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Political Notebook: Lesbian wins East Bay Assembly primary race

by Matthew S. Bajko

Richmond City Councilwoman Jovanka Beckles, left, raises her arm in victory at the city's Juneteenth event after clinching the second spot for the November general election for the open 15th Assembly District seat. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland
Richmond City Councilwoman Jovanka Beckles, left, raises her arm in victory at the city's Juneteenth event after clinching the second spot for the November general election for the open 15th Assembly District seat. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland  

At Richmond's Juneteenth festivities Saturday, the city's lesbian city councilwoman celebrated her come-from-behind win in the June 5 primary to compete this November to represent the state's 15th Assembly District. The East Bay seat stretches from Richmond south into parts of Oakland.

Jovanka Beckles had placed third on Election Night to then claim second place by the weekend, only to drop back down behind Oakland City Councilman Dan Kalb at the start of last week. By Wednesday, June 13, Beckles had shot back into second and saw her lead over Kalb grow with each update of the vote count.

Beckles claimed victory late Thursday, June 14, with her campaign emailing supporters that it had "been a roller coaster ride with a photo finish, but we won!" Kalb conceded the race the following day.

According to the latest unofficial returns, Beckles took second place with 18,132 votes, or 15.7 percent of the total. Kalb received 17,837 votes, or 15.4 percent. Former Obama staffer Buffy Wicks came in a dominating first place with 36,551 votes, or 31.6 percent of the total.

Under the state's "jungle primary" system, the top two vote-getters in the primary compete against each other in the November 6 general election. The Assembly seat is open, as Assemblyman Tony Thurmond (D-Richmond) is running to be elected state superintendent of public instruction in the fall.

Beckles will be vying in November to become the first out LGBT state legislator from the East Bay. She would also become the first out African-American woman - born in Panama, Beckles is both black and Latina - and LGBT immigrant elected to California's Legislature.

She is facing a well-financed opponent in Wicks, who reported having $117,233 in her campaign account as of May 19. Beckles, who has refused donations from lobbyists and corporate interests, had just $19,116 in her campaign account as of that date.

She noted the fact that she is running a "people powered" bid for the state Legislature in a statement her campaign released June 16.

"I have taken no corporate money. I never have and I never will," stated Beckles. "That means I'm free to listen to everyone. I'm not bought."

She added that she is "excited" and "looking forward" to the fall campaign.

"There are no strings attached to my candidacy. I'm nobody's puppet," stated Beckles. "You know my story. I want to hear your stories. I want to work in Sacramento to make our state a better place for all of us."

In her own statement issued June 14, Wicks congratulated Beckles on her advancing to the general election. She added that she, too, "look(s) forward to a constructive and healthy debate on the issues" with Beckles as they seek to succeed Thurmond.

"This district has always sent leaders to Sacramento, women and men, who have led the fight in the Legislature for equity and justice," stated Wicks. "The incredible insights and contributions of all the candidates over the past year have helped ensure we'll get just that in our eventual representative."

Tide turns in San Mateo ed race
On the Peninsula, the two out candidates for San Mateo County Superintendent of Schools had swapped places Friday afternoon when the latest vote count was released. Gary Waddell, Ph.D., who had been the top finisher since Election Day, had dropped to second place.

Taking first place, with a 428-vote lead, was Nancy Magee. She now has 46,242 votes, or 50.2 percent of the total, while Waddell is trailing with 45,814 votes, or 49.8 percent of the total.

[Updated, 6/20/18:After the print edition went to press, new unofficial results were released. Magee has 63,404 votes, or 50.5 percent. Waddell remains in second place with 62,247 votes, or 49.5 percent. There is now a 1,157 vote difference between the candidates.end update]

The candidates are colleagues at the county education office and are running to succeed lesbian San Mateo County Superintendent of Schools Anne E. Campbell. After serving two four-year terms in the position, Campbell opted not to seek re-election.

Waddell, a gay resident of Pacifica, currently serves as deputy superintendent of the instructional services division at the county education office. Magee, a lesbian resident of Half Moon Bay, is the county's associate superintendent for the student services division.

Elections officials updated the results Wednesday at 4:30 p.m., after the Bay Area Reporter's press deadline. With upwards of 45,000 votes still to be counted this week, Waddell had remained hopeful of reclaiming first place.

"We are watching the results closely and hoping for a positive outcome," Waddell told the B.A.R. Friday night. "I am proud of our campaign and elevating the conversation around serving all students well throughout the county. We will be watching the results come in closely over the next week."

Magee also was waiting for the vote count to be updated before claiming victory. In a Facebook post early Saturday morning, she noted that, "with a reported 40,000+ additional ballots yet to count, we still have a ways to go." She thanked her supporters "for all your positive energy! Keep it coming."

Political Notes, the notebook's online companion, is on summer hiatus. It will return Monday, July 30.

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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