Faced with $30K budget shortfall, national LGBT Democratic group suspends operations, closes D.C. office but says it will reboot in 2014
Stonewall Democrats leaders in Texas say the national organization’s announcement this week that it’s going “on hiatus” will have little effect on the state caucus or local clubs.
Jerame Davis, National Stonewall Democrats executive director, confirmed that the group plans to suspend operations in an exclusive interview with Dallas Voice this week. Davis said he’ll continue as an unpaid volunteer while a transitional board is assembled to prepare for a reboot of the organization in 2014. National Stonewall Democrats closed its Washington, D.C. office on Jan. 1 when a budget deficit announced early in December could not be paid by the end of the year.
“A lot of decisions are being made,” Davis said. “It’s likely our office will be closed for most of this year.”
Omar Narvaez, president of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, said the national group going on hiatus “will help the local coffers,” which could be important in a year with municipal elections in May.
Most national memberships come from local Stonewall organizations. When a member pays dues to the local group, $10 is passed along to Washington. In a year-end phone call to chapters, Davis encouraged them to continue sending dues to national. He said he understands they’d be paying into a hole and couldn’t require it.
Narvaez said the Dallas chapter will pay fourth-quarter dues from last year, adding that the local board planned to meet this weekend to decide how much additional money they’re willing to contribute. Narvaez noted that the Dallas group received benefits while the debt was incurred, so he expected the board would make some commitment.
Narvaez added that while much of what Stonewall Dallas does is work for candidates on a local level, the group needs a national voice.
Erin Moore of Dallas, who served on the national board, declined to comment for this article.
Eli Olivarez, president of the Texas Stonewall Democratic Caucus, said closing the D.C. office would not affect Texas, but he hopes the organization relaunches quickly. Olivarez said he thinks Stonewall Democrats should become part of the Democratic National Committee, just as Log Cabin Republicans are officially part of the Republican Party.
“They have the money to fund positions,” he said of the DNC.
He said Stonewall is important to the Democratic Party and in Texas Stonewall has a seat on the State Democratic Executive Committee.
“We’re the worker bees,” he said. “Elected officials always reach out to Stonewall.”
But while the national organization remains on hold, Olivarez expects the Texas caucus to become stronger and grow over the next year.
Currently, he is working with groups from Fort Hood, north Houston and West Texas to form new chapters, in addition to the 11 clubs already operating in the state. He’s also planning a statewide summit on April 6–8 in Austin where he hopes to attract new members and spur interest in opening additional chapters.
Davis sent an email in early December warning the organization was facing a $30,000 deficit and might be forced to close if the money was not raised. When he became executive director in December 2011, he inherited the organization’s debt.
“We’ve never raised enough money out of dues alone to keep the organization going,” he said.
Reflecting on the past year, Davis said part of the problem was just how much money the presidential election sucked out of the pockets of donors. In addition, the Tammy Baldwin for Senate campaign siphoned funds from around the country.
“We hoped an angel would step in,” he said. “That didn’t happen.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 11, 2013.