Victory Fund endorsed candidate Rafer Johnson is under attack in Georgia – with thousands of homophobic text messages, emails and flyers being distributed across South Fulton, where he is running in a historic race for mayor. The ads use an image of him and his husband with the title “Husband and Husband” – a thinly guised attempt to make the election a referendum on his sexual orientation, instead of his strong economic development platform.
Rafer is poised to make history by becoming Mayor of South Fulton – the largest majority African American city ever established in the U.S. But the ads continue to be relentless – being distributed through anonymous “text message bombs,” via unsolicited emails and even through fliers littered throughout an elementary school. The attack is similar in concept and form to a previous attack on a local LGBT state senate candidate – although there is no direct evidence the two are connected.
These attacks on LGBT candidates cannot go unanswered. Contribute today so Victory Fund can fight back against anti-LGBT attacks on Rafer and other targeted LGBT candidates. When our community is attacked, our community responds.
“It makes me concerned, but more determined. I’m concerned because I hope that the voters don’t make a decision based on [the ads],” Johnson told the Georgia Voice. “That’s not who we are, as a city.”
Rafer’s run for South Fulton mayor would be a groundbreaking victory in the South at a time when LGBT elected officials in state and local government are more critical than ever. LGBT lawmakers at the state and local levels are essential for fighting back against a tidal wave of anti-LGBT legislation, and in mitigating the effects of anti-equality efforts occurring at the federal level.
Victory Fund’s Board of Directors has consistently helped drive strategy throughout the organization’s 25-year history – from endorsing our first candidate Sherry Harris to pushing Senator Tammy Baldwin to victory in 2012.
Our 2017 board members are ready to ensure Victory Fund can bring home big LGBT candidate wins this election year and beyond. Below you can learn more about our new board leadership – Chris Abele, Campbell Spencer, Chrys Lemon and Mattheus Stephens – as well as our newest member Stuart Appelbaum.
CHRIS ABELE, CHAIR
MILWAUKEE COUNTY EXECUTIVE
Chris Abele is bringing a new form of leadership to Milwaukee County and Wisconsin, redefining what government can be. By combining social responsibility and fiscal discipline, County Executive Abele has lowered the County’s deficit by more than $70 million and successfully instituted domestic partnership benefits for employees; at the same time, he has introduced three consecutive budgets that didn’t raise taxes. County Executive Abele’s bold approach has strengthened critical safety net services like public transportation, child support and mental health care.
CAMPBELL SPENCER, VICE CHAIR
FOUNDER AND DIRECTOR, THE CAMPBELL SPENCER GROUP
Campbell Spencer is a nationally known Democratic strategist and public affairs consultant with more than fifteen years of experience in navigating the complex intersection of policy, business, and politics. She is a veteran of national politics, having served on three presidential campaigns, advised on numerous House and Senate races, worked for the Democratic National Committee, and served as the White House Midwest Political Director under President Obama. Spencer offers extensive expertise in developing and managing issue campaigns, field operations, legislative strategies, constituency relations, and building bi-partisan coalitions for businesses, trade associations, and non-profit organizations wishing to engage in and influence public policy debates.
CHRYS LEMON, SECRETARY
PARTNER, MCINTYRE & LEMON
Chrys is a partner in McIntyre & Lemon, PLLC, in Washington, D.C. He specializes in financial services law, particularly related to marketing of consumer financial products and services, privacy law, insurance law, and regulation of financial institutions by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Previously, Chrys was an instructor pilot in the United States Air Force as well as having worked as an analyst in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
MATTHEUS E. STEPHENS, TREASURER
FOUNDING PARTNER, PROGRESSIVE LAW GROUP
Mattheus Stephens is a partner in the San Diego law firm Progressive Law Group (a general civil litigation firm) and a Lecturer at the University of California, San Diego, where he teaches four courses including “The Law & Sex.” His community service includes being the two-time Chair of the City of San Diego’s Human Relations Commission; serving on the Board of Directors for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center as well as the ACLU. He has also served as a Pro Tem Judge in Small Claims Court since 1999. He was appointed by Mayor Jerry Sanders to the City Civil Service Commission in 2008 and now serves as President.
EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, UNITED FOOD AND COMMERCIAL WORKERS UNION
Stuart Appelbaum is the Executive Vice President of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union. He ascended to the presidency of the RWDSU/UFCW in May of 1998 and has been reelected four times since. Stuart is an active member of the DNC, serving on its Executive Committee, and as Vice Chair of the DNC Labor Council. He is also the Vice President of the national AFL-CIO and a member of the Federation’s Executive Council.
