The Jefferson Township Republican Party has transformed itself over the past few years. Their local primaries went from uncontested races to candidates competing for a limited number of open seats. In 2018, two Republican candidates competed for the mayoral election. This year, five Republican candidates ran for three town council seats, the most to run in recent memory.
Jade Kohut credits this explosion of involvement in part on her changes to Jefferson’s Republican Party. Previously, the party’s chairperson made most of the decisions and delegated accordingly. However, since Kohut joined the party, she has worked to transform the top-down model of the organization into a more collaborative approach, bringing more people and new ideas to the table. The party has also added a press secretary position and increased its social media content to get more residents engaged.
After serving one term as the Jefferson Republican Party chairwoman, she ran for re-election. Prior to the vote, she came out as a transgender woman and disclosed to party members that she had been undergoing gender transition treatments. She won the election and earned a second term as chairwoman.
“You’re never quite sure how people will react, but the Jefferson Republicans told me frankly that if I continued to do a good job, they would continue to vote for me,” Kohut said.
Kohut said she wasn’t surprised that members of Jefferson’s Republican Party were accepting. She was more shocked that there was no political drama in the aftermath of her coming out. Most party members gave one of two responses: she was doing a good job and should keep up the good work, or they were fine with it but asked for her not to push it on themselves, their children, or ask them to pay for it.
Reconciling Two Identities
When she came out to her non-political friends, some of them asked her if she was going to leave the GOP. After all, the Trump administration rolled back health care nondiscrimination regulations for transgender people.
However, Kohut said that the core of laws like this one aren’t controversial and that she didn’t need to reconcile being a Republican and being transgender. She said that Trump’s deregulation protects doctors who may mistake a patient’s gender identity in the rush of work, but the National Center of Transgender Equality argued that this rollback made it harder to enforce transgender people’s health care rights.
Kohut said that it was most difficult for her to come out to her employers. She worked at a clothing store and had to work in the back of the store until she was further along in her transition because her employer said that she didn’t fit the store’s brand. Despite experiences like this, Kohut said that there’s not a lot of concrete ways that the government could protect LGBTQ+ rights.
For now, Kohut plans to build up Jefferson’s Republican Party and make it self-sustaining so that it can last after her time there. She said there’s so much this town has to offer, and she wants to continue to make it a better place.
Personally, she plans to start up a business. In the future, she wants to earn enough money to support having children.