Only in recent years, the LGBT community has been able to support one or two openly LGBT candidate for governor. In 2014, it was two —Mike Michaud in Maine and Heather Mizeur in Maryland; they lost. In 2016, it was one—Kate Brown in Oregon; she won. There are currently seven competing in primaries around the country, including an actor in New York, a Congressman in Colorado, a zookeeper in Oklahoma, and the first transgender candidate for governor.
One, Kate Brown in Oregon, is expected to win the Democratic nomination handily this week and win her third term in November. The other six candidates are newcomers on the gubernatorial landscape, all but one are Democrats, and their odds are mixed. Here's a quick primer on who is running, where, and when:
OREGON, May 15, Kate Brown:
Incumbent Democratic Governor Kate Brown is the presumptive Democratic nominee for governor even though she has two opponents on the Tuesday's ballot. Neither has actively pursued a challenge.
Brown, who is married to a man but identifies as bisexual, was Secretary of State in Oregon before being sworn in as governor when the incumbent resigned in scandal. She's pushed progressive goals on a number of issues, including immigration, access to safe abortions, gun control, and banning "conversion therapy."
Her biggest challenges in seeking re-election are likely to revolve around state laws protecting immigrants, underfunded state employee pensions, and a controversial tax break she wants to give small businesses. But, as the incumbent, she has the name recognition and a long-standing involvement in state elective politics.
Brown is the first and only openly LGBT person to be elected governor of any state ( she was elected to the office in her own right in a 2016 special election ). She has won the endorsement of the Human Rights Campaign and a special "Game Changer" ( or high profile ) designation from the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund.
"Kate Brown is a champion of equality who has fought for the LGBTQ community throughout her career, helping to improve the lives of countless people," said HRC President Chad Griffin. "As the nation's first openly bisexual governor, Kate Brown has worked tirelessly to make the principles of fairness and equality a priority for Oregon."
Campaign site: Kate Brown for Oregon
TEXAS, May 22, Lupe Valdez:
Polls say Texas' incumbent Republican governor is as "safe" as Oregon's Democrat. But Lupe Valdez has a history of beating the worst of odds. She first earned national attention when she became the first lesbian sheriff anywhere in the nation —in Dallas, Texas. Consider that she started life as the eighth child of migrant workers of Mexican descent in San Antonio, and consider that she won election to sheriff four times as a Hispanic lesbian Democrat ( the first time was against a highly favored white Republican 30-year male veteran of the Sheriff's department ), and it's clear that tough odds don't stop Valdez.
As a young person, Valdez worked her way through college, joined the Army, rising to the rank of captain, then joined the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency and the Department of Homeland Security.
Valdez has a lot going for her in the May 22 run-off seeking the Democratic nomination, even though she's running against the son, Andrew White, of a former Texas governor, Mark White. In the initial primary, Valdez won 43 percent of the vote against White and seven other Democrats, and White earned only 27 percent. Valdez's campaign has already attracted attack ads from Republican incumbent Governor Gregory Abbott, calling her too "liberal" for Texas.
Whoever wins the Democratic nomination has an uphill climb to win the governor's seat. Texas hasn't elected a Democrat for governor since 1990. And Governor Abbott reportedly has a $40 million war chest.
The Victory Fund has designated Valdez as a "Game Changer" or "high profile" candidate. She's also won the endorsement of the political action committee of Equality Texas and five Texas chapters of Stonewall Democrats. ( The Houston GLBT Political Caucus backed White. According to OutSmart magazine, the group believed White would be a more viable challenger to Republican Abbott in November. And White vowed to "fight hard" for LGBTQ equality. )
According to the Texas Tribune, White has almost $1 million in his campaign coffers, compared to $57,000 for Valdez.
Campaign site: Lupe Valdez for Governor
COLORADO, June 26, Jared Polis:
Jared Polis is best known to the LGBT community as the most senior of six openly LGBT members of the U.S. House. But he was a bit of a superstar long before that. While in college, he created internet-based companies that he sold when he got out of college for hundreds of millions of dollars. He used his wealth to promote technology education, improved schools, and renewable energy sources, and to run for political office. He's been in Congress for 10 years and, now, he's pouring $6 million of his fortune into a bid to become governor of Colorado.
Polis has a tough race on his hands, just trying to secure the Democratic nomination. His chief obstacles are the three other Democrats seeking the nomination and one of them, former state treasurer Cary Kennedy, has been snaring many of his supporters in the pro-education crowd. The most recent poll showed Polis in the lead but Kennedy's second place was within the margin of error. In fact, at a statewide Democratic convention April 14, Kennedy trounced Polis, 62 percent to Polis' 33 percent. The Denver Post suggested that Polis lost a least a few votes at the convention because of his sexual orientation. The paper said some participants in the assembly said they were afraid that Polis' being gay could "make Polis a harder sell to more conservative voters in November."