In addition to our new leadership team and newest member Stuart Appelbaum, we are thrilled to have the continued experience and wisdom of board members:
Susan Atkins, San Diego, CA
Pia Carusone, Washington, DC
Michael Grover, Atlanta, GA
Richard Holt, Houston, TX
Kim Hoover, Washington, DC
Stephen Macias, Los Angeles, CA
Sue Burnside, Los Angeles, CA, Ex-Officio
Aisha C. Moodie-Mills, Washington, DC, Ex-Officio
Daniel Penchina, Washington, DC, Ex-Officio
Above: Rafer Johnson, one of nine candidates endorsed by Victory Fund today.
Today Victory Fund endorsed nine candidates running for office in the 2017 election season. Victory Fund aims to increase the number of LGBT elected officials at the state and local levels in 2017, to help push forward equality and mitigate the effects of anti-LGBT efforts from all levels of government. The newly endorsed candidates are:
Rafer Johnson, Mayor of South Fulton (GA)
Margaret Paul, Berwyn City Clerk (IL)
Joseph Johnston, Berwyn Township Trustee (IL)
Jose Ramirez, Berwyn Board of Alderman, Ward 2 (IL)
Jeanine Reardon, Berwyn Board of Alderman, Ward 3 (IL)
Nick Kachiroubas, Crystal Lake City Clerk (IL)
Debra Shore, Commissioner, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (IL)
Ben Allatt, Harrisburg City Council (PA)
Chris Anderson, Chattanooga City Council, District 7 (TN)
For a full list of endorsed candidates, visit victoryfund.org/endorsed.
Above: Sam Park, Daniel Hernandez, and Leslie Herod
Four LGBT people of color won seats in state legislatures for the first time last November -- exciting victories that will bring meaningful change. This week, three of those state representatives will be sworn in.
Sam Park, elected to represent Georgia’s House District 101, will be sworn in today and will become the first openly gay man in Georgia’s General Assembly.
Daniel Hernandez will be sworn in today as Representative for Arizona’s House District 2. Hernandez will be the only openly LGBT representative currently serving in the Arizona State House, and the first since Kyrsten Sinema left to represent Arizona’s 9th Congressional District.
On Wednesday, Leslie Herod will be sworn in as Representative for Colorado’s House District 8. Herod will become the first openly LGBT African American elected into office in Colorado.
Late last year, Carlos Guillermo Smith was sworn-in and became the first openly LGBT Latino to serve in the Florida state legislature.
These newly elected leaders are on the frontlines, pushing equality forward at the state level. This work is more important than ever, given the possibility that Trump’s administration will roll back LGBT rights at the federal level.
Above: Seattle Mayor Ed Murray
President-elect Donald Trump has repeatedly voiced his hostility toward undocumented immigrants during a campaign fueled by aggressive anti-immigration rhetoric and frequent promises to build a wall along the U.S. Mexico border.
Trump plans to target and weaken so-called sanctuary cities, which protect immigrants, and has vowed to withhold federal funding if they don’t comply.
After the election, several openly LGBT sanctuary city mayors assuaged fear by reaffirming their immigrant-friendly positions.
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, who is up for re-election in 2017, said during a rally that Seattle would continue to be “guided by equality and inclusion and openness” and would work to protect immigrants.
Mayor Javier Gonzales of Santa Fe spoke on Fox News and released a statement saying: “We proudly stand by our policy of human rights for all immigrants. It has benefited our people, made us a safer, more cooperative community, and strengthened our economy, and we have no intention to reverse course or be bullied into abandoning our values.”
Mayor of Long Beach, California Robert Garcia said: “We’ve always been at the leading edge of civil rights, including rights for the LGBT and the disabled, and that’s not going to change, no matter what.”
Mayor Jackie Biskupski of Salt Lake City wrote in an online letter that her city won’t cooperate with federal officials on immigration and said: "We know our country has a long history of oppression and that is a history I simply cannot or will not support in this role as mayor."
LGBT mayors are leading the charge in ensuring equality remains a core value in their communities.
Above: Mayor Ed Murray, Alex Wan, and Lisa Middleton
Today Victory Fund endorsed two non-incumbent openly LGBT candidates for the 2017 election cycle: Alex Wan, who is running for President of the Atlanta City Council, and Lisa Middleton, who is running for Palm Springs City Council in California.
Wan has served on the Atlanta City Council since 2010 and has a long career in community service.
Middleton is a member of the Palm Springs Planning Commission, current Chairwoman of the Organized Neighborhoods of Palm Springs, and has served on the boards of the Desert LGBT Center and Desert Horticulture Society.
Victory Fund also endorsed incumbent Seattle Mayor Ed Murray.
