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Political Notebook: June primary LGBT candidate list changes

by Matthew S. Bajko

Congressman Mark Takano. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland
Congressman Mark Takano. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland  

The list of LGBT candidates running for congressional and state legislative seats on California's June 5 primary ballot has changed following last month's deadline to qualify.

There are now 12 LGBT candidates known to be running for state Assembly or Senate seats, according to the final candidate list that Secretary of State Alex Padilla released March 29.

It is five fewer out candidates than the high seen in 2012. But as the Bay Area Reporter has previously noted, the seven lesbian legislative candidates on the June primary ballot is a record number.

It marks the largest group of lesbian legislative candidates in the Golden State over the last decade. The previous high water mark came in 2012 when there were six lesbians looking to be elected to the Statehouse.

As for this year's congressional races, there are four known out candidates running for House seats, all of which are located in southern California. Gay Representative Mark Takano (D-Riverside) is expected to easily win re-election to his 41st Congressional District seat. He was the first, and so far only, LGBT member of the Golden State's congressional delegation.

Lesbian health care leader Marge Doyle is running against Representative Paul Cook (R-Yucca Valley) for his 8th Congressional District seat. She is facing an uphill battle in a district that favors Republicans but has attracted wide support from Democrats and LGBT groups, as well as outraised her opponent last year.

Queer geologist Jess Phoenix and bisexual homeless advocate Katie Hill are among the Democrats running to defeat Representative Steve Knight (R-Lancaster) in the 25th Congressional District seat north of Los Angeles. They are two of the four Democrats challenging Knight this year, with only one of them expected to survive the primary and face off against the incumbent in the November election.

Transgender Mountain View resident Terra Snover had been running as an independent against Congressman Jeff Denham (R-Turlock) in the Central Valley. Seen as a long shot since she didn't live in the district, Snover opted to end her campaign in hopes of seeing one of the local candidates defeat Denham.

"We have seen more activity in this district than we have seen in a long time to unseat Jeff Denham; That's something to be proud of. It's these reasons I'm leaving this race," wrote Snover in a note posted to her campaign website. "I believe we need to stand together and support one candidate so we can have a strong, united voice against Denham and get the House under the control of those who will fight for us the people."

List of out Statehouse candidates grows
There are now five out male candidates known to be running for state legislative seats this year.

Steve Dunwoody, running to become the first gay African-American man elected to the Legislature, failed to qualify for Tuesday's ballot in the special election for the open 54th Assembly District seat but did qualify to be a write-in candidate. The seat became vacant when Sebastian Ridley-Thomas resigned in December due to health issues.

Dunwoody did qualify for the June primary, as did five other candidates vying to make it to the November election for a full two-year term. The top two vote-getters will advance, and the winner of Tuesday's contest, Los Angeles community college trustee Sydney Kamlager, will be seen as the front-runner in the June race due to being the incumbent.

"We're not going to let bureaucratic red tape get in the way of this district having a truly progressive, independent voice speaking for them in Sacramento," stated Dunwoody in announcing he qualified as a write-in candidate for the special election. "Our supporters are revved up and so are the many progressive organizations and community activists who have endorsed our campaign. They're ready for someone to be their champion, in Sacramento, not someone who will have to answer to the political establishment at the end of the day."

The only competitive legislative race in the Bay Area with out candidates is the contest for the open 15th Assembly District seat, which stretches from Richmond south into parts of Oakland. In that race, lesbian Richmond City Councilwoman Jovanka Beckles could become the first out black woman to be elected to the Legislature.

Also running to be the first LGBT state lawmaker from the East Bay are lesbian Berkeley school board member Judy Appel and bisexual East Bay Municipal Utility District board member Andy Katz. Vying a second time for the seat, Katz would be the first out bisexual to serve in the Legislature.

Facing relatively easy bids for re-election come the fall are gay Assemblymen Evan Low (D-Campbell) and Todd Gloria (D-San Diego), as they are facing token opposition from Republicans in safe Democratic districts. Lesbian Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton) is also expected to easily win re-election this year to her Central Valley seat.

Lesbian Assemblywoman Sabrina Cervantes (D-Corona) is fending off a challenge by Republican federal prosecutor Bill Essayli. The GOP has targeted the freshman lawmaker for defeat, using her vote for the state's controversial gas tax increase against her.

Meanwhile, a trio of lesbians is aiming to repeat Cervantes' success in 2016 by defeating GOP incumbents this year. Palm Springs resident Joy Silver, an expert on aging issues, is running for the state's 28th Senate District seat, currently held by Senator Jeff Stone (R-La Quinta), one of the most anti-LGBT members of the Statehouse.

In Placer County former San Jose resident Jackie Smith is running to oust freshman Assemblyman Kevin Kiley (R-Granite Bay) from his 6th District seat. She moved with her wife, Darlene Smith, to Rocklin six years ago and founded the LGBT political group Placer Stonewall Democrats.

In San Diego, lesbian real estate agent Sunday Gover, who lives with her partner and their four children in Scripps Ranch, is running against Assemblyman Brian Maienschein (R-San Diego). The former San Diego city councilman was first elected to his 77th Assembly District seat in 2012 and has been very supportive of LGBT legislation over the last six years.

There is just one out Republican running for a legislative seat this year. In southern California, Ontario resident Matthew Munson is running against state Senator Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino) in the 20th Senate District, which encompasses parts of the Inland Empire. He has no chance of winning and is running in order to have a leadership post within the state GOP.

Another gay Republican, Anthony Macias, had said he would challenge freshman Assemblyman Ash Kalra (D-San Jose) for his 27th Assembly District seat this year. But Macias failed to qualify for the ballot.

Two other out candidates
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.

Two members could depart at the end of the year if gay Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) wins his race for state insurance commissioner, marking the first time an LGBT person is elected to statewide office, and if lesbian state Senator Cathleen Galgiani (D-Stockton) is elected to a seat on the state's Board of Equalization.

Due to three of this year's out legislative candidates running for the same Assembly seat in the East Bay, the most the LGBT caucus could grow this year is by five members depending on the outcome of the various races with out candidates.

To see the full June primary candidate list, visit

Web Extra: For more queer political news, be sure to check Monday mornings at noon for Political Notes, the notebook's online companion. This week's column reported on several fundraisers and events for LGBT candidates.

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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