Political Notebook: Lesbian legislator Cervantes launches CA Senate bid

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Tuesday December 20, 2022
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Assemblymember Sabrina Cervantes announced she is running for state Senate in 2024. Photo: Courtesy the candidate
Assemblymember Sabrina Cervantes announced she is running for state Senate in 2024. Photo: Courtesy the candidate

Lesbian Assemblymember Sabrina Cervantes (D-Corona) has launched a bid for a state Senate seat that will be open in 2024. In making her candidacy official Tuesday, she also announced that she had the endorsement of termed out Senator Richard D. Roth (D-Riverside) to succeed him as the representative for the 31st Senate District.

Cervantes, 35, in November easily won reelection to a fourth two-year term in the Assembly and is the new chair of the Latino Legislative Caucus. She now represents the 58th State Assembly District in Riverside County.

"I am running for the state Senate because, as one of the fastest growing regions in our state, the Inland Empire deserves a senator who knows how to get things done at our state Capitol," stated Cervantes in her emailed announcement. "As our region grows so should state investments in our communities and families, and that is why I want to continue to deliver for the Inland Empire and build on the more than $600 million in state funding I secured these past six years to tackle housing affordability, create jobs, increase access to education and health care, and support our veterans."

Roth stated he is backing Cervantes in the race due to her being an "unwavering partner in delivering for our Inland communities" since her election to the Assembly in 2016.

"Time and time again, she has fought for our region to finally get its fair share from Sacramento," stated Roth. "When she succeeds me in the Senate, I know she will continue our shared mission of ensuring that the Inland Empire keeps its hard-earned seat at the table in determining the future of California."

Of the 12-member Legislative LGBTQ Caucus, Cervantes is the first member to officially announce their campaign for the 2024 election cycle, when all of the Assembly seats will once again be on the ballot along with the Senate's odd-numbered districts. Should she be elected to the Legislature's upper chamber, Cervantes will help maintain out female leadership in it.

Lesbian Senators Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), who is the chamber's president pro tempore, and Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton), the new chair of the affinity group for out state legislators, are termed out of office in 2024. They will be joined in the 2023 legislative session by freshman lesbian Senator Caroline Menjivar, who won election last month to the open 18th Senate District seat in the San Fernando Valley.

Three gay men now serve in the Senate: Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), John Laird (D-Santa Cruz), and Steve Padilla (D-Chula Vista). In announcing her Senate bid, Cervantes did not name any of her LGBTQ legislative colleagues among her endorsers.

Among those lending their early backing of her in the race is gay Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, a former state legislator who just won reelection to his second and final four-year term as the only statewide LGBTQ elected official in the Golden State. Superintendent of Public Education Tony Thurmond has also endorsed Cervantes for the Senate seat, as has her Assembly colleague Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella.) Her early endorsers list also included a number of county and local officials in the Inland Empire region.

Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis is dual endorsing in the race, as in addition to supporting Cervantes she is also backing Dr. Angelo Farooq, as Politico had reported in its December 1 California Playbook newsletter. According to the item about Farooq's Senate bid, the Democrat is starting out with roughly $580,000 in his campaign account and also had gotten early endorsements from Attorney General Rob Bonta and Controller-elect Malia Cohen.

Cervantes had reported having roughly $602,000, as of October 22, in her Assembly campaign account. Her consultants for her Senate race, Overland Strategies, released on Tuesday a poll it conducted in November gauging Cervantes' chances in the Senate race against Farooq, a Riverside school board member, and Republican Bernard William Murphy, who ran against her this year for her Assembly seat and received 46% of the vote.

The poll of 500 likely primary voters found Cervantes leading with 45% of the vote, followed by Murphy with 29% and Farooq with 6%, and 18% undecided. It has a margin of error for the full sample of +/-4.4%.

In 2019, Cervantes made history by becoming the first legislator in the state to give birth to triplets while serving in office and also the first out member of the Legislature to give birth while in office. That December she and her wife, Courtney Downs, announced that Cervantes had given birth to two boys and one girl.

"As a working mom of triplets, I understand the concerns of working families in the Inland Empire," stated Cervantes in her Senate bid announcement. "That is why I will keep working to fully fund our public schools, protect reproductive freedom, help small businesses create living wage jobs, provide our veterans with the support they need and deserve, and make the dream of higher education a reality for more of our students. I am proud of my record delivering for the Inland Empire and as a senator, I will continue fighting for your family just as hard as I fight for my own."

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