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Political Notebook: LGBT politicos see 2018 as a bellwether year

by Matthew S. Bajko

Former California Assemblyman Rich Gordon.
Former California Assemblyman Rich Gordon.   

Momentous changes in the country's political landscape are in store during 2018 predict local LGBT leaders, impacting not only the White House and Congress but also the state Capitol in Sacramento and San Francisco's City Hall.

A yearly tradition to mark the start of the New Year, the Political Notebook asks LGBT community leaders to weigh in on what they believe is in store over the next 12 months. Like last year, President Donald Trump figures strongly as the source of the undercurrents set to rock the country in 2018, whether it be his policies he imposes or his impact on the congressional races for House and U.S. Senate seats.

As has been the case during his first year in office, Trump has proven that anything is possible with him occupying the White House. What in the past appeared to be predictors of future political trends can no longer be looked at for guidance during the Trump era.

That uncertainty means it is anyone's guess if the sextet below will be proven right at the start of next year. As 2017 participant Troy Bodnar, the former president of Log Cabin Republicans of San Francisco, told the Bay Area Reporter this week about his predictions, mainly that Trump would prove his LGBT detractors wrong, "I take back everything I said and apologize to the LGBTQ community. I was clearly delusional."
Check back next January to see if any mea culpas are warranted from this year's prognosticators.

2018 portends to be a year of continued political upheaval.
The resistance that began with marches the weekend after the inauguration of President Trump will solidify into a movement to overturn Republican control of the U.S. Congress.

Californians will be traveling to states across the country to help this movement elect Democrats in key House seats.
Women will play a revitalized role in our politics. Building from the #MeToo Movement, women will continue to expose the power inequity and claim additional seats at the table. An unprecedented number of women will run for office and be elected. The culture change that needs to occur in the corridors of our city halls and statehouses, however, will be slow, as the "good old boys" network remains entrenched.
The California governor's race will see two Democrats in the November general election vying for the office in the horseshoe at the Sacramento Capitol. It will not be a pleasant election, as the soul of the California Democratic Party remains divided between "progressives" and "traditionalists."
The California Legislature will spend much of the year responding to federal initiatives including healthcare, tax reform, and immigrant rights. The Legislature will also look internally to respond to workplace and sexual harassment and externally to respond to fire and drought resulting from climate change.

There will be great opportunities for the LGBTQ community to engage in the political process and be key players in shaping cultural and governmental change. These efforts should see more from our community serving in elected office. The resistance and progressive movements will benefit from our perspectives, insight, and action.

Rich Gordon
Former California assemblyman

Although this sounds hyperbolic, I truly believe that 2018 will be one of the most consequential years in American history, and for the LGBTQ civil rights movement. With repeated attacks from the Trump administration on institutions that are vital to preserving our democracy - and accelerating revelations of Trump business ties to, and communications with Russia, and attempts to thwart various investigations related to the election - I believe we are heading toward a constitutional crisis in 2018.

Sadly, it seems highly unlikely the GOP-controlled Congress will provide a real check on the threats posed by this incredibly racist, sexist, anti-immigrant and anti-LGBTQ president. So we will see additional attempts to roll back the federal social safety net - health care, social security, Medicare, Medicaid, and programs that help low-income Americans - to fund the $1.5 trillion hole left in the federal budget from the Trump tax cut. We will see bigoted right-wing judges continue to be confirmed to the federal bench at record pace.

But I have great hope that the American people will reject the hateful Trump agenda in the 2018 mid-term elections. There are at least seven winnable congressional seats in California that are represented by virulently anti-LGBT and pro-Trump Republicans. Equality California will be active, and we will take back one or both houses of Congress in 2018.

Here at home, California will continue to be the beacon of hope for our country. We will continue to pass new laws and programs to help LGBTQ students, youth, seniors and transgender people; to combat hate-based violence; to tackle LGBTQ homelessness and unemployment; to address the needs of people living with or at risk of HIV, and much more.
We will win our lawsuit protecting the right of transgender people to serve in the military.

And we will advance equality by electing LGBTQ and pro-equality allies up and down the ballot. California for the first time will elect an openly LGBTQ person to statewide office — gay Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) as state insurance commissioner. We will re-elect lesbian state Assemblywoman Sabrina Cervantes (D-Corona) in Riverside, and ally Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva (D-Fullerton) in Orange County, both running in tough swing districts.

