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Midge Potts seeks change
Transgender politico enters GOP primary.

SPRINGFIELD (AP) - In many ways, Midge Potts is like other everyday citizens who feel the call of politics. The self-described fiscal conservative and Eisenhower Republican is running a one-person primary campaign against five-term congressman and House Majority Whip Roy Blunt in southwest Missouri’s Seventh District.

A few things set Potts, 37, apart from many Republican candidates. She thinks President George W. Bush should be impeached over his domestic spying program, for example. And she used to be a he.

Potts, a Navy veteran who served in the early 1990s as Mitchell Eugene Potts, is a transgender person, a man who feels a call to live as a woman.

Potts has been living that way full-time for about two-and-a-half years, taking supplements to make her hormones more female, changing her legal name, dressing in women’s clothes and wearing makeup.

Potts is among Missouri’s first openly transgender political candidates. Nationally, transgender groups say there are a few others who have won local seats, including in Georgia and South Dakota, and at least two more who have unsuccessfully campaigned for state offices in Vermont and Arizona.

"We’re going to see this more and more. Every year we’re going to see more and more candidates running, and I think it’s great that trans people are running," said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality in Washington, D.C.

Potts faces an uphill battle in a region where the Republican Party is dominated by moral and social conservatives.

"Given the conservative nature of the Seventh District, her chances of winning the primary are slim. And the primary voter tends to be more conservative yet," said Missouri State University political science Professor George Connor.

"To have her run as a Republican is not the craziest thing because there is a part of the Republican Party that is fiscally conservative but shows support for personal choice. It harkens back to a part of the Republican Party that does not exist in southwest Missouri," Connor said.

Blunt, who has won solidly in his previous races, and the state Republican Party declined to comment on Potts’ campaign.

Dee Wampler, a Blunt supporter and prominent Springfield Republican activist, dismissed Potts’ chances, in part because she is transgender. "A person with that background would not attract a serious vote," Wampler said.

Potts says she is running to return the voice of ordinary people to Congress. She says politics has become dominated by lobbyists and corporate money, as highlighted by the corruption case against lobbyist Jack Abramoff and the Texas campaign fundraising indictment of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

"Now is the time for each of us to stand up for what is right by publicly proclaiming that the political corruption which has been pervasive in our national government must stop," she wrote in a letter to Blunt and other candidates, urging them to foreswear money from political action committees.

Potts is not rolling in money. She says she has raised less than $600 since filing last month to run in the Aug. 8 primary. Her yard signs are made by hand on pieces of cardboard she collects around town and stencils with the slogan "recycle government" and "vote for change."

Potts’ main campaign tool at the moment is her Web site, www.pottsforcongress.com .

There she lays out a platform in favor of a debt-free America, energy independence, term limits, a "People’s Veto" and direct democracy.

Potts served on the USS Yosemite in the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Shield after the first Iraq war. She says she favors a strong national defense but wants to end the current Iraq deployment and reinforce U.S. borders against illegal immigration.

Potts dismisses the idea that southwest Missouri is too socially conservative to vote for a transgender candidate. She says she has gotten more positive feedback than she ever expected.

"People are seeing what I stand for. I’m not for a gay or a transgender agenda; I’m for equal rights for all people," she said.

A native of Springfield, Potts says that as a child she already felt more like a girl than a boy. After a marriage ended in divorce in 2003, Potts said she went from experimenting with female dress and makeup to living as a woman full-time.

She has not had surgery to alter her body, though. "If I could be in a female body right now, I would like that. But not only is surgery expensive, it’s dangerous. So I don’t know if that will happen to that degree."

Potts says she has been laughed at occasionally since coming out as a transgender person but never saw a need to move to another part of the country that might have a larger transgender community.

"I love the Ozarks. I love the land. I don’t know why I would want to move anywhere else. Just because I differ in some of my thinking, I shouldn’t let that chase me away from the place that I love," Potts said.

Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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