Victory Fund is getting a change in leadership.
Aisha C. Moodie-Mills announced today that she’s resigning as president and CEO of Victory Fund and its sister organization, Victory Institute, and former Houston Mayor Annise Parker will take over the post Monday. The groups train and support openly LGBT candidates and elected officials at the local, state, and federal levels.
Moodie-Mills, who has been in the position for two and a half years, made her announcement at the International LGBTQ Leaders Conference in Washington, D.C. “Politics are so personal for me, for all of us,” she said, according to the Washington Blade. “Our lives are on the chopping block. And so, it is with a heavy heart but clear purpose that is time for me to leave Victory. This past election has upended the normalcy [of] our politics and our discourse, and I see it as my redefined mission to help progressives set a new course.”
Moodie-Mills did not specify what her next move will be. Victory Fund director of communications Elliot Imse, speaking to The Advocate afterward, did not offer specifics either, but said Moodie-Mills wants to work in the broader progressive movement, incorporating LGBT issues and more. She plans to move from Washington to join her wife in New York City. “With the 2018 election cycle heating up, the timing worked out for everyone,” he said.
Parker said that’s certainly the case for her. Since leaving office as mayor two years ago, she’s been working for nonprofit organizations in Houston, including BakerRipley, which aids immigrants, refugees, and other marginalized communities. She resigned from BakerRipley at the beginning of November, and she soon got the call from Victory Fund. “The stars aligned, and the timing was perfect,” she told The Advocate. “The right call came in on the right day, and I said yes.”
“I am really, really passionate about LGBT issues and bringing more people into the political process,” she added, further noting, “I’m a lesbian activist at heart.”
Parker wants to build on Victory Fund’s successes, she said. “We’re going to do more of the same,” she said. Moodie-Mills helped inspire more LGBT people of color to run for office, for instance, and Parker wants to continue increasing those numbers.
It’s also important to continue increasing the number of transgender candidates, she said, after a year that saw some major victories for trans candidates endorsed by Victory Fund, with Danica Roem defeating anti-LGBT incumbent Bob Marshall for the Virginia House of Delegates, and Andrea Jenkins and Phillipe Cunningham elected to the Minneapolis City Council.
“One of the reasons it’s really important to support transgender candidates is that there’s been a ramp-up in attacks on the transgender community,” she said. While many straight and cisgender people know someone who is gay, lesbian, or bisexual, far fewer know someone who is transgender, and that makes it easy for anti-trans forces to create an image of trans people as a “feared other,” she said.
She saw that happen up close during the effort to repeal the trans-inclusive Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, which voters did in 2015. Opponents of the ordinance, which the City Council passed in 2014, ran a fearmongering campaign alleging that it would allow predatory men disguised as women to terrorize women and girls in public restrooms.
“The fight over HERO was the start of a wave of very focused attacks on the transgender community,” she said. It was also a learning experience for Parker and others who support equal rights for trans people. “It was a great reminder that we have to get out early and we have to own the narrative in these political campaigns,” she said. That’s a lesson she plans to bring to her work with Victory Fund, she said, adding that greater acceptance of trans people will be transformative for the whole LGBT community.
Parker served three terms as mayor of the nation’s fourth-largest city, the largest ever to have a mayor drawn from the LGBT population, and left office due to term limits. Before that, she spent three terms as city controller and three on the City Council. She received Victory Fund support at each level.
Previously, she worked for 20 years in the oil and gas industry, a major part of Houston’s economy. She had a conservative Republican boss – Robert Mosbacher, who was also a member of President George H.W. Bush’s Cabinet and has a lesbian daughter, Dee. Parker was “oil company employee by day, activist by night” in those years, she said. “I was about the most visible lesbian activist in Houston in the 1980s,” she said. Her activism actually goes back even farther; she attended her first LGBT political event in 1975, which was before Moodie-Mills was born.
Now, she said, she sees a great increase in young people interested in politics, and the size of Victory Institute’s candidate training classes has grown enormously. “They’re young, they’re driven, and they’re really passionate,” she said of these aspiring pols. “The trick will be translating that into the nuts and bolts of campaigning.”
She doesn’t plan to relocate to Washington, although she will be at Victory Fund’s headquarters frequently. The group is involved in campaigns nationwide, and it’s often easier to travel from Houston. Parker shares her home there with wife Kathy Hubbard; they’ve been together for 27 years and married for four. They have four children, the youngest of whom is 22, and one grandchild.
Victory Fund/Victory Institute leaders expressed faith in Parker and were proud of Moodie-Mills’s record. “As the first openly LGBTQ mayor of Houston, Annise understands the challenges inherent in running and winning elected office, and she’s ideally positioned to help us fulfill our mission now and in the future,” One Victory board chair Kim Hoover said in a press release. “During Aisha’s tenure we grew the organization’s leadership initiatives to ensure LGBTQ people from across the country were prepared to run for office and be a voice for our community. We invested in game-changing campaigns and took on anti-equality incumbents with historic LGBTQ candidates, and won. And we strengthened and grew our network of LGBTQ elected officials, who work tirelessly to be the change we want to see in the world. We are grateful for her leadership, and now we are excited to build on her great work and use Annise’s experience and expertise to ensure Victory Fund and Victory Institute have an even greater impact moving forward. And she is eager to get started.”
“Over the last two years I’ve been fortunate to lead an incredible team at Victory, and together we have achieved great progress in in our efforts to elect LGBTQ candidates across the country,” Moodie-Mill, said in the same release. “We witnessed a surge in the number of LGBTQ people from across the country who want to run for office and be our voice in the halls of power – and it has been so personally rewarding for me to have helped historic candidates win elections thought impossible just a few years ago. Most importantly, I am proud that we’ve positioned the organizations for growth at a critically important time – a turning point in our movement to build LGBTQ political power and wield it on behalf of equality. I am so happy that such a capable leader like Annise will be continuing the vital work of Victory Fund and Victory Institute, and look forward to supporting the organizations as they continue to secure representation for our community.”