Chris Hayes, an openly gay state legislative assistant, will take a few days off from work in December to head to San Francisco. It won’t be a vacation, but a boot camp of sorts — intense training to gear up for his bid to become the first openly gay Philadelphia City Council member.
LGBT grantmaking organization Delaware Valley Legacy Fund selected Hayes, a staffer with state Rep. Babette Josephs’ (D-182nd Dist.) office, as the winner of the inaugural OutFront Victory Fund Training Scholarship Award. OutFront!, a local LGBT activist organization that shut down earlier this year, gave the remainder of its revenue to DVLF before it disbanded to be used for two different scholarship awards. The grant that Hayes was selected for was designated for a local LGBT political candidate or a member of a candidate’s staff to attend the annual Candidate and Campaign Training, sponsored by national LGBT political organization Victory Fund.
The scholarship, valued at $1,200, covers Hayes’ round-trip airfare, hotel and participation in the four-day training. The training, conducted several times a year throughout the country, is meant to prepare openly gay candidates to run successful campaigns; participants meet with political strategists and create model campaigns, learning about fundraising, policy issues, media relations, budgetary restraints and strategies, among other areas of focus.
Perry Monastero, DVLF executive director, said that when the workshops were held in Philadelphia a few years ago, he got to see firsthand the work required from the participants: Their day would start at 6 a.m. and they’d wrap up work at about 2 a.m. the following morning.
“The training’s really intense and focuses on getting people to a point where they can go back home and hit the ground running,” Monastero said.
Hayes, who’s running for an at-large Council seat in the 2011 election, said he’s excited, not intimated, by the workload that lies ahead.
“I’m looking forward to learning how to do a lot of different things, like using the Internet as a tool and working on fundraising, so that I can get the message out to Philadelphians that I’m running for City Council and that we need their support,” he said.
Hayes, a native of Lancaster who also lived in Allentown, moved to Philadelphia from Florida, where he was working as a college dean of students, about three years ago to take care of his ailing father. Before coming to the city, Hayes, who has a degree in elementary education, spent time as a school-board member, where he said his passion for politics was fueled.
“I was a school-board member for four years at a very conservative school district, and I was the youngest and first black person ever to be elected to that board. After that, I just said, ‘Politics is in my blood,’ and I kept going,” Hayes said. “I love people; I’ve always been very constituent-service-based, friendly and outgoing. People come to me with their problems anyway, so why not be in a position where I can actually do something and help them?”
Hayes said that throughout his campaign, he’s going to focus on his plans to stem the tide of the city’s population loss, enhance Philadelphia’s education system and provide better support and resources, as well as sensitivity training, for police officers.
Mark Seaman, Hayes’ campaign manager, said Hayes’ formal candidacy announcement will be delivered early next year and, until that time, the campaign will be going through a “fact-finding stage,” in which “Chris will be becoming integrated into the community, meeting different community members and soliciting ideas from people about what policies they feel are important so that we can implement them once we run and get elected.”
Hayes said his campaign will be a “team effort” that will encompass not just the LGBT community, but allies and those who may not be wholly comfortable with the idea of an openly gay elected official — all of whom he said will be welcomed in his Council office.
“People will be able to come to our office. We’re going to take our door off of our office. We want them to know that we’re open and accessible all the time. If someone has a problem, they can come to us and talk to us.”