JOHNSON, Vt. (AP) — A transgender woman hoping to become the Vermont Democratic gubernatorial candidate said she's seeking the nomination because of her status as a business leader, not her status as transgender.
Christine Hallquist said Wednesday that she believes she has the skills and ideas to move the state forward. Next week, she plans to officially leave her position at an energy electric company to focus full-time on her campaign.
Hallquist says she plans to file paperwork soon and would continue the trend of transgender people running for elected office; a spokesman for the LGBTQ Victory Fund, a political action committee that backs LGBTQ candidates, said that in 2017, the number of transgender men and women in elected office more than doubled.
Having lived as both a man as a woman gives her a different perspective, Hallquist said.
"I have a unique experience with women's issues," Hallquist said. "As a male I was not aware, unfortunately, of the gender hierarchy."
But that will not be the main platform of her campaign. She said would represent the interests of rural Vermont on issues such as the need to expand modern communications infrastructure and the looming presence of hate groups.
It was only last month that Hallquist, 61, of Hyde Park, decided to run after she attended the women's march in Montpelier.
"So much has changed," she said. "We are facing very strong political headwinds."
Elliot Imse, the LGBTQ Victory Fund spokesman, said the organization is aware of Hallquist's candidacy, but has not decided whether to support her. He called 2017 the year of the transgender candidate.
"We are absolutely seeing that trend continue in 2018," Imse said. "Now, there is no turning back. Trans people are going to run for office, they are going to win elected office and they are going to win seats in higher and higher levels of government in the coming years."
Incumbent Republican Gov. Phil Scott has not announced his re-election plans, but he is expected to seek a second term.
Scott's chief of staff Jason Gibbs said it was too early to focus on the campaign.
"There will be a time and place for a discussion about the campaign, but we're just 13 months into the term," he said.
James Ehlers, the executive director of Lake Champlain International, a conservation group, is also seeking the Democratic nomination in the August primary.
Ehlers, 49, of Winooski, said he knew he would be facing a primary.
"It's not about the person," Ehlers said. "It's about the policy."