Campaign Breakthroughs: James Michael Bowers, Nebraska

1147075_619828634717338_425229319_oEditor’s Note:  This article is part of a series called “Campaign Breakthroughs.”  Campaign Breakthroughs will highlight races that are breaking glass ceilings or shine the spotlight on the campaign worlds ground breaking achievements.

As an openly gay candidate for office, it might seem wisest to flock somewhere with a prominent LGBT community that already enjoys representation in politics. After all, it’s common sense that an LGBT person campaigning in more urban, liberal strongholds would face substantially fewer  challenges than they might elsewhere.

But James Michael Bowers is not interested in hedging his bets. Uninterested in what the conventional wisdom might say, he remains focused on effectively serving the community he calls home. That’s why he decided to run for Nebraska’s 46th State Legislative District, which encompasses the north side of Lincoln. A lifelong resident of the city and a longtime homeowner in the neighborhood of Havelock, James is motivated by the pride he takes in his hometown and the desire he feels to improve the lives of his neighbors.

Ever since he was a student at Northeast High School, civic engagement has been a huge priority for James.  His involvement in local issues can be traced back to those school days, when he helped operate a food distribution site in North Lincoln that provided low-income families with supplemental groceries.

James brings years of social work and non-profit experience to the table, both of which have helped him develop a keen ear for his would-be constituents’ biggest concerns. He has served on the Board of Directors of the Northeast Family Center for the past five years, and is a member of the Board of Directors for Fresh Start, a transitional living facility for homeless women in Lincoln.  His work helping youth and families navigate foster care leaves him well-positioned to advocate for improvements within the child welfare system.

If elected, James will become the first openly LGBT person to serve as a state legislator in Nebraska. Having an authentic LGBT voice in the statehouse would be critical for advancing equality in the state; alongside a statewide ban on same-sex marriage, Nebraska currently does not offer any protections to discrimination in housing and employment practices based on LGBT status. Although one candidate isn’t enough to ensure equal representation, even a single LGBT voice goes a long way towards bringing equality to the forefront of the political conversation.

Have a Campaign Breakthrough?  Email communications@victoryfund.org with your breakthrough ideas.

10 Questions: Texas State Rep. Celia Israel

1656284_264149610413038_1615051763_nEditor’s Note:  This article is part of a series called “10 Questions.”  10 Questions will help you meet Victory Fund’s endorsed candidates and those closest to the organization.

How did Victory’s Candidate and Campaign Training help prepare you for your election?

  • I participated in the training in the Summer of 2013.  I’ve been involved in many, many campaigns, but by attending the training it really helped to emphasize the importance of a fundraising plan, a budget and a candidate who is focused on raising money.  The pressure was put on my shoulders and I knew my responsibility to the campaign.  I needed that kick in the pants.

What can you not start your day without?

  • I can’t start my day without checking in on social media.  I’m a sucker for Facebook and Twitter which I use to graze over interesting articles and takes on the political news.

What is the most critical piece of legislation the Texas legislature could pass?

  • It may seem small, but Texas votes nearly last in the country in terms of voter participation.  We can register online to ask for a gun permit, but we can’t register online to get a voter registration card!  It is a priority for my office.  We can’t turn Texas Blue until we turn it purple and that means not letting all those ‘new Texans’ off the hook when it comes to voting.  Vote, vote, vote!

How did Victory help support your campaign?

  • I received a PAC check at a critical juncture.  I was running against one Republican and two Democrats in a special election.  Getting traditional fundraising support was difficult because many (not all) Democratic donors were waiting to see who the last Democrat standing was going to be before they invested.  Friends and family came through for me in a big way.  I guess when you think about our LGBT use of the word “family” – The Victory Fund was part of my “family” who helped us get into the runoff election.

If you were able to only take one thing to a deserted island other than food and water, what would it be?

  • An ocean Kayak.  I’m from El Paso, Texas so I’m not much of a fisherwoman, but something tells me a kayak would come in handy….

What elected official do you admire most?

  • I admire Texas State Senator, Leticia Van De Putte.  She is a pharmacist, a mother, owns a small business with her husband and is a kick ass Senator.  The future demographics tell us the Latino vote is key and I find Leticia’s cultural connection to voters (she is Latina as well), her own down to earth approach as well as her years of service quite valuable to help us reach Latino and mainstream voters.  She just rocks.

