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Victory Fund endorses only openly gay candidate for mayor of Chicago

Lori Lightfoot (right) with her wife, Amy Eshleman, and their 10-year-old daughter, Vivian, at the news conference announcing her candidacy for mayor. | Fran Spielman/Sun-Times

The only openly-gay candidate in the race for mayor of Chicago on Thursday won the endorsement of the only national organization dedicated to LGBTQ political empowerment.

Victory Fund President and CEO Annise Parker called Lori Lightfoot a “police reform expert” whose experience as a former federal prosecutor, Police Board president and head of the old Office of Professional Standards will be “invaluable” as mayor.

That’s particularly true with a federal judge poised to sign off on a consent decree outlining the terms of federal court oversight of the Chicago Police Department.

“It is also her experiences as an LGBTQ woman of color that provides an important perspective she will bring to her policies and decision-making, ensuring those who are often left behind will not be,” Parker, the former mayor of Houston, was quoted as saying in a statement released by the Lightfoot campaign.

“Lori is a history-making candidate at a time when Chicagoans are demanding fresh leadership — and we are thrilled to be standing with her.”

The Victory Fund was founded in 1991 by LGBTQ activists and donors determined to duplicate the success Emily’s List has had over the years in recruiting, bankrolling and electing women.

Since then, the organization has helped to elect “hundreds” of LGBTQ candidates, culminating in a “rainbow wave” Nov. 6. That’s when, according to the Victory Fund, “160 of our candidates won their races,” including U.S. Senator-elect Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Colorado’s Gov.-elect Jared Polis.

It was not known precisely how much money and manpower the Victory Fund endorsement would mean to Lightfoot’s campaign. But, it certainly can’t hurt.

Lightfoot could not be reached.

A campaign statement quoted Lightfoot as saying that she was “extremely grateful and humbled” by a Victory Fund endorsement that “deeply resonates with me.”

“As someone who grew up in a small [Ohio] town and didn’t know any openly LGBTQ+ people — much less role models or elected officials, I know that representation matters,” Lightfoot was quoted as saying.

“I hope that, as the first LGBTQ+ mayor of Chicago, I can expand opportunities for equity and inclusion—and for increased representation in government for decades to come. I’m looking forward to partnering with Victory Fund in this election and beyond to achieve this share vision.”

Two months ago, Lightfoot chose “National Coming Out Day” to come out with her plan to make Chicago a more welcoming place for the politically-potent LGBTQ community.

If Lightfoot is elected mayor, the Chicago Public Schools would work to establish “24-hour-drop in centers” to provide LGBTQ youth now struggling with family acceptance and homelessness places to sleep and lockers to store their belongings.

CPS would also implement an “LGBTQ+-inclusive curriculum” to prevent bullying against students based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.

Lightfoot’s agenda also calls for the appointment of three mayoral LGBTQ liaisons to work directly with the South, West and North Sides, coordinate with the Chicago Police and the Department of Public Health and hold monthly community meetings.

Chicago Police officers would get special training to end police profiling of transgender people, prevent violence and hate crimes against them and aggressively investigate those crimes when they do occur.

She would also create a task force to investigate the recent murder of “two trans women of color.”

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has already joined forces with the state and 10 community organizations and hospitals on an ambitious plan aimed at eliminating new diagnoses of HIV in Illinois over the next decade.

Lightfoot promised to “ramp up” that eradication campaign while conducting a “detailed study of healthcare outcomes” for LGBTQ Chicagoans.

Over the years, former Mayor Richard M. Daley emerged as a champion on gay and lesbian issues. He engineered $5.4 million in loans and subsidies for the Center on Halsted, where a rooftop garden bears the mayor’s name.

Daley also championed gay marriage, appointed Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) and gay department heads and extended health benefits to registered live-in partners of gay and lesbian city employees. He welcomed the 2006 Gay Games, increased city support for AIDS funding and established the LGBT Hall of Fame.

Emanuel has matched Daley’s record as a champion for the gay community, in part by appointing an unprecedented number of openly-gay men and women to his City Hall cabinet.

Lightfoot has credited City Hall with coming a long way. But, she has argued that far more needs to be done. For example, the Chicago Police Department has only one LGBTQ liaison for the entire city.

“There are still many LGBTQ young people and kids who are not accepted, bullied in school and not treated well,” she has said.