June 27, 2018 at 9:27 am EST | by Chris Johnson
Jared Polis advances in bid to become Colorado governor
Jared Polis, Democratic Party, Colorado, United States House of Representatives, gay news, Washington Blade, Victory Fund, Congressional LGBT Pride Reception

Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) (Washington Blade file photo by Damien Salas)

U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) claimed the Democratic nomination on Tuesday in his bid to become governor of Colorado, setting himself up on a path to become the first openly gay person elected governor in the United States.

In a crowded primary, the five-term member of Congress won a plurality of 44 percent of the vote compared compared to former state treasurer Cary Kennedy, who won 24.7 percent; former State Sen. Mike Johnston, who won 23.3 percent; and Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne, who won 7.3 percent.

In a statement to supporters Tuesday night, Polis offered his thanks and declared “it’s an honor to be the Democratic nominee for Governor of Colorado.”

“It’s not about me — it’s about what we can all accomplish together,” Polis said. “We have the potential, in this moment, to take bold innovative strides in our state: saving people money with high-quality universal health care, free full-day preschool, 100 percent renewable energy, and building a strong economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top.”

As a five-term member of Congress and co-chair of the LGBT Equality Caucus, Polis has taken the lead on many LGBT issues. Polis was chief sponsor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and has taken the lead on the Student Non-Discrimination Act. Polis is also a co-sponsor of the Equality Act, comprehensive legislation that would prohibit anti-LGBT discrimination in all areas of civil rights law.

Polis could become the first openly gay person elected governor in the United States, but he has competition for that distinction. Lesbian former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez claimed the Democratic nomination to run for governor of Texas.

Neither candidate would be the first openly gay governor. That distinction to belongs to former New Jersey Jim McGreevey, who came out as gay in 2004 before resigning amid scandal. In Oregon, Gov. Kate Brown, who’s bisexual, became the first openly LGBT person elected governor in the United States. She remains in that position and is seeking re-election this year.

The Republicans also held their primary in Colorado on Tuesday and selected Colorado State Treasurer Walker Stapleton as their nominee to take on Polis.

According to the LGBTQ Victory Fund, Stapleton is an opponent of LGBT rights who ran on support for President Trump. On his website, Stapleton identified ending sanctuary cities and expanding access to charter schools as among his priorities.

Annise Parker, CEO of the Victory Fund, congratulated Polis in a statement and urged continued support for his campaign.

“Tonight Jared Polis pulled off a huge victory and is on-track to become the first openly gay man elected governor of a U.S. state,” Parker said. “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. Voters will have a stark choice in November – between a long-time public servant who governs with values, and the Republican nominee who stands behind the divisive rhetoric and destructive policies of Donald Trump. I am confident Coloradans stand with Jared.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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