Friday
May 19, 2006
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Volume 34
Issue 20
 
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Washington Won't Discriminate on track to meet challenge by foes of anti-discrimination legislation, says campaign manager
Washington Won't Discriminate on track to meet challenge by foes of anti-discrimination legislation, says campaign manager
"The response to protecting our family, friends, and colleagues from discrimination is resonating with Washingtonians from around the state," says Campaign Manager John Vezina.

by Robert Raketty - SGN Staff Writer

During a visit to the office of Washington Won't Discriminate (WWD), the campaign seeking to retain our state's new law that bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, one would see a spacious office buzzing with activity. Looking around, one would be hard pressed to find any resemblance of an organization that had been strongly criticized for its slow start and staff turn-over.

The office, divided into several large rooms by sheet rocked walls, is well organized into departments and one to two people can be found working in each. Campaign literature and logos of endorsing organizations cover the walls.

However, those behind the effort know a campaign is not won on appearance alone. The quality of the individuals behind an effort is key and a solid strategy is vital to electoral success. The effort is now in the hands of Campaign Manager John Vezina, who is on leave from Equal Rights Washington (ERW), a statewide Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender advocacy organization.

Vezina, a native of Alaska, has worked for the Alaska Legislature and in the governor's office for former Governor Tony Knowles. In Washington D.C., he was the Intergovernmental Affairs Liason for the Corporation for National Service, Vice President of Government Relations for Communities in Schools and Senior Policy Advocate for the Human Rights Campaign. Recently, he was hired by ERW as its first Director of Political and Governmental Affairs.

He is joined by Field Director Dan Hawes, an organizer with the National Gay Lesbian Task Force and University of Washington (UW) graduate; Operations Manager Marjorie Skotheim, an experienced campaign staffer; Volunteer Coordinator Liam Cooper, a recent Master's degree recipient from the UW; and Ken La, a graphic designer who is organizing house parties and coordinating visibility for the campaign.

The SGN spoke with Vezina on Thursday about the campaign's direction and its outlook for success.



SGN: Can I get an update on how WWD is doing?

JV: The campaign continues at a fast pace - it is great! We have visibility teams getting ready for Pride month and other community events happening everywhere. We're out talking with people about why they'll need to vote "approve" on Referendum 65. We're recruiting supporters and volunteers to make sure we're ready to turn out our base. The response to protecting our family, friends, and colleagues from discrimination is resonating with Washingtonians from around the state.

SGN: Who has been hired? What are their qualifications, etc?

JV: For those who haven't been to the office yet, we have a terrific campaign team. I, John Vezina, am on leave from Equal Rights Washington to fill the campaign manager position; Dan Hawes, an organizer with the National Gay Lesbian Task Force and UW grad is the Field Director; Marjorie Skotheim, an experienced campaign staffer is the operations manager; Ken La, a graphic designer is organizing our house parties and coordinating visibility; Liam Cooper, a recent Master's degree recipient from UW is the volunteer coordinator. They are joined by many volunteers who are committed to ensuring we keep Washington's anti-discrimination law in place.

SGN: How is fundraising and outreach going?

JV: Both fundraising and outreach are going well. We continue to connect with people from all across the state who want to volunteer and contribute. We are gratified by the money we've received while realizing we have a long way to go in having the funding available to get our message out to the voters in November.

SGN: Are you gearing up like it was the day after Tim Eyman turned in the necessary signatures to put the thing on the ballot? Or, is WWD taking a wait and see approach?

JV: We know other campaigns traditionally take a wait and see approach, but Washington Won't Discriminate has been organizing voters all Spring, knowing every signature the other side gets is helping them, whether for Referendum 65, Initiative 949, or any other way they come up with to take away people's rights. We need to be proactively working to expand our base at the same time.

SGN: What are your volunteer needs?

JV: Washington Won't Discriminate is building a team of people to recruit other volunteers and identify supportive voters from within LGBT and allied communities. We campaign with supporters person-to-person on week nights and weekends and at LGBT and pro-LGBT organizational meetings, churches, bars, campuses, and community events. It's the campaign's most important work, because many in the LGBT and progressive community still don't even know our anti-discrimination law is under attack.

No experience is necessary! We provide thorough training so they'll be well-prepared to talk with voters, and we do every action as a team to make it fun. We also have other day volunteer opportunities available helping with various forms of office work. For more information, contact Liam at 206-728-4444.

SGN: Is there any items you are hoping to have donated?

JV: Office supplies, a dolly or boxes on wheels for hauling around materials to events and parades. Non-perishable food and drinks for volunteers.

SGN: Anything else you want our readers to know?

JV: It is vital for all fair-minded Washingtonians to discuss Referendum 65 with their families, friends, and colleagues. These rights took 29 years to gain but could be lost before they even take effect. Each of us must take responsibility for making sure everyone we know in Washington knows about Referendum 65 and understand s/he must vote "approve" in order to keep sexual orientation in the law. Doing so for yourself and your LGBT friends could be the most important thing you do this year.

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