First Gubernatorial Trans Candidate Nominated in Vermont

MONTPELIER, Vt. (CN) – Outstripping a 14-year-old among other contenders in Vermont’s primary race on Tuesday, Christine Hallquist became the nation’s first transgender candidate from a major political party to earn a gubernatorial nomination.

Vermont Democratic gubernatorial candidate Christine Hallquist applauds with her supporters during her election night party in Burlington, Vt., on Aug. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Going on to face the incumbent Republican, Governor Phil Scott, in November, Hallquist won nearly 50 percent of the Democratic vote.

A former executive at Vermont Electric Co-op, Hallquist made it a cornerstone of her campaign to address the statistic that over half of Vermont’s rural land mass cannot connect to the internet. She says she would ensure that every home and business in the state is outfitted with fiber-optic cables.

Hallquist is also focused on economic development.

“Let’s get people to a living wage,” she said in an interview with CBS. “There’s been a systematic attack on the working class for over 30 years now.”

Among the unsuccessful candidates to bow out with grace to Hallquist was 14-year-old Ethan Sonneborn, who took advantage of a quirk of the Vermont Constitution that includes no age requirements for a candidate for governor, stipulating only need that they must have lived in the state for four years.

Vermont Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ethan Sonneborn, who is a 14-year old student, shakes hands with Martha Gagner, who works for a brewery catering his election night party, in Winooski, Vt., on Aug. 14, 2018. Sonneborn has taken advantage of a quirk in state law that doesn’t require gubernatorial candidates to be registered voters. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Sonneborn, who said he was inspired to run after seeing the riots in Charlottesville, Virginia, told voters that his platform was “transcendent of age.”

“I think if I can get one person who wasn’t involved in the political process before involved now, then my campaign will have been a success,” Sonneborn told CBS ahead of the election.

The boy from Bristol received over 4,000 and tweeted out his concession: “Thank you, Vermont. Keep fighting.”

Tuesday’s Democratic primary also served up defeats to dance festival organizer Brenda Siegel and environmentalist James Ehlers, while Governor Scott won the Republican nomination over Keith Stone with two-thirds of the vote.

Scott narrowly won his race in 2016 and has faced widespread backlash in recent months over the passing of gun-control laws in what has always been a firearm-friendly state.

Hallquist carries the support of The Victory Fund, who has referred to her as a “game changer.”

“Christine’s victory is a defining moment in the movement for trans equality,” Victory Fund CEO Annise Parker tweeted.

As for Hallquist, she predicted that gender would not factor into how she performs this fall. “Vermont has always been a leader in civil rights,” Hallquist said. “We have some of the best transgender-protection laws in the county. It’s a state that’s really welcomed me with open arms.”

Hallquist sees the potential for the Green Mountain State to become a progressive city upon a hill not just for the nation, but the whole world. “Look to Vermont,” she told the AP, “we continue to demonstrate leadership in civil rights and how to honor and work with each other. We can be a beacon for the rest of the world.”

On the national end, Senator Bernie Sanders won the Democratic primary with nearly 95 percent of the vote. Vermont law prohibits Sanders from being both an independent and a Democrat on the November ballot, which has led Sanders in previous years to decline the Democratic nomination, but accepted the party’s formal endorsement.

Sanders is rumored to be planning a second presidential campaign in 2020. His opponent in November meanwhile remains unidentified. As of Wednesday afternoon, the Republican race consisting of four little-known candidates was too close to call.

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