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Online Extra: Political Notes: LGBT CA legislative candidates well funded for primary

by Matthew S. Bajko

State Senate candidate Vivian Romero. Photo: Courtesy Romero for state Senate campaign.
State Senate candidate Vivian Romero. Photo: Courtesy Romero for state Senate campaign.  

Headed into the final weeks prior to the June 5 primary election, a slight majority of the 13 LGBT candidates known to be running for state Assembly or Senate seats have proved to be adept at raising political donations for their campaigns.

The candidates were required to report their latest fundraising totals on April 26. The filings cover the first quarter of the year between January 1 and April 21 and show that seven of the candidates have either outraised their opponents or are well funded to promote their candidacy to primary voters.

This year's class of LGBT legislative candidates is four fewer than the high seen in 2012. Yet the eight lesbian legislative candidates on the June primary ballot is a record number.

As the Bay Area Reporter has previously noted, it marks the largest group of lesbian legislative candidates in the Golden State over the last decade. The previous high water mark came in 2012 when there were six lesbians looking to be elected to the Statehouse.

The list of candidates will be whittled down by the outcome of the June primary, as only the top two vote-getters regardless of party affiliation will advance to the November election. Thus, in several of the races with out candidates, not all will survive their primaries.

The only competitive legislative race in the Bay Area with out candidates is the contest for the open 15th Assembly District seat, which stretches from Richmond south into parts of Oakland. In that race, lesbian Richmond City Councilwoman Jovanka Beckles, an immigrant who is black and Latina, could become the first out biracial lawmaker elected to the Legislature.

Also running to be the first LGBT state lawmaker from the East Bay are lesbian Berkeley school board member Judy Appel and bisexual East Bay Municipal Utility District board member Andy Katz, who also identifies as gay. Vying a second time for the seat, Katz would be the first out bisexual to serve in the Legislature.

Appel raised $102,002 during the first quarter of 2018 and reported sitting on $140,224 to spend on her race. In a news release, Appel's campaign touted the fact that she netted the most money of any candidate in the race during the reporting period.

"I'm proud to have the support of the teachers, activists, parents, and many others who live in this district," stated Appel. "This campaign is driven by the community and as someone who's served the community for decades, it means a lot to me to have the people who live here and who are invested in making our district the best it can be stand with me."

Beckles, who has sworn off accepting any corporate or special interest money, continues to trail behind her opponents in terms of fundraising. She reported garnering $56,453 in donations so far in 2018 and having just $15,393 to spend on her campaign.

During an editorial board meeting with the B.A.R., Beckles disputed the notion that she couldn't win without raising more money. She pointed to the fact that Chevron, a major political player in Richmond, had outspent a number of City Council candidates, including herself, in recent years who went on to win their races.

"It is hard," she acknowledged of refusing to accept corporate money, "but it is doable."

Katz also raised little money this year, collecting $16,744 in donations during the first quarter. Nonetheless, he reported having a sizeable war chest of $119,999 in cash on hand and told the B.A.R. editorial board last month that his "fundraising is going strong."

Among the four leading straight candidates in the race, former Obama administration staffer Buffy Wicks reported having the most money banked for her campaign. Although she collected $97,015 this year, Wicks reported having $323,575 to spend.

El Cerrito City Councilwoman Rochelle Pardue-Okimoto raised $39,531 and reported having $100,944 in her account. She has the endorsement of the current holder of the seat, Assemblyman Tony Thurmond (D-Richmond), who is running to be the state superintendent of public instruction.

Berkeley City Councilman Ben Bartlett raised $48,829 and had $20,700 remaining in his campaign account. Oakland City Councilman Dan Kalb raised $80,506 and had $100,027 in cash on hand.

Another out newcomer this year that has proved to be successful at fundraising is Palm Springs resident Joy Silver, an expert on aging issues running for the state's 28th Senate District seat. She is aiming to unseat Senator Jeff Stone (R-La Quinta), one of the most anti-LGBT members of the Statehouse.

Silver reported raising $153,606 in the first half of the year with $106,721 remaining in her campaign coffers as of the end of April. Her donations far outpaced those of Stone, who reported netting just $55,123 in the quarter and having $37,617 in his account.

Races for seats where the incumbent resigned
Two of this year's out candidates are running for seats that were vacated by the incumbents. Montebello City Councilwoman Vivian Romero, who identifies as gay, is in the odd position of running in two elections for the same Senate seat on the June 5 primary ballot.

Due to sexual harassment allegations, Tony Mendoza resigned from his Senate District 32 seat earlier this year. The Los Angeles County district covers the cities of Artesia, Montebello, Whittier, Pico Rivera, Downey, and Norwalk.

The special election to serve out the remainder of Mendoza's term through December of this year will be held June 5. If none of the candidates captures 50 percent plus one of the vote, then the top two vote-getters will face off in a runoff election August 7.

Meanwhile, the primary to serve a full four-year term in the Senate seat will also be held June 5, with the top two vote-getters of that race competing in November. Mendoza, despite the scandal surrounding him, is running in both the special election and primary race.

He reported raising $8,900 for the special election and having $5,659 remaining in that account. As for the general election race, Mendoza raised just $6,250 in the reporting period but had $446,638 in his campaign account.

