U.S. Rep. Jared Polis won a “comeback kid” victory last week, winning the Democratic nomination for governor of Colorado, just two months after losing to his chief opponent at the state Democratic assembly. He’ll now face Republican state treasurer Walker Stapleton in the general election in November. If elected, Polis will become the first openly gay person to be elected governor of any state.
Annise Parker, head of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, called Polis’ primary win a “huge victory.”
“While it is a historic and promising night for the LGBTQ community, primary voters chose Jared not because he could be a historic first, but because of his unquestionable integrity and positive vision for Coloradans,” said Parker.
Polis was one of three openly gay candidates in gubernatorial primary races Tuesday. The other two did not advance.
Best known to the LGBT community as the most senior of six openly LGBT members of the U.S. House, Polis is best known in Colorado as a wealthy businessman with a strong interest in improving public education and the use of renewable resources. Polis, an early developer of internet-based businesses, funded his campaign primarily through his own funds –reportedly more than $6 million.
Polis had a tough race on his hands. At a statewide Democratic convention April 14, his chief opponent for the Democratic nomination, former state treasurer Cary Kennedy won 62 percent of the delegates, to Polis’ 33 percent. The Denver Post reported that some participants in the assembly were afraid that Polis’ being gay could “make Polis a harder sell to more conservative voters in November.”
But Polis doubled-down, running more than 3,000 television ads and spending more than all the other candidates combined.
Polis will go up against a pro-Trump Republican in November, seeking to replace Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper, who is term-limited. Four out of the last five governors have been Democrats. And in 2016 voting, Colorado voters preferred Democrat Hillary Clinton over Trump. One of its two senators and three of its seven U.S. representatives are Democrats.
In other contests last week:
— Openly gay gubernatorial candidate Rich Madaleno has come up short in his bid for the Democratic nomination in Maryland. A state senator, Madaleno made his being gay a prominent part of his campaign. He ran a political ad in which he kissed his husband as an example of his willingness to “stand up to Trump.” He and his husband also did a campaign video reading out loud many of the anti-gay messages Madaleno received as an openly gay candidate. But Madaleno’s biggest challenge was his competition. He was up against better-known figures, including former president of the NAACP Ben Jealous, who appears to have won the nomination.
— In Oklahoma, exotic animal zookeeper Joe Maldonado came in third out of three candidates seeking the Libertarian Party nomination for Oklahoma governor. Oklahoma news media depicted Maldonado as a somewhat exotic political candidate, noting that he sported a half-bleached blond hairstyle and six earrings in his campaign photo. He also expressed a desire to pardon all people convicted for non-violent marijuana crime.
— Chelsea Manning, who made a long-shot bid for U.S. Senator, came up with only five percent of the votes against popular pro-LGBT incumbent Democratic Senator Benjamin Cardin. Manning was best known for having been convicted of leaking classified government documents to WikiLeaks.