Kumagai concedes in East Bay Assembly race

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday November 9, 2022
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East Bay Assembly candidate Shawn Kumagai. Photo: Courtesy the campaign
East Bay Assembly candidate Shawn Kumagai. Photo: Courtesy the campaign

Gay Dublin City Councilmember Shawn Kumagai conceded Wednesday afternoon in his East Bay race for the open 20th Assembly District seat. On election night he was trailing in his bid to become the first LGBTQ state legislator of Japanese descent.

He had mounted a tough election fight against labor leader Liz Ortega, who is straight. She had the endorsement of outgoing Assemblymember Bill Quirk (D-Hayward), who opted not to seek reelection.

"I'm proud of the campaign we ran and the critical issues we brought to the center of the conversation — the importance of public safety, fiscal responsibility with hard-earned taxpayer dollars, and making housing more affordable and attainable," stated Kumagai. "I want to congratulate Liz Ortega on her victory and I look forward to helping her address these issues that impact our community and state."

According to the unofficial returns, Kumagai was in second place with 42% of the vote. Ortega's share of the vote stood at 58% and, shortly after midnight, she declared victory.

"While votes remain to be counted, tonight's results show the voters of the 20th AD have elected me as your next Assemblymember," tweeted Ortega.

Kumagai was one of a dozen out legislative candidates across California in the November 8 general election. But his contest was the only competitive legislative race with an LGBTQ candidate on ballots Tuesday in the Bay Area.

Incumbents gay Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Campbell) and bisexual Assemblymember Alex Lee (D-San Jose) easily secured reelection against their Republican opponents.

Low took first place with 72% of the vote in his race for the South Bay's new 26th Assembly District, which includes Cupertino, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale and parts of San Jose. In a redrawn AD 24 seat that straddles Santa Clara and Alameda counties, Lee secured first place with 68% of the vote.

"Despite big real estate and corporate landlords teaming up to spend over $1 million to bury our district in disinformation, we overcame their lies and dirty tactics," Lee ballyhooed in an email to his supporters. "We have proven that the power of everyday people can overcome the abhorrent influence of outside special interests."

Their victories will help the California Legislature be the first in the country to reach 10% proportional LGBTQ representation. As the Bay Area Reporter's online Political Notes column reported last month, at least 10% of the 120 state legislators will be LGBTQ when the newly elected members are sworn into office on December 5.

The affinity group for out lawmakers currently numbers eight members. Incumbent Southern California Assemblymembers Sabrina Cervantes (D-Corona), who is lesbian, and Chris Ward (D-San Diego), who is gay, both easily secured new terms Tuesday.

Cervantes took first place in the AD 58 race with 57% of the vote. In his bid for the AD 78 race, Ward garnered 67%.

Joining them will be Corey Jackson, a gay man and the first LGBTQ African American elected to the state Legislature. He won the Assembly District 60 seat in the state's Inland Empire with 57% of the vote.

Also set to serve in Sacramento is Rick Chavez Zbur, the gay former executive director of statewide LGBTQ advocacy organization Equality California. He won the race for the open Assembly District 51 seat in Los Angeles with 56% of the vote.

In the race for the newly drawn 20th Senate District seat, lesbian social worker Caroline Menjivar and gay hotel manager Daniel Hertzberg are vying to become the first out state legislator elected from the San Fernando Valley. The winner will succeed Hertzberg's father, state Senator Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys), who is termed out this year.

Menjivar currently has the lead with 54.2% of the vote, while the younger Hertzberg has 45.7%.

Palm Springs City Councilmember Christy Holstege, who would be the first bisexual female LGBTQ caucus member, ran for the open Assembly District 47 seat against Republican Greg Wallis. Former GOPer Assemblymember Chad Mayes (I-Rancho Mirage) opted against seeking reelection to the newly drawn seat.

Holstege is leading with 57.2% of the vote, while Wallis currently is at 42.8%.

Gay Chula Vista City Councilmember Steve Padilla secured election to the open Senate District 18 seat in San Diego County with 59.6% of the vote. In the nearby 40th Senate District race, gay veteran Joseph C. Rocha of Escondido is losing with 46.5% of the vote.

He is attempting to oust from office state Senator Brian Jones (R-Santee). One of nine current GOP Senators, Jones has 53.5% of the vote.

No matter what happens in the various races, the state Capitol is set to have the largest contingent of LGBTQ legislators in California history. Since its creation in 2002, the LGBTQ caucus has had at most eight members at one time.

This story will be updated as additional votes are counted.

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