Once upon a time, the LGBT community had no LGBT choices in politics, only LGBT-friendly candidates, who weren’t LGBT themselves, to endorse.
And, once upon a time, there were no LGBT candidates for any elected political office in the land. In 1972, Nancy Wechsler and Jerry DeGrieck were the first LGBT people to be elected to any office in the United States in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Then, visionary organizations such as The Victory Fund and similar groups locally began to groom and support LGBT candidates. Today around the country, we have many LGBT people in almost every type of elected office imaginable.
They are on school boards and city councils and in state houses. There are judges, governors, U.S. representatives and a couple of U.S. senators.
But as we become more and more politically astute, and in some areas a powerful political bloc, we also see LGBT candidates running against those we supported in the past because they were LGBT-friendly. There are also some LGBT candidates facing off against each other in the same race. Like all communities, we need to be politically smart. We rely on Victory Fund nationally to help us with choices and similar groups locally who know the political landscape.
But one rule holds true — just because you’re LGBT, does not mean you are qualified to receive LGBT community support. You need to prove yourself to your community. Are you OUT? What have you done in the past for your community? If you’re running against one of those LGBT-friendly candidates, can you deliver to our community what they have done? Is your campaign professional and well funded? Do you have the support of others in your area?
It gets more complex when there are multiple LGBT candidates running for the same office. Those issues of running a professional campaign and having financial backing still exist, but there’s an added point, respecting the other LGBT candidates. Being petty and making our community seem petty is a sure sign that your campaign is in trouble and has to resort to personal attacks that split our community. We should take pride in having many candidates running for public office. It should be a unifying experience for us all. If you’re splitting your own base, that is not a formula for winning. It’s an experience for losing. It’s not my principal. It’s Politics 101. Never split your political base. n
Mark Segal, PGN publisher, is the nation’s most-award-winning commentator in LGBT media. You can follow him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MarkSegalPGN or Twitter at https://twitter.com/PhilaGayNews.