Romero had raised nothing as of April 21 for her campaign account for the special election. As for the general election, she reported $66,577 in donations and $37,956 in cash on hand, putting her at a disadvantage to several of the straight candidates running against Mendoza.

Fellow Montebello City Councilwoman Vanessa Delgado raised $161,964 during the reporting period for the general election race and had $130,790 left by the end of April. As for the special election, she reported raising $5,062 with all but roughly $640 remaining.

Pico Rivera City Councilman Bob J. Archuleta netted $207,511 for the general election and had $108,244 in cash on hand as of late April. For his special election account, he had raised $3,072 and had $2,000 remaining.

Artesia City Councilman Ali S. Taj raised $119,199 for his general election bid and had $60,909 to spend by late April. For the special election, he raised $47,210 with $29,168 left as of last month.

In the other race where the incumbent resigned, Steve Dunwoody is running in the June 5 primary for the 54th Assembly District seat in Los Angeles. It became vacant when Sebastian Ridley-Thomas resigned in December due to health issues.

After failing to make the ballot for the special election last month, Dunwoody ran as a write-in candidate but lost to Sydney Kamlager, who had been serving as a Los Angeles community college trustee. The assemblywoman is now seen as the front-runner in June due to having incumbent status.

Dunwoody, aiming to become the first gay African-American man elected to the Legislature, raised $14,296 this year through April 21 and reported having $11,784 to spend on his campaign. He also raised $13,020 for the account he created for the special election and reporting having $1,169 remaining.

Kamlager reported raising $577,602.68 during the first quarter of the year for the special election and had $153,064 remaining in her account as of April 21. She also raised another $67,350 for her primary campaign account and reported having $13,369 in cash on hand.

Other out newcomers outmatched
Several other out challengers are falling behind in the money race against their incumbent opponents.

In Placer County former San Jose resident Jackie Smith is running to oust freshman Assemblyman Kevin Kiley (R-Granite Bay) from his 6th District seat. She moved with her wife, Darlene Smith, to Rocklin six years ago and founded the LGBT political group Placer Stonewall Democrats.

Smith raised $40,931 in the quarter but had spent most of the funds, reporting only $7,456 left in her account. It paled in comparison to the $94,412 Kiley raised; he also reported having $251,157 to spend on his re-election bid.

In San Diego, lesbian real estate agent Sunday Gover, who lives with her partner and their four children in Scripps Ranch, is running against Assemblyman Brian Maienschein (R-San Diego). The former San Diego city councilman was first elected to his 77th Assembly District seat in 2012 and has been very supportive of LGBT legislation over the last six years.

Gover raised $43,536 during the quarter and had $48,257 remaining in her account. Maienschein, meanwhile, raised $73,200 and reported sitting on more than $1.3 million to defend his seat.

The lone out Republican running for a legislative seat this year is Ontario resident Matthew Munson. He is running against state Senator Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino) in the 20th Senate District, which encompasses parts of the Inland Empire.
He has no chance of winning - he has yet to report raising any money - and is running in order to have a leadership post within the state GOP. Leyva, meanwhile, is sitting on $406,909, having raised $127,731 in the first quarter of the year.

Out incumbents outraise opponents
Facing relatively easy bids for re-election come the fall are gay Assemblymen Evan Low (D-Campbell) and Todd Gloria (D-San Diego), as they are facing token opposition from Republicans in safe Democratic districts.

Low, chair of the California Legislative LGBT Caucus, raised $305,515 and had a campaign war chest of nearly $1.3 million by the end of April. His opponent, Michael Snyder, raised just $2,350 and had less than $500 remaining.

Gloria raised $111,735 during the period and had $282,741 in his campaign account. His opponent, Maggie Campbell, has yet to report raising any money.

Lesbian Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton) is also expected to win re-election this year to her Central Valley seat but is facing a Democratic challenger. She raised $58,650 during the reporting period and had in her campaign account $408,793. Her opponent, Carlos Villapudua, raised $37,224 and had $25,524 to spend.

Lesbian Assemblywoman Sabrina Cervantes (D-Corona) is fending off a challenge by Republican federal prosecutor Bill Essayi. The GOP has targeted the freshman lawmaker for defeat, using her vote for the state's controversial gas tax increase against her.

Cervantes raised $151,626 in the quarter and reported her campaign cash total was $533,800. Essayi outraised her slightly, reporting $158,212 in donations during the quarter. But his cash on hand only totaled $133,668.

Currently, there are eight out members of the state Legislature, four each in the Assembly and Senate. The membership of the California Legislative LGBT Caucus is also split evenly between men and women at the moment.

Two members could depart at the end of the year if gay Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) wins his race for state insurance commissioner, marking the first time an LGBT person is elected to statewide office, and if lesbian state Senator Cathleen Galgiani (D-Stockton) is elected to a seat on the state's Board of Equalization.

Due to three of this year's out legislative candidates running for the same Assembly seat in the East Bay, the most the LGBT caucus could grow this year is by six members depending on the outcome of the various races with out candidates.

Keep abreast of the latest LGBT political news by following the Political Notebook on Twitter @ http://twitter.com/politicalnotes .
Got a tip on LGBT politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 829-8836 or e-mail m.bajko@ebar.com.

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