Political Notebook: Gay presidential candidate runs on socialist ticket
by Matthew S. Bajko
A gay man running to be the Peace and Freedom Party's presidential candidate in California will be stumping throughout the state this month as he tries to drum up support.
Stephen Durham, 64, who graduated from UC Berkeley in 1970 with a bachelor's degree in history, is one of three candidates on the June 5 primary ballot vying for the socialist party's nomination. His name was added to the ballot only after Durham threatened to sue Secretary of State Debra Bowen , who initially refused to include him as a contender.
In June only those voters registered as members of the Peace and Freedom Party will be allowed to vote in the primary race. But come November any California voter will be able to vote for the socialist candidate.
Should it be Durham, who is running write-in campaigns in other states, he believes his political message will ring a bit louder due to the Occupy protest movement.
"Socialism, first of all, is an economy based upon abundance, not scarcity. The class that creates all the wealth – the working class – deserves to receive the benefits of all that wealth," said Durham in a phone interview this week with the Bay Area Reporter ahead of his West Coast barnstorming trip. "Socialism would be a society where that wealth would be delivered to the people who created it."
Due to a lack of media attention and his name off many states' ballots, Durham has little chance of being elected president come November. Nonetheless, the presidential race every four years presents an opportunity for him to spread his socialist message.
"In the electoral arena, regardless of the lack of attention, we get more attention during the presidential electoral process than at any other time," said Durham, adding that his fight to be on the Golden State's ballot was a goldmine in terms of public exposure. "The secretary of state in California for five weeks refused to recognize my candidacy as legitimate. We launched a national write-in campaign and got a lawyer and she relented, that is a huge success."
The Manhattan resident is running a national "un-millionaire campaign" with Seattle Radical Women organizer Christina Lopez, a feminist immigrant rights advocate, as his vice president candidate.
While he does not have a male partner, Durham is married to a female friend, Susan Williams, for health benefits and legal purposes. He supports seeing same-sex marriage legalized.
"Marriage isn't just about sex and is not just for heterosexuals," said Durham, who declined to speculate what would happen if he ever did meet a man he wanted to marry. "What I receive from my marriage everyone should receive. Being married you get a sense of the power of the institution of marriage."
Raised in Los Angeles, Durham came out as gay and was radicalized while attending UC Berkeley. Post graduation he worked as a waiter in southern California before moving to New York in 1984. He now works as an organizer for the Freedom Socialist Party and believes he offers a true choice compared to President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, the expected Republican nominee. His campaign slogan is "Vote for the Greater Good, Instead of the Lesser Evil."
"Obama has slashed the social service net and that has affected gay people profoundly," said Durham, adding that "Romney is not good news" either.
Durham's schedule will have him campaigning in California starting today (Thursday, April 12) to May 2. He has candidate forums, union picket lines, May Day immigrant right marches and other public events lined up in Los Angeles, Oakland, San Francisco, and Santa Cruz.
He has an Oakland fundraiser April 15 and is hosting a San Francisco reception April 19 at his campaign headquarters at 747 Polk Street.
For more information, visit Durham's campaign site at http://www.votesocialism.com.
Olague makes supe bid official
District 5 Supervisor Christina Olague kicks off her re-election campaign Thursday, April 12. The board's first out bisexual member, Olague was appointed to the seat by Mayor Ed Lee in January due to Ross Mirkarimi's election as San Francisco sheriff. (Mirkarimi was later suspended by the mayor after he pleaded guilty to false imprisonment.)
Lee is backing the Latina lawmaker's bid, as are gay state Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), Public Defender Jeff Adachi, and three of her board colleagues – David Campos (D9), Eric Mar (D1), and Jane Kim (D6) – in addition to other local leaders, according to her campaign site http://www.ChristinaOlague.com.
She is already facing several challengers this fall, including Fire Commissioner London Breed and City College trustee John Rizzo.
Olague's event takes place from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Urban School, 1563 Page Street at Masonic.
LA candidates stump in SF
Two gay men running for Assembly seats in Los Angeles will be stumping in San Francisco this month.
This Sunday, April 15, mayoral aide Bevan Dufty is hosting at his home a fundraiser for gay Latino Democratic activist Luis Lopez, who is running in Assembly District 51. For details email mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wednesday, April 25 gay Republican leader Brad Torgan , running in Assembly District 50, hits the Castro. For info visit http://bit.ly/IksSuy class=textexposedshow>.
Web Extra: For more queer political news, be sure to check http://www.ebar.com Monday mornings around 11 a.m. for Political Notes, the notebook's online companion. This week's column reported on Mayor Ed Lee's budget town hall with Castro and Mission residents.
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:.