The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has announced key national and in-state staff to lead HRC Rising, a bold, proactive grassroots campaign to accelerate progress in states from coast-to-coast, resist the politics of hate, fight anti-LGBTQ legislation, and fuel pro-equality candidates and initiatives in 2018, 2020 and beyond.
HRC has begun recruiting at least 45 full-time political, field, grassroots organizing, volunteer engagement, communications, and digital staff for this earliest, largest grassroots deployment in its 37-year history. Today, HRC announced the first 12 staff, who will join more than two dozen existing staff working on the HRC Rising initiative. They will immediately begin working with HRC’s 32 existing, volunteer-led, local steering committees to expand local partnerships, recruit volunteers, mobilize constituents, register voters and grow the organization’s grassroots army to flex political muscle in legislatures and at the ballot box.
In Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, HRC is making an especially strong, early push to organize against the Trump-Pence agenda and support pro-equality candidates in coming elections. Newly hired State Managers will manage state staff and volunteers, and work with state and local organizations and partners in coalition to bolster efforts to advance equality, defend the LGBTQ community against attacks, and deliver wins for pro-equality candidates in order to lay the groundwork for future legislative victories. As part of HRC Rising, HRC will also expand its public education and programmatic initiatives to raise awareness about the scope and consequences of inequality and engage a broader swath of the public in our efforts to empower and improve the lives of LGBTQ people everywhere. This will include education about the lack of federal non-discrimination protections that leave LGBTQ people in 31 states at risk of being fired, denied housing, and denied services for who they are or whom they love.
The launch of HRC Rising comes after a year in which HRC significantly expanded its grassroots engagement and proved that the ten million LGBTQ voters in America — five percent of all voters — are one of the most important and effective voting blocs in the nation. Over the last year, HRC has refined its digital outreach, organizing and targeting, including the development of an “Equality Support” model. HRC can now target with a high degree of accuracy not only LGBTQ voters but allies — “equality voters” — who are likely to oppose candidates who attack the civil rights of LGBTQ people.
“The defeat of Pat McCrory in North Carolina and Roy Moore in Alabama show anti-equality politicians everywhere that ‘Equality Voters’ are a powerful voting bloc that can determine elections,” said JoDee Winterhof, HRC Senior Vice President of Policy and Political Affairs. “With so much at stake in 2018, it was more important than ever for us to make this crucial investment in on-the-ground staff a year before the election. Their work mobilizing, activating and harnessing the energy of our grassroots army of more than three million members will truly make the difference come November, and we’re excited for them to join the team as we enter the next stage in the fight for full LGBTQ equality.”
Geoff Wetrosky, former National Campaign Manager for the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), has been named Campaign Director for HRC Rising. Wetrosky has a decade’s worth of on-the-ground experience working on Democratic presidential, gubernatorial, US Senate, US House, and municipal-level campaigns in 11 different states. Long-time HRC Senior Regional Field Director Lynne Bowman, who has overseen HRC’s field efforts in the midwest and northeast since 2012, and Jonathan Shields, who helped lead HRC’s election efforts in North Carolina and across the country in 2016, have joined Wetrosky as Deputy Campaign Directors. Wes Schrock, who most recently built and executed the Democratic Party’s national volunteer program for Virginia’s 2017 elections, is serving as Campaign Coordinator.
HRC also announced four State Managers: Pennsylvania State Manager Allison VanKuiken, Ohio State Manager Shawn Copeland, Wisconsin State Manager Wendy Strout, and Nevada State Manager Briana Escamilla. HRC is also hiring state managers in Arizona and Michigan, who will be on board early next year.
VanKuiken, the former deputy field director for Pennsylvania Competes, joins the team after serving as Equality California’s program director and brings extensive campaign experience in state races in Michigan. Copeland comes to HRC after years leading field campaigns in Ohio for organizations including the Progressive Turnout PAC, NextGen Climate Ohio and Equality Ohio. Strout has deep experience in Wisconsin’s nonprofit advocacy world, building Emerge America’s statewide program in Wisconsin, and most recently leading field work for the Wisconsin AFL-CIO. Escamilla joins HRC from the League of Conservation Voters, where she was Nevada field director, and has also worked for the Nevada State Assembly and the State Democratic Party.
The state managers will manage incoming regional organizing leads, oversee statewide recruitment, cultivate and train volunteer leaders, and mobilize “Equality Voters” ahead of crucial 2018 elections in their states.
HRC is also expanding its digital and communications operations, with staff dedicated to strategic work supporting these in-state teams. Ianthe Metzger, who previously worked at HRC, is leading communications for the six priority states. Prior to rejoining the team she worked at the PR firm BerlinRosen where her clients included Planned Parenthood, the Southern Environmental Law Center and the Democratic Attorneys General Association. Senior Manager of Online Strategy Jacob Shlomo and social organizers Curtis Clinch and Charles Girard will be expanding HRC’s digital communication with members in the six priority states. Shlomo most recently worked at digital strategy firm Mothership Strategies, Girard comes from the HRC Foundation’s Welcoming School program, and Clinch has an extensive background in public relations and marketing for nonprofits.