HRC names Chad Griffin as new President

A somewhat surprising choice. Chad Griffin, President of the Board of the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), the organization behind the Prop 8 lawsuit, isn’t from the inside-the-beltway gay groupthink crowd.

NOTE FROM JOHN: I never expected to say this about the next HRC President, but I’m thrilled that it’s Chad. In addition to Chad’s record at AFER, Joe and I got to spend some time with him last year and he’s quite impressive.  He’s smart as hell, excellent on camera (how many national leaders do we have that are?), has a serious grasp on politics (something HRC, and we, need), and being young(ish) he’s hopefully more open to working with the gay Netroots than his predecessor.  I’m really quite surprised that they picked Chad, and that Chad picked HRC.

I suspect we’ll hear some concerns about Chad not being a very “diverse” candidate. And while in some quarters of the community it’s become a cliché to hate on gay white males, it is a valid goal to seek diversity among our leaders (I for one think it would have been interesting, and politically useful, had HRC picked someone who’s black).  The question remains: Is Chad the best choice for the job of the candidates available?  And it’s hard not to respond with a hearty “hell yeah.”

A gay political friend, who is no friend of HRC, put it best in an email to me: “I think I might start to care about HRC again.”

Andrew Harmon has the scoop:

Chad Griffin, the Los Angeles-based political consultant whose central role in the Proposition 8 lawsuit turned him into a national LGBT rights figure, has been named president of the Human Rights Campaign.

A major fundraiser for the Obama campaign who began his career in the early days of the Clinton White House, Griffin will replace current president Joe Solmonese at the helm of the $40 million organization on June 11, HRC announced Friday following a board of directors vote. Solmonese, who joined HRC as president in 2005 and said in August that he would leave after his contract expires at the end of this month, will continue in his role until June. Solmonese was named a national co-chair for the Obama campaign last month.

In its pick of Griffin as president, HRC has chosen someone who was shaped from an early age by Washington political culture yet who is not defined by it, having spent the vast majority of his career outside the Beltway. Griffin, 38, is a fervent supporter of President Obama with personal ties to White House officials, but has pushed the bipartisan case for marriage equality, notably hiring former George W. Bush solicitor general Theodore Olson to co-lead the Prop. 8 suit and aligning with conservatives including gay former Republican National Committee chair Ken Mehlman, who has raised money for the legal effort. Griffin has been openly critical of the president’s evolving position on marriage equality, calling Obama’s indicated support for state’s rights on deciding who can marry “a step backwards.” And, central to the job, Griffin has a proven ability to be a formidable fundraiser.

On October 27, 2010, Joe was one of five bloggers who interviewed President Obama. Joe is a DC-based political consultant with over twenty-five years of experience at both the state and federal level. Joe has managed political operations and legislative efforts for both candidates and issues-based organizations. For seven years, he was the Director of State Legislation at Handgun Control, Inc. He served as that organization's first Political Director during the 2000 cycle. Joe is a graduate of the University of Maine School of Law. In addition, he has a Masters in Public Administration from Lehigh University and received his B.A. from the University of New Hampshire. Joe also has a fun dog, Petey, a worthy successor to Boomer, who got Joe through eight years of Bush and Cheney. Joe likes to think he is a world class athlete having finished the 2005 Chicago Marathon in the time of 4:10. He has completed six other marathons as well -- and is still determined to break the four hour mark.

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