Oregon Gov. Kate Brown made history Tuesday night becoming the first openly LGBT person to win election as governor in the United States.
The Associated Press declared Brown the winner of the gubernatorial race against Republican challenger Bud Pierce at 11:44 p.m. Eastern Time after polls closed at 11 p.m. in Oregon, which conducts elections entirely on a vote-by-mail basis. With 71 percent of precincts reporting, Brown was estimated to have won 51 percent of the vote compared to the 44 percent won by Pierce.
Brown, who’s bisexual, has been already been serving as governor for more than a year, but until now wasn’t elected to the position. Previously Oregon secretary of state, Brown was next in line to become governor after her predecessor, former Gov. John Kitzhaber, resigned in scandal.
In an interview with the Washington Blade last month, Brown said the significance of being the first openly LGBT person elected as governor — and the first bisexual person elected to that level position — is increased visibility for the LGBT community because “you can’t be what you can’t see.”
“If I can be a role model for one young person that decides that their life is worth living because there’s someone like them in the world, it’s worth it,” Brown said.
(The first openly LGBT governor was former New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey, but he came out as gay in 2004 after he was elected and amid scandal prior to resigning. Former Rep. Michael Michaud sought to become the first openly gay person elected as governor in 2014, but he lost in a three-way race against Maine Gov. Paul LePage, who won re-election, and independent candidate Eliot Cutler.)
During her tenure as governor, Brown signed into a law a measure barring the widely discredited practice of “ex-gay” conversion therapy for minors in her state. Oregon is among five states and D.C. prohibiting the practice for minors.
In September, Brown came out as a survivor of domestic violence in a debate with Pierce, who responded by seeming to ignore her declaration and saying a woman who “has great education and training and a great job is not susceptible to this kind of abuse by men.”
In her interview with the Blade, Brown said hearing Donald Trump’s boasts about sexual assault in the 2005 recording unearthed weeks after the debate was “re-traumatizing.”
“I think for all us who have been through incidents of domestic violence or sexual assault the words are re-traumatizing, and I think, unfortunately, for women across the United States, it’s all too common to hear words like this from men in places of power,” Brown said.