In March 2011, the Victory Fund celebrated 20 years of electing LGBT candidates. On the anniversary the founding pioneers including Terry Bean and Vic Basile and a new generation of LGBT advocates gathered together in Washington, D.C. to celebrate. David Mixner’s post Victory Fund Celebrates 20 Years Of Electing LGBT Candidates tells the story behind the founding of the Victory Fund, the foundation’s success and how you can contribute to the future:
“Twenty years ago in a Marriott Hotel conference room in Virginia sat over a dozen leaders from various organizations and states to explore how we could better elect openly LGBT candidates. Called together by Terry Bean, William Waybourn, Vic Basile and others, they had this concept of modeling an organization after Ellen Malcolm’s “Emily’s List.” The idea was a simple one. To raise awareness and money – especially money – to create an even playing field for our candidates. At that point we had a little more than forty openly LGBT elected and appointed officials in the entire nation.
Many of us in the room remembered that in the 70’s Elaine Noble (photograph) running for office in Massachusetts required police escorts in order to campaign safely and that our friend Harvey Milk had been assassinated in San Francisco. Other of our candidates had to campaign through death threats, horror smears and broken windows.
Gathered around the table were legends like Hilary Rosen, Roberta Bennett, Diane Abbitt, Ellen Malcolm, Lynn Greer, William Waybourn and others. The decision was made to create a LGBT version of Emily’s List called The Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund. Being drafted, Lynn Greer and I agreed to become the first CoChairs of the organization and to make it a reality. History was made in that room that day. From that moment arose one of the most cost effective success stories in our community.
Now twenty years later, those pioneers joined hundreds of others in Washington DC to celebrate this important moment. The old pioneers made the journey to honor the current success with nearly 600 elected and appointed LGBT officials in this country. Places like Houston, Portland and Providence have elected our citizens as mayors. A vast majority of states have elected our brothers and sisters to the legislature. Maryland has seven open LGBT legislators. We have four members in Congress. Fred Hochberg is head of the Export/Import Bank in the current administration and he is just one of many appointees by Obama. In Rhode Island and California we are Speakers of the House. And in Oregon, a bisexual is Secretary of State. In California, a Transgender person was elected judge. The record is simply a story of amazing success.
While gathering on the terrace of the House of Sweden for cocktails and the next day for brunch, the crowd not only contained the pioneers but an entire new generation of LGBT citizens determined to expand and enhance our political power. Young Jim Roth of Oklahoma who served on a state wide commission regulating energy policies. Brian Sims the ex-college football star creating a political base in Pennsylvania. Or Kevin Beckner who is County Commissioner in Hillsborough County in Florida. Chris Armstromg, the Student Body President of the University of Michigan appealed for support for the organization. The Victory Fund candidate training session that day (the best training anywhere of that kind) was filled with LGBT citizens eager to serve their country by holding positions of power.
In those first years, it was the talents and skills of people like William Waybourn and Brian Bond who led the organization in the early days to amazing feats. Today, Brian Bond is in the White House as an Assistant to the President of the United States!
The Victory Fund today, led by Chuck Wolfe, has one of the lowest budgets of any of our national organizations. Their effectiveness is well known. The best contribution you can make is to go here and send a check congratulating them on 20 years of service to the LGBT community and to our nation.”
David Mixner Live from Hell’s Kitchen Blog 3-21-2011 http://www.davidmixner.com/2011/03/victory-fund-celebrates-20-years-of-electing-lgbt-candidates.html