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BREAKING: Lesbian East Bay Assembly candidate falls back to third place

by Matthew S. Bajko

Jovanka Beckles is back to being the third place finisher in the 15th Assembly District race.
Jovanka Beckles is back to being the third place finisher in the 15th Assembly District race.   

The yo-yoing primary election results continue for Jovanka Beckles, a lesbian who sits on the Richmond City Council. Monday morning saw her fall back to third place in the race for the open 15th Assembly District seat, which stretches from Richmond south into parts of Oakland.

After being in third place for most of last week, Beckles had catapulted into second place Friday afternoon. And over the weekend she had seen her edge over Oakland City Councilman Dan Kalb continue to strengthen.

But late Sunday night her electoral fortunes reversed when Alameda County reported new numbers in the race. Beckles was again in third place with 14,076 votes, or 15 percent of the total.

Kalb had taken back second place with 14,651 votes, or 15.6 percent of the total. Thus, he now leads Beckles by 575 votes, though Contra Costa elections officials have not released a new vote count since Friday.

On her Twitter account Monday morning, Beckles quoted the Yogi Berra quip, "It ain't over till it's over." She added that, "The count is see-sawing back and forth, folks. We're watching things closely."

Former Obama staffer Buffy Wicks continues to have a dominating lead with 29,827 votes. Under the state's "jungle primary" system, the top two vote-getters in the June 5 primary race will compete against each other in the November 6 general election.

Several hours before Alameda County elections officials had posted the latest returns, Beckles's campaign had issued a statement Sunday evening saying she remained hopeful that she would hold on to second place. Her campaign had estimated that approximately 26,000 ballots remained to be counted, which it said implies that she and Kalb will each still gain in the neighborhood of 3,900 votes.

Should she make it to the November election, Beckles will be vying to become the first out LGBT state legislator from the East Bay. She would also become the first out African-American woman - born in Panama, Beckles is both black and Latina - and LGBT immigrant elected to California's Legislature.

The current officeholder, Assemblyman Tony Thurmond (D-Richmond), is running to be the state superintendent of public instruction.

The contest was the only competitive state legislative race in the Bay Area with out candidates. Judy Appel, a lesbian who sits on the Berkeley school board and bisexual East Bay Municipal Utility District board member Andy Katz both came up short in their bids to represent the district.

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