These candidates will join Atlanta mayoral candidate Cathy Woolard, and candidate for Anchorage Downtown Assembly Chris Constant, who were previously endorsed by Victory Fund.
Above: Carlos Guillermo Smith speaking during his victory speech.
In the wake of the presidential election, many in the LGBT community are discussing what happens next. As we collect our thoughts and plot a path forward, we thought it important to hear some words from those LGBT elected officials who won on Tuesday. Openly LGBT elected officials will play an even more important role in the coming months and years -- working to prevent anti-LGBT legislation and push forward equality.
A total of 87 Victory Fund endorsed candidates secured wins this election and several broke historic barriers. Here are the words of a few -- in social media posts and speeches where they thanked supporters and offered their thoughts on the road ahead.
Carlos Guillermo Smith, newly elected representative for Florida House District 47 and first openly LGBT latinx member of the Florida legislature, said in a Facebook post:
“I know we have a tough road ahead given the rest of the election results...but we cannot give up, especially after everything we have been though. We can NEVER STOP challenging homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, and Islamophobia. In fact, our commitment to disarming bigotry, uprooting hatred and reversing the normalization of racism and misogyny must be STRONGER now that it ever has been.”
Oregon Governor Kate Brown, who became the first openly LGBT person elected governor in U.S. history, in her victory speech recalled fearing losing her job as an attorney in the 80’s because she was dating a woman:
“I vowed I would do everything in my power to make sure that no one — no one in this state — would have to face that level of fear or face that level of discrimination.”
David Richardson, re-elected openly LGBT Florida House Representative for District 113 said on Facebook:
“Even though my general election opponent ran a very negative campaign, he was wise enough to not claim my sexual orientation as a negative. This is telling. The people have looked at my record and my dedication to my community and they cast their votes accordingly. Tomorrow we have to wake up and continue to fight for the issues and causes we believe will move us forward.”
David Cicilline, re-elected openly LGBT Representative for Rhode Island’s 1st Congressional District wrote on Facebook:
“While I will work with our next president, make no mistake about it, I will never stop fighting for…the inherent dignity of every person and equality and justice for all Americans. If the history our nation teaches us anything, it is that there is nothing we cannot do when we come together as one. We have seen enough partisanship, enough gridlock, enough division in Washington. Now is a time for unity and common purpose.”
Mark Takano, re-elected openly LGBT Representative for California’s 42nd Congressional District, said in his victory speech:
"Today we begin the important process of finding unity in the love we share for this country. Donald Trump said in his election night speech that he would be the president for all Americans. As a representative in Congress, it is my job to make sure he stays true to those words."
This op-ed from Victory Fund President & CEO Aisha C. Moodie-Mills originally appeared in The Advocate on November 9, 2016.
In Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural address, he appealed to the “better angels in our nature” as the nation careened toward civil war. Yet centuries of animosity erupted, and 750,000 Americans lost their lives on the battlefield – our country divided and torn apart. But those angels eventually did prevail, when millions of enslaved people were finally given the chance to live in some semblance of freedom, and our country reunited imperfect but strong.
Last night, our better angels lost again. Voters succumbed to racist, xenophobic, sexist and transphobic demagoguery and elected a president diametrically opposed to the American values our communities, my communities, hold precious and dear. LGBT people are unique in that we span across all demographic groups. We are black, we are Latino, we are women, we are Muslim, we are undocumented, we have disabilities. What makes our community so special — our diversity — is also what makes the results of this presidential election particularly devastating for us. We are not monolithic, we are affected in so many ways.
But sometimes you need to have a breakdown to have a breakthrough. In 2004, Republican operatives placed dozens of anti-marriage equality amendments on the ballot to bolster the reelection prospects of George W. Bush. They passed, and he won. We were devastated, but the backlash was swift. In 2006 Democrats overwhelmed Republicans — winning a resounding majority in the House and Senate, trouncing them in gubernatorial races, and electing Nancy Pelosi as the first woman speaker of the House. The nation reversed itself.
Our community and our progressive allies must use this sobering moment to recognize the inexorable path toward equality will bend and shift and that it is up to us to determine its pace. We are the transformational figures our politics needs at this critical moment. LGBT leaders must come forward, run for school boards, city councils, state legislatures and other elected positions that have so much impact on our lives. We must lay the foundation for longterm LGBT political power in red states and blue states because our people are the best defense against legislative bigotry and intolerance, and the best proponents of universal equality. These are the leaders who will turn this breakdown into a breakthrough.
