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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
March 11, 2005

EMILY's List leader to take the wheel as head of HRC

Washington, D.C.--�To me the most important thing is that we are out telling our stories, and that we reintroduce ourselves to Americans in order to win their hearts and minds. We need to show them that equality is not only important to us, but also important to them,� said Joe Solmonese upon his appointment as the new president of the Human Rights Campaign.

Solmonese, 40, was appointed to the position March 9 to replace Cheryl Jacques, who left the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender lobbying group November 30 after ten months at the helm.

He will take over at HRC on April 11, earning $225,000 a year, the same as Jacques.

Solmonese currently heads EMILY�s List (Early Money Is Like Yeast), the largest political action committee in the nation, whose mission is to elect pro-choice Democratic women to federal and state office.

Solmonese, who is gay, rose to that position in 2003 when EMILY�s List founder Ellen Malcom left to head Americans Coming Together.

Vic Basile, who co-chaired the HRC search committee, said Solmonese was hired for his extensive electoral experience and his contacts among leaders of the politically progressive non-GLBT community.

�He was the key to EMILY�s List�s growth,� Basile said, also noting that the group has a $40 million budget. �He can raise money and he has the vision as to how to reach out to states, even red states.�

By comparison, HRC�s annual budget is $30 million.

Solmonese, a native of Massachusetts, worked as an aide to Governor Michael Dukakis and has worked for Rep. Barney Frank.

Responding to a description of HRC as the �top dog� in visibility and budget among national GLBT organizations, Solmonese said, �We have to be sensitive and mindful as to who we are and how we interact with other groups.�

�We need to be out there and listening to other organizations and to what�s happening in the states in order to see how we can fit in,� he said. �It�s a back-and-forth conversation.�

�EMILY�s List is the �top dog,� too,� said Solmonese, �so it is something I am familiar with.�

Solmonese said he looks forward to working with former assistant attorney general Eleanor Acheson, who is also from Massachusetts, in her new job heading the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force�s new Federal Affairs department.

�[NGLTF�s new department] is more resources and more ideas going toward the same vision,� said Solmonese.

Solmonese said that in the post-November 2 political climate, the GLBT community needs to try to change the mindset of Congress and �take the long view of success.�

�There�s no question that the battles have shifted to the states,� said Solmonese, �but the state and national battles go hand in hand. We influence Congress when we influence in the heartland by telling our stories.�

Solmonese said he believes the national agenda, in addition to stopping any attempt to amend the federal constitution to block marriage equality, should focus on making progress in federal benefits and continuing the conversation to end discrimination in the military.

�I see us and our work at the center of the battle for progressive values in this country,� said Solmonese, �and so do the other progressive organizations. We will be called on to lead the way in those battles.�



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