Christine Hallquist, Vermont’s Democratic nominee, says her ‘historic’ victory is a message to Trump, who banned transgender people from serving in the military
America’s first transgender candidate for governor has hailed her victory as a “historic moment” and a rebuke to Donald Trump’s “targeting of marginalized communities”.
Christine Hallquist, who won the Democratic primary for Vermont governor on Tuesday night, told the Guardian she was stunned by the margin of her victory – and said her win could point the way for Democratic success in rural America.
“It clearly is a historic moment,” Hallquist said on Wednesday morning.
“I feel humbled and honored, I’m certainly proud as well.”
Hallquist won 48.3% of the vote statewide, while her nearest challenger, former navy officer James Ehlers, won 22.1%. She will face the Republican incumbent Phil Scott, who comfortably won his primary with 67.5% of the vote, in November’s election.
“The secret to the win – and I think this can be applied all across rural America – is we paid attention to rural Vermont,” Hallquist said.
Rather than just focusing on Chittenden county – which encompasses Burlington and is by far the largest county in Vermont – Hallquist said she took her message around the state.
“The rural counties, a lot of them [Hallquist won by] were over half. So it just goes to show you that it doesn’t matter if you’re transgender.”
Hallquist said her victory also served as a message to Trump, who in March banned transgender people from serving in the military.
“Trump is a despot and what despots do, just like any third world dictator, they target the most marginalized communities first. But no community should feel safe if any community is being targeted.”
Hallquist, 62, ran on a progressive message, advocating for an increase in low wages and Medicare-style health coverage for all. Her signature policy item is providing high-speed broadband access across the state, which she says would boost economies in struggling rural towns.
Scott comfortably beat his Democratic opponent in the 2016 election – governors in Vermont serve two-year terms – and at the start of 2018 was ranked as one of the most popular governors in the US.
But over the past four months his popularity has tanked in the state, a plummet which has been attributed to Scott signing a series of gun control measures, angering Republican and independent voters.
“He’s very vulnerable. He has no long-range plan for how to change the demographics that are occurring in rural Vermont,” Hallquist said.
“Rural Vermont, we’re seeing increased rates in poverty, we’re seeing flights to urban areas and we’re seeing an ageing demographic.”
Bernie Sanders, who is running for re-election to the US senate in Vermont, was among the high-profile politicians to congratulate Hallquist on Tuesday night, while breakout Democratic newcomer Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez declared the win an “incredible and groundbreaking victory”.
“Congratulations @christineforvt & shout out to Vermont voters for continuing VT’s legacy of courageous inclusion & advocacy for all people,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted.
Hallquist plans to expand her staff for the run against Scott, which she says will focus on “pocket book issues” relating to the economy, but in the immediate future she is planning an unconventional team strategy meeting at her Hyde Park home.
“We’re all going out to my house on Thursday to take care of a pony keg of beer, sleep over at the house, and we’re going to build a plan, and then we’re going to start executing that plan Friday morning.”