What is the most important thing for a legislator to keep in mind?

  • Don’t lie.  Whether that’s to the voters or to colleagues or special interests who will be coming before you for help on issues they care about.  They can tell when you are being fake so I believe it’s important to just be up front on where you are coming from and speak from the heart so no one is surprised.  You do more damage when you lie.

If you were to predict where the LGBT community will be in 10 years what would it look like?

  • We have come so far – so fast!  As a young girl, I never dreamed of my wedding.  Actually, I ran as far away from ‘wedding stuff’ as possible because that involved wearing a dress and I was such a ‘tomboy.’  Given how fast we are moving, I see the US Supreme Court seeing the cultural shift we have been going through as a country and finally saying to us ‘love is love.’

Who is/was the greatest role model in your life?

  • The last great Governor of the State of Texas and my former boss – Ann W. Richards.  She taught me about how important it is to connect personally with people around you.  Laugh. And she gave me the opportunity of a lifetime when in my mid-20’s she gave me a job at the Texas State Capitol.  I was surrounded by good people trying to do good things and I learned so much.  Although she died too young for many of us Texans, she left behind many like me who were inspired to get involved in public service and in our community to create positive change.  Her spirit still looms large in Texas.

Not that you have much but what do you enjoy doing in your free time?

  • I’m determined to take my ocean kayak (back to the island thing again!) out as many times as possible this year and eventually explore the Texas gulf coast.  Strange for a desert girl to want to do this, but that’s the plan, anyway.  We have a re-election campaign to run now (this November) so it sounds a bit obsessive, but I really love meeting voters at the door.  If I’m not campaigning – I’m going to be taking my kayak out someplace in Central Texas and getting ready for my tour of the Texas Coast.

Have a “10 Questions” idea?  Email communications@victoryfund.org with your ideas.

Victory Fund celebrates big wins for LGBT candidates

Chuck Wolfe and Seattle Mayor-elect Ed Murray The Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund celebrated success across the country Tuesday night as dozens of openly lesbian, gay, and bisexual candidates won election to public offices.

“We’re extremely proud of all our candidates,” said Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO of the Victory Fund. “Tonight’s victories across the country and at all levels of government underscore the power of people fighting for fairness, progress, and LGBT equality.”

Major victories in Tuesday’s elections included openly lesbian Mayor Annise Parker’s reelection in Houston and Washington State Sen. Ed Murray’s defeat of incumbent Mike McGinn in the Seattle mayoral race. Murray will become the city’s first openly gay chief executive in January.

In Texas, House candidate Celia Israel advanced to a December run-off in the Austin-based 50th District, and would be the second openly LGBT member of the state’s House if elected.

The Victory Fund endorsed 85 candidates in 2013, a record number for an odd-numbered election year. As of Thursday, November 7, 54 of these candidates were projected to win their respective elections, with three candidates advancing to run-off elections later this year. Two additional races remained uncalled.

