Mayor Lori Lightfoot hits Palm Springs on Friday, to headline a fundraiser for former Sen. Barbara Boxer’s PAC and, in a town with an all LGBTQ City Council, to prospect for her own donors among California’s upscale gay community.
“We are very excited to meet her,” Boxer told the Chicago Sun-Times. The California Democrat retired from Congress in January, 2017 after 24 years in the Senate and 10 years in the House.
The California visit to Los Angeles and Palm Springs is Lightfoot’s first trip since her inauguration on May 20, a combination of political and government travel for Chicago’s first female, African American openly gay mayor.
For decades, Palm Springs has been a mecca for the gay community and is now a center of gay Democratic wealth and politics.
Indeed, Boxer’s event with Lightfoot is taking place at the home of a Palm Springs gay “power couple,” Palm Springs City Council Member Geoff Kors and his husband, James Williamson.
Before the Friday night event at the Kors/Williamson home, Lightfoot will attend a “meet and greet’ with LGBTQ leaders at the home of Tobias Wolff, a law professor who served as former President Barack Obama’s LGBT advisor during his 2008 presidential campaign. He also advised John Kerry on gay issues during his 2004 White House bid.
Boxer’s “PAC for a Change” raises money for Democrats to win control of the Senate, retain the House and take back the presidency. Boxer said speakers for her PAC events are “people we think people would love to meet.”
The backstory to the Lightfoot invitation for the Palm Springs event is straightforward, Boxer said.
“When I read about Lori, it was quite amazing what she did, and so I said to myself, ‘you know, this may be a wonderful guest of honor.’ And we put a call through, and they listened and they said ‘wonderful,” Boxer said.
She decided to invite Lightfoot “as soon as I saw who she was and her story and what an amazing remarkable outcome of a very interesting race.” Lightfoot waged and won a long-shot battle for City Hall.
Boxer knows former Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Asked to comment on the contrast with Lightfoot — an unknown nationally compared to Emanuel’s big profile when he got to City Hall — Boxer said, “We had someone who knew politics inside and out and somebody who is relatively new to elected office. I think it is going to be really interesting and refreshing.”
Tickets for Boxer’s event range from $100 to $5,000, according to the invitation. Boxer said about 100 people are expected, and at least $50,000 will be raised on Friday.
Lightfoot’s time is well spent in Palm Springs because she will meet a network of Boxer and gay community donors.
Said Boxer, “She is going to meet people who I think, if they like her, and I can’t imagine that they won’t from what I know of her, they will be with her. California is very generous.”
Michael Bauer is a long-time gay rights activist and Lightfoot’s campaign chairman.
Bauer said headlining Boxer’s fundraiser will allow Lightfoot to tap into a lucrative gay fundraising network. “She’s not only mayor of the third-largest city in the country, but from a political perspective, she’s quickly becoming one of the most significant LGBTQ elected officials in the country.
“People will look to her for leadership. I expect that she will be highly coveted for her endorsements by the presidential candidates.”
The fundraising seeds that Lightfoot is planting on the California trip will pay huge dividends down the road, Bauer said.
“She will find it relatively easy, as she gets better known around the country, to raise money for her own campaign fund. And she’s gonna find a lot of candidates are gonna seek her assistance raising money for them,” Bauer said.
In fact, Bauer expects Lightfoot to be so much in demand, she’ll have to fend off requests to avoid repeating mistakes made by Emanuel.
“She has so much on her plate in Chicago. She’s going to have to achieve a balance in taking care of all of the variety of matters pending in Chicago right now and not leave too often,” Bauer said.
Lightfoot flew to Los Angeles on Wednesday, a trip not on her public schedule. She flies back to Chicago from Los Angeles on Friday night.
On Thursday, Lightfoot met with Los Angeles Police Chief Michael Moore.
By stopping off at the Los Angeles Police Department, Lightfoot can safely say the California trip wasn’t all about political fundraising.
Mayoral press secretary Anel Ruiz said the police department meeting was aimed at picking up pointers gleaned from the LAPD’s 12-year history with a consent decree as the Chicago Police Department is just embarking on the long and costly process of federal court oversight.
The LAPD said in a statement, “Today’s meeting with the new Mayor of Chicago is a continuation of our commitment to helping communities in other cities learn from our experiences while we benefit from learning about the unique challenges of another iconic city.”
Dave Mellet, Lightfoot’s political spokesperson said in a statement, “The mayor is excited to meet with progressive and LGBTQ+ leaders in Los Angeles and Palm Springs. She will discuss her vision for our city and many of the same themes outlined during her campaign and inauguration: equity, economic justice, and creating opportunities for all Chicagoans.”