Joanne Marie Conte (October 18, 1933 – January 27, 2013) was an American politician. She served as a councilwoman in Arvada, Colorado from 1991 to 1995. She earned a master's degree in political science from the University of Colorado. She is one of a small group of transsexual elected public officials. She was a guest on many national talk shows and was a volunteer for KGNU where she co-hosted a news and opinion call in show the last three Thursdays of each month. She died just before midnight January 27, 2013.
Term as councilwoman
Conte was closeted about her identity as a trans woman when she ran for, and was elected to, office in 1991. In 1993 Westword had planned to "out" Conte, but she had learned of their plans ahead of time and disclosed her identity as a trans woman on her own. Although Conte was angry that the information had been leaked, she expressed relief at the opportunity to make her gender identity public. Conte had gone to great lengths to hide her sexual reassignment surgery, including changing her birth certificate. Conte called for an investigation in the leak of the information.
Conte lost her race for Arvada City Council in November 1995, she attributed her loss to sex-change jokes made by her adversary's supporters during the campaign. Before leaving office Conte audited the city budget, questioning why non-essential services were included when the Arvada's revenue was declining. Conte, briefly, hosted a talk-show on AM news radio station 850 KOA following her election loss with promotional ads asking "Is it a man? Is it a woman?"
Conte v. Meyer
Conte ran for Colorado State Legislature in 1994, but was almost denied ballot access. Conte planned to run as an Independent and officially declared herself as such on August 2, 1993. The deadline to turn in her petition to be a candidate was August 2, 1994. Colorado law states that to run as an Independent a candidate must be declared an Independent for a full year. Conte had asked the Secretary of State, then Natalie Meyer, if she could submit the petition early to give her time to correct any mistakes that may be found, to which Meyer agreed, and Conte submitted the petition before the deadline.
Later, Conte filled a lawsuit against the Colorado law which stated the ballot order in which Democrats and Republicans appear should be random while stipulating other candidates always had to appear below the Democrat and Republican choices. After Conte filed the lawsuit Meyer reversed her decision to allow Conte ballot access on the grounds that she had not been an Independent for a full year when she turned in her petition. Conte appealed Meyer's decision to the Colorado Supreme Court in the case the Conte v. Meyer. The Court reversed Meyer's decision by a vote of 5-2 with the majority opinion interpreting the law to mean that a petition is on file from the time it is turned in until the date it is due.
In 1996 Conte restarted an organization she had begun in 1991, Save Arvada's Residential Areas (SARA), to oppose an annexation proposed by the Arvada City Council. Later that year Conte ran a petition drive to limit campaign contributions and cap spending in Arvada mayoral and council races.
In 2003, Conte led a group of concerned citizens against storage of chemical waste in Arvada. Following the Arvada City Council's vote in favor of the storage, Conte began the process to get a referendum against the chemical storage on the ballot for the November 2003 election.
In the 2006 election year, during a controversy about the salaries of City Managers in Colorado, Conte supported Arvada City Manager Craig Kocian but believed that his salary should be redistributed. Conte commented that Kocian made $165,000 a year, while each city council member made less than $10,000.
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- Conte v. Meyer, 882 P.2d, 962, 965 (State Supreme Court of Colorado 1994).
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- Francis, Jeff (2006-01-26). "Big jobs, big money". Mile High News. Archived from the original on 2009-08-02. Retrieved 2009-06-13.