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

Online Extra: Political Notes: Migden proves she has political staying power


Former state Senator Carole Migden is back in the thick of San Francisco politics with her win last week for a seat on the Democratic County Central Committee. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland
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Two years ago this month longtime lesbian lawmaker Carole Migden was ousted from her state Senate seat by her onetime political protege Mark Leno in a nasty Democratic primary battle. Some questioned if the defeat, coming after the powerful legislator crashed her state-leased car on a delta highway and revealed a decade-long battle with leukemia, meant Migden's political epitaph had been written.

This week Migden proved not only does she have political staying power but also that she continues to have strong support in San Francisco's eastern neighborhoods. She not only resoundingly won a seat on the Democratic County Central Committee, the local party's oversight body that she chaired throughout much of the 1980s, Migden also bested both the current and past party chairs, according to unofficial returns Friday morning.

With 15,783 votes or 6.06 percent, Migden finished in fourth place for one of 12 seats on the DCCC from the city's 13th Assembly District. Right behind Migden was current party chair Aaron Peskin, a former president of the Board of Supervisors, with 14,556 votes.

And coming in sixth with 13,274 votes was Scott Wiener, an openly gay man who lost his bid in 2008 to retain the party chair post to Peskin. Those numbers may change, though, as elections officials are continuing to count absentee ballots and won't certify the election for at least another week.

Regardless of the final tally, Migden is assured of having a seat on the DCCC and being able to influence whom the local party endorses in the fall supervisor elections and next year's mayor's race. While Migden opted not to pursue the District 11 supervisor seat this fall, and last month told the Bay Area Reporter she had no desire to run for mayor, it is likely she will continue to be pressed to seek public office by progressives due to her strong finish in the DCCC race.

Also proving she will be a formidable opponent in her bid for the District 6 supervisor seat this fall was lesbian artist Debra Walker, who placed third in front of Migden with 15,808 votes for a DCCC seat. Out District 9 Supervisor David Campos took second with 16,909 votes, just behind first place winner Board of Supervisors President David Chiu. The District 3 supervisor netted 17,022 votes to make him the top finisher in the race as of now.

Finishing right behind Wiener for seventh place was gay attorney Rafael Mandelman with 12,666 votes. The two are both competing for the District 8 supervisor seat this fall and their campaigns are to sure to parse over the DCCC race results to see what it may foretell about their match-up in November.

Already, Wiener crowed in an e-mail to supporters last week that he "had a strong showing, and, of the District 8 supervisor candidates running, I came in first place."

[Never mind the fact that the other top contenders in the supervisor race – lesbian assistant district attorney Rebecca Prozan and gay businessman Bill Hemenger – didn't run for DCCC seats. Of the two, Prozan was able to use the election to reach voters. Her photo appeared on at least two DCCC candidates' mailers sent to District 8 households. Neither won a seat on the party committee, and it remains to be seen if that spells trouble for Prozan this fall.]

Three other out DCCC candidates in AD13 won last week: former supervisor Leslie Katz; Michael Goldstein, a gay man running for college board in the fall; and transgender labor activist Robert Haaland, who is in the process of changing his first name to Gabriel.

Rounding out the list were Alix Rosenthal, a straight Oakland deputy city attorney who lost her bid four years ago for the District 8 supervisor seat; and Eric Quezada, the "mostly straight" executive director of Dolores Street Community Services who lost to Campos two years ago for the District 9 supervisor seat.

Among the winners for the 12 DCCC seats from the 12th Assembly District were two longtime out members of the committee: Arlo Smith, who finished third, and Connie O'Connor, who came in fifth according to the unofficial returns Friday.

LGBT candidates captured 10 out of the 24 seats up for grabs last week. And progressives continue to hold a strong majority, and thus, control of the local Democratic Party.

Gay-backed CA Senate candidate win primary

As last week's Political Notes column detailed, two state Senate races on last week's primary ballot attracted the attention of both LGBT lawmakers and activists.

In the battle for the 40th Senate District seat in the San Diego area, Assemblywoman Mary Salas, who represents the 79th Assembly District, eked out a narrow victory over Juan Vargas, who formerly held the Assembly seat. According to unofficial returns Friday morning, Salas won with 50.6 percent or 16,997 votes while Vargas had 49.4 percent or 16,642 votes.

The Democratic match-up was of particular interest to LGBT politicos because of Vargas's twice voting against marriage rights while in Sacramento. Salas, who has been a champion for LGBT rights in the Legislature, is expected to defeat Republican Brian Hendry in the fall due to the Senate district's heavy Democratic makeup.

In the 12th Senate District race Democratic Assemblywoman Anna Caballero had a strong showing with 29,174 votes, according to unofficial returns Friday. Her Republican opponent, Anthony Cannella, received 25,536 votes. Neither was opposed, so the results are a measure of how well the two candidates can get their supporters out to the polls.

Republican Senator Jeff Denham currently holds the seat, and Democrats believe they have a good chance to pick up the seat this fall, putting them one vote away from having the two-thirds majority they need to pass a budget out of the Senate without any GOP backing. The race will be a top priority for both parties in November.

The other vote Democrats need could come if John Laird , a gay man who was a former assemblyman, wins the special election for the vacant 15th Senate District seat. Laird is running against antigay Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee (R-San Luis Obispo) in the June 22 special primary.

See this week's B.A.R. for an interview with Laird about his race.

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

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