Death Threats Taint Vt. Governor's Race

The Democrat who wants to be Vermont's next governor says her campaign has been the target of rude online trolling and worse threats of violence.

"We have gotten some death threats," Christine Hallquist acknowledged Monday in an interview with NBC10 Boston and necn.

Additionally, the Vermont Democratic Party said it has been receiving four or five harassing calls a day regarding Hallquist's candidacy.

The threats and meanness appear to have started, Hallquist indicated, after worldwide attention on the race spotlighted the electrical engineer and former utility executive's gender identity.

She's the nation's first transgender woman from a major party to run for governor.

Hallquist said she believes the threats came from outside of Vermont.

"I know there are many people across the country like me that want to pull us together," Hallquist said of politicians running for office in 2018 aiming to heal divisions. "And I certainly want to pull Vermont together."

Incumbent Republican Gov. Phil Scott saw disparaging comments about his opponent online and called for them to end.

"I won't tolerate it," Scott said of language or writing that may disparage a political candidate or anyone else. "I think it's important that we treat each other with respect and civility. It's something I've practiced throughout my life."

Both candidates said they want the run-up to November to focus on issues, not gender.

Scott's prioritizing job growth and making Vermont more affordable.

Hallquist wants to raise the minimize wage and expand broadband to rural parts of the state.

Political analyst Chris Graff said voters here don't tend to tolerate nastiness.

"Negative campaigns backfire in Vermont," Graff said. "I think the candidates, to succeed in Vermont, will have to be civil — they really have to."

LGBT rights activist Brenda Churchill, a Hallquist supporter who is working as part of the campaign on outreach, said she hopes in time, the kind of transphobia the campaign has encountered in its early days will fade.

"When people are introduced to folks who are transgender, and engage and talk, fear goes away and understanding and acceptance starts," Churchill told NBC10 Boston and necn. "It isn't always there — sometimes, it's basically tolerance. But you know, you've got to start somewhere."

As for those threatening and harassing phone calls, the Vermont Democratic Party said they've been reported to state and local police, who have given advice on new campaign security plans.

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