Guest Opinion: A more inclusive Alameda County Democratic Party is good for everyone

  • by Annie Koruga
  • Wednesday March 22, 2023
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Alameda County Democratic Party recording secretary Annie Koruga. Photo: Courtesy Annie Koruga
Alameda County Democratic Party recording secretary Annie Koruga. Photo: Courtesy Annie Koruga

Over the past few years, the Alameda County Democratic Party has made significant progress on LGBTQ+ issues. In fact, LGBTQ+ representation on the ACDP executive board doubled in our most recent leadership election. This past January, queer ACDP executive board members Andy Kelley and Victor Aguilar each retained their seats as the corresponding secretary and vice chair for the 18th Assembly District, respectively. (Kelley is an elected member of the Berkeley Rent Board and Aguilar last year was reelected to the San Leandro City Council.) I'm proud to say that the ACDP also elected two lesbian members to its leadership body: myself as the recording secretary, and Bobbi Lopez as the vice chair for the 15th Assembly District. This brings the total to four LGBTQ+ members on the 11-person executive board, making the leadership body just over 36% queer — likely the highest this percentage has ever been. Queer members are serving in other positions of leadership within the ACDP as well: both our assistant treasurer George Perezvelez and parliamentarian Lance Kwan, a member of the Ohlone College Board, are queer.

It's encouraging progress. We as a committee started the previous term, which ran from 2016 to 2020, with only one openly queer regular member, and we're ending the next term with four LGBTQ+ members in elected leadership. As for the composition of the entire ACDP, we have at least 26 openly LGBTQ+ members. At least one member representing each of the five Assembly districts within Alameda County is queer, providing a great diversity of queer perspectives. The varied assortment of LGBTQ+ perspectives is certainly refreshing, and has enabled the committee to pass serious LGBTQ+ inclusive reforms, such as a first in state pro-LGBTQ+ endorsement policy, adopted as a bylaws amendment in the fall of 2021.

A strong set of queer voices is needed since explicitly and virulently anti-queer candidates have run for local office in the Bay Area in recent years and likely will in the future. In my own city of Fremont (which has not yet elected an openly queer person to either its City Council or its school board) during the 2022 general election, one of the most clearly anti-queer candidates I've ever seen run for public office in Alameda County was on the ballot. Jennifer Kavouniaris ran for a seat on the Fremont school board. She espoused homophobic views on drag queen story hours, and, as the East Bay Insiders newsletter reported, expressed far-right and religious positions on things such as critical race theory as was opposed to teachers' unions. Not surprisingly, she lost her race.

It's good to see LGBTQ+ representation and issues continue to matter to the ACDP. It definitely seems like we're on the right track on the matter, and we're taking the time to intentionally consider, and then address, systemic inequity. I and many other committee members have been appointed to the Strategies for Change standing committee, chaired by lesbian ACDP member Brendalynn Goodall, which will investigate potential reforms on a variety of fronts and explore the methods of other county Democratic parties.

LGBTQ+ people are under attack nationwide, from what is widely interpreted as a drag ban in Tennessee to the "Don't Say Gay" law in Florida, which makes it all the more important for us to be welcoming in California. The Democratic Party, just like California, prides itself on being a champion of diversity, inclusivity, and equity. In the ACDP, I'm glad to say, LGBTQ+ committee members have been empowered to have a hand in leading our committee down the path toward fully realizing those values.

Annie Koruga, a lesbian, is the recording secretary of the Alameda County Democratic Party, and a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community. They are a 14-year resident of Fremont, and have been active in the Democratic Party since 2018.

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