National Stonewall Democrats calls upon the Democratic National Committee to immediately appoint a senior LGBT political staff person as part of its American Majority Partnership to implement electoral strategy and advise the Chair of the DNC.
The Democratic Party is positioned to make historical gains in the 2006 midterm elections. Americans are seeking an alternative to the corrupt, manipulative tactics of a Republican machine that produces poor government and divisive public policy. However, electoral success can only be guaranteed if our party implements a political strategy that effectively communicates Democratic values to a majority of voters. The appointment of a senior LGBT political adviser would help to accomplish this goal.
Republicans have already spent millions of dollars placing anti-marriage amendments on statewide ballots this November in an effort to shape a voter turnout they believe will help their candidates on Election Day. Under the leadership of Chairman Ken Mehlman, the Republican National Committee has increased the staff and support that it provides to anti-gay activists to conduct electoral work. Democrats must offer an equally aggressive response.
We recommend that the singular focus of a political staff member, along with support staff, is needed to build upon the electoral and programmatic success the Democratic National Committee enjoyed among LGBT Americans in the 2004 election cycle under the leadership of Chairman Terry McAuliffe and DNC LGBT Americans Caucus Chair Jeff Soref.
The Democratic National Committee in 2004 operated a highly visible, comprehensive and effective political program that increased the number of LGBT Americans voting for the Democratic ticket by almost 500,000 from the 2000 election cycle. It added more than 200,000 LGBT voters to the DNC voterfile, had tables at more than 80 pride events and at hundreds of community gatherings, organized 21 statewide LGBT steering committees and placed LGBT political staff in nine battleground states.
In Wisconsin, programs coordinated by the DNC LGBT Outreach Program and the National Stonewall Democrats registered, and delivered, a new block of voters that was larger than the victory margin of the Kerry-Edwards ticket in that state. Similarly, in states like Minnesota, crucial swing precincts that were organized by the DNC LGBT Outreach Program and the Stonewall Democrats dramatically increased both voter turnout and Democratic performance at the same time that other targets not organized by these programs trended Republican.
Governor Howard Dean has implemented a new organizing structure for the DNC, and we are confident that his intent is to continue participation by our community. However, the LGBT representation within this new structure needs to be institutionalized and funded. We simply cannot rely on the layers of staff that surround the Chair to have an open ear to our community.
Donald Hitchcock has done a tremendous job of advocating for the full inclusion of the LGBT community in the DNC’s new American Majority Partnership program as Director of the Gay and Lesbian Leadership Council (GLLC). However, the GLLC is structured to primarily fulfill a fundraising capacity. It is unreasonable to assume that Donald, or anyone in this current capacity, will have the time, energy and resources in a critical election cycle to focus on ensuring that the DNC and the state parties fund and hire staff dedicating to turning out the LGBT vote—the second highest performing Democratic community after the African-American community.
The Democratic National Committee should also reaffirm its commitment to the LGBT community by increasing the representation of LGBT Americans in the committee’s membership. The DNC LGBT Americans Caucus represents less than 2% of DNC members. This level is unacceptable. The committee continues to disproportionately rely on our community to fund its activities and organize its efforts. Governor Dean should capitalize on this support by offering a plan to increase the number of openly-LGBT members of the Democratic National Committee.
National Stonewall Democrats needs strong coalition partners to make our work fully effective. Working with the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, we have helped elect openly-gay candidates to public office – and we are now working to elect former Stonewall chapter leaders to legislative office in Alabama and Arkansas. Through partnerships with organizations like Equality California and Mass Equality, our members have engineered passage of pro-marriage resolutions from dozens of local Democratic bodies, and have successfully passed pro-marriage planks to the Democratic party platforms of states like California, Colorado, Iowa, Massachusetts, New York and Washington State.
Democrats everywhere will gain by the full enthusiastic participation from our community. That participation can only be based on a full reciprocal relationship, where the Democratic National Committee is committed to operating an effective LGBT political program. In 2004, Stonewall was proud to staff DNC tables at pride events, while our chapter leaders often served as co-chairs of LGBT steering committees for the DNC. This year, we are already opening offices in key states while hiring local activists to organize our electoral programs, and we are ready to use our resources to partner with a Democratic National Committee that is committed to operating an LGBT political program.
The Democratic National Committee has always offered our community a voice. And to be clear, the Republican National Committee continues to reject LGBT Americans by operating well-funded programs that seek to discriminate against our families. Our community is seeking a full partner to direct our resources and time. In order for our party to claim significant victories this election cycle and re-affirm the principles of equality and inclusion articulated in our national party platform, we call upon the Democratic National Committee to name a full-time LGBT political staff person and implement the type of comprehensive electoral program that serves a core constituency and benefits all Democrats.
Eric Stern is Executive Director of the National Stonewall Democrats, the voice for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Democrats, with more than 90 local chapters across the nation. He previously served as the Director of LGBT Outreach for the Democratic National Committee during the 2004 election cycle. National Stonewall Democrats is committed to working through the Democratic Party to advance the rights of all people regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.