According to former Houston Mayor Annise Parker, who now heads the political organization the Victory Fund, "this is a going to be a watershed year" for the LGBT candidates across the nation whom the Fund has endorsed.
"We have more candidates than ever that are clamoring for endorsements, and we think a lot of them are going to win," said Parker, who is lesbian.
Founded in 1991, Victory Fund is dedicated to the election of LGBT politicians at all levels of government, though Parker, who became CEO and president in 2017, said that local races are quite often the Fund's "bread and butter." The organization both endorses qualified candidates and, under the auspices of its Victory Institute division, regularly holds political trainings for LGBT leaders and allies.
Parker expects the Fund to support about 150-200 candidates over the course of 2018. "We've already endorsed 64. There are 50 LGBT candidates running just in the state of Texas. We have three candidates running for governorships. We have two candidates for Senate, including [U.S. Sen.] Tammy Baldwin [D-Wisconsin] running for re-election. We've already endorsed 13 Congressional candidates. There are a slew of other ones that don't have primaries, so we're waiting on them."
Baldwin is "the poster child" for strategizing a political career in the manner the Fund recommends for LGBT candidates, noted Parker. "She has done exactly what one hopes a candidate will dostarting at the local level, being a county commissioner, being a council member, moving to the statehouse, moving to Congress, moving up to Senate. She's an experienced politician who would thrive at all levels of government."
Baldwin faces tough political opposition in 2018, but, according to Parker, she "knows what she's doing. Hers will probably be the most expensive of [the races in which the Fund endorses a candidate], but it probably won't be the hardest race."
Among the four Illinois candidates who've earned the Fund's endorsement are Lamont Robinson, who's vying for the 5th District seat vacated by state Rep. Juliana Stratton; Cook County Judges Cecilia Horan and Michael Forti; and Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Commissioner Debra Shore.
Parker pointed to the historic importance of Robinson's candidacy since, were he to win, he would be the first openly LGBT person of color serving in the General Assembly.
"We're working with a number of allied organizationsPlanned Parenthood, AFL-CIO, Chicago Teachers Union. Labor and progressive groups are coalescing behind Lamont," she said.