Political Notebook: LGBTQ leader seeks Alameda supervisor appointment

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday March 29, 2023
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Those seeking to be appointed to the District 2 seat on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors are, from left, Harris Mojadedi, Elisa Márquez, Ariana Casanova, and Teresa Keng. Photos: Mojadedi, Irene Yi; Márquez, Casanova, Keng, Facebook
Those seeking to be appointed to the District 2 seat on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors are, from left, Harris Mojadedi, Elisa Márquez, Ariana Casanova, and Teresa Keng. Photos: Mojadedi, Irene Yi; Márquez, Casanova, Keng, Facebook

A gay East Bay college board member is seeking to be appointed to a vacancy on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors. Seen as an underdog candidate for the seat, Harris Mojadedi would be the first out LGBTQ member of the countywide governing body if he is selected.

The county supervisors will begin their deliberation on whom to appoint at a special meeting at 1:30 p.m. Thursday, and the new supervisor is to be formally appointed and sworn into office at the board's April 4 meeting. During their March 28 meeting they interviewed four candidates under consideration to become the new District 2 supervisor.

The elected position became vacant following the death in early February of supervisor Richard Valle, who represented the communities of Hayward, Union City, Newark, and portions of Fremont. In June 2012 he had been appointed to fill a vacancy and went on to be elected that November.

Mojadedi was appointed last February to fill a vacancy on the Chabot-Las Positas Community College District Board of Trustees. The Union City resident became the first gay Afghan American to hold an elected public office in the U.S.

He was unopposed last year for a full four-year term in the district's Trustee Area 3 seat so didn't need to run for election on the November ballot. Several days after Valle's death, Mojadedi tweeted about losing a key adviser in his life.

"I lost a mentor who shaped my views on public service/opened doors for me and won't be able to tell him just how much his friendship/support meant to me," wrote Mojadedi, who works as a policy analyst at UC Berkeley.

There has yet to be an out supervisor in Alameda County. Last year, lesbian Rebecca Kaplan lost her bid for the open District 3 seat that includes the cities of Alameda, San Leandro, a portion of Oakland, and the unincorporated communities of San Lorenzo, Hayward Acres, and a portion of Ashland.

Kaplan, the at-large member on the Oakland City Council since 2008, had sought the supervisor seat following the death in late 2021 of longtime supervisor Wilma Chan, who was struck by a driver while walking her dog in Alameda. Her board colleagues appointed Chan's former aide, Dave Brown, to serve out the remaining 14 months of her term after he committed not to seek election to the seat.

Last week, Mojadedi garnered three votes among the current four supervisors to move forward to being interviewed during their March 28 meeting. He is the only male applicant being considered, due to Hayward Mayor Mark Salinas pulling himself out of contention this week.

The role of a supervisor, said Mojadedi during his interview by the board Tuesday, "is making those most marginalized and vulnerable in our society feel they belong, because they do."

He also said it is time for there to be an LGBTQ supervisor serving in Alameda County during a period of intense backlash against LGBTQ rights.

"Our community is under attack, and Alameda County is not exempt from that," said Mojadedi, the only one to outright mention the LGBTQ community during his opening remarks to the supervisors.

The three women up for the appointment had all received four votes from the supervisors to be interviewed Tuesday. They are Fremont City Councilmember Teresa Keng, who lost her bid for a legislative seat last year; Hayward City Councilmember Elisa Márquez; and Ariana Casanova, a political organizer at SEIU Local 1021 who reportedly recently moved from Oakland to Hayward in order to seek the seat.

According to reporting by East Bay political watcher Steven Tavares, the leading candidate is Márquez, who was initially appointed to her council seat in 2014 and most recently won reelection in 2020. A mom and Hayward native, Márquez is a probate court investigator with the Santa Clara County Superior Court.

A "proud Chicana," Márquez told the supervisors, "I am proven policy maker with nearly 20 years of casting votes in the city of Hayward, which includes my experience on the planning commission and as a council member. My work ethic is unmatched."

Casanova, a working mom and daughter of immigrants, has strong backing from labor groups and leaders. She created a website to raise support for her being appointed and seeking election to the seat in 2024.

She teared up telling the supervisors that Valle had supported her seeking to be elected to the position next year.

"Anywhere you put me in any area I always deliver. I get things done. I work with everyone. I listen to everyone. I truly believe in collaboration," said Casanova.

Keng, currently her city's vice mayor, emailed supporters over the weekend thanking them "for sending letters of support to the supervisors. Please continue to do so if you haven't gotten a chance to." She also asked them to speak up at Tuesday's meeting in support of her being appointed.

"Supervisor Valle was a friend, public servant, and a voice to those who didn't have a voice," Keng told the supervisors at the hearing. "I want to continue that legacy to serve those who didn't have a voice."

Should one of the women be selected, they would double female representation on the five-person board and serve alongside District 3 Supervisor Lena Tam, who defeated Kaplan in their race in November. Any of the four applicants would bring the number of supervisors of color on the county board to four.

Whoever is appointed to the supervisorial seat will need to run in 2024 in order to be elected to serve out the remaining two years of Valle's term. They would then run for a full four-year term in 2026.

UPDATED 3/30/23 to clarify that Elisa Márquez has spent close to two decades casting votes on Hayward oversight bodies.

Web Extra: For more queer political news, be sure to check http://www.ebar.com Monday mornings for Political Notes, the notebook's online companion. This week's column reported on a national survey regarding LGBTQ issues.

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Got a tip on LGBTQ politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 829-8836 or e-mail m.bajko@ebar.com

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