Gay CA House candidate Rollins remains optimistic of a win

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday November 9, 2022
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Gay U.S. House candidate Will Rollins, center left, and his partner, Paolo Benvenuto, marched in the 2022 Palm Springs Pride parade. Photo: Courtesy Twitter.
Gay U.S. House candidate Will Rollins, center left, and his partner, Paolo Benvenuto, marched in the 2022 Palm Springs Pride parade. Photo: Courtesy Twitter.

As he awaits final results in his race for California's 41st Congressional District, gay former federal prosecutor Will Rollins remains confident he will triple out representation in the U.S. House from the Golden State.

Speaking to the Bay Area Reporter by phone Wednesday afternoon, Rollins expressed optimism that his first-place standing in the contest would hold as additional ballots are counted. After Riverside County updated its vote count at 6 p.m. November 9, Rollins remained in first place with 54.17% of the vote for a lead of 7,538 votes.

Meanwhile, conservative Trumper Congressmember Ken Calvert (R-Corona) remained in second place with 45.83% of the vote. On Tuesday night Rollins' share of the vote was 56.5%, while the 69-year-old Calvert had 43.5%.

"The reason why we are going to keep it, and why I am hopeful we will keep it, is a majority of voters in this district rejected Ken Calvert in the June election earlier this year," said Rollins, 38, who lives in Canyon Lake. "He only got 48% of the vote in June. I think that is why we believe our lead is going to hold. It is going to be a close race."

Earlier Wednesday Calvert had insisted he would "prevail" in the race once all the votes are tabulated. His campaign estimated there were at least 120,000 ballots remaining to be tabulated.

"We know from recent elections and vote-by-mail return data that the early results disproportionately favor Democrats. In contrast, the in-person and late-arriving vote-by-mail ballots, including those handed in on Election Day, disproportionately favor Republicans," stated Calvert, who until facing Rollins had consistently voted against LGBTQ rights in the House.

But this year he voted in support of marriage equality after finding himself drawn into a new congressional district that included the LGBTQ retirement and tourist mecca of Palm Springs. As it happened, the desert city held its Pride parade last Sunday two days prior to Election Day.

Rollins and his partner, Paolo Benvenuto, a user experience designer for Google, marched in the November 6 LGBTQ celebration. It coincided with their 12th anniversary of first meeting.

"It was surreal. It was not our typical Mexican food and margarita anniversary," said Rollins, who grew up in Temecula, which was drawn out of the new House district.

He credited support from the LGBTQ community for landing him in first place on election night.

"I don't think there is any chance we would be in as strong of a position as we are without support from the LGBTQ community, including Mark Takano," said Rollins, noting that the gay Riverside congressman had been outed by Calvert when he lost to him in their 1992 campaign. "I just hope I can be the bookend for Calvert's homophobic career in the U.S. House of Representatives."

Takano went on to win a U.S. House seat in 2012, becoming the first out LGBTQ congressmember from California. He easily won reelection Tuesday to a fifth two-year term in the state's 39th Congressional District.

Joining him on Capitol Hill will be gay Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, who won election to the new, open 42nd Congressional District along the coast of Los Angeles County. From Lima, Peru, Garcia will be the first openly gay immigrant to serve in Congress.

Three other out Southern California House candidates fell short in their races. Progressive Derek Marshall, with 39.4% of the vote, lost to conservative Congressmember Jay Obernolte (R-Hesperia). He is at 60.6% of the vote in their race for the 23rd Congressional District in the High Desert east of Los Angeles.

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, lost to Congressmember Adam Schiff (D-Los Angeles) in the state's 30th Congressional District. Schiff sailed to reelection with 72.1% of the vote compared to Pudlo's 27.9%.

In their rematch from two years ago, gay lawyer David Kim is again losing to Congressmember Jimmy Gomez (D-Los Angeles) in the 34th Congressional District. Gomez is leading with 53.1% of the vote, while Kim has 46.9%.

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