And there were breakthroughs last night – rays of light in an otherwise dark evening. Oregon Governor Kate Brown became the first openly LGBT governor elected in our nation’s history, a stunning accomplishment breaking 240 years of precedent. Carlos Guillermo Smith became the first openly LGBT Latino elected to the Florida state legislature, a powerful statement given Pulse nightclub is just miles from his Orlando home. Sam Park won and will join three other remarkable openly LGBT lawmakers in the Georgia legislature, a testament to our increasing representation in the South. And voters reelected all six openly LGBT members of Congress despite a tough night for House Democrats – affirmation that LGBT leadership is effective and respected.
The better angels were out in Oregon, parts of Georgia and Orlando last night. And the better angels will eventually prevail nationwide — just as they did back in 1865. We have been here before and we will bounce back again, and today’s pain will beget tomorrow’s possibilities.
We made enormous progress in the past eight years and we must continue to elect LGBT leaders to defend it. We cannot allow disappointment and disgust to breed apathy and inaction. We must rally and push forward our equality by running for office, supporting LGBT officials and demanding accountability from our leaders. Despair must lead us to collective action, as we are indeed stronger together. Onward.
Above: Oregon Gov. Kate Brown on Election Day. Brown became the first openly LGBT person elected governor of any state Tuesday night.
As our movement prepares for a presidential administration opposed to LGBT equality, LGBT elected officials will play an essential role in preventing anti-LGBT legislation and demanding equality. Last night several LGBT candidates achieved historic wins, and 87 of 135 Victory Fund endorsed LGBT candidates won their races.
In response to the presidential election results and victories for LGBT candidates across the nation, Victory Fund President & CEO Aisha C. Moodie-Mills released the following statement:
“Today I am heartbroken that racist, xenophobic, sexist and transphobic demagoguery won last night’s presidential election. The devastating results hit the LGBT community particularly hard because we are unique in spanning all the demographic groups targeted by the president-elect throughout his campaign. We are Latino, Black, women, Muslims, undocumented and we have disabilities. We are all stronger together, and Victory Fund will continue to work to ensure that our collective voices are represented in the halls of power.
Amidst last night’s darkness, however, there were rays of light. Kate Brown became the nation’s first openly LGBT governor, a stunning accomplishment and a win for the history books. Carlos Guillermo Smith became the first openly LGBT Latino elected to the Florida state legislature, representing Orlando and many LGBT people of color who danced at Pulse nightclub that horrific night. Georgia expanded LGBT representation in its state legislature, electing Sam Park to join three other openly LGBT voices. And voters reelected all six openly LGBT members of Congress despite a tough night for House Democrats – affirmation that LGBT leadership is effective and respected.
Now more than ever, LGBT elected officials are critical to defending our community and pushing forward equality for LGBT people, and Victory Fund will be at their side. We will work to support incumbents and build the next generation of diverse LGBT candidates so we can cement our gains and further equality for all people. But let’s not kid ourselves. We made huge strides these past eight years, and last night we took steps back. Now our community and allies need to rally and demand all elected lawmakers – not just LGBT elected officials – unequivocally stand on the side of equality for all people.”
Oregon Governor Kate Brown made history on election night, becoming the first openly LGBT person elected governor.
A Victory Fund candidate, Kate had been serving as governor since 2015 following the resignation of Gov. John Kitzhaber. Her surprise governorship followed two decades as an elected official, serving one term in the state House and two in the state Senate. Kate was elected Washington’s Secretary of State in 2008 and re-elected in 2012, becoming one of the first openly LGBT statewide elected officials in the country.
In early 2015 Gov. John Kitzhaber, the longest serving Governor of Oregon, resigned after news broke of a criminal investigation involving his fiancée illegally using her position as first lady to benefit her private business. Following his resignation, Brown was next in the line of succession. Just five days later she was sworn in as Oregon’s governor to finish the remaining two years of his term.
Kate, who's been married to her husband Dan Little for nearly 20 years, was outed by The Oregonian in the mid-90s. At a commencement address at Willamette University this spring, Kate told graduates about the unique position she's in as the nation's only openly LGBT governor:
And on the day I was sworn in as Oregon's 38th governor, I experienced what it was like to be labeled, to have my first two decades of public service eclipsed by a single phrase: The nation's first openly bisexual governor. It was a phrase that appeared after my name in virtually every single headline around the world.
Known for her personable attitude and political savvy, Kate's accomplishments as governor include increasing Oregon’s minimum wage, expanding paid sick leave, phasing out the use of coal in power plants, banning LGBT conversion therapy for minors, and implementing the nation's most robust DMV voter registration law.
Kate is the first openly LGBT person to win election to a governorship. In 2014 Mike Michaud ran for Governor of Maine and came out as gay after being pressured by rumors during his candidacy. Michaud lost by only five percent.