Transgender candidate for Vermont governor visits White River, angling for first-in-nation victory Tuesday
Among the crowd enjoying brunch at Piecemeal Pies in White River Sunday morning was Christine Hallquist, who is hoping voters on Election Day Tuesday will make her the first transgender woman in America seriously contending for a major political office.
Dressed in a conservative suit and speaking with a quiet smile, Hallquist chatted with diners at the eatery about her campaign to win the right to challenge incumbent Vermont Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican.
Hallquist is one of four candidates vying for the Democratic nomination, and arguably the one who enjoys the greatest name recognition statewide. Given Scott's flagging popularity among liberals and conservatives alike, that might just give her a shot at leading a state known for its embrace of such political mavericks as Bernie Sanders and Howard Dean.
That possibility has drawn national and even international media attention. The Guardian, a British news outlet, posted a story Monday with the headline: "Vermont primary could pave way for first transgender governor in US."
"For Hallquist, (the election) will cap 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," wrote Adam Gabbatt.
Pitching herself to voters hasn't been easy, she told the paper. However, she continued, "I tell people this isn't the hardest thing I ever did. In fact, I think after transitioning everything else looks pretty easy."
Hallquist came to Vermont in 1976, settled with her spouse Pat in Hyde Park in 1984, and joined Vermont Electric Coop as an engineering and technology consultant in 1998, her campaign biography says. She became the utility's CEO in 2005, leading an effort to rebuild its shaky finances and put more than 100 employees to work building a source of renewable energy.
Her work as a leader in using renewables to fight climate change inspired her son Derek, a cinematographer, to produce a documentary about the "closet environmentalist" everyone knew as Dave. During the filming of Denial in 2015, Hallquist decided to act on her deepest truth and became Christine.
In Tuesday's Democratic primary, Hallquist has three opponents: James Ehlers of Winooski, Brenda Siegel of Newfane and Ethan Sonneborn of Bristol. On the Republican ballot, Scott faces Keith Stern, who with his wife is the longtime owner of Stern's Quality Produce in White River. The Progressive Party will have only write-in candidates.
Want to see the rest of the ballot awaiting Hartford voters Tuesday? Click right here.