Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 12 / 22 March 2018

Online Extra: Political Notes: Lesbian CA state Senate candidate ends bid


Gerrie Schipske
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A lesbian candidate for a southern California state Senate seat has ended her campaign due to health issues.

Former Long Beach City Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske had been seeking the 34th Senate District seat. Largely based in Orange County, the district also includes Schipske's former council district in the Los Angeles County beach community.

A lawyer, registered nurse, and a faculty member at Cal State Long Beach, Schipske was looking to deprive Senator Janet Nguyen (R-Garden Grove) a second four-year term. But in a note emailed to her supporters last Wednesday, February 28, she cited her battling an ocular ailment as the reason behind her decision to drop out of the race.

"Early in January, I developed a blot clot in my right eye that seriously affected my vision," wrote Schipske. "The process to treat this problem requires a series of painful procedures, and there is no promise of a full recovery. This medical condition has made campaigning difficult in recent weeks."

While noting she was "proud of the progress" her campaign had made since she entered the race six months ago, Schipske explained she had come to the determination that her failing eyesight made it impossible to run for the legislative seat while continuing to work and care for herself and her family.

"As many of you know, I am still teaching at Cal State Long Beach, drafting curriculum for an online course in healthcare compliance and ethics, and co-raising my eight-year-old granddaughter," wrote Schipske. "I used to think I could do it all, but at this point, it's best for me to end my campaign in order to devote more time to taking care of myself."

At the state Democratic Party Convention last month, Schipske did not secure the party's endorsement. Ahead of the gathering former Democratic Assemblyman Tom Umberg had entered the Senate race. He lost to Nguyen in a special election for county supervisor in 2007, a year after losing a bid for state Senate.

While not naming or endorsing Umberg in her email, Schipske did note that Nguyen would have a Democratic opponent this year despite her decision to pull out of the race.

"As you might know, another Democratic candidate has entered the race, and his presence will ensure Senator Janet Nguyen has a challenger in the fall," wrote Schipske.

She went on to thank her supporters, donors, volunteers, campaign team, "and of course – my incredibly patient and wonderful partner, Flo Pickett."

As the Bay Area Reporter had noted in January, Schipske was part of a record number of eight lesbians running in the June primary for Assembly or Senate seats in the California Legislature. The remaining septet of lesbian candidates, five of whom are non-incumbents, is still the largest group to seek election to the statehouse over the last decade.

The previous record came in 2012 when there were six lesbian legislative candidates in the Golden State.

Currently, there are eight out members of the state Legislature, four each in the Assembly and Senate. The membership of the California Legislative LGBT Caucus is also split evenly between men and women at the moment who are gay or lesbian. (No bisexual or transgender lawmaker has yet to win election to the Legislature.)

All four of the Assembly members are running for re-election this year, while none of the Senate members must defend their seats. But two of them could depart at the end of the year if they win their bids for higher office.

Gay state Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) is running for state insurance commissioner, and if he wins, it would mark the first time an LGBT person was elected to statewide office. Lesbian state Senator Cathleen Galgiani (D-Stockton) is vying for a seat on the state's Board of Equalization.

There are a dozen known LGBT candidates running for state legislative seats in California this year. Depending on the outcome of the various races, the most new members the LGBT caucus could welcome is four.

Two of the candidates are gay Republicans who have no chance of winning their races in districts that favor Democrats. And three of this year's out legislative candidates are running for the same Assembly seat in the East Bay.


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) 829-8836 or e-mail

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