A gay Democrat who served President Obama as a fundraiser for his presidential campaigns and as U.S. ambassador to Denmark has a launched a campaign to run for Congress.
In a video message Monday, Rufus Gifford declared his bid to represent Massachusetts’ 3rd congressional district in the U.S. House.
“Like so many of you, I woke up a year ago shocked and heartbroken by the election of Donald Trump,” Gifford says. “As someone who worked for President Obama for 10 years, helping elect him twice and implement his policies, the idea that that profound legacy was at risk on health care, on climate, on equality, that was devastating for me.”
During the second term of the Obama administration, Gifford was appointed and confirmed as U.S. ambassador to Denmark, making him one of seven openly gay ambassadors during the Obama years.
“During my time as ambassador it was my desire to get out from behind my desk, humanize our work, tear down the walls, listen, ask questions and encourage people to engage,” Gifford says. “The groups of people that started to show up, people who had never thought about public service before, that was amazing to me.”
Prior to his role as U.S. ambassador, Gifford worked in Los Angeles in finance for the entertainment industry. In 2008, Gifford was a California fundraiser for Obama’s presidential campaign, then became finance director for the Democratic National Committee. In 2012, Gifford was finance director for Obama’s second presidential campaign.
Massachusetts’ 3rd congressional district is heavily Democratic. The seat will be open because six-term Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-Mass.) declared she won’t seek another term next year.
But Gifford faces a crowded field in obtaining the Democratic nomination to run in the general election. Among his seven competitors in the race is State Rep. Juana Matias, Westford School committee member Terry Ryan and Troca Hotels Management CEO Abhijit Das.
Gifford is not the only out candidate in the race: Also running is 2014 candidate for Massachusetts lieutenant governor Steve Kerrigan, who’s gay.
Gifford also isn’t the only gay U.S. ambassador during the Obama administration who declared a bid for a congressional seat in the 2018 election. Former U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Security & Co-operation in Europe Daniel Baer launched a campaign to run for Congress in Colorado, but suspended his bid after the incumbent in the seat changed his mind and sought to run for another term.