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ELECTIONS 2019 Annise Parker talks Victory Fund record, Chicago election
by Matt Simonette

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For Annise Parker—who was formerly the mayor of Houston and was the first openly lesbian person to be the mayor of any major American city—the 2018 midterm elections were not just a "blue wave." She called them a "rainbow wave" as well.

"There were more then 750 LGBT candidates across the country that we could identify," said Parker, who's now president and CEO of Victory Fund and Victory Institute, national nonpartisan organizations that give financial support and trainings respectively to openly LGBT persons running for office. "Through the course of the year, we endorsed 272 … Our endorsed candidates had a 76-percent success rate, so we're excited about that."

Victory Fund may be nonpartisan, but their supported candidates are usually Democrats, Parker noted. "We work up and down the ballot, and we're the only organization that supports LGBT candidates exclusively, not allies. We're also the only organization that does every level of office, so school board, city council, mayor, state reps, Congress. But our wheelhouse is statehouse races. We did really well in those this year."

There are only four states left in the union that have never had openly LGBT legislators: Alaska, Mississippi, Louisiana and Tennessee. Parker said that the "critical mass" in defeating or even heading-off anti-LGBT legislation often comes when a state elects three openly LGBT legislators.

"That's when see a lot of stuff get stopped," she explained. "It's a lot harder to look at a colleague that you'll need a vote from someplace down the line and tell them that you don't think they're equal."

Parker added that the Fund does not have a litmus test for whom it endorses but that prospects have to be LGBT, be willing to advocate based on their sought office, and be pro-choice.

"Then it's a matter of, are you a credible candidate, and could you put a campaign together?" she said.

Among those area candidates in the past election who received Victory Fund endorsements were state Rep. Lamont Robinson ( D-Chicago ) and Cook County Commissioner Kevin Morrison.

"A lot of folks thought that Kevin Morrison wasn't going to win, but we looked at his track record as an organizer," Parker explained. "He was raising money and doing good grassroots work—and there he is [in office] now."

Victory Fund won't release endorsements for the 2020 election until this December, in the meantime, the organization will be focusing on myriad 2019 races, among them the upcoming Chicago citywide elections, as well as candidate trainings.

Those receiving aldermanic endorsements include incumbent Alds. Raymond Lopez ( 15th Ward ), Deb Mell ( 33rd ), Tom Tunney ( 44th ) and James Cappleman ( 46th ), as well as Maria Hadden, who is challenging 49th Ward incumbent Joe Moore. The fund also endorsed mayoral candidate Lori Lightfoot.

"Her path to victory was narrow, but in the analysis of Lori, she's a strong candidate and clearly meets our baseline criteria," Parker explained. "She raised a lot of money when she stood up and was strong enough to go up against Rahm Emanuel and say, 'I'm a reform candidate and I want to clean up Chicago politics.' When he dropped out of the race, her star ascended for us. … But polling in that race is probably worthless at this point, with so many candidates."

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