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December 17-30, 2010 GAY SAN DIEGO

San Diegans to lead Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund Organization backed 107 winning LGBT candidates in 2010

By Pat Sherman | GSD Editor

Longtime San Diego LGBT activists Susan Atkins and Robert Gleason have been chosen to lead the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, a national organization that has helped hundreds of openly gay and lesbian candidates win their bids for public office. In San Diego, officials such

as state Sen. Christine Kehoe, state Assemblymember Toni Atkins (no relation to Susan), City Councilmember Todd Gloria and school board member Kevin Beiser all have benefitted from the Victory Fund’s monetary sup- port, training and guidance. Biotechnology communica- tions and investment pioneer Susan Atkins was elected board chair, and Robert Gleason, chief financial officer and general counsel of Evans Hotels, will serve as vice-chair.

Atkins, the first woman to

chair the Victory Fund board since it was restructured in 2006, said she is honored to lead one of the nation’s largest political action committees. The Victory Fund is currently celebrating its 20th year and entering its third decade helping LGBT candidates get elected—from school board members to mayors, congressio- nal representatives and judges. More than 500 openly LGBT

elected officials are currently serving at all levels of govern- ment across the country. When

the organization was founded in 1991 there were just 49. In 2010, the Victory Fund endorsed 164 candidates for public office, 107 of which won their elections. “We have a 65 percent win rate this year, which is just phe- nomenal in any kind of endeavor, except school,” Atkins said with a laugh. “Christine Quinn, who is the speaker of the city council in New York City, said that if you were a batter in the major leagues and you had a 65 percent batting average it would be worth mil- lions.’ It’s a good analogy.” Atkins, who has been a Vic-

tory Fund board member for the past seven years, said the organization’s win ratio rarely dips below 60-65 percent. “That’s because we work hard at selecting candidates who can win and then giving them every- thing we can to help them,” She said. “We feel like we owe that to our donors, because everything we have comes from ... either corporate or individual donors, so we feel a real obligation to make sure that their money is invested in candidates who are serious and well-qualified. We spend an enormous amount of time at the Victory Fund vetting these candidates.”

Atkins and Gleason will meet

with the 15-member Victory Fund board on a quarterly basis. Their first meeting will be in Miami in March, and the second will be in June in San Diego.

The organization has two

boards of directors, one of which is focused on training candidates. The other board, on which Atkins and Gleason serve, helps decide which candidates to endorse and which races donor money would best be channeled toward. Gleason said the board just made its first endorsement for 2011, backing Fort Worth City Councilmember Joel Burns in his bid for re-election. “It’s just getting started,” Gleason said. “The strategic plan calls for making sure that we see more wins in big city mayors, that we see more representation in Congress and particularly that we see more breakthroughs and more depth in state legislatures— which is where arguably the organization has had its biggest success and biggest impact.” Gleason noted that there are still five states in the country that have no openly LGBT officials at any level of government: Alaska, Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota and Kansas. “No state legislature in the

country has passed any sort of LGBT relationship rights legisla- tion without one openly gay member,” Gleason said. “There is no substitute for sitting at the table and being in the room when people are having those conversa- tions.” Reciting a quote from Jolie

Justus, a Victory Fund-backed Missouri Senator, Atkins put it


Robert Gleason and Susan Atkins Victory Fund Champagne

Brunch with Annise Parker WHEN: Feb. 13 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. WHERE: Catamaran Resort Hotel & Spa, 3999 Mission Blvd., Pacific Beach COST: $100 INFO: or (202) 567-3306

this way: “‘If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.’” “Nobody runs as a gay can- didate; they run because there’s potholes to be fixed or schools that need (to be run) better or police and fire people who need to be paid better,” she said. “But, as we know, that gay card will get pulled at the last minute, and we know that when we have people who are gay and lesbian and bisexual and transgender at the table, when they are making the decisions (and) in these positions of authority, laws get passed that

protect our rights.” In addition to Atkins and Glea-

son, the Victory Fund board also elected Steve Elmendorf of Wash- ington, D.C., as secretary; and Harvey Hurdle of Philadelphia as treasurer. Frank Selvaggi of New York, N.Y., was also elected to serve on the Victory Fund board. On Feb. 13, the Victory Fund will hold its annual cham- pagne brunch fundraiser at the Catamaran Resort Hotel & Spa. The keynote speaker will be

see Fund, pg 11

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