Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 7 / 15 February 2018

Political Notebook: Gay, lesbian supe candidates arrested at Prop 8 protest


Rafael Mandelman, second from left, and Debra Walker, right, prepare to be arrested at Tuesday's protest following the state Supreme Court's decision upholding Prop 8. Photo: Rick Gerharter
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Among those arrested Tuesday for blocking Van Ness Avenue in protest of the ruling upholding Proposition 8 were two out candidates for supervisor in 2010: Rafael Mandelman and Debra Walker. The police, many of whom were LGBT themselves, cited the 157 protesters for infractions and misdemeanors under the city's transportation codes.

They are scheduled to appear before a Superior Court judge on June 26, but it is likely all charges will be dropped.

Walker, an out lesbian artist and progressive activist, is running in District 6, where incumbent Supervisor Chris Daly will be termed out of office. Walker is an elected member of the Democratic County Central Committee and serves on the city's Building Inspection Commission.

She pulled papers for the race earlier this year and, as of now, is the clear frontrunner. She joined the protest outside City Hall mere blocks away from the Supreme Court to show her outrage of the 6-1 decision to allow the ban on same-sex marriage to stand.

"It is an injustice to all of us. Someone needs to be out there drawing a line and saying it is not okay," Walker told the Political Notebook shortly after being released Tuesday afternoon. "If we can have our rights taken away, so can everybody else."

While Walker was taking part in the demonstration, one of her opponents, Entertainment Commissioner Jim Meko , sent out an e-mail declaring that the "D6 campaign is on!" The openly gay Meko made no mention of the court case. Rather, he informed supporters that his Web site had gone live and fundraising had begun.

Pledging to run a campaign that unites the South of Market District, Meko wrote that,  "Our needs transcend ideology. We just cannot afford to be squaring off into warring camps again."

In response, Walker said, "I guess he had his priorities straight. He did his politicking today."

Seated next to her on the street was Mandelman, a gay man who is the first out of the gate in the race to replace termed out District 8 Supervisor Bevan Dufty. An attorney and member of the city's Board of Appeals, he will hold his campaign kickoff in mid-June, 18 months before voters go to the polls in November 2010 to elect Dufty's successor.

Since the LGBT community had exhausted its legal avenues seeking to win back its rights, Mandelman said he saw no other recourse than to engage in civil disobedience.

"I think there are times when it is appropriate to break the law," said Mandelman, who works as an attorney in Oakland. "I think for our community what the majority of Californians, and it was a narrow majority, did to us in November was fundamentally wrong and unjust and intolerable.

"We pursued what recourse through the legal system might be available to us, and today the Supreme Court closed that door," he added. "So we are living in this respect in an unjust society where it is entirely appropriate for us to express our anger about that."

Of the four openly gay or lesbian people said to be serious about running for the Castro District seat, Mandelman is by far the most progressive of the bunch. He was the only one to take part in Tuesday's protest.

As president of the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, Mandelman was a strong supporter of former state Senator Carole Migden during her unsuccessful bid for re-election last year. He is also a DCCC member, where he has been a key vote for party Chair Aaron Peskin and fellow member Daly.

Last summer he helped oust the party's openly gay chair Scott Wiener, who is also expected to seek the supervisor seat, and this spring Mandelman tried to push out its gay regional director in favor of Daly serving in the post.

Now he will be courting votes in the more moderate District 8, which along with the city's gayborhood includes Noe Valley, Diamond Heights, and Glen Park. He plans to pull papers for the race next week and his campaign launch begins at 6 p.m. Monday June 15 at Blush Wine Bar on Castro Street.

His early start, he said, is due to his expectation he will have a harder time raising money for his race than his opponents, who so far are all moderates with strong ties not only to the district but national and statewide LGBT groups.

"I am going to have competitors who are probably raising money nationally and raising a lot of money. I will be relying on San Franciscans and small contributors," he said. "I need to start as early as I can raising my money."

He declined to criticize his opponents for not joining in the protest, nor would he speculate on why no one else had officially declared their candidacy in the D8 race.

"I don't know why no one else has done it. I feel ready and it is the right thing to do. I know I am running and I am eager to get started," said Mandelman.

As for his likely opponents, Assistant District Attorney Rebecca Prozan issued a statement following the court's ruling in which she noted how "unbelievable" it is for her to "remain married to my law school sweetheart, Julia , but thousands of others just like me have lost their right to marry. I'm disappointed and angry, but more committed than ever to make sure that the right to marry exists for everyone."

Asked by the Notebook why she hadn't demonstrated in the streets, Prozan said she had to work and, as a prosecutor, she took an oath to uphold the law.

"I, of course, certainly understand the anger and frustration my friends, colleagues, family and all of us are feeling right now," she said. "Protest comes in all different shapes and sizes. I was fortunate to be one of the 36,000 married persons that the court found to be legitimate under the law. I think that, in itself, is a form of protest."

Neither of the other likely candidates, Laura Spanjian , a staffer at the city's Public Utilities Commission, nor Wiener, a deputy city attorney, issued statements regarding the court's ruling.

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.

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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