Campaign site: polisforcolorado.com
MARYLAND, June 26, Rich Madaleno:
Rich Madaleno looks like a governor Hollywood might generate: tall, well-groomed, graying hair, rimless eyeglasses, serious listener —he could do well in a young FDR look-a-like competition. And though he is a politician —currently a state senator— his campaign photos and videos are anything but political convention.
In one campaign video, Madaleno sits with his spouse Mark Hodge, reading out loud some of the hate-filled Tweets they've received since Madaleno announced he was running for governor. "Your sexual radicalism is bad for Maryland" and "Homosexuality and gender identity disorder are preventable and treatable. A very good ex-gay clinic is located in Maryland." They also share a video about their family, which includes two adopted children. Their son, Jackson, age 10, says his family is "not that different" just because his dad is a state senator.
Polls suggest Madaleno has an uphill battle to secure the Democratic nomination in Maryland in a field of seven candidates. Dramatically, one of the frontrunners recently collapsed and died of a heart attack. But Madaleno is still in the single digits behind two better known figures: Rushern Baker, executive of the state's second largest county, and Ben Jealous, former president of the NAACP. And incumbent Republican Governor Larry Hogan looks hard to beat.
Campaign site: Madaleno for Maryland
OKLAHOMA, June 26, Joe Maldonado:
Joe Maldonado is a zookeeper. Since the age of 14, he's been rescuing animals displaced by wild fires and has expanded the practice into the Exotic Animal Memorial Foundation to take in "unwanted" animals, including lions, tigers, and bears. But the business has been cited by the USDA for failure to provide adequate care to the animals, and several animal protection agencies have reported abuses by the facility.
Maldonado's campaign website sports a photo of him, sporting a half-bleached blond hairstyle and wearing six earrings and an eyebrow piercing. His nickname is "Joe Exotic." On his first day as governor, he wants to pardon all people convicted on non-violent marijuana-related crimes. He also echoes some of President Trump's themes: run the government like a business, slash the number of government regulations and agencies, cut taxes —with one major exception: Maldonado wants "open borders."
Maldonado is one of three candidates for the Libertarian Party nomination for governor in Oklahoma. Polls in the state strongly suggest Oklahoma voters will choose a new Republican governor in November to replace Republican Governor Mary Fallin who is term-limited.
Campaign site: Joe Maldonado for Governor
VERMONT, August 14, Christine Hallquist:
Various polls say Vermont will retain a Republican governor in the 2018 general election, but Christine Hallquist is one of three candidates seeking the Democratic nomination to run for that office. Even though Vermont is a progressive state in many ways ( it was one of the first to approve marriage for same-sex couples ), Republican incumbent Governor Phil Scott is a maverick. He signed three bills to reduce the availability of rapid-fire guns in the state, and he's proposed massive cuts in public education funding. Scott hasn't announced yet but is expected to run. Notably, an incumbent governor has not lost in Vermont since 1962.
Hallquist is making history as the state's first openly transgender candidate for public office. She's a former chief executive of the Vermont Electric Cooperative who was very open with the public about her male-to-female transition in 2015. She's also transitioned from Republican to Democrat. It's a long way to the primary, but so far, the newspapers and the state Democratic party appear to be warming up to Hallquist as a viable candidate.
Campaign site: Christine for Vermont
NEW YORK, September 13, Cynthia Nixon:
The three latest polls in New York show incumbent Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo with a double-digit lead over actor-activist Cynthia Nixon of "Sex in the City" fame. But the main problem for Nixon, according to one of those polls, is that "only half the electorate knows her."
That's ironic, given she's an Emmy Award-winning actor on the hit HBO series "Sex in the City." The series ended 14 years ago, but Nixon's been busy in films and on stage since then, winning a second Emmy, two Tonys, and a Grammy. And she's gotten very little attention for her years of work promoting better public schools, ousting state legislators who opposed marriage for same-sex couples, and speaking to groups about the importance of screening for breast cancer ( she is a survivor ).
There is talk that Nixon, if she loses the Democratic primary, will run in November under the Working Families Party banner.
Nixon was born and raised on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, graduated from New York public schools and is now a parent to three children attending public schools and married to education organizer Christine Marinoni.
Nixon's Cynthia for New York campaign has begun to bring up rumors that Governor Cuomo, while running his father Mario Cuomo's successful campaigns for governor in the 1970s, used anti-gay tactics to defeat his primary opponent, Mayor Ed Koch.
Campaign site: Cynthia for New York
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