Let me begin by saying - WOW! There were about 20 people in our class that either have an interest in running for public office or managing a campaign. All those attending the class were openly gay, bi-sexual, lesbian or trans gender (GLBT). The Victory Fund puts on these training exercises in various locations throughout the country. This one happened to coincide with the 2006 International Gay and Lesbian Leadership Conference. More on that later. The Victory fund also offers financial support for openly GLBT candidates - but only after completing a rigorous vetting process. They don't require any adherence to a program, other than candidates must be pro-choice if that is relevant to the position they are running for. More information can be found at the Victory Fund website.
My class had about twenty attendees from all over the country. I also bumped into a guy in class who is looking to run for an at-large seat in Houston (the fourth largest City in the nation). He and his partner have lived there for many years. Other people in the class included the chairman of the Planning and Zoning Board for the City of Palm Springs, California, who happened to work on the Jimmy Carter Campaign in 1976 and worked in the West Wing of the White house after. Fascinating stories he had and we shared a lot in common with our similar positions in local government. We also had a gentleman who worked for the successful Patricia Todd campaign for a House of Representative seat in the Alabama State Legislature (!!). There was also someone who is about to run for a seat on the Miami Beach City Council, among others.
Here are some pictures from the event and training session. Look below the pictures for a description:
Here are some of the people that were on my team. We were in class during the day and then had homework assignments at night that involved the preparation of a campaign plan for a fictional candidate. Our candidate happened to be an African-American, socially and fiscally conservative Republican that was running against a liberal lesbian candidate for a state Senate seat. The homework assignments got progressively more involved and complicated in preparation for our final presentation before our expert teaching staff - that took place this morning. Here to the right is an image of the direct mail that we prepared for our candidate. We finished up around 3 a.m., after preparation of direct mail pieces and a complete Powerpoint presentation outlining all aspects of our campaign. In the photo above, you see Rick Hutcheson, seated against the wall - he is the gentleman from Palm Springs. Next to him is Joseph Hernandez who will be running for a district seat on the Dallas City Council. And closest to the camera is Lynn Schulman from Queens, NY who also plans a run for a local government seat.
Above is the winning team after our presentations this morning. You might recognize a familiar Lake Worth/West Palm Beach face there - Scott Fox in the front row on the right. Their team really put on a great presentation, as did all the groups - but the idea was to please the judges and that is just what they did.
Here's another face you might recognize - Howard Dean. After the training session was over, we stayed around for parts of the conference program. Yesterday, we heard from the only openly gay member from the Bundestag, Volker Beck - who described his assault by a Russian mob during a gay event in Moscow last year. Mr. Dean was there to give us his robust assessment of the mid-term elections and the major issues will we be facing as we head to the 2008 Presidential election.
And, last but not least, here is yours truly looking like I have had about two hours of sleep. This was taken this morning in a room that Mr. Dean was about to occupy for a photo op.
Here's the entire group that took part in the training.
So, now it's time to get to work on my campaign - expect to be hearing from me in the near future about how you can help.
Time to get on the plane, more later.
"Political advertisement paid for and approved by Wes Blackman for Commissioner – District #3"