U.S. House of Representatives

Carl Sciortino-Massachusetts-LOSS

Mayoral

Michael Gongora-Miami Beach-LOSS

Alex Morse-Holyoke-WIN

Jim Ireton-Salisbury-WIN

Gary Schiff-Minneapolis-LOSS

Mark Kleinschmidt-Chapel Hill-WIN

Christine Quinn-New York City-LOSS

Daniel Miller-Harrisburg-LOSS

Annise Parker-Houston-WIN

Edward Murray-Seattle-WIN

State Legislature

Edward Zipprich-New Jersey State Assembly-LOSS

Reed Gusciora-New Jersey State Assembly-WIN

Tim Eustace-New Jersey State Assembly-TBD

Bryan Tate-Pennsylvania House of Representatives-LOSS

Celia Israel-Texas House of Representatives-RUNOFF

Municipal/County

AZ-Karin Uhlich-Tucson City Council-WIN

AZ-Lawrence Robinson-Phoenix City Council-LOSS

CA-David Vela-Los Angeles Community College Board of Trustees-LOSS

CA-Dwayne Crenshaw-San Diego City Council-LOSS

CA-Ginny Foat-Palm Springs City Council-WIN

CA-Jeffrey Prang-West Hollywood City Council, At-Large-WIN

CA-John Duran-West Hollywood City Council, At-Large-WIN

CA-José Cisneros-San Francisco Treasurer-WIN

CA-Jose Luis Solache-Lynwood City Council, At-Large-WIN

CA-Mike Bonin-Los Angeles City Council-WIN

CA-Mitch O’Farrell-Los Angeles City Council-WIN

CA-Ron Galperin-Los Angeles City Controller-WIN

FL-Darden Rice-St. Petersburg City Council-WIN

GA-Alex Wan-Atlanta City Council-WIN

GA-Brian Bates-Doraville City Council-LOSS

IA-Anthony Brown-Cedar Rapids City Council, At-Large-LOSS

IN-Mark Tendam-Evanston City Council-WIN

IL-Nick Kachiroubas-Crystal Lake City Clerk-WIN

KS-Scott Criqui-Lawrence City Commission, At-Large-LOSS

MA-Donald Bourque-Webster Board of Selectman-LOSS

MA-Dori Dean-Holyoke City Council-LOSS

MA-Jeff Ross-Boston City Council-LOSS

MA-Jossie Valentin-Holyoke City Council-WIN

MD-Patrick Wojahn-College Park City Council-WIN

MI-Tracy Hall-Kalamazoo City Commission-LOSS

MN-Carol Becker-Minneapolis Board of Estimate and Taxation-WIN

MN-Robert Lilligren-Minneapolis City Council-LOSS

MO-Shane Cohn-St. Louis City Board of Aldermen-WIN

NC-LaWana Mayfield-Charlotte City Council-WIN

NE-Barbara Baier-Lincoln Board of Education-WIN

NJ-Jeff Gardner-Hawthorne City Council, At-Large-LOSS

NY-Carlos Menchaca-New York City Council-WIN

NY-Corey Johnson-New York City Council-WIN

NY-Daniel Dromm-New York City Council-WIN

NY-Francena Amparo-Dutchess County Legislature-TBD

NY-Greg Rabb-Jamestown City Council, At-Large-WIN

NY-James Van Bramer-New York City Council-WIN

NY-Judd Krasher-Albany Common Council-WIN

NY-Kathy Herrera-Tompkins County Legislature-WIN

NY-Matt Haag-Rochester City Council, At-Large-WIN

NY-Mel Wymore-New York City Council-LOSS

NY-Richie Torres-New York City Council-WIN

NY-Rosie Mendez-New York City Council-WIN

OH-Chris Seelbach-Cincinnati City Council, At-Large-WIN

PA-Benjamin Allatt-Harrisburg City Council, At-Large-WIN

PA-Ernie Schlegel-Reading City Council-LOSS

PA-Lori Schreiber-Abington Township Commission-WIN

PA-Mimi DeSouza-Norristown Borough Council-LOSS

SC-Catherine LaFond-Charleston Water System Commissioner-RUNOFF

TN-Chris Anderson-Chattanooga City Council, Chattanooga-WIN

TX-Joel Burns-Fort Worth City Council-WIN

TX-Michael Laster-Houston City Council-WIN

TX-Robert Gallegos-Houston City Council-RUNOFF

UT-Marcia White-Ogden City Council, At-Large-WIN

UT-Stan Penfold-Salt Lake City Council-WIN

UT-Turner Bitton-Ogden City Council-LOSS

VA-Jay Fisette-Arlington County Board-WIN

WA-Dave Kaplan-Des Moines City Council-WIN

WA-David Upthegrove-King County Council-WIN

WI-Dan Manning-Fon du Lac City Council, At-Large-WIN

WI-Larry Palm-Madison Board of Alders-WIN

WI-Teege Mettille-Appleton City Council-WIN

School Board

CA-Adam Carranza-Mountain View School Board-WIN

MA-Lizbeth DeSelm-Melrose School Committee-LOSS

ME-Kyle Bailey-Gorham School Committee, At-Large-WIN

MO-Thomas Peters-University City School Board-WIN

VA-Lawrence Webb-Falls Church School Board-WIN

Judicial

WI-Rhonda Lanford-Dane County Circuit Court-WIN

Victory Fund announces 2013 “10 Races to Watch”

Victory Fund's 2013 "Races to Watch"The Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund today announced its annual “Races to Watch” list featuring openly LGBT candidates, naming 10 candidates involved in groundbreaking runs for political office this year. Victory has endorsed a total of 85 out candidates for 2013, an all-time high for an odd numbered year.

