Issue:  Vol. 47 / No. 47 / 23 November 2017
 

Political Notebook: Leader of gay SF GOP group settles into role

NEWS


m.bajko@ebar.com

Officers of San Francisco Log Cabin Republicans, from left: Jason Clark, Kernan Jang, Edward Bate, Gene Epshtenyn, and Michael Gallardo. Photo: Rick Gerharter
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Michael Gallardo readily admits he was reluctant, at first, to serve as president of the Log Cabin Republicans' San Francisco chapter. But having now led the conservative LGBT political group for six months, he has settled into the role.

"It was not a position I sought. My arm was twisted by some gentlemen who were very convincing," said Gallardo, 61, during a recent interview with the Bay Area Reporter. "I think I kind of have grown into the position."

When he agreed last fall to serve as vice president of the chapter, Gallardo wasn't looking to someday become the public face of the group. He was thrust into the president position due to the sudden resignation in February of his predecessor, Troy Bodnar, who had been elected to serve a full one-year term last October.

But Bodnar, a registered nurse, lost his job in the Bay Area and ended up taking a six-month contract position in Honolulu. Not only did he step down from his Log Cabin position, Bodnar also resigned from his elected seat on the local Republican County Central Committee and quit the Republican Party altogether. He cited President Donald Trump's positions on health care and immigration for his decision, as the B.A.R. reported in its online Political Notes column at the time.

Although Gallardo favored Texas Senator Ted Cruz during the Republican presidential primary race last year, he told the B.A.R. he has supported Trump ever since he secured the GOP nomination last July and continues to do so. He said he isn't concerned about the president's use of Twitter or constant haranguing of the mainstream media as "fake news."

"I think he speaks the vernacular of the American people," said Gallardo. "His message doesn't have to be filtered by anyone."

While LGBT advocates dinged Trump for not issuing a Pride Month proclamation, Gallardo noted that both the defense and state departments held Pride events during June.

"I am not sure I would say I am disappointed. He has a lot on his plate. I would have hoped he would issue something," said Gallardo, adding that, overall, "I think Trump is on the right course."

Living in one of the most liberal cities in America, Gallardo often refrains from expressing his own political views in public. In fact, he voiced some reticence about being profiled as president of the Log Cabin chapter.

"I don't go out of my to way court controversy. I am very careful with whom I discuss politics," said Gallardo. "I have a lot of liberal friends and we agree to disagree and move on from there."

His partner, Jose Cardoza, as it turns out, is a registered Democrat who backed Hillary Clinton in the November election. With how heated last year's election became, the couple opted not to display any campaign signs on their Alamo Square home.

"He is definitely CNN, I am definitely Fox," said Gallardo, who has worked in various retail positions but this spring starting driving for Lyft.

Born in San Francisco, the oldest of four children, Gallardo grew up in Yreka, California, a small town near the Oregon border that is class=st>the Siskiyou County seat. His grandparents owned a local restaurant in town, and his father, who was in the Marine Corps, decided to relocate the family there.

"I was the first Republican in my family. In high school I volunteered for Richard Nixon," recalled Gallardo, who returned to San Francisco in 1976 to attend San Francisco State University and never left.

Forty years ago this August, Gallardo joined the group Concerned Republicans for Individual Rights, which was launched by San Francisco Republicans, both gay and straight, as a way to fight against a proposed policy that would have banned LGBT people, as well as their straight allies, from working in the state's public school districts. Known as the Briggs initiative, the ballot measure was defeated in November 1978.

Gallardo credited former governor Ronald Reagan's decision to publicly oppose the homophobic measure with helping to sway public opinion against it.

"Because of Reagan coming out in opposition to it, it went down to defeat," he said.

Nearly a decade later, in August 1987, CRIR rebranded itself as the Log Cabin Club of San Francisco/CRIR. In October of that year, the local group helped launch a national umbrella organization with other Log Cabin chapters from within California and in other states.

