MONTPELIER, Vt. — Vermont’s transgender gubernatorial candidate said Tuesday she’s been getting a steady stream of death threats and other personal attacks since her candidacy began to draw attention from across the country and the world.
Christine Hallquist, who won Vermont’s Democratic gubernatorial primary last week, said most of the threats, which began before she won the nomination, have been coming from outside of Vermont, although during her primary campaign it was not unusual for people to yell insults at her during parades and other public appearances.
“Early on when our team assembled I said ’the more successful we are, the more vitriol and threats we are going to receive,’” Hallquist said Tuesday. “It’s kind of a natural outcome of our divided country.”
Hallquist, who is now running against incumbent Republican Gov. Phil Scott in the November election, is the first openly transgender political candidate to have won a major party nomination for governor.
Scott said Tuesday he was saddened to hear Hallquist had been threatened and he would not tolerate hate speech or violence against anyone.
“We must — as a society — do better to combat anger and violence,” Scott said. “I’m hopeful Vermonters will join me in ensuring everyone — regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion or other characteristics — are treated with dignity, respect and acceptance.”
Elliot Imse, a spokesman for The Victory Fund, a political action committee that backs LGBTQ candidates and has labeled Hallquist’s candidacy a “game changer,” said LGBTQ candidates face a number of obstacles heterosexual candidates do not and threats are not uncommon.
“While the people of Vermont know Christine as the intelligent executive with a clear vision for their state, her courage in running as an openly trans woman cannot be understated,” Imse said. “It takes guts to be a trailblazer because with it comes opening yourself to attacks from the most hateful among us - it is what the leaders of social change nearly always encounter.”
Due to the potential threats, Hallquist isn’t giving advanced notice of certain appearances nor is she publicizing the location of her Morrisville campaign headquarters.
The threats are also changing the way she interacts with the public. Hallquist said that on Monday she received a call from an-out-of-stater who was staying at a Lamoille County resort who was asking about an upcoming public event.
“Normally, I wouldn’t have thought about it, but we decided not to tell them about events because they are not from Vermont,” she said. “I’m sure it’s perfectly innocent, but with a little heightened awareness, we’re just taking a little extra precaution.”
Vermonters have been generally accepting of her candidacy, focusing on the issues rather than her status as transgender, she said. The threats come on the phone of via social media platforms. She estimated the campaign had received about a dozen actual death threats.
“Getting into this, this is what fighting for American freedom is all about,” Hallquist said.
Hallquist said her campaign had reported the threats to the Vermont State Police and the FBI.
State Police spokesman Adam Silverman said Tuesday troopers would be speaking with campaign officials to get a sense of what they might be facing and what their needs are.
“We take any threat against a Vermonter seriously and are doing what we can to work with her campaign to make sure the threats are taken seriously and are investigated,” Silverman said.
FBI spokeswoman Sarah Ruane, in the Albany, New York, field office, which covers Vermont, said that as is standard policy she couldn’t comment on how, if at all, the FBI was involved in investigating the threats.