With activists from around the state converging for the Tennessee Equality Project’s annual Advancing Equality Day on the Hill on March 2, national and state leaders were on hand to capture some of that enthusiasm for 2010 races and beyond.
On March 1, the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund held an abbreviated version of its three-day training workshop for GLBT office-seekers, bringing in James Dozier, deputy political director of the Gay & Lesbian Leadership Institute, the fund’s candidate-training arm. Dozier addressed more than a dozen people from around the state at OutCentral, pointing out the various do’s and don’ts not only of campaigning, but also for the months and years prior to entering a race.
“Take advantage of the opportunity you’ll have tomorrow to talk to legislators,” Dozier said, “People say you can’t run and win in a red state, but you can. The trick is finding the right seat to run for, and being a positive role model. Start early, and do your homework.”
Advancing Equality Day on the Hill will begin at 8 a.m.
Look below for a roster of appointments that attendees will be keeping, and connect with the group along the way to participate.
Among the tips and tricks Dozier recommended for those seeking office at any level was to be very clear about why they’re running, and to make they’re not just running on GLBT issues. That said, he also strongly suggested being ready to answer questions about those same issues, and to fend off attacks regarding sexuality and sexual issues.
Currently there are six states without any openly gay elected officials, while 13 — including Tennessee — have none in their state legislatures. But local offices are just as effective in terms of making a difference, and being a role model, Dozier said.
“Start small,” he said, citing as an example David Cicilline, the openly gay mayor of Providence, R.I., who has held increasingly visible offices over the years and now is leaving his seat to take a run for the U.S. House of Representatives seat held by retiring Rep. Patrick Kennedy. “We like to see people build up so that when an opportunity happens they’re positioned to run. We’re here to help those people, and you, raise funds, but also to close the gaps and to put the right campaign together to bring you electoral viability.”
Later that evening, many attendees also attended the TEP reception at Tribe, where lobbyists and legislative staffers met with those who plan to meet with representatives and senators throughout the Capitol on March 2.
The fact that all areas of the state will be meeting with legislators is an important one, and will make a difference to those officials, said Jenny Ford, chair of the TEP Political Action Committee.
“I find that lawmakers are welcoming, and they take note,” Ford said. “Whether Democrat or Republican, they welcome input on both social and political issues.”
Noting the 40 or so people on hand and looking ahead to an even bigger turnout the next morning, TEP President H.G. Stovall added that “We’re less than 10 minutes into a reception and already have all three Grand Divisions represented, which is exciting. I think that enthusiastic turnout will lead to another successful Advancing Quality Day on the Hill.”
For his part, TEP Board Chair Chris Sanders noted that while the state’s horrible financial picture is keeping much legislation from moving at the moment, that could change.
“That’s why they need this yearly reminder that our community is a part of this state,” Sanders said. “We have to continue to have these policy conversations with out legislators.”