-American and one of the first Muslim women in Congress after winning the Democratic nomination in Minnesota’s Fifth Congressional District. Omar will likely join Rashida Tlaib, who won a Democratic primary in Michigan last week on Capitol Hill in January. Both are expected to easily win their general elections in safe Democratic districts.
In the special election for the Senate seat vacated by Al Franken’s resignation, appointed incumbent Tina Smith easily beat former White House lawyer and television pundit Richard Painter. Smith will face Republican Karin Housley in November to fill the remaining two years of Franken’s term.
Congressman Keith Ellison easily won the Democratic nomination for state attorney general despite allegations of domestic abuse and a video recording the abuse. Ellison, a progressive icon, has strongly denied the allegations and insisted “this video does not exist because I never behaved in this way, and any characterisation otherwise is false.”
Wisconsin Democrats nominated Tony Evers to be their standard bearer against Scott Walker, who is facing his fourth statewide election in eight years. Walker who has faced a recall in addition two hard fought campaigns for office, drew national attention through his efforts to break public sector unions in the state and support for right to work legislation.
Walker’s protege Leah Vukmir also won a competitive primary against businessman Kevin Nicholson for the Republican Senate nomination. She will face incumbent Tammy Baldwin in November.
In Connecticut, businessman Ned Lamont easily won the Democratic nomination for governor against Joe Ganim, the mayor of Bridgeport who mounted a political comeback after a 2003 conviction for fraud.
Connecticut Democrats also picked former teacher of the year, Jahana Hayes, to run for the seat vacated by Elizabeth Etsy, who is leaving Congress after bungling sexual abuse claims levied against a former staffer. Hayes could become the first black woman from the state to serve in Congress.