Tuesday’s governor’s races were a mixed bag for LGBTQ candidates. Voters in Colorado picked U.S. Rep. Jared Polis to become America’s first openly gay governor. One of the night’s best scenes came from Polis’ victory party, where he introduced his partner, Marlon Reis, as the state’s “first ‘first man'” to massive cheers.
“In Colorado, we dream, we dare, we do,” Polis said in his victory speech. “We don’t back down when something is challenging. We see problems as opportunities in the state of Colorado.
“As your governor, I pledge to serve all Coloradans — no matter your party, no matter where you live, no matter your race, no matter your gender. We’re all in this together.”
The governor-elect also thanked the “LGBTQ pioneers” who he said “endured hurt to make it possible for so many of us, myself included, to live and to love openly. I am profoundly grateful.”
Voters in Oregon re-elected Gov. Kate Brown, America’s first openly bisexual elected governor, to her first full term. Brown originally assumed office in 2015 after former Gov. John Kitzhaber was forced to step down due to scandal. She was elected to finish the remaining two years of Kitzhaber’s term in 2016. But she had struggled to maintain a slim lead in the polls going into Election Day. Ultimately, she benefitted when registered Democrats, who outnumber Republicans by 10 points in the state, turned out in high numbers.
On the other hand, Democrats ran into a red firewall in Texas, where former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, fell short against Republican incumbent Greg Abbott. Had Valdez won, she would have been the nation’s first out lesbian governor.
Similarly, in Vermont, Christine Hallquist, who was hoping to become the nation’s first transgender governor, fell to incumbent Gov. Phil Scott, a moderate, pro-LGBTQ Republican. Nonetheless, Hallquist thanked voters in an emotional concession speech where she praised the people of the small New England state for their acceptance.
“Vermont is a beacon of hope and we showed the rest of the country what good democracy looks like,” said Hallquist. “I’m standing on the shoulders of thousands of Vermonters before me who fought for what is right and what is just. We will continue to fight for what is right and what is just.”
In her speech, Hallquist talked about seeing a “big, burly man” approach her in a parking lot.
“I thought, ‘Uh oh, I’m in trouble,'” she said. “[But] He says ‘Oh my god, I thought you were gonna leave without me saying hello. I am so proud of you, I’m so happy with what you’re doing, I just wanted to shake your hand.’ So Vermonters all over, we are a welcoming and inclusive state, and I love Vermont.”