With more highly qualified LGBTQ candidates than ever, we will elect a record number of openly LGBTQ people to our Legislature and to Congress. And of course, we will elect a new pro-equality governor. Our endorsement will be completed and announced in January.

Rick Zbur
Executive Director, Equality California

I think that 2018 will be a comeback year for Democrats and Independents across the nation, and LGBTQ candidates will play a significant role. As an alternative to our polarizing national discourse, LGBTQ candidates - in fact, all minority and female candidates - will offer a more inclusive vision for the nation. This could be a significant year for female candidates, in particular, at all levels nationwide. By November, we could see a resounding rejection of the current administration's politics and rhetoric.

There will be a small but growing cadre of Republicans alarmed by the direction of their party who will begin to gain some strength. But this will happen against an extraordinarily challenging backdrop: the intensification of the special counsel's investigation into the Trump campaign and White House, as well as its expansion to include the Republican National Committee.

We could experience a true constitutional crisis, as the White House and certain Republican leaders redouble their efforts to interfere with, diminish or outright end the investigation. If this happens (and I sincerely hope that it doesn't), it will be nothing less than a fight for our republic. I think people will understand that, and the public outcry will be enormous.

Russian President Vladimir Putin's regime will continue its efforts to influence our elections - and those of our allies - through social media. This will likely skew in favor of Republicans, but not exclusively. Citizens of all political persuasions will need to be on alert.

The outcome of this year's coming political storm, ultimately, will depend on an informed and engaged citizenry. Whether we continue down a path that erodes our democratic norms and institutions, or we choose to heal our communities and attempt to bridge the partisan divide in recognition that we are not enemies, but neighbors and fellow citizens, is entirely in our own hands.

Which will you choose?

Paul A. Escobar
Vice President, Bay Area Municipal Elections Committee

Lambda Democrats of Contra Costa will get the city of Concord to finally issue a Pride proclamation and to fly the rainbow flag over city hall. Marking a major transition for the town that passed Measure M in the early 1990's - the campaign that promoted hate against LGBTQ people.
Special counsel Robert Mueller will indict Trump's son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner and his oldest son Donald Trump Jr. but not 45 himself. Trump's laziness and inattention to detail will save him but not us.

Trump pardons his son and son-in-law forcing Congress to face the fact that Mueller can't save them from doing their jobs. Impeachment happens after November 2018.
The 2018 wave election will clear out Republicans from many suburban congressional districts. It will also show the limits of gerrymandering where planners sliced up Republicans into districts with just five or ten percent majorities. Democrats take the U.S. House.

California legislators reintroduce Assembly Bill 1250, a union created bill that blocks counties from contracting service to nonprofits in an attempt to save some county jobs. Also revealing that the toxic effect of money buying candidates who do their masters' bidding - not what's good for their own constituents - happens across the political spectrum.

Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom's past affair with his former campaign manager's wife will come back to haunt him during this year's election. It will also cause his current wife to insist he hire a gay campaign manager for the 2018 governor's race.

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California) will win re-election only to have her staff later reveal she has actually been living alone on an isolated island since 2014 and all her senate appearances only occur via astral projections.

El Cerrito's gay mayor, Gabriel Quinto, will continue to promote his city as a welcoming place for LGBTQ+ people. And Richmond Rainbow Pride keeps raising the profile of LGBTQ+ people in Contra Costa County's second largest city.
San Francisco is renamed "The West Bay" by those of us who live in the East Bay - as the techopolis continues to become a world apart from most common folk. Oakland is formally declared "The City" by all queer people who make less than $150,000 per year.

The Rainbow Community Center's fifth annual Inclusive Schools Summit will happen in October 2018. The summit shows the zeal and activism underway among our LGBTQ+ young people who continue to create safer and more equitable schools and communities for themselves and their peers. The resistance is joined by our next generation!

Ben-David Barr, Ph.D.
Outgoing Executive Director, Rainbow Community Center

In the hindsight that is 20/20 we can now declare, with no hesitation or timidity, that Trump is an unmitigated horror as president. Lessons learned from 2017 inform my optimistic, but still deeply cautious, predictions for 2018.

