With Moore out, few LGBTs
seek state office in CA
by Matthew S. Bajko
With less than seven months to go before the June 2014 primary election, there are few LGBT non-incumbent candidates seeking state legislative seats next year.
The number recently fell to three with the surprise announcement by Peggy Moore, a lesbian political consultant based in Oakland, that she was ending her state Assembly bid. That leaves just two gay men and one bisexual male candidate, all Democrats in the Bay Area, who have announced bids for state Assembly next year.
The trio is a significant drop from 2012, when 10 out non-incumbent candidates had sought Assembly seats, including three gay Republicans. That year two out Assembly members ran for state Senate seats.
At this point no LGBT people have announced bids for Assembly and Senate seats in southern California, according to LGBT political insiders. Nor have any out GOPers announced they will seek legislative office in Sacramento.
And unlike in 2012, none of the current eight members of the California Legislative LGBT Caucus are running for seats in the Legislature's other chamber. Rather, two will be termed out of office.
Gay Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) and gay Assembly Speaker John Perez (D-Los Angeles) will both depart in December next year after having served six years in the Statehouse's lower chamber.
Perez is running next year to become the state's controller, becoming the first out person to seek statewide office in California since Tony Miller sought the secretary of state position in the mid-1990s after he was appointed to fill the term of March Fong Eu when she was named an ambassador in the Clinton administration.
Even if Perez were to win that race, the LGBT legislative caucus could decline to six members in 2014 if its ranks are not replenished.
It most likely will see gay Campbell Mayor Evan Low join the caucus as he is considered a frontrunner in the race for the 28th Assembly District seat now held by his boss Paul Fong (D-Cupertino). Should he capture the South Bay seat, Low would be the first out LGBT state legislator of Asian descent in California.
Looking at harder paths to victory are gay San Francisco Supervisor David Campos and bisexual East Bay Municipal Utility District board member Andy Katz .
Campos is competing against board colleague Supervisor David Chiu for Ammiano's 17th Assembly District seat. The race is likely to be one of the more fiercely competed state legislative contests next year, and should Chiu win, it is unclear if he would be able to join the LGBT legislative caucus as a straight ally.
Across the bay Katz, a Berkeley resident who is the government affairs director at Breathe California, is facing a tough fight to survive the June primary, where the top two vote getters regardless of party affiliation will advance to the general election in November. He is in a crowded field of six likely candidates for the 15th Assembly District.
The seat includes portions of Alameda and Contra Costa counties, stretching from Oakland's Montclair district in the south to Hercules in the north. The current officeholder, Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), will be termed out next fall.
Katz's candidacy had been overshadowed within LGBT circles by that of Moore, who worked on President Barack Obama 's re-election campaign. A former chair of the East Bay Stonewall Democratic Club, Moore had recently won the LGBT political group's sole endorsement in the race.
But Moore quietly ended her Assembly bid last month, posting a message on her Facebook campaign page the day before Halloween to announce her decision.
"Despite the best supporters ever, I am stepping down from the race for CA District 15 Assemblymember. This was a tough decision, but this is not a good time for me or my family to take on a race for elected office," wrote Moore.
The Stonewall club will now meet Tuesday, December 3 to consider throwing its support behind Katz. This time, rather than the group's board voting on the endorsement, it will be up to club members to decide.
Katz will need to garner 60 percent of the vote to secure the endorsement.
"Assembly District 15 lost an opportunity to elect one of the most dynamic LGBT figures to emerge from the recent elections when Peggy Moore dropped out," gay Oakland Port Commissioner Michael Colbruno , who heads the club's political action committee, told the Bay Area Reporter. "This is a glaring example of why we need public financing in state races, as only the well-to-do and prolific fundraisers can run for office. Fortunately, we still have a talented field of candidates in the race."
There is still time for more out legislative candidates to emerge. The filing deadline to declare one's candidacy with the secretary of state's office is March 7.
At least one gay Republican is said to be mulling a run. West Hollywood resident Brad Torgan is contemplating a second bid for the 50th Assembly District seat.
In 2012 Torgan sought the seat covering the gay enclave adjacent to Los Angeles as well as the coastal city of Santa Monica. But his bid came up short in the June primary, in which he placed fourth.
It remains unclear if any other out Democrats will seek open seats next year. (It is almost unheard of for a sitting Democratic state lawmaker to face an intraparty challenge).
With the change in the state's term limits law that allows newly elected Assembly members the chance to serve 12 years in the lower chamber before having to step down, it means there could be fewer opportunities for LGBT non-incumbents to be elected to the statehouse in coming years.
Yet few are voicing worries about the current dearth of LGBT non-incumbent candidates that have announced 2014 bids.
"I am not overly troubled by our LGBT candidate pool at this point," said Fremont resident John Cleary , northern co-chair of the LGBT Caucus of the California Democratic Party.
Equality California Executive Director John O'Conner , whose statewide LGBT advocacy group endorses in state legislative races, was also nonplussed when asked about the lack of LGBT people seeking state offices.
"We could have eight two years from now in that election cycle. This one election in and of itself does not make a trend," said O'Connor. "If we go two years and four years more with few candidates I might be scratching my head, but I don't think that will be the case."
(Photo: Courtesy Zoe Dunning)
Dunning likely next Alice co-chair
Lesbian retired Naval Commander Zoe Dunning is set to become the next female co-chair of the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club in San Francisco, the Political Notebook had learned.
The moderate political group staggers the election of its male and female co-chairs every other year, and the two-year term of current female co-chair, Martha Knutzen, expires January 13. Male co-chair Ron Flynn began his two-year term this past January.
Nominees for female co-chair are due to the club's co-chairs by Monday, November 18. But several sources in recent weeks have said that Dunning is the only candidate seeking the position.
Alice members will vote at the January 13 meeting for the new female co-chair and make up of its board of directors as recommended by the club's nominations committee.
Dunning, currently co-chair of Alice's political action committee, did not respond to an interview request Tuesday.
In June 2012 she was elected to a seat on the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee and serves as its first vice chair. Dunning works as the director of change management for Walnut Creek-based consulting firm Future State.
She made history in 1993 when she came out as a lesbian and won her discharge case with the military. This year she was a vocal defender of San Francisco Pride's decision to rescind naming as a parade grand marshal Chelsea Manning, who was convicted of leaking classified materials to WikiLeaks and was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
Dunning's wife, Pam Grey, had served on the San Francisco Pride Committee's board of directors during the Manning controversy. In September, Grey failed to win re-election to her board seat.
Tonight (Thursday, November 14) Alice is hosting its annual Fall Awards event. The 2013 honorees include Reese Aaron Isbell , a former club co-chair who will receive the Leadership Award, and Alice's elected Official of the Year Assessor-Recorder Carmen Chu class=fsl>, who last week ran unopposed to fill out the remaining year of a four-year term.
The free event takes place from 6 to 8 p.m. at Chambers Eat and Drink, 601 Eddy Street, in San Francisco. To RSVP visit https://www.facebook.com/events/221762207993304/ class=fsl>.
Web Extra: For more queer political news, be sure to check http://www.ebar.com Monday mornings at noon for Political Notes, the notebook's online companion. This week's column reported on state Republican legislators' improving scores on an LGBT equality index.
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) 359-2632, (415) 861-5019 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.