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Ron Oden Elected in Palm Springs, Becoming America’s First Black Gay Mayor

Ron Oden
Ron Oden

First elected to the Palm Springs City Council in 1995, Ron Oden successfully ran for mayor in November of 2003. This marked the first time that an out Black leader had ever become mayor of an American city. During Oden’s tenure, Palm Springs experienced tremendous growth, and the city’s budget doubled over the course of his term. Oden served one term and unsuccessfully ran for seats in the California State Assembly and Congress. He made a comeback bid in 2015, but lost the Palm Springs mayoral race to Robert Moon. 

Adam Ebbin Breaks Barriers with Election in Virginia

Adam Ebbin

In June 2003, Adam Ebbin won a competitive Democratic primary election to represent District 49 in the Virginia House of Delegates, all but ensuring a win in November in his heavily Democratic district. When Ebbin was sworn in, he became Virginia’s first out LGBTQ+ state legislator. Ebbin later broke another barrier for LGBTQ+ representation, becoming Virginia’s first (and, as of 2021, only) out LGBTQ+ state senator. 

Annise Parker Becomes Houston Controller

Controller Annise Parker

After serving on the Houston City Council for three terms, veteran lesbian activist and business leader Annise Parker ran for controller in 2003, prevailing in the runoff. Houston’s controller manages the sprawling city’s finances with important watchdog responsibilities, maintaining independence from other city government entities. 

In 2005, Parker was selected for the David Bohnett Leaders Fellowship at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Eventually she would become Houston’s mayor and one of the most visible out politicians in the world.  

Chuck Wolfe Begins Tenure as LGBTQ Victory Fund and Institute CEO

Chuck Wolfe
Chuck Wolfe

In 2003, LGBTQ+ Victory Fund and LGBTQ+ Victory Institute boards chose its own member Chuck Wolfe to replace Brian Bond as the organizations’ first President & CEO. Wolfe was a longtime political operative, working for Florida Governor Lawton Chiles for several years before heading the anti-smoking organization now known as the Truth Initiative.

Wolfe worked to implement the boards’ ambitious plans for growth, and the Victory Fund’s budget tripled over the course of his tenure. Under Wolfe, the Presidential Appointments Initiative worked with the Obama White House to secure hundreds of LGBTQ+ appointments, Victory Institute expanded its reach to countries around the world with the help of USAID funding and college students in the U.S. could join the pipeline of LGBTQ+ political leadership through the Victory Congressional Internship program. 

Chuck Wolfe watches on as David Cicilline learns he’s won his congressional primary election in September 2010

Wolfe was ever mindful of the power of good brand positioning, and he was on the ground with candidates like Houston Mayor Annise Parker, Congressman David Cicilline and Senator Tammy Baldwin when they won their elections. 

In an interview with Karen Ocamb in 2016, Wolfe credited the vision of the organizations’ boards with his many successes:

“This board has always been fully engaged,” not just in fundraising but also in strategic planning. "That includes Wolfe’s decision to define Victory Fund as a political organization based in Washington, rather than a national LGBT advocacy group, with a focused and strategic mission. We wanted to have someone in state legislatures—that was a big goal— because we knew that those state legislators would have an impact on things like marriage. So early on in our strategic plan, we made a big push in that direction.” And the push became a successful fifty-state strategy, with out elected officials winning in every state."

LGBTQ+ Victory Fund Endorsed Candidates in 2003

LGBTQ+ Victory Fund endorsed 36 candidates in 2003.


Tom Simplot (R), Phoenix City Council, Arizona

Keltie Jones (D), Davis School Board, California

Ron Oden (D), Palm Springs Mayor, California

Ruth Atkin (D), Emeryville School Board, California

Ginny Foat (D), Palm Springs City Council, California

Kecia Cunningham (D), Decatur City Commissioner, Georgia

Lance Rhodes (D), East Point City Council, Georgia

Dean Trantalis (D), Ft. Lauderdale City Council, Florida

Tom Tunney (D), Chicago City Council, Illinois

Stephen Spring (D), Portland School Board, Maine

Craig Covey (D), Ferndale City Council, Michigan

Al Oertwig (D), St. Paul School Board, Minnesota

Jon Cooper (D), Suffolk County County Legislature, New York

Christine Quinn (D), New York City Council, New York

Phil Reed (D), New York City Council, New York

Annise Parker (D), Houston County Controller, Texas

John Loza (D), Dallas City Council, Texas

Ed Oakley (D), Dallas City Council, Texas

Adam Ebbin (D), House of Delegates, Virginia

Paul Smelberg (D), Alexandria City Council, Virginia

Tom Rassmussen (D), Seattle City Council, Washington


Paul Rosenthal (D), Denver City Council, Colorado

Tom Ammiano (D), San Francisco Mayor, California

Susan Leal (D), San Francisco Mayor, California

Mitzi Bickers (D), Fulton County County Comms. Chair, Georgia

Rick Ingram (D), Chicago City Council, Illinois

Randy Evans (R), State House, Louisiana

Seth Chafetz (D), Birmingham City Council, Michigan

Todd Heywood (NP), Lansing College Trustee, Michigan

John Traier (D), Passaic County County Board, New Jersey

Chris DiGiorgio (D), Tuckahoe City Board of Trustees, New York

Barbara Kavanaugh (D), Buffalo City Controller, New York

Arlene Bluth (D), 2nd Municipal District Civil Court Judge, New York

John Farina (R), Lakewood City Council, Ohio

Sue Lovell (D), Houston City Council, Texas

Doug Reimel (D), Loudon County Board of Supervisors, Virginia

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