Online Extra: Political Notes: Gay Republican to seek congressional seat
by Matthew S. Bajko
Mike Gin, the openly gay Republican mayor of Redondo Beach, California, is expected to formally announce this week that he will seek a seat in Congress.
The longtime city councilman is set to enter a special election for the 36th Congressional District seat that had been held by Jane Harman. The Democratic congresswoman resigned effective today (Monday, February 28) after being hired to oversee the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, a Washington, D.C. think tank.
"I am very seriously thinking of entering this race and will have a formal announcement about it" this week, Gin told the Bay Area Reporter in a phone interview Friday.
Republican Mike Webb, the Redondo Beach city attorney, has already begun campaigning. On the Democratic side, Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn and California Secretary of State Debra Bowen are both seeking Harman's seat.
Hahn has lined up the backing of openly gay state Assembly Speaker John A. Perez (D-Los Angeles) and out Manhattan Beach City Councilman Mitch Ward as well as the Long Beach Lambda Democratic Club. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California) has also endorsed Hahn's campaign.
The 48-year-old Gin, who is of Chinese descent, is a field deputy for Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe. He married his husband, Christopher Kreidel, in 2008.
He was first elected to the Redondo Beach City Council in 2005 and his current term doesn't expire until 2013. This is his second term as mayor.
Gin is a member of Log Cabin Republicans. As Political Notes recently reported, the gay GOP group has made it a priority to push its members to seek public office at all levels, whether it be local races for city councils or higher offices.
"Certainly, being a gay man has always been who I've been, and for me, it never really has been a factor or reason for doing things," said Gin. "It is a part of me just as much as being a Chinese American."
As Gin has mulled over seeking the congressional seat, he said he believes he has the skill set from his years in public service that is needed in Congress.
"I think I have a very strong record of experience in local government bringing communities and nonprofit organizations and the private sector together to work on issues important for our community. That is a really valuable background to have and something that is badly needed in D.C.," said Gin.
The first person he spoke to about whether he should run, said Gin, was his husband. Kreidel apparently gave his consent.
"Christopher is the first person I asked before I ever started exploring this race. He has been with me since 1995 when I first got elected to the city council," said Gin. "He is very supportive of me in everything that I do."
According to the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies, Gin would be the first out Asian American to run for Congress. Were he to be elected, he would be the only out Republican currently serving on Capitol Hill and be the fifth openly gay member of the House. [There are currently no out U.S. senators.]
He already is one of the few LGBT Asian Americans currently serving in public office, according to APAICS. In the Bay Area there are now three out Asian American politicians: San Francisco Community College Board member Lawrence Wong ; Campbell City Councilman Evan Low ; and San Mateo County Harbor Commissioner Robert Bernardo.
As the B.A.R. noted in a front-page article last week, few out Asians have sought public office in San Francisco, and nationwide, there has also been a dearth of such candidates.
"In the past, it was rare to see Asian Americans or openly gay individuals as candidates for public office," stated APAICS acting Executive Director Ruby G. Moy in response to an e-mailed inquiry. "This year, we have Redondo Mayor Mike Gin running for Congress as an openly gay Asian American Republican, and Campbell Councilman Evan Low running for the California state Assembly as an openly gay Asian American Democrat. Their campaigns demonstrate just how far our community has come in its political development, and how far this country has come in its acceptance of diverse leadership."
Despite the district's Democratic leanings, Gin is seen as a popular local politician and his candidacy is sure to attract national attention from both the LGBT and Asian American communities.
"As mayor of one of the few debt-free cities in California, and no ties to special interest groups, Mike has proven to be a responsible leader in local government and would be a great asset to California's 36th District in Washington," wrote Mark Terwilliger, a friend of Gin's who broke news of his possible campaign last week on the website http://www.gaywesthollywood.com.
Governor Jerry Brown is expected to soon call for a special election to fill Harman's that will be held in June so it can be combined with a statewide ballot, and thus, reduce costs.
The 36th Congressional District covers Redondo Beach, Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, Torrance, El Segundo, parts of Los Angeles (Venice, Westchester, Wilmington, Playa del Rey, and part of San Pedro), Marina del Rey, West Carson, Lomita, and Lennox.
Stockton councilwoman explores Assembly run
According to several sources, lesbian Stockton City Councilwoman Susan Talamantes Eggman plans to seek a state Assembly seat in 2012.
The Central Valley politician has been reaching out to donors and lawmakers in recent weeks to test the waters on running for state office next year. Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani (D-Livingston) will be termed out of her 17th Assembly District seat, which as currently drawn covers most of Stockton, Tracy, and Merced.
Eggman, 49, was just elected to her second four-year term on the Stockton council last November. A U.S. Army veteran who grew up in the East Bay's Castro Valley, Eggman is a social work professor at Sacramento State and is in a long-term relationship with her partner, Renee Hall.
She declined to comment about her Assembly campaign when contacted by the B.A.R. last week since she has not officially announced anything regarding her election plans.
Three other out politicos have already announced their intentions to seek Assembly seats next year.
Out Santa Clara County Supervisor Ken Yeager is exploring a run for the 24th Assembly District seat, the same one that Campbell's Low is planning to seek.
In Los Angeles, longtime lesbian activist Torie Osborn will kickoff her bid for the 41st Assembly District seat Thursday, March 10.
Wiener endorses Herrera for SF mayor
At the opening party Saturday, February 26 for City Attorney Dennis Herrera's mayoral campaign headquarters, he received the endorsement of openly gay District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener.
His backing of Herrera in the mayoral race is hardly surprising. Prior to his election last fall, Wiener had worked for Herrera as a deputy city attorney. And Herrera gave Wiener his unofficial support during his supervisorial campaign.
It is the second endorsement to go to Herrera, who gained national attention for his office's handling of the same-sex marriage litigation in state court, from the LGBT community. Melanie Nathan, a blogger on the LezGetReal site, has also endorsed him.
The only out candidate in the mayoral race, so far, is former District 8 Supervisor Bevan Dufty. In the race to succeed him at City Hall, Dufty snubbed Wiener and instead endorsed his onetime aide Rebecca Prozan, an assistant district attorney.
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Got a tip on LGBT politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 861-5019 or e-mail email@example.com.