Political Notebook: Alice to vote on early D8 nod
by Matthew S. Bajko
The membership of the Alice B Toklas LGBT Democratic Club will decide at its November 9 meeting whether to suspend the group's bylaws and schedule an early endorsement vote in the 2010 District 8 supervisor race.
At its meeting Monday, October 26 Alice's board voted overwhelmingly to move forward a proposal to have the moderate political club make a dual endorsement in the race, splitting its backing between former Alice co-chairs Rebecca Prozan and Scott Wiener. Out of the 50 votes cast at the meeting, 42 board members backed the dual endorsement idea, with the other eight opposed.
Thus, the measure passed with 84 percent support. Both Prozan and Wiener expressed confidence following the vote that the membership would follow suit at next month's meeting, setting the stage for them to clinch the group's backing at the December meeting.
Prozan said she is "grateful and energized" by the board's decision, while Wiener said he is "honored that the board is supporting me, especially given the large majority that supported this effort."
The endorsement fight has pitted the two candidates against a third challenger in the race, Laura Spanjian, who is also a former Alice co-chair. Spanjian and her supporters have denounced the dual endorsement move as political chicanery.
"I respect Alice and what it fights for so much but I don't respect this process," said Spanjian following the board vote. "I think it would be better for Alice and the LGBT community to have a full debate and a full vetting of the candidates."
Faced with the vocal objections from Spanjian's camp, Prozan and Wiener asked the club to include Spanjian's name, as well as Rafael Mandelman, a former Alice board member also seeking the D8 supervisor seat, on the endorsement ballot. Should the club's members approve holding an early endorsement vote, then the ballot at the December meeting would include three choices: a dual endorsement for Prozan and Wiener or sole endorsements for either Spanjian or Mandelman.
"Rebecca and I talked about it. We thought it made sense for all the candidates' names to appear on the ballot," said Wiener. "It was the right thing to do. We feel good about getting the endorsement but it just made sense."
The decision, however, did little to placate Spanjian or lessen her opposition to how the club is handling the endorsement in the race.
"It felt like a disingenuous maneuver after they had won the vote," she said.
Mandelman said he was surprised to learn that his name would be on the ballot and questioned the sincerity behind the move.
"I guess the intention is to make the process look more fair. It is pretty clearly an effort to squeeze Laura out," he said. "If they are running together and have her on as an individual, they are pooling their votes against hers."
Wiener said no matter how the endorsement question is framed on the ballot the other two candidates would object.
"If their name wasn't on the ballot they would be criticizing us for not having their name on the ballot. Now that their name is on ballot they are criticizing us for that as well," he said. "They will criticize us for whatever we do; that is politics."
He also noted that the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club voted Tuesday night to endorse Mandelman, its current president, in the race and that the ballot did not include the names of any other candidates.
"The Milk Club had no process around this whatsoever," said Wiener.
Yet, unlike at Alice, there was never any doubt that Mandelman would win the Milk Club endorsement. As it was, none of the other three candidates mounted any serious challenge for the progressive queer club's nod, and all four agreed to take part in a town hall in the Castro Tuesday night at the same time as the Milk Club meeting. [See story, page 1.]
The Milk Club also voted to give early endorsements to two of its past presidents running for public office next year. Community college board candidate Michael Goldstein and District 6 supervisor candidate Debra Walker both earned the club's support in their races. More than 100 members of the club cast ballots, and each of candidates won with over 90 percent of the vote.
"For 30 years, the Harvey Milk Club has been the leading voice of progressive politics in the queer community. I am profoundly honored to have the club's early support in my campaign for Harvey's seat," Mandelman told the Bay Area Reporter, referring to the fact Harvey Milk, the city's first openly gay supervisor, represented parts of the current District 8 back in 1978.
Spanjian battles perceived slights
The shutting out of Spanjian from the Alice Club's endorsement stems from perceived slights dating back to the summer of 2008 when Wiener was fighting to maintain his chairmanship of the local Democratic Party.
Following a progressive takeover of the local party apparatus during that year's June primary, former Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin launched a campaign to oust Wiener as chair and install himself in the post.
