US election diary: The sex change we can all believe in

Sarah Palin is not the only candidate who can dress up to win votes. David Randall reports
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A black president is not the only political breakthrough produced by the 2008 election. The small Oregon town of Silverton has just voted in America's first openly transgender mayor. Stu Rasmussen has long, tumbling hair which makes him look more like Charles II than Veronica Lake, but he has a sharp way with words to go with his breast implants and high heels. "Some guys' mid-life crisis is motorcycles or sports cars or climbing mountains or trophy wives or whatever," he says. "Mine is different. I always wanted cleavage, so I went out and acquired some." Stu was twice elected mayor in the 1990s, when his gender ambitions were known only to himself. But since then he's come out and, backed by his girlfriend, made a run for the mayoralty again. The good folk of Silverton responded, giving him a 15 per cent winning margin. And just to prove there's a big-hearted guy behind all that hair and eyeliner, he shed a tear on election night.

Women rule OK

A landmark for women of a more conventional kind came in New Hampshire, where voters elected the first female-majority legislature in US history. Democrat victories meant that women, who previously held 37 per cent of the seats in the state's senate, now have 13 out of 24.

Austria beats about the bush

Having cornered the world market in grotesque abduction and incest cases, Austria took a clear lead in the unedifying contest to see who could come up with the most racist reaction to Obama's election. Klaus Emmerich, the top political commentator on US affairs for broadcaster ORF, was asked on air for his reaction to the Illinois senator's victory. "I do not want the Western world to be directed by a black man," he said, "And if you say this is a racist remark, I say you are damn right it is." Speaking after the programme, the veteran went even further, asserting that Obama's win was "a highly disturbing development" because "blacks are not as far advanced in the civilisation process nor in their political progress". What do they put in the water down there?

Wardrobe malfunction

Larry King, Oprah Winfrey, and Barbara Walters are all pitching for interviews with Sarah Palin. They're not the only ones who want to talk to her. So do Republican National Committee lawyers, and, possibly, the wealthy donor who agreed to foot the bill for her convention trousseau. The subject? Her spending spree of at least $150,000, when all she was told to do was buy a few new outfits and get herself a stylist. Instead, the "ordinary hockey mom" splurged $75,062 at upscale store Neiman Marcus, $49,425 at Saks Fifth Avenue, $9,447 at Macy's, $789 at luxury retailer Barneys New York, and assorted big-ticket items for members of her family such as $4,902 at men's clothier Atelier. Republican lawyers are now discussing with Palin whether what's left of the clothing bought by her with party money will go to charity, back to the stores, or be paid for by the Alaska Governor. The campaign said that about a third of the clothing was returned because it was the wrong size, or for other reasons. Palin, meanwhile, calls her critics "jerks" and adds: "I never forced anyone to buy anything." Which is what's known as a non-denial denial.

Bets are on for First Puppy

Every two-bit dog expert in the US is queuing up to advise Barack Obama. Favourites seem to be poodles, Scottish terriers or Portuguese water dogs, which are all low hair-shedders and thus will irritate elder daughter Malia's allergies less severely. And, for that vote-winning cutesy factor, it ought to come from a rescue centre. But then, as the seasonal ad says: "A dog is not just for victory speeches."

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