Building on the synergy, power and courage of Black Lives Matter, the Women's Marches, the #MeToo movement, and many others stepping up to say "No More," we will flip the U.S. House and Senate in the November mid-terms. We will also win dozens of local and statewide seats for political leaders who reflect the faces and values of true inclusion and who will be the harbinger of radical change.

Trump's approval finally drops below 30 percent. In a Twitter tantrum he announces he will not run for re-election in 2020. Putin offers to make him director of Russian social media; he accepts.

In light of the National Center for Lesbian Rights' win challenging the Trump administration ban on transgender service in the military, a slew of lawsuits are unleashed against every dangerous policy pursued by this venal administration. Donations pour into NCLR to continue its groundbreaking work.

We will finally begin seeing stories of the "Real America." Diverse communities in urban centers and suburban pockets, where residents speak 23 (or more) different languages and represent a range of races, religions, sexual orientations and gender identities. The tribalism of 2016-17 begins to fade, replaced with a newfound appreciation for difference.
California ends cash bail. Other states quickly follow suit. Widely hailed as a huge success, the many stories about the damage done by bail help lead to serious reforms in our racist criminal justice and corrections system. (Hey, a girl can dream.)

As a way to honor former San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee (RIP Mayor Lee, you were a good human), the city's politicos agree to run campaigns based on ideas and dialogue and refrain from baseless character attacks and less-than-truthful mailers. (Hey, a girl can, oh...never mind.)

Regardless of the degree to which any of this happens, San Francisco will continue to be the locus of the greatest resistance, humanity and commitment to fighting oppressive governments and systems anywhere in the world. And we will never stop.

Kate Kendell
Executive Director, National Center for Lesbian Rights

If the B.A.R. had asked me to make these political predictions a year ago, I feel like my outlook would have been a lot different and significantly dourer. But the last two months in local, state, and national politics has caused pretty much everyone to recalculate their winners and losers in 2018.

Between the Democratic wave in November, the resignation of politicians to sexual misconduct, the unfortunate passing of our own mayor, and the many missteps of the president and Congress, I've retooled my predictions. So here are my totally non-scientific, but somewhat educated, guesstimates for the June and November elections.

We'll start with the easier one. On the national level, as long as the Democratic Party can keep it together and form a coherent message (and that's a big if these days), I foresee our own Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) once again taking up the gavel of speaker of the House of Representatives as the party rides the wave of anti-Trump resentment to gain the seats to take back the House.

Statewide, I think our former Mayor Gavin Newsom is the strong favorite to take over the governorship after Jerry Brown. Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa would make a fine governor, but the state has been trending more progressive, and Newsom's leadership on issues like marijuana legalization will lead him to Sacramento. Democrats will keep control of both chambers of the state Legislature, but after the sexual harassment scandals will no longer have the coveted two-thirds majority needed to pass revenue measures.
Local politics will be a lot more exciting now that there is an unexpected opening for mayor. Despite strong campaigns from Acting Mayor London Breed, who is also the District 5 supervisor, and District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim, as well as possibly City Attorney Dennis Herrera and state Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco), I predict that gay former state legislator and city supervisor Mark Leno will be solidly elected as our first out LGBT mayor of San Francisco. The fact that he already had a campaign apparatus up-and-running, as well as nearly $500,000 already raised, makes him the strong favorite for the June 5 special election.

June will also see a change of leadership in District 8 when gay City College Trustee Rafael Mandelman wins the supervisor seat to finish the second term of gay state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) over gay appointed Supervisor Jeff Sheehy. Lee did not have a knack for picking winning candidates for supervisor appointments, and that will show as Sheehy runs against one of the most admired and hard-working public servants in the city. Mandelman has been working non-stop for this seat since losing in 2010 to Wiener, and all that hard work will earn him a seat on the board in both the June and November elections.

Board of Education Commissioner Matt Haney will easily win the District 6 seat being vacated by Kim due to term limits over corporatist Sonja Trauss, despite her support from Wiener and Chiu. And the sparks (and boatloads of cash) will fly in District 2 as BART Board Member Nick Josefowitz (and his anti-democratic ballot measure implementing lifetime term limits for local office) loses to Michela Alioto-Pier, who will take her former seat back on the board.

Christopher Vasquez
Former campaign manager

Political Notes, the notebook's online companion, will return Monday, January 22.

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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