Metro Weekly

“Agenda PAC” Launches to Defeat Anti-LGBTQ Candidates

Political action committee plans to target vulnerable Republicans in this year's midterm elections and in future cycles.

Pennsylvania State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, the chair of Agenda PAC – Photo: Office of Governor Tom Wolf, via Flickr.

A new super political action committee is launching to defeat anti-LGBTQ candidates in the upcoming midterm elections and future election cycles

Labeled “Agenda PAC,” the committee’s leaders, who include several LGBTQ officeholders and veteran Democratic political operatives, say the purpose of the super PAC is to defeat candidates who are hostile to the LGBTQ community. 

Unlike LGBTQ Victory Fund, which advocates for greater LGBTQ representation in the political sphere — based on the underlying premise that having more out LGBTQ elected leaders who can serve as a “face” of the community makes it more difficult to push through anti-LGBTQ legislation — Agenda PAC is designed to take the fight directly to those politicians pushing hostile bills or initiatives that would harm the LGBTQ community.

Ted Bordelon, a political communications strategist, will serve as the political action committee’s executive director, while Pennsylvania State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta (D-Philadelphia), the Keystone State’s first openly gay Black lawmaker, will serve as chair. Prominent Democratic pollster Celinda Lake and longtime Democratic consultant Joe Trippi, who most recently worked with the anti-Trump Lincoln project, will serve as senior advisers.

Other board members include State Sen. Shevrin Jones of Florida, State Sen. Megan Hunt of Nebraska, and State Rep. Joshua Boschee of North Dakota — all Democrats who were the first out LGBTRQ candidates elected to their respective state legislatures.

Agenda PAC’s leaders told Politico that they were inspired to form the super PAC not only because there was no organization specifically focusing on defeating anti-LGBTQ candidates (rather than supporting pro-LGBTQ allies), but because the recent Dobbs decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, which overturned the 1973 landmark abortion decision in Roe v. Wade, demonstrated how fleeting legally recognized protections can be if they are not explicitly passed into law by a legislative body.

In particular, Kenyatta zeroed in on a concurring opinion issued by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who called upon the high court to “reconsider” its ruling on a number of cases, including the Obergefell v. Hodges decision legalizing same-sex marriage and the Lawrence v. Texas decision overturning state laws that criminalize same-sex relations.

“Thomas’ concurring opinion on Dobbs really changed everything,” Kenyatta said, adding that the concurring opinion “put a target squarely on the back of the LGBTQ community” and that Thomas had “welded together the freedoms to love and choose.”

Agenda PAC’s leaders say they’ve raised somewhere in the six figures, with plans to raise money that would expand efforts into the millions. Although the group is not ruling out television ads, much of its funding is likely to go toward digital ads and online engagement.

The group’s first target is Doug Mastriano, the GOP nominee for Pennsylvania governor, who is running against Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro. Mastriano is known best for his belief that the 2020 election was not legitimate, as well as his ultra-conservative views on social and cultural issues. 

After winning the Republican primary in May, Mastriano used a portion of his victory speech to rail against transgender people, promising to issue an order that would restrict transgender people to only using bathrooms that match their assigned sex at birth. He opposes same-sex marriage, has opined that LGBTQ couples should be barred from adopting children, and had railed against transgender participation in female-designated sports.

“This is a national effort, but we wanted to start in our backyard and then branch out,” Bordelon told NBC News. “Nationally, Mastriano is one of, if not the worst, statewide candidate when it comes to LGBTQ+ issues.”

Agenda PAC is also planning to oppose a handful of Republican House candidates in 2022, though it is still narrowing down that list.

In a video announcing the launch of the super PAC, Mastriano and GOP Congresswomen Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Greene are shown in short clips. But given how reliably Republican Boebert and Greene’s districts are, it is unlikely they would be targeted by the super PAC.

However, short clips of U.S. Reps. Yvette Herrell (R-N.M.), Ken Calvert (R-Calif.), and Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) are also seen in the video. All three have been redistricted into districts that are either Democratic-leaning (in a neutral environment), or, in Calvert’s case, have taken on more liberal-leaning territory, such as the city of Palm Springs, which has a large proportion of LGBTQ residents.

Agenda PAC’s leaders say that while they will not be targeting Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis during his re-election bid, they do see a longer-term role for themselves focusing on defeating his presidential ambitions and what looks to be an inevitable run in 2024.

“It’s not a shock to anybody that DeSantis is thinking about running for president,” Kenyatta told Politico, “and we’re prepared to crap on him the whole way.”

See Agenda PAC’s launch video below:

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