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Political Notebook: Mandelman could be 1st D8 supe candidate with Alice, Milk support

by Matthew S. Bajko

Since supervisors in San Francisco reverted back to being elected by district 18 years ago, no one seeking the District 8 seat on the board has secured an endorsement from both of the city's LGBT Democratic clubs.

That could change this year, however, as gay attorney Rafael Mandelman is poised to be endorsed by the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club next month. Alice's political action committee voted Monday night to recommend that club members sole endorse Mandelman in the special election on the June primary ballot.

The Alice PAC decision came a week after the more progressive Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club voted to early-endorse Mandelman in the race for the board seat that represents the Castro, Noe Valley, Diamond Heights, and Glen Park at City Hall.

Mandelman, a member of the City College of San Francisco board, is running against gay District 8 Supervisor Jeff Sheehy, who was appointed as the board's first known HIV-positive member a year ago this month by the late Mayor Ed Lee. The two are running to serve out the remainder of gay former supervisor Scott Wiener's term, which expires in early January 2019.

Wiener resigned after being elected to the state Senate in November 2016. No matter the outcome of the June race, Mandelman and Sheehy are also expected to compete for a full four-year term on the board in the November election.

Alice members will vote February 12 on whether to endorse Mandelman, and it is rare for the PAC's decision not to be approved. Plus, the threshold to even be considered for a sole endorsement is 66 percent of the vote, a high benchmark to reach at the PAC, meaning that Mandelman enjoys broad support within Alice.

"I am never confident about anything, but we are going to be working hard over the next few weeks to make sure that happens," Mandelman told the Bay Area Reporter. "But I am incredibly grateful for the members of the PAC for their support, that means a lot."

Sheehy, who had told the B.A.R. last month that he hoped to win Alice's support, did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday. The PAC vote came after members learned over the weekend that Sheehy's second campaign manager had quit on Friday.

It also followed a report in the B.A.R.'s online Political Notes column Monday that Sheehy was no longer willing to take part in debates co-hosted by the Milk club due to its early endorsement of his opponent. Last fall, the Milk and Alice clubs announced they planned to host a series of debates with Mandelman and Sheehy for both their members and the general public ahead of the June election.

But with the two club's endorsement votes this month it is unlikely any more debates will take place hosted by them. Additional debates organized by any group have yet to be scheduled between Sheehy and Mandelman, who are both former Milk club presidents.

This is the second time that Mandelman has run for District 8 supervisor. He lost to Wiener in 2010; that year Milk supported Mandelman while Alice co-endorsed its former co-chairs Wiener and Rebecca Prozan.

Four years ago Alice also endorsed Wiener in his re-election bid while Milk didn't endorse any candidate in the race. The same was true for Milk in the 2006 race, when it declined to endorse the re-election bid of gay Supervisor Bevan Dufty, who was backed by Alice.

Dufty had also won Alice's support in the 2002 race, while Milk supported the late Eileen Hansen. It also supported her in the 2000 race when she lost to gay Supervisor Mark Leno, who had been appointed to the board by former mayor Willie Brown to fill a vacancy. Two years later Leno was elected to the state Assembly.

Gay statewide candidate faces new opponents
Gay state Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) is facing tougher odds in his bid to be elected the first openly LGBT person to serve in the state's executive branch of government now that another prominent Democrat has entered the race for the open insurance commissioner position.

The incumbent, Dave Jones, is term-limited from seeking re-election this year, and Lara for months had been seen as the favorite to easily succeed Jones come November as he had been facing token opposition from a Republican candidate. But his victory is now less certain due to Dr. Asif Mahmood's decision to drop his bid for lieutenant governor and instead vie for insurance commissioner.

The Los Angeles-based pulmonologist, who grew up in Pakistan, made the move last Thursday, January 18, and reportedly has close to $1 million to spend on the race. Pundits immediately predicted Mahmood and Lara would survive the June primary, where the top two vote-getters regardless of party affiliation will advance to the November general election.

And having a doctor running to oversee how the state regulates the insurance industry throws a wrench into Lara's campaign strategy. While he has been pushing California lawmakers to adopt universal health care in the state, generating tons of media attention over the last year, Lara has no real world medical experience like Mahmood.

On the Republican side, Santa Clara insurance agent Peter Kuo formally entered the race in October, while more recently Steve Poizner, who previously served as insurance commissioner, has floated the idea of running this year for another term.

As for Lara, he continues to rack up endorsements from Democratic leaders around the state, including that of former state lawmaker and retired party chairman John Burton.

"Ricardo Lara is a bold and fearless champion for the most marginalized throughout California, and I know he'll be an outstanding Insurance Commissioner for California's consumers," stated Burton in announcing his endorsement last Thursday.

SF AIDS nonprofit deemed a legacy business
Added to the list this week of local LGBT nonprofits and LGBT-owned businesses considered legacy businesses by the city was the AIDS Legal Referral Panel. The small business commission approved the designation at its meeting Monday (January 22).

ALRP launched in 1989 as a committee of Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom, the local bar association for LGBT attorneys, in order to assist those living with HIV and AIDS facing legal issues. The grassroots effort grew over the years into a professionally run referral network of more than 700 attorneys who provide myriad pro bono legal services for clients of the nonprofit.

Supervisor Sheehy sponsored its nomination as a legacy business, which allows ALRP to tap into various benefits offered by the city to such entities. The agency is located in Suite 500 at 1663 Mission Street.

"ALRP is deeply appreciative of its designation as a legacy business," stated Bill Hirsh, the agency's longtime executive director. "ALRP is proud of its history of serving San Franciscans living with HIV. We are also proud of providing the forum for hundreds of attorneys to volunteer and each year ALRP's panel of attorneys leverages over one million dollars in donated legal services."

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 This week's column reported on Sheehy's decision regarding his participation in candidate debates co-hosted by the Milk club.

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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