In the 1980s the San Francisco chapter had 250 members, recalled Gallardo. But it saw its membership decline after former Governor Pete Wilson in October 1991 vetoed Assembly Bill 101, which would have banned anti-gay job discrimination in the Golden State.

Wilson's decision incensed many within the LGBT community who saw it as a betrayal. According to the Los Angeles Times, the Republican had reportedly pledged to support the legislation in meetings with gay activists during his gubernatorial campaign against former San Francisco mayor Dianne Feinstein.

"It upset a lot of people, and many gay Republicans said, "That does it. I am through," said Gallardo.

Today, the local Log Cabin chapter has close to 50 members. As chapter president, Gallardo would like to grow the group's membership and further its participation with other Republican clubs.

"My main goal is to maintain the integrity of Log Cabin Republicans," he said.

Should he be elected to a full term as president this October, Gallardo will help marshal the chapter members to work on the 2018 re-election campaigns of Assemblywoman Catharine Baker (R-Dublin), the Bay Area's lone Republican legislative member, and state Senator Andy Vidak (R-Hanford) in the Central Valley.

"We are a volunteer organization and provide a lot of shoe leather," said Gallardo, noting that club members in 2014 helped re-elect Vidak to his 16th Senate District seat, which he had won the previous year in a special election to fill a vacancy. "He accepted and appreciated the support of Log Cabin."

It has been three years since San Francisco's last Republican elected official, James Fang, lost his seat on the BART board of directors. Party members are working to regain some local political power at the ballot box but acknowledge it could take some time.

"I fully expect to have another Republican elected to office in the next four years," pledged Jason P. Clark , a gay man who is chairman of the San Francisco Republican Party.

Just don't look for Gallardo's name to be on the ballot.

"No, absolutely not," he said when asked if he would seek public office.

Making fun of the U.S. Senate Democratic minority leader, Gallardo added, "I am always behind the scenes. I have no desire to compete with Chuck Schumer for camera time."

 

Assembly candidate Judy Appel

Lesbian school leader joins East Bay Assembly race

Lesbian Berkeley school board member Judy Appel has officially entered the race for the open 15th Assembly District seat. The incumbent, Assemblyman Tony Thurmond (D-Richmond), is running to be the state's superintendent of public instruction after serving two two-year terms in the Legislature.

"With your help, I'll represent our voices in Sacramento with the same compassion and determination I've brought to everything I've ever done. Together, we'll fight to strengthen our public schools, reform our criminal justice system, and ensure fairness for working Californians," wrote Appel, 52, in a July 11 email to supporters. "We'll make sure that health care is a right, affordable housing is a reality and paid leave is the norm."

The announcement about her campaign had been expected, as Appel had told the B.A.R. in May she planned to run for the legislative seat. The Assembly district includes the cities of Albany, Berkeley, El Cerrito, El Sobrante, Emeryville, Hercules, Kensington, Piedmont, Pinole, Richmond, San Pablo, Tara Hills, and a portion of Oakland.

Appel and her wife, Alison Bernstein , live in Berkeley with their two children, Kobi , a sophomore at Sarah Lawrence College, and Tris , an incoming Berkeley High junior. Formerly the executive director of Our Family Coalition, which advocates for LGBT families, Appel is now executive director of the California School-Based Health Alliance.

She is the third out candidate to seek the Assembly seat. Lesbian Richmond City Councilwoman Jovanka Beckles was the first to enter the race this spring, while last month bisexual East Bay Municipal Utility District board member Andy Katz launched his second bid for the seat. The Berkeley resident dropped out of the race in 2014 due to a lack of financial support and endorsements from community groups and local leaders.

Should one of them win the seat, they would be the first LGBT state legislator from the East Bay. Also running for the seat are two straight candidates: Oakland City Councilman Dan Kalb and former Obama campaign aide and White House staffer Buffy Wicks, who lives in Oakland.

Political Notes, the notebook's online companion, will return Monday, July 31.

 

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) 829-8836 or e-mail m.bajko@ebar.com






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