Nevada Democrat seeks to become first openly transgender statewide elected official

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Democrat Kimi Cole is announcing Wednesday her bid to become Nevada’s lieutenant governor — and break barriers for the transgender community in the process.

Cole, the chair of the Nevada Democratic Rural Caucus, would be the first openly transgender statewide elected official in the country if she won, according to her campaign.

“We’re setting some precedents, obviously,” said Cole, who shared her launch first with POLITICO. “But it’s not the key issue. People will focus on something like that and put a label on it and think they know what’s going on. I’ve been working around the state and across the aisles for so long.”

Cole, who previously served as chair of the Douglas County Democratic Party, said her political work has been focused on giving a voice to people in rural areas and minority communities. Oftentimes during elections, she said, the “talking points will either come out of Las Vegas or Washington, D.C., and they really don’t connect with the rural voters.”

Cole’s team, which includes Tom Steyer alum Kevin Pikkel, Bernie Sanders alum Keenan Korth and Cori Bush alum Craig Phelps, expects her campaign to garner national attention. She will kick off her bid at a press conference and rally in Carson City on Wednesday.

Cole, a retired construction project manager, is running as a progressive in a state where the left has notched several big victories in recent years. Sanders won the state’s 2020 caucuses and, in March, progressives took over the state party. The state’s Democrats are divided, though, with establishment Democrats forming their own shadow party in the wake of this year’s state committee elections.

She said she supports Medicare for All “or something very similar” as well as President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better plan.

Cole said she transitioned publicly 10 years ago. In a statement, she said “our economy, climate and everyday life is rapidly changing, and we need someone who can help lead our transition into the new era.”

In last week’s elections, Democrats continued a yearslong spiral downward in rural areas across the country. Cole said of the losses, “there’s lessons to learn — a lot of it has to do with the messaging,” and said Democrats need to improve their outreach to young people, voters of color and the LGBTQ community.

Democrat Kate Marshall served as lieutenant governor of Nevada until earlier this year, when she resigned to take the role as senior adviser to governors in the White House’s Office of Intergovernmental Affairs. Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak has not filled the position.

On the Republican side, former Nevada state treasurer Dan Schwartz, Las Vegas City Councilmember Stavros Anthony and activist Mack Miller have announced their campaigns for lieutenant governor.

In August, Nevada’s Democratic Party chair endorsed Henderson Mayor Debra March for lieutenant governor.

Nevada offers prime pickup opportunities for Republicans in 2022. Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto and Sisolak are both facing reelection in the state, which backed Biden by only 2 percentage points.

By comparison, in last week’s gubernatorial elections, Virginia and New Jersey — both of which supported Biden by wide margins in in 2020 — saw double-digit swings to the right.

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