Vermont Democrats Make History By Nominating Transgender Woman For Governor

Vermont Democratic gubernatorial nominee Christine Hallquist, a transgender woman and former electric company executive, applauds with her supporters during her election night party in Burlington, Vt.
Vermont Democratic gubernatorial nominee Christine Hallquist, a transgender woman and former electric company executive, applauds with her supporters during her election night party in Burlington, Vt.
Charles Krupa/AP

Updated at 10:30 p.m. ET

Vermont voters made history on Tuesday as Christine Hallquist, a transgender woman, won the Democratic primary for governor.

Hallquist, who will now face Vermont Republican Gov. Phil Scott in the general election, becomes the first openly transgender person to ever win a major party's nomination for governor in U.S. history. If she wins in November, she'd be the nation's first transgender governor.

Hallquist, a former energy company executive, defeated three other candidates to win the Democratic nomination, but Scott won't be easy to beat, even in solidly blue Vermont.

The GOP governor had enjoyed high approval ratings and the Cook Political Report still rates the race as solid Republican. Scott did see his approval ratings drop, though, when he signed a sweeping package of gun control measures — though that mainly came from within his own party, and is probably one reason he was only getting about two-third of the vote in the GOP primary. Polls show Scott still has good numbers among Democratic voters, though.

Hallquist easily defeated three Democratic opponents, including 14-year-old Ethan Sonneborn. Even though he wasn't old enough to vote for himself, Sonneborn ran for governor thanks a quirk in the state constitution that didn't set age requirements for the governor.

Sen. Bernie Sanders also won the Democratic nomination for Senate, though the possible 2020 presidential hopeful plans to decline it again to run as an independent.

Democrats also hope to unseat Republican Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin, and their nominee in that quest will be state Superintendent of Schools Tony Evers. An NBC News/Marist poll last month showed Evers beating Walker by double digits as President Trump's approval ratings have fallen in the state he carried in a surprise in 2016.

Walker is trying to win a third term after having survived a 2012 recall election and won re-election in 2014. But his first election in 2010 and his re-election both came in GOP wave years. Now with momentum on their side nationally, Democrats think they can finally take out Walker, a polarizing figure in the state given his anti-union crusade, who's seen his own numbers drop in the state after his failed 2016 presidential bid.

Also in Wisconsin, Republican Bryan Steil and Democrat Randy Bryce will face off in November to succeed retiring House Speaker Paul Ryan in the state's 1st Congressional District. Steil, a businessman who had Ryan's endorsement, defeated several GOP candidates to win the nomination and will be the favorite this fall.

Bryce defeated teacher Cathy Myers to win the Democratic nomination, and while the iron worker generated buzz last year with his populist announcement video that went viral, his past arrests, including one for a DUI, and delinquency on child support payments could hamper his bid.

In Minnesota, Democratic Sen. Tina Smith easily won her primary as she purses a full term. Smith, the former lieutenant governor, was appointed to fill the seat after Sen. Al Franken resigned amid allegations of sexual misconduct. Smith was challenged by former George W. Bush ethics lawyer Richard Painter, an outspoken Trump critic who decided to switch parties to run against her. But with about 35 percent of precincts reporting, Smith was winning with over three-fourths of the vote to Painter's 14 percent. She will be heavily favored over Republican state Sen. Karin Housley, who won the GOP nomination.

Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison also easily won the Democratic primary to be the state's next attorney general, defeating four opponents despite last-minute allegations of domestic abuse. Ellison, the Democratic National Committee's deputy chairman, has denied the allegations.

The DNC told NPR on Tuesday that it is reviewing the allegations.

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