Gay CA House candidate Rollins remains in 2nd place

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Thursday November 10, 2022
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Gay U.S. House candidate Will Rollins, center, is currently in second place in his bid to oust from office conservative Riverside County Republican Congressmember Ken Calvert. Photo: Courtesy Twitter.
Gay U.S. House candidate Will Rollins, center, is currently in second place in his bid to oust from office conservative Riverside County Republican Congressmember Ken Calvert. Photo: Courtesy Twitter.

Gay former federal prosecutor Will Rollins remains in second place in his race for California's 41st Congressional District seat. Meanwhile, in Oregon, lesbian former Santa Clara City Councilmember Jamie McLeod-Skinner has conceded her contest for a U.S. House seat.

After Riverside County elections officials posted new results Thursday morning, Rollins fell out of his leading position from election night to now be trailing Congressmember Ken Calvert (R-Corona). The conservative Trump supporter has advanced to first place with 50.5% of the vote, while Rollins is now behind with 49.5%.

"Thanks, everyone, for all of your support and interest in this race! We're optimistic, and I know that you're as eager for a positive outcome as I am!" Rollins had tweeted Thursday afternoon.

With more ballots counted Friday night, Calvert's lead continued to grow, jumping up to 1,598 votes from the 1,285 vote edge he had Thursday. County elections officials reported Friday approximately 205,000 vote-by-mail and 10,000 provisional ballots remain to be processed.

The next vote count update is to be posted Saturday around 6 p.m. Calvert has insisted he will win the race once all ballots have been counted.

"As we expected, as more votes are counted from around Riverside County we would close the early gap," he stated Thursday. "After this morning's update we've not only closed the gap but are now in the lead. We fully expect that lead will grow as more ballots are counted. Again, we will prevail!"

Speaking to the Bay Area Reporter by phone Wednesday afternoon, Rollins had expressed optimism that his first-place standing in the contest would hold as additional ballots are counted, though he acknowledged the race would be "close." He pointed to Calvert's only receiving 48% of the vote in their June primary race for why he believed he would win the seat.

"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 with his partner.

Oregon race

McLeod-Skinner lost her bid for the Beaver State's open, newly drawn 5th Congressional District. Her race was called Sunday, and as of Monday morning, she was at 48.8% of the vote.

Her Republican opponent, Lori Chavez-DeRemer, continues to lead with 50.9%, though her share of the vote had winnowed slightly from that on election night. Chavez-DeRemer currently has a lead of 6,502 votes.

McLeod-Skinner conceded the race Sunday and called Chavez-DeRemer to congratulate her on winning the seat and "wish her well" in representing their district "during these challenging times," she tweeted. "Our success as Oregonians is dependent on the success of our elected leaders, and I encourage all of us to help our elected leaders bridge our divides to address our common challenges."

The progressive McLeod-Skinner lost her first bid for an Oregon U.S. House seat in 2018. But, this year, she defeated moderate Congressman Kurt Schrader (D-Canby) in the June primary to advance to the fall ballot. With voters' growing concerns over crime and Democrats' handling of the economy, however, McLeod-Skinner faced strong headwinds in the general election.

If elected, McLeod-Skinner would have been her state's first LGBTQ House member and the first lesbian from the West Coast serving in Congress. Of the current 11 LGBTQ members of Congress, only three are lesbians.

Should Rollins be elected, he would triple out representation among the Golden State's congressional delegation. In the nearby 39th Congressional District gay Congressmember Mark Takano (D-Riverside) easily won reelection Tuesday to a fifth two-year term.

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%.

For Rollins, defeating Calvert would be particularly gratifying, he told the B.A.R. Throughout his three decades in Congress, Calvert has routinely voted against LGBTQ rights in the House.

Yet, after finding himself drawn into a new congressional district that included the LGBTQ retirement and tourist mecca of Palm Springs and facing a gay opponent, Calvert voted in support of marriage equality earlier this year. During his first House race in 1992, Calvert outed as gay Takano, who was running against him that year.

Two decades later, running in a different congressional district than that of Calvert, Takano became the first out LGBTQ member of the U.S. House from California. A decade later, Rollins now aims to join him in Washington, D.C.

"I just hope I can be the bookend for Calvert's homophobic career in the U.S. House of Representatives," Rollins told the B.A.R.

This article will be updated as more ballot returns come in.

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