Victory Fund, the organization dedicated to getting more LGBTQ leaders elected to public office across the country, rolled out 17 new endorsements for the 2019 election cycle — and five of those include candidates running in Pennsylvania.
The latest list of endorsees emphasizes individuals running in less-flashy local government races in parts of the country where LGBTQ representation is critically low, including Virginia, Mississippi, Indianapolis and central Pennsylvania.
Sean Meloy, senior political director at Victory Fund, told PGN that there are currently less than 700 LGBTQ elected officials in the United States, and less than 40 in Pennsylvania, a state with over 12 million people.
“LGBTQ people are wildly underrepresented in government, and these endorsements represent our desire to change that,” he said.
The five Pennsylvania candidates that nabbed Victory Fund endorsements include three running for school board positions: Jonathan Panofsky (Warminster), Linda Vega (Allentown) and Marisa Ziegler (Parkland).
These types of races are especially vital, said Meloy, because of the bullying culture in schools.
“Being on school boards puts us in a position to put policies and procedures in place that protect students so they can learn and not be distracted by bullying,” he said. “LGBTQ leaders can help bring that viewpoint to the table. We know that because in places where LGBTQ people have been elected, they’ve been able to lead on protections for their LGBTQ constituents.”
Victory Fund also backed Jessica Semler, who’s running for city council in Etna Borough. Meloy touts Semler’s experience as president of the Young Democrats of Allegheny County, and said putting her in the chamber would provide a “much-needed young, queer voice that Allegheny County needs.”
Carlton Stuart, a member of the Upper Merion Transportation Authority, is being endorsed as a candidate for supervisor in Upper Merion Township.
“Carlton has been involved for years,” said Meloy. “He stepped up to make sure his community is civically engaged and has been a great representative already. He would be a great addition to the Board of Supervisors.”
The latest round of endorsements brings the official count of 2019 Victory Fund-backed candidates to 83. That includes 15 in Pennsylvania and five in Philadelphia: City Council candidates Deja Lynn Alvarez, Lauren Vidas and Adrian Rivera Reyes; and Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas judge hopefuls Henry Sias and Tiffany Palmer.
“We are very proud that so many folks have stepped up to run this year and make history in places like Philadelphia,” he told PGN, pointing out transgender candidates Alvarez and Sias “These folks are going to showcase themselves as great candidates and great leaders.”
Meloy, a Pittsburgh native, said Victory Fund is in talks with other candidates in Pennsylvania and expects to make even more endorsements in the coming months.
“It’s a really exciting year in the Commonwealth, where we have this opportunity to be better represented in government,” he said. “In a place like Pennsylvania — a state that Donald Trump won — making inroads this year is extremely important. We’re excited to work with our candidates to make that happen.”