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US: Transgender politician 'misled' voters

Sun 2 Dec 2007 In: International News

Four years after she won a Riverdale City Council seat, making her what is believed to be the Southern US State of Georgia's first transgender politician, Michelle Bruce is battling a lawsuit by an unsuccessful opponent who claims she misled voters by running as a woman. Michelle Bruce Michelle Bruce says she has always identified herself as transgender. "I've always been Michelle. If someone has a problem with that, I can't help them. It's a personal issue," she told the Associated Press. Bruce, 46, who runs an auto repossession business, began her political campaign in 2003. Running unopposed, she landed one of four Council seats and promised to attract more jobs and residents to Riverdale, a town of 12,000 about 12 miles south of Atlanta, lined with rundown strip malls and used car shops. Three rivals ran against her in the 6 November election. She captured 312 votes, not enough to avoid a 4 December runoff against the second-place finisher, Wayne Hall, who earned 202 votes. The third-place finisher, Georgia Fuller, who collected 171 votes, filed a lawsuit claiming election fraud. The complaint, identifying Bruce as 'Michael Bruce,' says she misled voters by identifying herself as female. It asks a judge to rule the November election results invalid and order another general election. Fuller did not return calls seeking comment, but her lawyer said voters in Riverdale tended to favour female candidates, particularly if they were incumbents. "It gives her an unfair advantage," said the lawyer, Michael King. "It's not just sour grapes. The people need to know whether the election is fair." The suit is unlikely to be settled before the 4 December runoff, but Bruce sees it as an effort to alienate her from voters. "They're just distracting the voters from the issues," she said. "Everybody in my district knows me. Everyone in Riverdale knows me." City Attorney Deana Johnson said Bruce's identity was no mystery to her constituents. "She has served as councilperson for four years as Michelle Bruce," Johnson said. "It sounds like a case of politics." Bruce will not say if she had surgery to change her gender, saying it is a personal matter. She deflected questions about her personal life, instead addressing her hopes for her town. "People want a candidate that will listen to them, protect them, save them money and be there for them," Bruce concludes. "And I always will be."    

Credit: News Staff

First published: Sunday, 2nd December 2007 - 2:04pm

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