Gay CA House candidates headed to fall contests

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday June 8, 2022
Share this Post:
Congressman Mark Takano (D-Riverside), left, and Long Beach congressional candidate Robert Garcia are expected to win their respective races in November. Photos: Takano, Tia Gemmell; Garcia, Courtesy City of Long Beach
Congressman Mark Takano (D-Riverside), left, and Long Beach congressional candidate Robert Garcia are expected to win their respective races in November. Photos: Takano, Tia Gemmell; Garcia, Courtesy City of Long Beach

Four gay Southern California House candidates survived their primary contests Tuesday and are headed to the fall ballot. Both Congressmember Mark Takano (D-Riverside) and gay Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia are now expected to easily win their races come November.

Former federal prosecutor Will Rollins is now seen as having a strong road to victory, based on the results of his primary race against Congressmember Ken Calvert (R-Corona). Meanwhile, Derek Marshall is facing an uphill climb to defeat Congressmember Jay Obernolte (R-Hesperia).

Garcia, a Democrat, had been the odds-on favorite to finish first in his primary contest for the new, open 42nd Congressional District along the coast of Los Angeles County. And he didn't disappoint, landing in the top spot with 44.7% of the vote Tuesday, according to unofficial returns.

Capturing the second spot to advance to the November 8 general election ballot was Republican John Briscoe with 28.7% of the vote. Assemblymember Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens) was in a distant third place with 12.7% of the vote.

Since the district is heavily Democratic, with the six Democrats on Tuesday's ballot receiving a combined 69.2% of the vote, Garcia should easily win the seat in the fall. He will become the first openly gay immigrant to serve in Congress, having been born in Lima, Peru and moving to the U.S. at age 5.

"Honored and proud to be your Democratic nominee for Congress tonight. Thank you!" Garcia tweeted.

LGBTQ groups and leaders had been quick to endorse Garcia when he launched his campaign. Equality California Votes, an independent super PAC aligned with statewide LGBTQ organization Equality California, ran an independent expenditure in support of Garcia's candidacy ahead of the primary.

"Voters in Southeast LA and Long Beach have spoken clearly and decisively tonight in support of [Garcia's] bold, battle-tested leadership. We've been proud to stand with him since day one in this race, and we couldn't be more excited to make history alongside him this November," stated EQCA Executive Director Tony Hoang.

With Garcia's expected victory, two gay men of color will be part of the Golden State's congressional delegation. Takano, who is Japanese American, easily took first place in his District 39 primary race Tuesday with 59.7% of the vote.

He is headed to reelection to a fifth term as his expected Republican opponent, Aja Smith, has little chance of winning in the Democratic district. Smith was in second place with 10.7% of the vote, based on the unofficial returns Wednesday.

Rollins could very well triple out congressional representation from California after securing second place in his primary Tuesday with 35.6% of the vote. As expected, Calvert took first place with 43.6% of the vote.

Ahead of this week's election political handicappers had deemed the race as "likely Republican" even though the newly drawn 41st Congressional District includes a large part of the gay retirement and tourist mecca Palm Springs. Rollins' campaign, however, had pointed to the increased number of Democratic voters in the district to argue he could very well flip the seat from red to blue.

"The stakes are high, but after tonight, our community has proven that we are capable of defeating Ken Calvert in November," stated Rollins in an email thanking his supporters. "We are one step closer to defending our institutions and making sure the extremists who enabled the attack on our Capitol are held accountable."

The current vote totals bolster that argument, as Rollins and the other Democrat on Tuesday's ballot, Shrina Kurani, netted a combined 50.5% of the vote. Calvert and the other GOPer who ran in the primary netted a combined 48.3%, with the rest of the votes going to independent Anna Nevenic.

Based on those results, neoconservative commentator Bill Kristol tweeted that Rollins could very well be elected to the seat. He noted, "Rollins, a moderate Dem who emphasized the importance of defending democracy, will take on incumbent rep and election-overturner Ken Calvert in Nov. A good chance for a Dem pickup, and for a huge upgrade in quality of member of Congress."

In the Golden State's 23rd Congressional District progressive Democrat Marshall took the second spot with 21.8% of the vote Tuesday. As expected, Obernolte easily was in first place with 58.9% of the vote.

In third was Democrat Blanca A. Gómez with 19.3% of the vote. Political handicappers have the High Desert seat east of Los Angeles in the "safe Republican" column, as evidenced by the GOP incumbent besting the two Democrats by nearly 18%.

Nonetheless, Marshall is hoping he can convince voters of the district to send him to Congress.

"The path to holding the House of Representatives in November runs through California, especially in districts like mine #CA23," he tweeted Wednesday.

As for the two transgender House candidates who ran against powerful Democratic incumbents Tuesday, neither appears to have survived their primary contest. G "Maebe A. Girl" Pudlo, a nonbinary drag queen elected in 2019 as the at-large representative for the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council in Los Angeles, was running against Congressmember Adam Schiff (D-Los Angeles) for the state's 30th Congressional District.

While Schiff easily took first place with 60.4% of the vote, GOPer Ronda Kennedy was in second place with 10.1% of the vote as of Wednesday morning. Pudlo was close behind in third place with 9.7% of the vote.

Bianca Von Krieg, a transgender actress, had entered the primary race for San Francisco's newly numbered 11th Congressional District seat against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco). She landed in last place among the six candidates with 1.3% of the vote.

Pelosi easily took first place with 71.4% of the vote and will face off against Republican John Dennis, who took second place with 12.4% of the vote. She and Schiff are expected to easily win reelection in their heavily Democratic districts.

Help keep the Bay Area Reporter going in these tough times. To support local, independent, LGBTQ journalism, consider becoming a BAR member.