In a room of rising LGBTQ political stars breaking bread at a Gold Coast fundraiser, Mayor Lori Lightfoot — perhaps the biggest of those stars — told donors and supporters on Sunday to push for more queer candidates ahead of the 2020 election cycle to ensure hard-fought civil rights won’t be rolled back.
Speaking at the $200-a-ticket champagne brunch for the LGBTQ Victory Fund, Lightfoot said stunning victories like her own in April’s mayoral runoff won’t be enough to hold off a socially conservative push to limit acceptance and legal protections for LGBTQ citizens.
“Folks, this year is critical, we can’t say it enough,” the mayor told the noontime crowd of more than 200 people that included city, county and state elected officials who snacked on bacon, eggs and mimosas.
“The 2020 election cycle will be one of the most important in our nation’s history and one of the most important to our community.”
Lightfoot lambasted efforts by President Donald “Trump and the basest elements of our country” in their efforts to stifle civil liberties. “This is going to be a big year for the Victory Fund … so much is at stake, and I want Chicago to be ground zero for the work.”
The mayor’s call for sustained vigor came during her roughly 10-minute speech headlining the fundraiser with Chasten Buttigieg, husband of Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, who remained in Iowa on the campaign trail Sunday.
Leading up to the event, Lightfoot said she would attend in support of the organization, not Pete Buttigieg’s presidential run. On Sunday, the mayor didn’t endorse Pete Buttigieg, an openly gay frontrunner for the Democratic nomination and the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, but praised his husband, whom she called an eloquent spokesman.
“He is incredibly thoughtful, intelligent and thought-provoking, and he’s going to hook you over,” she told the friendly audience.
During Pete Buttigieg’s candidacy, Chasten Buttigieg, 30, a teacher, has made his hard upbringing as a closeted youth in a small Michigan town, his initial estrangement from his family, his romance with the college town mayor and even the couple’s mounting student loans as a focal point, using it to connect with would-be voters and his combined 575,000 followers on social media.
At the fundraiser, Chasten Buttigieg told the crowd about how a presidential candidacy has brought a whirlwind to his life. But he began his speech with an anecdote about attending his first Victory Fund with his husband a year ago as a nobody.
“Growing up, I could never imagine being here,” he said.
Following his appearance in Chicago, Chasten Buttigieg flew off for a similar event in New York City.
Prior to Chasten Buttigieg’s speech, Lightfoot and Annise Parker, president and CEO of the Victory Fund and the former mayor of Houston — who was unseated by Lightfoot as an openly gay mayor or the largest U.S. city — said recent election cycles have brought about viable queer candidates all over the country. But they warned the community must keep engaging the public on issues they hold important.
In addition to local politicians, the fundraiser was attended by queer elected officials from Louisiana to Michigan. Last November brought major victories, with more than 150 LGBTQ candidates winning local, state and congressional offices nationwide, though there remained less than 600 openly LGBTQ elected officials in the U.S., according to Victory Fund officials.
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