As one of 10 Democrats vying for a single congressional seat, Alexandra Chandler tells voters about her background (she’s a former U.S. Navy intelligence analyst), and lays out her priorities (jobs and fighting opioid addiction). She’s quick to note her average donation is $27.
But Chandler has been discussing another priority, one with seemingly few ties to a crowded Sept. 4 primary for the Third District seat in Washington: A state ballot question.
It also happens to be personal for Chandler.
The state’s first openly transgender candidate for Congress, Chandler says she intends to put another voice to the ballot measure that asks voters whether to keep the state’s antidiscrimination law on transgender rights on the books.
Advocates seeking to keep the law are prepared to spend heavily in the campaign, after opponents raised enough signatures to push the question onto the ballot.
It centers on a 2016 bill signed by Governor Charlie Baker that bans discrimination against transgender individuals in public places, and allows transgender individuals to use bathrooms that match their gender identity. Slated as Question 3, a “yes” vote would keep in place the current law, while a “no” vote would repeal it.
The law has critics, who argue that male sexual predators, under the guise of being transgender women, could enter women’s restrooms and locker rooms.
For Chandler, it’s meant that amid talking about the economy and the Third District while door-knocking, she said she also lays out her case about the ballot question.
The potential of being Congress’ first openly transgender candidate is not always front-and-center in her campaign, but it’s becoming an increasing part. On Thursday she released her first campaign video focused on being “a voice for the trans kids out there,” and features a mother, Vanessa Ford, and Ford’s 7-year-old daughter, Ellie, who is transgender.
“I also see it as partially my responsibility,” Chandler said. “I am already the first openly trans candidate for federal office in Massachusetts – period, whether I win in the primary or not. If I don’t talk about it, who is going to talk about it?
“For me, it is a part of my identity,” she added. “It is part of how I make the case that I can be a tough representative and a tough advocate for the interests of people.”
With no guarantee of advancing past the crowded field, Chandler said she intends to be involved “one way or another” on the ballot question this fall.
“It is important,” she said, “because Massachusetts, whether we like it or not, we have a historic responsibility for the country.”Reach Matt Stout at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @mattpstout