A recent email from the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund announced the Victory War Room. Upon clicking on the link it turned out to be a rebranding of what was previously the Gay Politics Report, which provided good information. The new site didn’t seem to represent a great change and according to what they say still “presents our research and communications hub that highlights the impact of LGBT public officials and discredits opponents who aim to thwart equality by attacking and lying about LGBT leaders and political issues.”
That aside, it will be interesting to hear from the new leadership at the upcoming National Champagne Brunch on May 15 what has changed at Victory Fund in the past year and how things are going. My hope is things are going well.
It does seem over the past year I have heard less from the Victory Fund than in previous years. One possible reason is there is no signature race with an LGBT candidate this year for the community to coalesce around. No major city mayor’s race and the Oregon governor’s race is for a sitting governor. No openly LGBT candidate is running for the United States Senate and only two races for House seats feature out gays. The rest are local.
That isn’t to say those local races aren’t important, they are. They are crucial to building the future bench of candidates who will eventually be mayors, governors, members of Congress and one day maybe even a president. So, again, the question has to be how the Victory Fund works to publicize all those LGBT candidates who are running for a seat at the table in their town councils and commissions, school boards and state legislatures. It was my hope the Victory Fund would have taken this year to develop a coherent way to bring attention to all those candidates, even the ones not endorsed by them.
While perusing the newly branded Victory War Room, I took the time to browse the rest of the website and it was disappointing. Not having looked at it for some time it seemed like it was only for those who already know about VF and the candidates they support. Interestingly there was no button to click for the new Victory War Room on the website.
One section lists Spotlight Candidates 2016 with the introduction “Every year, a few openly LGBT candidates are poised to break down barriers and make an outsize impact for equality. Victory is proud to highlight these Spotlight Candidates as they continue their history-making campaigns to change the face of American politics.” This year there are only 11 listed, including two running for Congress and the Oregon governor, Kate Brown, who was appointed after the last governor was forced out of office.
There is another section called Our Candidates. This section has no introductory explanation about who these candidates are, whether these candidates have been endorsed by the Victory Fund, or what constitutes their being “Our Candidates.” There are pictures of the candidates with their names. When you click on the picture you never know what information will be listed. For some it is an extensive bio and for others just three lines. There are candidates listed without a picture such as Em Westerlund. When you click on the space where her picture should be you find out she is running for Duluth City Council and was endorsed by Victory Fund in 2014. You would think a picture could have been secured in the past two years. Clicking on the picture of Rep. David Cicilline you find out he is a congressperson up in the general election this year and he was endorsed by Victory Fund in the past. There is no bio, no telling when he was first elected to Congress, what he stands for or even which party he belongs to. The same when you click on the picture of Rep. Jared Polis. Some have a button enabling you to send a contribution, but others don’t with no explanation for why that is.
I understand the Victory Fund is non-partisan and they endorse LGBT candidates without regard to party affiliation. While we can debate that policy, the reality is people who contribute to candidates are often concerned about party affiliation because it does make a difference, especially once you are talking about statewide and national office.
Again it will be interesting to hear a report at the brunch about the progress, or lack of it, made at the Victory Fund during the past year.
Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBT rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.