It’s been a busy month for Victory Fund President Chuck Wolfe.
The organization raised more than $450,000 in a D.C. fundraiser, helped elect Pennsylvania’s first openly gay state legislator and announced that South Dakota has its first out public official.
“Angie, I think she’s been thinking about it for a while, and then she was finally ready to come out — she used our Coming Out Project to assist her, counsel her, guide her through that,” Wolfe told the Blade, referring to newly out, bisexual state Sen. Angie Buhl. “I think being a coach to our candidates is probably one of the things that people know the least about what we do. They know we endorse candidates and they know that we make contributions to candidates, but the time spent coaching candidates, helping them hire a team around them, helping them design their mailings and their field plans is a lot of what we do. And that also includes helping people in the closet come out.”
Buhl is the latest LGBT official to be listed as out on Victory Fund’s site. She joins openly gay lawmakers recently identified in North Dakota, Kansas, Mississippi and West Virginia. The group says it has, for the first time, identified openly LGBT elected officials in all 50 states, and has listed the names of openly LGBT officials in 49, saying that it has also identified a local official in Alaska whose name will be made public soon.
“For almost 10 years we’ve had a driving goal of eliminating the concept that a state hadn’t yet elected an out person,” Wolfe said.
With this goal, the group created what it called the “Horizon List.” Each state on the list was one in which the group had yet to identify an openly LGBT elected official.
Now the group will concentrate on turning that 50-state list into a list of legislative powerbrokers and increasing LGBT representation in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. In addition to Wisconsin Rep. Tammy Baldwin — who is vying to become the country’s first openly gay U.S. Senator — the Victory Fund has endorsed seven out candidates for the U.S. House, and believes there may be up to nine more openly LGBT candidates for the U.S. House, though it will not comment about those candidates. High profile endorsed candidates for both U.S. House and State House races include: Rep. David Cicilline (R.I.), Mark Pocan (Wis.), Rep. Jared Polis (Colo.), Brian Sims (Pa.), Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.), Mark Takano (Calif.) and Richard Tisei (Mass.).
“The path for all our candidates is demonstrating viability,” Wolfe said. Victory Fund has so far endorsed 105 candidates in this cycle, and Wolfe said the organization could break its 2010 record of 160 endorsees and could even reach 200 endorsed candidates this year.
The organization also announced it is opening a Western regional office in Los Angeles and hiring three staffers to work more directly with candidates and office holders in that area. States in the region include Washington, Oregon, California, Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, Montana, and Wyoming.
“We need to be closer to them in order to help,” Wolfe says.