Jared Polis: the man who has become America's first openly gay governor

Harriet Alexander
Jared Polis has been elected governor of Colorado - making him the first openly gay person to govern a US state - REUTERS

When Jared Polis was declared the winner of Colorado's race for governor on Tuesday night, it meant that the state remained in Democrat hands.

His predecessor, the widely admired John Hickenlooper, had served two terms and was unable to run again.

But his election was about more than that.

Mr Polis, a 43-year-old entrepreneur, has become the first openly gay governor in US history.

It's somewhat ironic that his victory was in Colorado - a state where a baker's refusal to make a cake for a gay wedding has been taken up by the Supreme Court.

"I think it really gives Colorado an opportunity to stick a thumb in the eye of Mike Pence, whose view of America is not as inclusive as where America is today,” said Mr Polis earlier this year, in a speech to Colorado Democrats.

Mr Polis, born in Boulder, Colorado, and educated in California and then at Princeton, defeated Republican state treasurer Walker Stapleton.

Although often a swing state, Colorado has not had a Republican governor since 2007.

Mr Polis campaigned on universal healthcare, renewable energy standards and publicly funded early childhood education. He also vowed to stand up to President Donald Trump's efforts to dismantle the federal health care law.

His considerable fortune - he is believed to have made over $400m from his tech, greetings cards and florist businesses - enabled him to criss-cross the state and make his mark.

He becomes one of the 10 richest people in Congress.

On selling his businesses, Mr Polis entered politics in 2008, campaigning for Colorado's state House of Representatives.

He has throughout his career prioritised education, clean energy and civil rights.

“President Trump is unpopular in our state, and voters certainly want a governor who’s going to be in the vanguard of the opposition,” he told The New York Times earlier this year.

But he made sure to emphasise his successes in a “broad and diverse” congressional district that “ranges from small ranching communities to ski resorts.” 

Mr Polis and his partner, Marlon Reis, live in Boulder and have two children: a seven-year-old son, Caspian Julius, and daughter Cora Barucha, four.