WASHINGTON ― The Human Rights Campaign announced Tuesday that it’s making a massive ― and early ― investment in its grassroots mobilization efforts, with a goal of turning the 2018 midterm elections into a rebuke of President Donald Trump and anti-LGBTQ members of Congress.
The LGBTQ rights group is spending $26 million on “HRC Rising,” a new campaign aimed at electing pro-equality candidates and fighting homophobic policies in all 50 states. HRC will beef up its staff and volunteers nationwide, but make a particularly strong push in six states: Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona and Nevada. It will also focus on trying to unseat about two dozen House Republicans with records of voting against LGBTQ rights but who represent districts Hillary Clinton won last year.
It’s the biggest investment the organization has made in its 37-year history. It’s also more than a year out from the midterms, which is early in the political process for such a coordinated grassroots effort. HRC president Chad Griffin said it’s warranted given “the extreme nature” of Trump’s administration.
“Mike Pence has spent his entire career attempting to undermine equal rights for LGBTQ people. That’s who Trump chose as his No. 2,” Griffin told HuffPost. “His secretary of housing and urban development [Ben Carson], charged with enforcing fair housing, doesn’t even acknowledge that LGBT people exist. Then, one of [Betsy DeVos’] first acts as education secretary was to attack transgender students.”
Griffin is referring to Carson previously describing the LGBTQ community as “a few people who perhaps are abnormal.” DeVos, in February, rolled back protections put into place by President Barack Obama for transgender kids. Vice President Pence, meanwhile, has a generally awful record on LGBTQ rights.
A White House spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment on HRC’s plans.
For all the losses Democrats sustained in 2016, HRC did see some scattered wins. National exit polls last fall revealed that LGBTQ voters were the only demographic that increased in support for Clinton over Obama four years earlier. HRC also successfully mobilized supporters to bring down former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R), who authored the state’s extreme anti-LGBTQ law, HB 2. By Election Day, 57 percent of voters said the law was the top reason they voted against McCrory.
The way HRC sees it, the secret to the North Carolina victory was significant long-term investment and staff deployment on the ground. That’s the same tack it plans to take in other states leading up to 2018. The group has already begun recruiting at least 20 new full-time staff for political, field and volunteer engagement work. Those staffers will team up with HRC’s existing volunteer-led committees around the country to expand local partnerships, mobilize constituents and register voters.
“We are seeing more activism than we have ever seen in our organization’s 37-year history,” Griffin added. “We intend to harness that energy.”