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BY EVE KUCHARSKI
In 1991 there were fewer than 50 openly LGBTQ elected officials in America. In response to the dire need of representation, it would be in May of that year that the Victory Fund’s first iteration would be founded. Fast forward to today, and the organization has endorsed dozens of openly LGBTQ candidates across the nation.
One of whom, is Lansing local Jim McClurken, who will be running for Lansing City Council’s 4th Ward seat.
“Jim applied, and Jim has been active in the LGBT community as well as the civil rights community at large for his whole life,” said Victory Fund Political Director Sean Meloy. “If you look at his record from the ’70s and the civil rights work he’s done on behalf of Native Americans and the LGBT community in the ’80s during the AIDS crisis, for fundamental rights, for recognition and for basic healthcare rights, he was on the front lines doing that in the community in which he’s running right now actually.”
McClurken, who is also an anthropologist specializing in ethnohistory, met and exceeded all the criteria that the Victory Fund looks for when evaluating a candidate for office. Candidates’ race and campaign plans are not only evaluated, but active work in the community on behalf of the LGBTQ community, their plans to raise money, and fundamental beliefs are also assessed.
According to Meloy, the Victory Fund seeks out the most well-rounded candidates available.
“If they have those things, as well as the capacity to improve even with the help of Victory Fund, we’ll give them our endorsement,” Meloy said. “With that endorsement comes a network of folks who look for our seal as a means to say, ‘this is an LGBT candidate who is running, and they are in a position to help make some change.'”
For McClurken, some of the changes he wants to bring about most are in the fields of economy, transparency and livability. He said that he is “honored” to be nominated, and hopes his values will resonate with not only LGBTQ individuals, but people in Lansing looking for a change.
“I have to say that Donald Trump’s election was another one of the factors that brought home to me that if people like me don’t run for office, other people will,” McClurken said. “I’ve been out there for a very long time, I’m not secret about my orientation, my gay politics and my desire to build a safe place for LGBTQ people.”
He said his time on the city’s Park Board has also informed his campaign.
“Accountability and transparency and decision-making are fundamental to my campaign. The reason I say that is because our current administration has been neither,” McClurken said. “As a member of the park board I’ve been involved with park issues intensely for the past year, as our current Mayor attempts to deaccession park land without the approval of the park board, without the approval of the city council. He has done so through multiple back channel dealings and legal ambiguities and I want that to stop.”
McClarken said he will also dedicate his time to aiding with immigration issues.
“I want to work to ensure from day one, that people in the community are safe from arrest and as far divorced from the ICE process of deportation as I can possibly make them and I will work toward that in every way I can,” McClurken said.
Although McClurken doesn’t consider himself a career politician, he is confident that if elected, his time in city politics will benefit everyone.
“Lansing is ready for someone like me to be open and on city council,” McClurken said. If elected, McClurken will be the first openly gay man to serve on Lansing City Council.