Victory Fund Focuses on NY

National group aimed at electing out officials endorses four in upcoming races

The Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, a Washington-based, bipartisan group that works to elect openly gay and lesbian elected officials, came to New York last week to make endorsements in four local races—three for this November’s city elections and a fourth in the race for state attorney general in 2006.

The group, which raised more than $600,000 for gay and lesbian candidates in the 2004 elections, appeared on the steps of City Hall on June 30 to announce its support of Margarita Lopez, a Manhattan Democratic city councilwoman who hopes to become the first gay or lesbian borough president in the city; Rosie Mendez, a Democrat who hopes to succeed Lopez in her District 2 Council seat serving the Lower East Side; and Patrick Murphy, an official of the Log Cabin Republicans who is running to replace Eva Moskowitz, the Democrat term-limited from seeking re-election in the Council’s District 4 on the East Side.

The group also made its first endorsement in the 2006 elections, giving its nod to Sean Maloney, an attorney who worked in the Clinton White House and is now running to replace Eliot Spitzer, the high-profile state attorney general who has announced his plan to seek the governorship next year. Maloney faces a Democratic primary with well-known opponents, including former city Public Advocate Mark Green, the 2001 Democratic mayoral candidate, and Andrew Cuomo, Clinton’s secretary of housing and urban development who made a short-lived run for governor in 2002.

The other candidates face competition as well, with Lopez up against nine other Democrats, including Brian Ellner, a gay attorney, for the borough president’s nomination in the September 13 primary, Mendez facing competition for an open seat and Murphy working to increase the GOP’s small caucus on the Council.

Noting that with 28 openly lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) elected officials, New York is second only to California, which has 59, Scott Widmeyer said the state “stands out as a trailblazer in voting gays and lesbians into elected office.”

According to Chuck Wolfe, the group’s president, in the past 12 years, the Victory Fund has spent a quarter of a million dollars, out of a total of about $2 million nationwide, supporting the candidacies of 35 New Yorkers. Last year, the group had an 80 percent win rate in endorsed candidates in New York, versus its 67 percent tally nationwide. The group emphasizes that in its endorsement process, it focuses considerable attention on the viability of each candidate considered.

Lopez was joined at the press conference by her mother, who was in New York from Puerto Rico to march with her in the Gay Pride Parade and by Assemblywoman Deborah Glick—who in 1990 became the first out gay or lesbian elected official in New York and is supporting her bid for borough president.

In a familiar refrain, Lopez emphasized that a gay candidate is more than simply gay, and must represent people of color, people who are struggling economically and others disenfranchised by the decisions government make

Mendez, who has long worked for Lopez, and has her support as well as that of Glick, emphasized her 20 years of community activism, including her four terms as a Democratic district leader, that she said was spurred by her coming-out process, when she said she recognized, “I am poor, growing up in the projects and now a lesbian, too.”

Mendez took particular aim at Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg for his decision to appeal the February State Supreme Court ruling that ordered the city clerk to begin issuing same-sex marriage licenses.

Murphy, who is running as a Republican on the East Side, probably the only viable section of Manhattan for a GOP bid, emphasized his ability to “take our message to all communities.” Referring to his would-be constituents in the Fourth Council District, he said, “Those people are open-minded. They’re with us on our issues. I was never prouder standing with [Log Cabin national president] Patrick Guerriero last year to help defeat the federal Marriage Amendment.”

One sign of how important the national group sees this race and the Victory Fund endorsement was Guerriero’s presence at the press conference, after traveling to New York from Washington.

Maloney, who won’t actually be on any ballot until the September 2006 Democratic primary, also emphasized that his identity as a gay man was only part of his story.

“None of us is running as the gay candidate,” he said. “I’m running as the best candidate.”

Speaking of how his personal history, however, could be put to use in service to the broader voting public, Maloney, who with his partner is raising three children, continued, “I’ve had to overcome obstacles to protect my family, so I’ll stand up for your family. Progressive politics are personal to me.”