by T.W. Budig
ECM Capitol Reporter
Paula Overby believes being a transgender candidate can attract voters outside of the political process, those unmoved by traditional candidates with traditional campaigns.
Overby could be the first congressional transgender candidate ever in Minnesota.
A Democrat from Eagan, Overby is currently collecting signatures for a petition to file as a candidate in the 2nd Congressional District in the 2014 election.
“I’m fully committed to this,” she said.
Along with former Rep. Mike Obermueller, of Eagan, and Thomas Craft, of Eagan, Overby looks to challenge six-term 2nd District Republican Congressman John Kline.
Overby depicts herself as facing “an extreme uphill battle.” Kline has a base of support in the district, Overby said. She views Obermueller, whom Kline defeated last year, as a weak candidate.
And a Democratic campaign based on simply criticizing the Republican will not succeed, she said.
Instead, Overby, 59, who serves on DFL State Party Central Committee, said, to be successful, Democrats must appeal to groups — the young, for instance — who traditionally turnout in low numbers.
“We can defeat John Kline,” Overby said.
She views herself an appealing candidate to the politically disaffected. Her candidacy is one of courage, hope, inclusion and steadfastness, she explained. Who else can politically energize these political outsiders, Overby rhetorically asked.
Asked about gender, Overby said she understood that some people find it difficult to understand what transgender means.
“It’s not a lifestyle,” she said. “It’s an identity.” Overby is currently undergoing the process of physically becoming female, she said.
DFL 2nd Congressional District Chairwoman Sue Moravec said Overby has spoken at some DFL functions.
“She (Overby) has a very compelling story to tell,” she said. “I really like her as a person.”
Obermueller is taking Overby’s potential candidacy in stride. People should be able to run for Congress, he said.
“I know she (Overby) feels deeply about the issues that are important to her,” he said.
Overby helped his campaign last election, Obermueller said. But his is the only candidacy building on momentum gained last election, he said. Only his campaign can gain the funding needed to defeat Kline, Obermueller said.
Overby, if her campaign progresses, could be the first transgender congressional candidate in Minnesota. DFL state party officials are unaware of any other transgender congressional candidates.
The Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, which since 1991 has worked to elect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender candidates, is also unaware of any transgender congressional candidates in Minnesota.
OutFront Minnesota, a state organization advocating for LGBT people, said there have been transgender candidates in Minnesota before, but they’re not entirely sure whether one had run for Congress.
Tim Budig is at [email protected].