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Residents of the town of New Hope, Texas, have voted out Mayor Jess Herbst, who had hoped to become the first openly transgender elected official in the state, reports The Dallas Morning News.
Herbst, a former alderman and road commissioner, was appointed mayor after the death of her predecessor, Johnny Hamm, who died shortly before the 2016 election.
During her time as mayor, she re-established the town’s permits and zoning board, pushed for funding to hire additional sheriff’s deputies, and appointed a code enforcement officer to help keep the city clean.
Seven months after assuming the mayoralty, Herbst came out as transgender. Due to her unique status as Texas’ first transgender officeholder, she was featured in various newspapers and magazines. She also testified against the “bathroom bill” pushed by Texas legislators in 2017.
Herbst lost to Angel Hamm, the widow of the former mayor, who works as an office manager at a utility company in McKinney, Texas. Hamm ran on balancing the town’s budget and “negotiating the best deals possible to ensure we are getting the best value for our money.”
Hamm did not publicly bring up Herbst’s transgender identity in her campaign. But voters received an anonymous mailer highlighting her social media posts. Residents argued over the mailer and the media attention that Herbst’s coming out had brought to their town.
Herbst said that, regardless of the division, she was glad her candidacy brought people to the polls. According to the News, 38% of the town’s 480 registered voters cast ballots in the election.
“I want to congratulate Angel Hamm on her win and express how proud I am of New Hope for a record voter turnout,” Herbst said in a written statement. “Democracies live by voter engagement or die by voter apathy, and democracy is alive and well in New Hope today.”
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