Political Notebook: Gay politicians haul in campaign cash
by Matthew S. Bajko
Gay and lesbian candidates for state legislative offices hauled in nearly $1.6 million during the first six months of the year as they gear up for the June 2008 primary. So far, two out lesbians and four gay men are vying to win seats in the state legislature.
Their ability to win their races could stave off the dissolution of the LGBT Legislative Caucus, which will lose two of its current five members next year due to term limits: Assemblyman John Laird (D-Santa Cruz) and Senator Sheila Kuehl (D-Los Angeles).
Senator Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego) is expected to easily win re-election next November. She raised $89,463 so far this year for her campaign, bringing her cash total to $190,133.
One, or perhaps both, of their caucus colleagues, Senator Carole Migden and Assemblyman Mark Leno , will not be returning as the San Francisco Democrats are competing against each other for Migden's 3rd District Senate seat. There is the chance that neither will win the primary battle, as two other candidates have already entered the race â€“ San Francisco Police Commissioner Joseph Alioto Veronese and College of Marin Trustee Phil Kranenburg â€“ and a fifth, former Marin Assemblyman Joe Nation, is rumored to be ready to announce his candidacy.
Nation, 51, left the Assembly in 2006 due to term limits and unsuccessfully ran to unseat Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey (D-Petaluma) in the 2006 primary. He taught at the University of San Francisco this spring and now works as an environmental consultant.
Nation had said as recently as late June that he had no intention of entering the race. But rumors of a change of mind have circulated for weeks, and the Marin Independent Journal reported last week that he is "most definitely considering" a campaign.
If Nation does enter the race, he could very well send both Leno and Migden packing. He has the name recognition and donor base needed to mount a competitive campaign, and with three San Franciscans splitting the city's vote, he could garner enough votes in Marin and Sonoma to squeak out on top.
But he will have to catch up money-wise to the out lawmakers. As reported in this column last week, Migden raised $356,950 this year and has a $1 million war chest to defend her seat. Meanwhile, Leno pulled in $512,000 among his various campaign accounts but reported having only $318,272 in cash.
In contrast to the heated battle for Migden's Senate seat, it is likely Supervisor Tom Ammiano will run unopposed in the Democratic primary to replace Leno in the Assembly. So far, no other Democrat has filed to enter the race. Due to the 13th Assembly District's voters being overwhelmingly Democratic, Ammiano is practically assured of being declared the winner in November if he is successful next June.
Termed off the Board of Supervisors, Ammiano announced last August that he would run for Leno's seat. Since then he has racked up numerous endorsements, and his campaign reported last week it raised $184,883 for his primary campaign, with $150,000 cash on hand.
Ammiano won the endorsement of the East Bay LGBT Democratic Club at the group's July 30 meeting. Appearing before the group, Ammiano said that he has been endorsed by all his colleagues on the board "except the guy nobody knows where he lives," a reference to embattled Supervisor Ed Jew, who is facing trial on criminal charges. (Jew has pleaded not guilty.)
Ammiano has raised more than $60,000 from various unions, including $14,400 from the California Nurses Association. His LGBT contributors include Migden, former prosecutor Jim Hammer, Bay Area Reporter legal counsel Paul Melbostad , Health Commissioner Roma Guy , Entertainment Commissioner Terrance Alan , Health Director Dr. Mitch Katz , and California State University Trustee Roberta Achtenberg.
Former state Senator John Burton , Golden Gate Bridge Board member Janet Reilly, Marin County Supervisor Hal Brown, and Pacific Heights doyenne and fundraiser Diane "Dee Dee" Wilsey all donated to Ammiano's coffers.
In a statement Ammiano said, "We're proud to have strong grassroots support from over 400 contributors. We're especially proud that 80 percent of our contributions were under $500, and most of those were $100 or less, because our campaign is about empowering people."
West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon appears to be the frontrunner in his race to replace termed out Assemblywoman Lois Wolk (D-Vacaville). Cabaldon, who served as Migden's chief of staff when she was in the Assembly, reported raising $376,056 with $329,419 cash on hand for his bid to represent the 8th District.
