Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 3 / 18 January 2018

Political Notebook: Sandoval ready for judge race


Judicial candidate Gerardo Sandoval. Photo: Rick Gerharter
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District 11 Supervisor Gerardo Sandoval surprised the legal community this year by taking on a sitting judge in the June 3 primary, something rarely done in the state. Despite being labeled "not qualified" for the seat on the San Francisco Superior Court by the Bar Association of San Francisco, Sandoval took first place and is facing off against the incumbent, Thomas Mellon , in the November runoff.

Sandoval's decision turned what is normally a pre-ordained affair - most judges seeking re-election do not face challengers - into a headline-grabbing race. He fought back charges that he was merely seeking the court seat due to being termed off the board this year, insisting his decision to enter the race was to diversify the bench.

After the Bar Association released its evaluations of the candidates - in addition to Sandoval it also declared lesbian attorney Mary Mallen "not qualified" for the seat - both former public defenders criticized the legal group's process. Sandoval went so far as to contend that the panel was "stacked" against him with downtown interests opposed at seeing a progressive candidate win.

Mellon, a Republican appointed to the bench by former Governor Pete Wilson (R) in 1994, strongly courted gay voters in the primary race. Just weeks prior to the election he sent out mailers depicting rainbow flags and touting the endorsement of fellow Judge Richard Kramer, who penned the first judicial ruling to find the state's anti-gay marriage laws unconstitutional in 2005.

Sandoval also geared his literature toward LGBT voters, and early on, he lined up LGBT support in the race. He received backing from the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, the Bay Area Reporter , and the Democratic County Central Committee. The Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club sat out the race, and did not endorse in the general election.

With two of the city's most powerful gay lawmakers battling over a state Senate seat in the primary, both men's strategy to go after the gay vote made sense. In the end, Sandoval netted 57,002 votes or close to 44 percent of the ballots cast, besting Mellon by 755 votes, according to the final vote tally.

"It didn't take a genius to figure out the LGBT community would play a big factor and turn out," in the primary, Sandoval said in a recent interview with the B.A.R. "The November election is a much trickier environment. It is not that simple."

Sandoval is confident of winning come November 4. Unlike in the primary, where voters from the gay-centric District 8 drove most of the outcome, according to political analysts, voters citywide will influence the fall election.

LGBT voters are still expected to play a huge role in the election due to Proposition 8, the gay marriage ban. But there are seven supervisor seats up for grabs, and a heated presidential contest is raising expectations of record voter turnout.

All of which could benefit Sandoval. Progressives are gunning to take back control of the Board of Supervisors, and Democrats are feverish to take back the White House from Republicans.

"This election is a perfect storm. Every progressive, young person, person of color and all those who traditionally vote liberal will be coming out. It can only be good for me," predicted Sandoval.

Sandoval, who is bilingual, also deplored the fact that out of 70 judges and commissioners on the San Francisco bench, only two are Latino.

"Governors do not appoint Latinos. They don't appoint anyone who does not come from a traditional corporate background or prosecutorial backgrounds," said Sandoval, who is married and raising two young girls with his wife, Amy Harrington.

Having grown up in East Los Angeles, the 46-year-old Sandoval moved to San Francisco in 1989. He graduated from the University of California at Berkeley and received his law degree from Columbia University in New York City.

He said he first thought of running to be a judge in 2005 and opened up a "Sandoval for Judge" committee. But he opted against running the following year "for a variety of reasons," he said.

To cynics who see his race this year as motivated by his supervisor career ending, Sandoval was emphatic that his candidacy is not a play to remain in public office.

"I could do much better in the private sector practicing law economically than I could as a judge," he said. "I am doing it to talk about the disparity in the appointment process. The process is broken. We don't pick judges in a way that is impartial or free of politics. We should have a panel picking judges."

As for his opponent Mellon, who did not respond to a request for an interview this week, Sandoval argued LGBT and progressive voters should not fall for his liberal-sounding campaign material.

"This guy in not part of our struggle," said Sandoval. "The choices couldn't be more clear. They would never have given the marriage case to my opponent for fear of what he might have done."

Congrats SF, you're #1 for gays

Eat your heart out West Hollywood! San Francisco is the best city anywhere in the world for LGBT people. So declared British newspaper the Independent on its Web site September 17.

According to the paper, it is no longer just the city's "gayest four corners in the world" at the intersection of Castro and 18th streets in the heart of the gayborhood that makes San Francisco number one for queers to call home but "the whole of this laid-back West Coast city is a welcoming environment for gay men and women."

San Francisco earned its status at the top of the list due to its decades-long attraction for gays, with the paper noting that "navy ships would off-load any suspect homosexuals in the harbour" and "disgruntled gay New Yorkers" headed West after the Stonewall riots.

San Francisco's sister city Sydney came in at number two on the list, while New York City made it to number three. Other cities where it is good to be gay include Paris, France, which also is a sister city with San Francisco; Mykonos, Greece; London; and Berlin.

The paper also declared Saudi Arabia as the worst country to be a gay citizen in, with Iran, Jamaica, Afghanistan, and Nigeria all being named the most dangerous states for gays to call home.

Web Extra: For more queer political news, be sure to check Monday mornings around 10 a.m. for Political Notes, the notebook's online companion. This week's column reports on Dallas' efforts to attract more gay visitors from the Bay Area.

Keep abreast of the latest LGBT political news by following the Political Notebook on Twitter @

Got a tip on LGBT politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 861-5019 or e-mail mailto:.

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