Senator Megan Hunt is bisexual, an Atheist, and a single mom. Yet, she still managed to get elected to the State Senate in Nebraska – a red state.
Hunt had no prior political experience. Her background is as a small business owner and as an advocate against sexual violence. She helped to found both Hello Holiday, a boutique that works to promote independent female designers, and Safe Space Nebraska, a non-profit working to make Nebraska’s nightlife safer.
Hunt became interested in running after working with the Omaha school district to update their sex ed programs. ‘Through my work, I started thinking about running for office,’ she tells GSN.
Nebraska state legislature
Of course, because of her identity, Hunt faced challenges during the election.
‘Everything someone would guess would be hard about it is definitely true,’ Hunt says, referring to the stereotypes and assumptions people in red states tend to have about queer people and single mothers.
Yet, Nebraska is unique in one regard: they only have one State House and have the smallest state legislature at only 49 elected officials.
‘Our government is actually pretty progressive,’ Hunt explains. In this setup, there is less partisanship as the 49 senators all must work together to get things done. Because of this, every senator gets the opportunity to be a leader on different issues.
And though life can be hard for queer people, women, and other marginalized groups in Nebraska, Hunt believes it necessary for progressives like herself to remain in the state to better the lives of others.
‘I have a responsibility to make life in Nebraska better for those discriminated against,’ she says. ‘We need people like me in Nebraska.’
Drama with a colleague
However, not all of Hunt’s fellow state senators are happy about her position in the Nebraska legislature.
Back in March, local paper The North Platte Bulletin spoke to Sen. Tom Brewer, one of Hunt’s colleagues, about the freshman senators.
‘One woman is transgender and reminds us of it most every day,’ Brewer said, referring to Hunt. Hunt, in fact, is not transgender.
‘I have nothing against her sexual preference, but there should be a certain level of professionalism and decorum on the floor,’ Brewer continued.
Hunt tells GSN that Sen. Brewer has a military background and speaks at National Rifle Association (NRA) conventions. Last year, Brewer introduced legislation to allow people over 21 to carry concealed weapons without a license.
Hunt was surprised to read what Brewer had said about her, as he was always professional to her face but apparently goes to town halls in his district and says the kinds of things printed in that article.
According to Hunt, Brewer has yet to acknowledge why what he said was wrong, despite the numerous emails and letters he’s gotten. While Hunt still maintains a professional relationship with Brewer, she believes the lack of acknowledgment Brewer has shown says a lot about his character.
Staying strong despite hate
‘With small legislatures, you need trust,’ Hunt says. ‘You can’t do work like this without accepting that people will disagree with you – your opinions, your beliefs, your humanity.’
Because of Hunt’s identity, she has gotten death and rape threats during her campaign. Her young daughter was even doxxed when people discovered what school she attended and posted that information online for malicious intent.
‘I’m not afraid,’ Hunt states. ‘I’m here to do a job and I know history is on my side.’
What she’s learned
Hunt’s first session in the Senate ends on 6 June. In her first session, she introduced 19 bills and learned a lot of valuable lessons.
‘A lot of what I did this year was throwing a lot of stuff at the wall to see what sticks,’ she says. ‘I feel more prepared now. I feel like I understand what my main platform is going to be for the next four years.’
One of the issues Hunt is advocating for is food assistance for previously incarcerated drug dealers. In Nebraska, if you were convicted of a crime involving drugs, you will not be eligible for food stamps upon your release. This is not the case for those convicted of violent crimes like rape and murder.
Hunt is also advocating for raising the minimum wage for tipped employees, funding for public education, and ending the gay and trans panic defense.
Hunt encourages others to write to their local officials. ‘I am an elected official in a red state. I cannot do my job without people writing to give me feedback,’ she says.
Hunt believes local government is a place with the most potential for change.
‘Don’t be afraid to get involved.’