Christine Hallquist, the transgender Democrat running for governor in Vermont, said the racist vitriol that pushed the only black woman in Vermont’s House of Representatives to leave office was one of the things that persuaded her to run for governor.
“Nov. 9, 2016 changed everything for me, and in 2017 I was in denial again because I said, ‘Oh, Vermont’s a loving state, we’ll be protected from this,’ but we started to see white supremacist activity in late 2017. We hadn’t see that since the early ’80s,” Hallquist told BuzzFeed News’ Profile host Audie Cornish.
Hallquist, the first openly transgender candidate to win the nomination for governor for a major party, said that campaigning as a transgender woman hasn’t been an issue in a Vermont, but the state’s record on racial issues, highlighted by state Rep. Kiah Morris’s decision to leave office, is what’s actually alarming, she said, and she plans on focusing on racial justice issues in the state if she’s elected.
“I think of Kiah Morris; what really surprises me is the underbelly of racial justice issues that exist in Vermont. I think for Vermonters, that’s always been there, but it’s risen its ugly head for all of us to see now,” Hallquist said.
Morris’s decision to step down from her seat in September comes at a time when the Democratic Party and progressives have seen an increasing number of women and people of color step forward to run for office themselves, and as those candidates increasingly face racist attack ads in their elections.
Hallquist, on the other hand, says that the party should lean into identity politics in the wake of the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, because women are upset about what happened. “I think what we’re seeing is a bunch of old, white men looking at the world through their lenses and putting politics above people.”
“I will tell ya, based on what’s happened this week, we should use identity politics,” Hallquist said. “With what’s happening today, we all have to fight harder for what’s right and what is just — and you can call that identity politics, you can call it anything you want, but it’s the right thing to do.”
Hallquist said that her family was initially upset at her idea to run for governor. “We all went into this with open eyes; we knew the underbelly of bigotry and hatred in this country. We all knew I would get lots of vitriol and hate and we knew we would get death threats.”
“I said, ‘I can’t sit back and watch what’s happening.’ I saw the things that were happening the previous year under our current administration, and I said, ‘I can’t imagine me sitting here in 2020 and knowing that I didn’t do everything that I can, personally, to change the direction of our state and our country together,” Hallquist recalled.