Cabaldon raised nearly three times as much money as his primary opponent, Yolo County Supervisor Mariko Yamada , who reported $138,650 in contributions with $103,699 in cash to spend. The total is far short of the $500,000 observers of the race have said she needs in order to be competitive.
Three out politicians donated to Cabaldon's race: Laird, Stockton City Council member Susan Eggman and Campbell City Council member Evan Low. He also received some financial assistance from the advisory board members of EdVoice, a Sacramento-based education nonprofit advocacy group for which Cabaldon serves as president and CEO. Gap founder Don Fisher and his family gave the Filipino-American lawmaker $36,000 and Netflix founder Reed Hastings contributed $7,200.
Down in the Palm Springs area, Greg Pettis has launched his second bid to win the 80th District Assembly seat. Pettis has spent a dozen years as a Cathedral City Council member and was defeated in the 2002 Democratic primary for the seat, which ultimately went to moderate Republican Bonnie Garcia .
With Garcia termed out next year, five Democrats and two Republicans have signaled they are interested in replacing her in the legislature. Garcia has thrown her support behind Palm Springs Police Chief Gary Jeandron, who reported raising $115,224 with $94,836 in cash on hand.
Pettis reported raising less than half that amount. He pulled in $72,634 and reported having $60,161 in cash. But according to the Desert Sun he raised more than all the other Democratic candidates combined in the first half of this year.
Both Kuehl and Kehoe were among the 100 people who donated to his campaign, as did former state Controller Steve Westly , who lost the Democratic gubernatorial primary race last year. The local paper reported that not only did Pettis raise the most money, he had more donors than all of the other candidates combined.
"I'm grateful for the outpouring of support from so many people," Pettis said in a statement.
If he does become the Democratic candidate in the race, Pettis could very well be competitive in the heavily Republican district if he connects with LGBT voters. According to the gay political group Log Cabin Republicans, Garcia's district has a large number of same-sex households.
South Bay council member urged to run
Jamie McCleod, a lesbian serving on the Santa Clara City Council, is being pushed to run for an Assembly seat in the South Bay. Sally Lieber (D-Mountain View) will be termed out of her 22nd District Assembly seat in 2008, and McCleod has been touted as a potential candidate.
"I don't know if she is going to run next year or not. I have encouraged her," said Clark Williams, who unsuccessfully ran for San Jose City Council last year. "I think she can win. She has done a great job as a member of the Santa Clara City Council."
Santa Clara Council member Dominic Caserta and City Clerk Rod Diridon Jr ., along with four other contenders, have already filed papers to run for the Assembly seat.
McCleod told the San Jose Mercury News in May that she was interested in the race. But supporters said she might just sit out the Assembly race and instead run for mayor.
"It's an important position for the city and I've thought about it but I'm waiting to see how the dialogue on issues progresses," McLeod told the paper.
McLeod told the B.A.R. last week she is "definitely considering a run" but has yet to make a formal decision.
Victory Fund endorses in '07 California races
The Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, a national organization that funnels donations to LGBT candidates across the country, has endorsed three out candidates seeking local elected offices in this November's general election.
The candidates include two Bay Area lawmakers: Ruth Atkin , running for re-election to the Emeryville City Council; and Vallejo City Council member Gary Cloutier , vying to be that city's and the Bay Area's first openly gay candidate to be elected mayor. The third is Henry Lo , who is seeking re-election to the Garvey Board of Education in Los Angeles.
Women for Carole Migden is hosting an organizing party for the state senator's re-election race Tuesday, August 21 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at a home in San Francisco. To RSVP, contact mailto:email@example.com or call (650) 873-2678. A flier noted that contributions are welcome but not expected.
Challenger Mark Leno's supporters in the leather community are hosting a fundraiser Saturday, August 18 from 8 to 10 p.m. at a home in the Castro. To RSVP, contact (916) 441-6855 or e-mail mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org.