The newly hired president and CEO of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund on Sunday vowed to continue the organization’s mission of helping to elect out LGBT people to public office across the country during the group’s National Champagne Brunch in D.C.
Aisha Moodie-Mills told those attending the $250 per plate event that she is committed to carrying on the organization’s mission of helping to raise money and provide professional campaign training for hundreds of out LGBT candidates running for office on the local, state and national levels.
“What we do here is we are pipelining the next generation of leadership who will lead those foot soldiers who are sitting in the legislatures, who are sitting in the city councils, who are sitting in Congress,” she said
“And I don’t know, maybe they’ll be sitting in the White House at some point too,” she said, drawing loud applause.
The Victory Fund’s board selected Moodie-Mills in March to succeed Chuck Wolfe as head of the organization following his decision to step down to pursue other endeavors.
“The future of Victory is strong,” Wolfe told the Washington Blade during the brunch, which was held at the Marriott Marquis. “You see it both in the fantastic board members who’ve been speaking today, but also in the new dynamic leader of Aisha.”
“Seeing the energy in this room and the warmth around the new strategic direction — Victory for All — it’s fantastic,” Wolfe said.
He was referring to a new project that Moodie-Mills is tasked with implementing that sets as a high priority the election of openly LGBT people in parts of the country, including the South, where LGBT rights advances have lagged behind other parts of the country.
“There’s a direct correlation between the number of LGBT elected officials and the tone and tenor of the policies that are on the books in those areas,” Moodie-Mills told the Blade in an interview last week.
Among those speaking at the event were out gay U.S. Reps. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) and Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) and straight ally Congressman Joaquin Castro (D-Texas). U.S. Rep. Mark Takai (D-Hawaii), also a straight ally, attended but did not speak.
Other high level Obama administration officials attending the brunch, who are openly LGBT, were U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith; Eric Fanning, chief of staff to Defense Secretary Ash Carter; and Amanda Simpson, executive director of the U.S. Army Office of Energy Initiatives.
Out lesbian Patricia Todd, a member of the Alabama House of Representatives, had been scheduled to speak at the event but had to cancel due to illness, according to the Victory Fund’s Denis Dison.
Also speaking were gay businessman Henry Muñoz, III, co-founder of the Latino Victory Project and current finance director for the Democratic National Committee; and Brian Sims, a gay member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives from Philadelphia.
Several former and current Victory Fund student interns, trainees, or Victory Congressional Fellows told the gathering how their involvement with the group as young LGBT people helped open career opportunities for them that would not otherwise have been available.
Maloney, who represents a congressional district just north of New York City, drew laughter and applause from the audience when he told a story of how openly gay elected officials can have a personal impact on their colleagues in public office.
Shortly after taking office he decided to go for a workout for the first time in the U.S. House gymnasium, Maloney said. “When you join the House gym you get a locker with your name on it,” he told the audience.
He quickly discovered that a Republican House member, whom he identified only as a conservative Republican from a Midwestern state, was assigned the locker next to his. He said the GOP House member started a conversation and began to ask questions about Maloney’s first election campaign for his House seat. After probing Maloney about whether he was attacked by his opponent on “personal” matters, Maloney said he replied that he was.
“He said, well are you a philanderer,” Maloney quoted him as saying. “So I said no, man, I’m not a philanderer…And he said then what are you, gay? I looked at him and thought this is my first day at the gym. I may be next to this guy for years. And I looked at him and said, yeah man, I am gay,” Maloney recounted.
“And he just looked at his shoes and walked away,” said Maloney. “And here’s the point. Without all the work that all of you support at the Victory Fund, people like me wouldn’t be standing there in that room,” Maloney continued. “That guy never thought he would be talking to a gay guy. But he’s going to be thinking about it now.”