The members of what is known as the Democratic County Central Committee elect the party chair, and Spanjian is an elected member of the committee. While she publicly backed Wiener and voted to keep him as chair, she was accused of privately urging other Wiener supporters to switch their votes to Peskin.
It also didn't help that one of her main backers in the supervisor race is Susan Leal, who turned up at the DCCC meeting to cast a vote for Peskin as a proxy for state Assemblywoman Fiona Ma. The vote essentially sealed Wiener's fate and he lost to Peskin.
Arlo Hale Smith, an out gay man on the DCCC, said right before the vote Spanjian told him that Wiener did not have enough support to retain the chairmanship. He said he perceived the comment as an attempt to convince him to back Peskin over Wiener.
"She knew Fiona Ma's vote had switched and she suggested to me that Scott doesn't have the votes. I viewed that as an attempt to get me to vote for Aaron," Hale Smith, who is backing Wiener in the D8 race, told the Political Notebook in a recent interview. "She kept telling me I would be on the losing side of the vote and was perturbed when I said I didn't care. And her telling me it wouldn't be so bad with Aaron as chair, I viewed that as trying to attempt me to change my vote."
Spanjian vehemently denies the charges that she went behind Wiener's back during the chairmanship fight.
"Absolutely not, that is absolutely untrue. I voted for Scott and I signed a letter in support of Scott as DCCC chair," she said.
Nonetheless, more eyebrows were raised among Alice members when Spanjian voted at this year's state Democratic Party convention to oust August Longo, an out gay man, as regional party director in favor of Supervisor Chris Daly. Her buying a table at this year's Milk Club dinner rather than sitting at the Alice table further raised questions about where Spanjian's loyalties lie and what policies she would push were she to be elected supervisor.
Former Alice co-chair Carole Cullum , who pushed for the dual endorsement vote, said her main reason for doing so stems from Spanjian's trying to play both sides of the city's Democratic camps.
"I think Laura is a very well-meaning person who tries to make everything work for everybody. When you are in politics you can't do that, you have to take a stand," said Cullum, who is backing Prozan in the race. "You can't say one thing to one person and another to a different person. It comes back to bite you."
Spanjian proudly defends her trying to build better ties between the city's two LGBT clubs, which have had a history of bickering and fighting each other, sometimes to the detriment of the LGBT community at large.
"I think other members of the club do think I am a good Alice member. I did work hard as co-chair to bring people together to try to bridge the divide between Milk and Alice," she said. "I am going to continue to try to do that in my candidacy. I am not always going to be with Milk. I am not always going to be with Alice. I am a person who really tries to bring people together; I think that is what people respect me for."
Yet Prozan and Wiener have used Spanjian's vacillating views to their advantage, with both stressing that they would better represent the Alice's positions at City Hall.
"The board felt we were the two candidates that best reflected the values of the club," said Wiener. "I think Rebecca and I best reflect the club's relationships and positions over the years."
Prozan sounded a similar argument in explaining why she believes so many Alice board members backed the dual endorsement idea.
"Given the field we have, the board felt Scott and I best represented the values and principles of Alice B. Toklas," said Prozan, explaining that the club stands for "common sense solutions, not ideology."
City treasurer holds election night party
There will be little tension in the air election night at openly gay city Treasurer Jose Cisneros's campaign party as he is running unopposed for a second full-term in the post.
Both he and City Attorney Dennis Herrera failed to draw opponents this election cycle. According to election officials it is the first time since 1989 that the city has held uncontested elections for political offices.
There will be plenty of drama for the LGBT community Tuesday night as gay rights fights are on the ballot in Maine, Washington state, and Kalamazoo, Michigan; and the outcome of New Jersey's governor's race will impact the fight for marriage equality in the Garden State.
Cisneros's party runs from 6 to 9 p.m. at Lime Restaurant, 2247 Market Street in the Castro.
Web Extra: For more queer political news, be sure to check http://www.ebar.com Monday mornings around 10 a.m. for Political Notes, the notebook's online companion. This week's column profiles Dave Roberts, an out gay man running for Congress in San Diego County.
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) 861-5019 or e-mail mailto:.