Transgender woman, Somali-American win US primary nods

Washington (AFP) –


Christine Hallquist won the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in the US state of Vermont on Tuesday, moving a step closer to becoming the nation's first transgender governor, US media projected.

In another ground-breaking political moment, Somali-American state legislator Ilhan Omar claimed victory in her primary in Minnesota, putting her on track to become one of the first female Muslim members of the US House of Representatives.

"HISTORY MADE! @christineforvt just became the first trans/non-binary gubernatorial candidate from a major political party in American history!" the Victory Fund, an organization that supports LGBTQ candidates, tweeted about Hallquist.

But she still faces an uphill battle in the general election, when she is projected to face Republican incumbent Phil Scott, who has been in office since 2016.

Hallquist transitioned while heading the Vermont Electricity Coop, several years before launching her gubernatorial bid.

In 2015, "Christine made the decision, after years of holding it inside, to come out as her true self, a transgender woman, becoming the first business leader in the country to transition while in office," according to her campaign's website.

"Working to ensure that Vermont remains the special, inclusive and progressive place that it has always been... is what motivates Christine to seek the honor and opportunity to serve the people of Vermont as its next governor," it says.

Hallquist beat out James Ehlers, a Navy veteran and environmentalist, and Brenda Siegel, the executive director of a dance festival, to win the Democratic nomination.

- Muslim women aim for Congress -

Also among the primary candidates was 14-year old schoolboy Ethan Sonneborn, who took advantage of a quirk in the constitution of the bucolic northeastern state that imposes no age minimum on running for governor.

Despite praise for Sonneborn's "maturity" and political awareness, his campaign attracted calls for Vermont lawmakers to close the loophole.

In Minnesota, Ilhan Omar -- a Somali-American state legislator who is Muslim and wears a headscarf -- declared victory in her primary race -- a result also reported by US media.

"Ilhan Omar has been declared the winner of the primary election in the race for Congress to represent Minnesota?s Fifth District," a statement on her website said.

"As the first refugee elected to Congress (and the second Muslim woman after Rashida Tlaib of Michigan), Ilhan will bring a unique perspective and new energy to our nation's capital," it said.

Tlaib, a 42-year-old former social worker, won a Democratic primary last week in a safe seat in Detroit. With no Republican or third-party candidates, she is positioned to enter the House of Representatives with the November midterm elections.

"Tonight we are celebrating because we engaged and empowered our community and we won!" Omar said in the statement.

"Together, each and every one of us are the inspiration we need to keep fighting for a democracy that gets us closer to the American promise of prosperity for all and the hope for a better tomorrow," she said.