Dems launch recount fund for gay CA House candidate Rollins

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Tuesday November 15, 2022
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Southern California House candidate Will Rollins trails his Republican opponent, as Democrats have launched a fundraising drive to help pay for a recount. Photo: Courtesy Facebook
Southern California House candidate Will Rollins trails his Republican opponent, as Democrats have launched a fundraising drive to help pay for a recount. Photo: Courtesy Facebook

With the Associated Press calling the California 41st Congressional District race for Congressmember Ken Calvert (R-Corona), and the incumbent declaring victory, Democrats are now raising money for a recount fund on behalf of gay candidate Will Rollins.

As of Tuesday evening, Rollins was behind by 6,505 votes against Calvert, 69, a conservative Trump supporter. Riverside County elections officials reported they still had approximately 67,000 ballots to count and had received about 50,000 additional timely postmarked ballots since November 9.

Yet the AP declared Calvert the winner Monday night. Shortly thereafter, he issued a statement thanking Riverside County voters for electing him to his 16th term in Congress.

"As I said throughout this campaign, I will work to take our country in a different direction from the path it's on and advocate for policies that will curb inflation, lower energy prices by increasing American production, address our border crisis, and reduce crime," stated Calvert. "This election demonstrated that Riverside County voters are more interested in people serious about solving our challenges than personal politics. In the end, it's clear that voters sent a strong message rejecting the gutter politics of lies and personal attacks from an out-of-town extremist liberal."

Tuesday morning Rollins, 38, a former federal prosecutor, acknowledged in a tweet that the latest vote count wasn't the news "we hoped for. We know we face an uphill climb but I've been adamant that the democratic process must play out. With many votes still outstanding, the next round of ballots released tonight will provide more insight on where this race stands."

He told his supporters he would have more to say after elections officials posted another vote count update around 6 p.m. Tuesday. Yet, in the afternoon, South Bay Congressmember Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose) announced she was raising funds to help cover the cost of a recount in Rollins' race.

"Will Rollins' race is preparing for a recount because the MAGA insane Republicans are not backing down with a loss," wrote Lofgren in her emailed pitch for $10 donations, which would be split between Rollins and nine other California House candidates who ran in close elections November 8. "The best way to gear up for a recount is to prepare in advance. Will's team is gathering the best legal team possible to win this fight, but they can't do it without your help."

Lofgren added, "This Midterm Election is far from over."

Rollin's campaign declined to comment Tuesday afternoon on if it plans to seek a recount in the race. In a tweet Tuesday night Rollins said he was waiting for another vote count update, as he was "surprised to learn" about the additional ballots that had arrived by mail since Election Day.

"We know major outlets have already called this race, and I will respect the final outcome, no matter what," he tweeted. "But, we also want to respect the voices of those whose votes have not yet been counted. Thanks, everyone, for bearing with us a little bit longer."

As the Bay Area Reporter noted in a November 14 online article, Rollins and Democratic officials, such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), had asked voters in the Southern California congressional district to check to make sure their mailed-in ballots hadn't been rejected due to issues with their signature or a missing date.

The process is called "ballot curing." Impacted voters have 30 days to submit a correction affidavit in order to make their vote count.

"That's what the process of correcting a minor discrepancy on a ballot is called. If you're an eligible voter and there's an issue with your ballot verification, you can still fix it!" Rollins tweeted November 14.

Pelosi had asked people to sign up to either make phone calls or canvass in the targeted districts in several states where Democratic House candidates came up short via the .

"County elections officials have identified thousands of voters who either did not sign their ballot or whose signature does not match their voting registration record — and who can 'cure' their ballot. We have phone banks and canvasses to reach them — and WE NEED YOUR HELP," wrote Pelosi in an email Monday to her supporters. "Please sign up to reach voters who need to cure their ballots to make sure every vote is counted as cast."

Annise Parker, LGBTQ Victory Fund president and CEO, had told the B.A.R. Monday afternoon that her organization remained hopeful that Rollins could pull off a win in the newly drawn congressional district that includes the LGBTQ retirement and tourist mecca of Palm Springs. But Parker also acknowledged, "this is a red seat" so a victory by Rollins "is not easy but always possible."

Speaking to the B.A.R. by phone the day after the November 8 general election, Rollins had predicted his race would be "close." But he expressed optimism that his first-place finish on election night would eventually stand as additional ballots are counted due to Calvert's only receiving 48% of the vote in their June primary race.

He had been banking on LGBTQ voters from the Palm Springs area to help put him into first place against Calvert, who has repeatedly voted against LGBTQ rights over the last two decades. Only this year, running against a gay candidate in a more purple district, did Calvert vote in support of marriage equality.

Since last week Calvert had insisted he would be declared the winner once all ballots were counted. In his statement Monday night, he acknowledged he would be representing a different House district in Congress.

"It's clear that this district, like our country, is narrowly divided on a partisan basis. I am proud of my record of delivering results for Riverside County by working in a bipartisan manner throughout my career," stated Calvert. "As I represent a new district with new communities, I remain committed to working towards solutions with anyone who is interested in addressing the needs of our region."

Rollins is the fifth out West Coast House candidate to fall short in their races. In Oregon, lesbian former Santa Clara City Councilmember Jamie McLeod-Skinner on Sunday conceded her contest for the 5th Congressional District. She defeated moderate Congressman Kurt Schrader (D-Canby) in their June primary race but lost in the general election against Republican Lori Chavez-DeRemer.

Three Los Angeles-area out House candidates had tried to oust incumbents. Gay progressive Derek Marshall lost to Congressmember Jay Obernolte (R-Hesperia) in the state's 23rd Congressional District.

In the CD 30 race, Congressmember Adam Schiff (D-Los Angeles) defeated nonbinary drag queen G "Maebe A. Girl" Pudlo. Meanwhile, progressive lawyer David Kim is trailing Congressmember Jimmy Gomez (D-Los Angeles) in CD 34 by 4,040 votes.

The Golden State's congressional delegation did double this year in out members. Gay Congressmember Mark Takano (D-Riverside) easily won reelection to a fifth two-year term in the 39th Congressional District.

Joining him on Capitol Hill is gay Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, elected to the 42nd Congressional District along the coast of Los Angeles County. From Lima, Peru, Garcia is the first openly gay immigrant to serve in Congress and was in Washington D.C. this week for the orientation for new congressional members.

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

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