Victory Fund was founded in 1991 by LGBTQ activists and donors who recognized the success of EMILY’s List at attracting attention and support for women candidates for public office. With less 50 openly LGBTQ elected officials across America at any level of government, our founders understood that boosting our numbers in public office would be key to advancing equality. In creating Victory Fund, they set out to build a network of supporters who pledged to assist viable LGBTQ candidates endorsed by the organization.
On May 1, 1991, the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund was formally created as a non-partisan political action committee. Founding board members included David Mixner, Hilary Rosen, Roberta Bennett, Scott Hitt, Lynn Greer, John Thomas, David Detrick, Tim McFeeley, Vic Basile, Howard Menaker and Terry Bean.
Seattle City Council candidate Sherry Harris became the first Victory Fund endorsed candidate. Despite a Victory Fund donor network of just 181 members, the nascent organization helped Harris defeat a 24-year incumbent to become the nation’s first openly lesbian African-American city council member.
Despite a modest goal of raising $80,000 for six candidates, Victory Fund staff and board members led by Executive Director William Waybourn end up raising more than $263,000 for 12 candidates during its first election cycle. Among the recipients of Victory Fund support is Tammy Baldwin, who that year won a seat in the Wisconsin State House of Representatives.
Gay & Lesbian Victory Foundation, a 501(c)3 organization now called Victory Institute, is launched. The Foundation begins training future candidates and campaign workers to help LGBTQ leaders achieve careers in public service. The Foundation successfully pushes for Roberta Achtenberg to become the first openly LGBTQ presidential appointee to a Senate-confirmed position when she becomes Assistant Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Fourteen of Victory Fund’s 28 endorsed candidates win their elections, including San Diego Republican Bonnie Dumanis, who in 2002 would become America’s first openly LGBTQ District Attorney. Victory Fund featured Dumanis in 7,000 mailers and solicited more than $11,000 for her race for Municipal Court Judge. Victory Fund endorsed candidate Sheila James Kuehl also won her race to become the first openly LGBTQ person in the California state legislature.
Victory Fund endorses 50 candidates – the most in its history. With enthusiastic backing from Victory Fund, endorsed candidate Ed Flanagan becomes the first openly LGBTQ person elected to a statewide office, winning his race for State Auditor in Vermont.
Brian Bond becomes Executive Director of Victory Fund and serves until 2003. Victory Fund supports Cathy Woolard, who becomes the first openly LGBTQ elected official in Georgia, winning her race for Atlanta City Council, as well as Annise Parker, who is elected to an at-large seat on the Houston City Council.
Victory Fund is instrumental in assisting Tammy Baldwin’s winning congressional campaign, making her the first openly LGBTQ candidate ever elected to Congress as a non-incumbent. Victory Fund also endorses recently out incumbent Jim Kolbe, who becomes the first openly gay Republican to win election to Congress.
Fifty-eight percent of Victory Fund’s 51 endorsed candidates win their race – including Karla Drenner, who became the first openly gay state legislator in the Deep South when she won her race for the Georgia state legislature.
Victory Fund endorsed candidate Christine Quinn and two other LGBTQ candidates win election to the New York City Council.
Eighty-seven percent of Victory Fund’s 48 endorsed candidates win their races. Victory Fund endorsed candidate Jim Roth becomes the first openly LGBTQ elected official in Oklahoma history, winning a seat on the Oklahoma County Commission, and David Cicilline is elected mayor of Providence, Rhode Island.
Victory Fund board member Chuck Wolfe is named executive director of Victor Fund, and under his leadership the revenue of the organization triples. With support from Victory Fund, endorsed candidate Ron Oden of Palm Springs becomes the first openly gay African-American mayor in the U.S.
More than 20 Victory Fund endorsed candidates are elected to state legislatures across the nation. Among them, Nicole LeFavour wins election to the Idaho House of Representatives, becoming that state’s first openly LGBTQ elected official.
Sixty-seven of Victory Fund’s 88 endorsed candidates win their elections, and the organization raises and spends nearly $1 million in direct candidate contributions. Patricia Todd becomes the first openly LGBTQ elected official in Alabama, and Kathy Webb reaches the same milestone in Arkansas, when the two Victory-backed candidates are elected to their state’s Houses of Representatives.
Victory Fund endorses a record 111 candidates and 70 percent win their races. In Oregon, endorsed candidate Kate Brown becomes the first openly LGBTQ candidate in U.S. history to be elected to a Secretary of State post, and Lawrence Webb is elected to the Falls Church City Council, becoming the first openly gay African-American elected in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Victory Fund endorsed candidate Annise Parker is elected mayor of Houston, becoming the first openly LGBTQ person elected mayor of a major U.S. city. Charles Pugh becomes the first openly gay elected official in Detroit, winning the presidency of the city council after finishing first in a crowded field, and Simone Bell in Georgia becomes the first African-American lesbian to win election to a state legislature.
One hundred and seven Victory Fund endorsed candidates win their races, including David Cicilline, who becomes the seventh openly LGBTQ American elected to Congress. In the South, endorsed candidate Jim Gray is elected mayor of Lexington, Kentucky, and Nickie Antonio becomes the first openly LGBTQ person elected to the Ohio state legislature. Victory Fund endorsed candidate Victoria Kolakowski also becomes the first openly transgender candidate elected to a judicial seat in the U.S.
One hundred and twenty-three Victory Fund endorsed candidates win their races, including a record seven members of Congress. With a historic-level of support from Victory Fund, Tammy Baldwin is elected United States Senator from Wisconsin, becoming the first openly LGBTQ senator in American history.
Fifty-six Victory Fund endorsed candidates win their races — including Kyrsten Sinema who becomes the first openly bisexual member of Congress, and Mark Takano who becomes the first openly LGBTQ person of color in Congress. Rep. Mark Pocan replaces Sen. Tammy Baldwin in the House of Representatives, marking the first time an openly LGBTQ member of Congress succeeded another openly LGBTQ member. Additionally, Victory Fund endorsed Ed Murray wins his race to become the first openly LGBTQ mayor of Seattle.
Maura Healey and Steve Kerrigan win their primary races for Massachusetts Attorney General and Lieutenant Governor, marking the first time two openly LGBTQ candidates won statewide races on the same night. Maura Healey goes on to win the general election, making her America’s first openly LGBTQ state Attorney General.
Aisha C. Moodie-Mills is selected to succeed Chuck Wolfe as Victory Fund’s president and CEO, making her the first woman and the first person of color to lead the organization. For only the second time in history, every U.S. state has at least one openly LGBTQ elected official currently serving.
Eighty-seven of Victory Fund’s 135 endorsed candidates win their elections, including Kate Brown, who becomes the nation’s first openly LGBTQ governor. Victory Fund endorsed candidate Carlos Guillermo Smith became the first openly LGBTQ Latino elected to the Florida state legislature, and voters reelected all six openly LGBTQ members of Congress despite a tough night for House Democrats.
Victory Fund is working to build LGBTQ political power at all levels of government, but with a particular focus on state and local LGBTQ candidates who can fight anti-LGBTQ legislation and mitigate the effects of anti-equality efforts at the federal level.
Learn more about our current work on The Agenda blog.