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Record 7 LGBTs seek governor offices

by Lisa Keen

Jared Polis talks to voters in Colorado. Photo: Polis for Governor campaign
Jared Polis talks to voters in Colorado. Photo: Polis for Governor campaign  

Only in recent years has the LGBT community been able to support one or two openly LGBT candidates 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 actress in New York, a congressman in Colorado, a zookeeper in Oklahoma, and the first transgender candidate for governor in Vermont.

Two candidates, Brown in Oregon and Lupe Valdez in Texas, recently won their primaries and will compete in their respective states in November.

Brown, who is married to a man but identifies as bisexual, is the incumbent in the Beaver State.

Valdez is a former Dallas sheriff who will take on Republican Governor Greg Abbott in a deep red state.

Other primaries are coming up.

Colorado
Jared Polis is best known to the LGBT community as the most senior of six openly LGBT members of the House of Representatives. 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 in the June 26 primary. 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 at 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."

Maryland
Rich Madaleno is currently a state senator, but 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 June 26 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.

Oklahoma
Joe Maldonado is a zookeeper. Since the age of 14, he's been rescuing animals displaced by wildfires 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 U.S. Department of Agriculture for failure to provide adequate care to the animals, and several animal protection agencies have reported abuses by the facility.

Maldonado's campaign website features 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 Donald 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 in the June 26 primary. Polls in the state strongly suggest Oklahoma voters will choose a new GOP governor in November to replace Republican Governor Mary Fallin, who is term-limited.

Vermont
Various polls say the Green Mountain State will retain a Republican governor in the 2018 general election, but Christine Hallquist is one of three candidates seeking the Democratic nomination August 14 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, and was very open with the public about her 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.


Cynthia Nixon speaks to supporters. Photo: Courtesy Nixon for Governor campaign  

New York
The three latest polls in New York show incumbent Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo with a double-digit lead over actress-activist Cynthia Nixon of "Sex in the City" fame heading into the September 13 primary. 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 won an Emmy for her role on the HBO comedy, which ended 14 years ago. Since then, Nixon has come out and been busy in films and on stage winning a second Emmy, two Tonys, and a Grammy. 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 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.


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