“2013 isn’t an off year. It’s definitely on at the Victory Fund.” said Lucinda Guinn, Victory’s political director. “We’re working hard this year to help build up local heroes in places where equality is late in arriving. Places where these candidates can be the spark to help their own communities move toward equality.” Guinn said.

The following are Victory’s “10 Races to Watch” for 2013. Find out about all Victory Fund-endorsed candidates at www.victoryfund.org.

Annise Parker Mayor, Houston, Texas
As mayor of the fourth largest U.S. city, Annise Parker is one of the most visible and respected LGBT leaders in the country. Running for her third and final term, she faces a self-funder that has already invested over three million dollars of his own money.

Ed MurrayMayor, Seattle, Wash.
State Sen. Ed Murray has represented the 43rd Legislative District of Washington’s State legislature since 1995 and currently serves as the Senate Democratic Leader. He finished ahead of all other candidates in the August 6th primary and faces the incumbent mayor in the November election. If elected, Murray would become the city’s first ever openly gay mayor.

Celia Israel Texas House of Representatives (District 50)
A recognized leader in the LGBT and Latino communities, Israel would join Rep. Mary González in the legislature and become the second openly LGBT member of the Texas House of Representatives.

Robert LilligrenMinneapolis City Council (District 6), Minnesota
Robert’s background of community activism led him into elected office in January 2006. Now vice president of the Minneapolis City Council, he has been an outspoken advocate for the LGBT community. Robert is running to remain the lone LGBT member of the Council.

Catherine LaFond Water System Commission, Charleston, Charleston, S.C.
Catherine was inspired to run for office after a screening of Breaking Through, the documentary about openly LGBT elected officials and their journey of running for elected office. If elected she would be the first person in South Carolina to run as an openly LGBT candidate in a contested election and win.

Michael GongoraMayor, Miami Beach, Florida
Now in his second term, Gongora was Miami Beach’s first and only openly gay elected commissioner. He faces a self-funded millionaire in his fight to become the city’s next Mayor.

Darden Rice St. Petersburg City Council (District 2), Florida
Rice has spent the last three years as the President of the St. Petersburg League of Women Voters. Her win would add an authentic voice for the LGBT community to the council.

Tim EustaceNew Jersey State Assembly (District 38)
Nearing completion of his first term, Eustace is one of only two openly gay legislators in the New Jersey State Assembly and the first to be elected as an out candidate. Along with Rep. Reed Gusciora, Eustace authored the New Jersey Marriage Equality bill.

LaWana MayfieldCharlotte City Council (District 3), North Carolina
Mayfield was elected in 2011 and is currently serving her first term. After the election Mayfield became the Council’s 2nd African American elected female and the first Openly LGBT Elected Official in the City of Charlotte.

Chris SeelbachCincinnati City Council (At-Large), Ohio
Running for his second term, Cincinnati City Council Member Chris Seelbach made history in 2011 when he became the first openly gay person ever elected in Cincinnati. Chris was recently named by the White House as a Harvey Milk Champion of Change.

Rep. Sinema shares her story at Women Out to Win reception

Kyrsten SinemaRepresentative Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona addressed a crowd of dozens of community leaders last night at the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund’s Women Out to Win reception in Washington, D.C.

Sponsored by the Victory Fund along withEMILY’s List and LPAC, the reception brought women from all corners of the LGBT movement together for a night of networking and sharing stories about the challenges that female candidates and officials face.

Sinema’s keynote address struck an inspirational tone, referencing her uphill climb to become the country’s first openly bisexual Congresswoman. She also spoke of the importance of getting more women involved in politics.

“When more women are at the table we get more solutions,” Sinema told the audience. “And we need more women, because this country is hurting for solutions.”