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Colorado's Jared Polis projected to be first openly gay man elected governor

Polis, a Democrat who served five terms in Congress, is the projected winner of Colorado's gubernatorial race.
Image: Jared Polis, Jason Crow, jason crow, jared polis
Jared Polis, left, Democratic candidate for Colorado's governorship, and Jason Crow, Democratic candidate for the U.S. House seat in District 6, applaud for canvassers before they set out to talk to voters on Nov. 3, 2018, in north Denver.David Zalubowski / AP

Jared Polis is the projected winner of Colorado governor's race. With 84 percent of the votes in, NBC News projected Polis ahead of his Republican challenger, Walker Stapleton, with 51.6 percent for the vote.

Polis is set to become the first gay man elected governor in the U.S. He is the second LGBTQ person to be elected governor, after Gov. Kate Brown of Oregon, a Democrat who identifies as bisexual, in a special election in 2016. Brown was up for re-election on Tuesday.

Two other LGBTQ Democrats ran for governor this election cycle. Christine Hallquist of Vermont and Lupe Valdez of Texas were both projected to be defeated by their Republican challengers.

Polis’ historic gubernatorial run is part of the so-called rainbow wave — the record number of LGBTQ Americans who ran for office in 2018. The Victory Fund, which tracks LGBTQ political candidates, estimated that over 600 such candidates ran this election cycle, with nearly 400 making it to the general election.

Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, a national LGBTQ advocacy group, applauded Colorado's voters for electing a "bold pro-equality champion."

“For nearly a decade in Congress, Jared Polis fought to advance fairness and equality in Colorado and across America," Griffin said in a statement sent to NBC News. "He is a proven leader who will take his commitment to securing full equality to the governor’s mansion and fight to make Colorado a stronger and more inclusive state.”

Polis has represented Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District for five terms. Prior to politics, Polis was a tech entrepreneur and amassed a fortune worth nearly $400 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. When asked about his status as one of Congress’ wealthiest members, Polis told NBC News, “I’m beholden to no one except voters.”

Colorado’s politics has shifted left as its population has surged with migration from progressive states like California, even as some of its rural population has emigrated out of state. A Colorado demography office predicted the state’s population of 5.6 million will increase by about a million per decade, topping out at over 8 million by 2050.