Since 1991 the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund has propelled thousands of out LGBT candidates to electoral firsts at all levels of government. Based in Washington, D.C., the group provides financial and campaign support to candidates with the conviction that increasing the number of out elected officials improves the political climate for equality. “The Victory Fund gave me early support and mentoring that were crucial in my first run for state assembly and then for Congress,” says U.S. representative Tammy Baldwin. On the occasion of the group’s 20th anniversary, Baldwin and several other recipients of Victory Fund support spoke of their experiences in office and gave advice to aspiring candidates.
U.S. representative from Wisconsin
First political office held: Van Hise Middle School student council. “Our small group of sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-graders took on problems that many people either ignored or thought they just couldn’t change. I learned that the actions of a small group of people could make a meaningful difference in the lives of others.”
Advice for up-and-coming LGBT candidates: “I honestly believe that the vast majority of voters care much more about my positions on the issues that affect their lives than my sexual orientation. When I meet with constituents, I talk about our shared values: ensuring health care for all, creating jobs and growing a sustainable economy, protecting our environment, and supporting quality public education, among other things. I believe that my commitment to these causes is what my constituents care most about.”
U.S. representative from Rhode Island
First political office held: Narragansett High School class president.
Advice for up-and-coming LGBT candidates: “Be honest about who you are, recognize your talents, and fight hard to win. America needs you.”
San Diego County district attorney
First political office held: “The first leadership position I ever held was in high school when I was president of the United Synagogue Youth, an international group that brings Jewish teenagers closer to Judaism and Israel through learning and social interaction.”
Advice for up-and-coming LGBT candidates: “My advice to LGBT candidates is to be yourself, be authentic and hold your head up high.”
Mayor of Houston
First political office held: Founding member of the first LGBT support group at Rice University in 1979.
Advice for up-and-coming LGBT candidates: “A favorite quote by Andre Gide: ‘It is better to be hated for what one is than loved for what one is not.’ ”