Lesbian CA legislator's out sister aims to succeed her in Sacramento

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday December 21, 2022
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Assemblymember Sabrina Cervantes, left, announced this week she's running for a state Senate seat in 2024 and her sister, Clarissa, announced that she will seek her sibling's Assembly seat in that election. Photo: Courtesy Facebook<br>
Assemblymember Sabrina Cervantes, left, announced this week she's running for a state Senate seat in 2024 and her sister, Clarissa, announced that she will seek her sibling's Assembly seat in that election. Photo: Courtesy Facebook

In what would be a first for the California Legislature, a lesbian member of the Assembly could be succeeded by her out sister come 2024. And depending on the outcome of that year's legislative races, they could become the first pair of LGBTQ siblings to serve together in Sacramento.

As the Bay Area Reporter reported online December 20, Assemblymember Sabrina Cervantes (D-Corona) is seeking to succeed Senator Richard D. Roth (D-Riverside), who will be termed out of his 31st Senate District seat in two years. Roth has endorsed Cervantes, 35, in the race that has also drawn another Democratic candidate, Riverside school board member Dr. Angelo Farooq.

On Wednesday Cervantes' younger sister, Clarissa, announced her candidacy to succeed her sibling in the Assembly District 58 seat. Clarissa Cervantes, 32, who uses she and they pronouns, identifies as bisexual and queer, as the statewide LGBTQ advocacy organization Equality California noted when it endorsed her last year during her successful bid for a Riverside City Council seat.

The Cervantes siblings are set to both appear on the March 5, 2024 primary ballot, as the election is being held early due to it being a presidential election year. Under California's top-two primary system, the sisters will need to place either first or second in their respective legislative contests in order to advance to the November 5 general election that fall.

Assemblymember Blanca E. Rubio (D-Baldwin Park) and Senator Susan Rubio (D-Baldwin Park) were the first sisters to serve together in the Legislature. Blanca Rubio first won election to her 48th Assembly District seat in 2016, while Susan Rubio was elected to her Senate District 22 seat in 2018.

The B.A.R. could not determine if another pair of LGBTQ siblings had sought seats in a state legislature or served together in a statehouse. After searching their records spokespeople for the LGBTQ Victory Fund, which helps to elect LGBTQ people to public office across the country, told the B.A.R. they did not know of any other situations involving a pair of out sisters or brothers.

Last year, Clarissa Cervantes won her June 8 election to the Ward 2 seat on the Riverside City Council. When she was sworn in that July, she became the second out member of the governing body and its second Latina member.

She represents her city's Canyon Crest, Eastside, Sycamore Canyon, and UC Riverside neighborhoods. And due to a change in the city moving its local elections to even-numbered years, Clarissa Cervantes is serving a five-year term.

Like her older sister, who gave birth to her and her wife's triplets three years ago, Clarissa Cervantes is also a mom. She has a daughter, Autumn.

In a November 4 post on her Instagram account, she wrote about being an elected public servant at the same time as her sibling.

"I don't often talk about how it 'feels' to be an elected official serving the same communities as my older sister. It's my dream come true," wrote Clarissa Cervantes. "Sabrina and I spoke about helping people since we were little (must of got it from those amazingly devoted parents and our selfless grandparents who were always helping others)."

Prior to her election, Clarissa Cervantes had served as a legislative field representative for former councilmember Andy Melendrez. When he opted not to seek reelection last year, she jumped into the race to succeed him with his endorsement.

In September, she filed a libel lawsuit against Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco for his claiming in a social media post that she had supported a protest over the summer that resulted in damage to the city's historic courthouse. Clarissa Cervantes refuted the charge, saying she happened to walk by on her way to a local bar and had asked a sergeant with the city's police department what was going on.

She condemned the vandalism and demanded an apology from Bianco. When none came, she filed her lawsuit.

In announcing her Assembly bid Wednesday, Clarissa Cervantes stated she wants to serve in Sacramento in order to ensure the legislative district can continue to deliver "the critical resources" its residents deserve to receive.

"As a mother and lifelong resident of Riverside County, I understand the issues impacting our communities and vow to carry their stories of perseverance with me as I fight for their futures in the state Assembly. It would be my honor to represent you," stated Clarissa Cervantes.

Her sister is among her early endorsers, as are Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Los Angeles) and Assembly Majority Leader Eloise Gomez Reyes (D-Colton). Also backing her is civil rights icon Dolores Huerta who, with the late labor organizer Cesar Chavez, helped lay the groundwork for the creation of the United Farm Workers of America in 1962.

"I believe that public service is about being a voice for the people. I have a proven track record of working across Assembly District 58 to empower residents and foster a sense of community belonging," stated Clarissa Cervantes.

Riverside City Councilmember Ronaldo Fierro, who has a daughter with his wife, was the first person to announce his bid for the Assembly seat. The fellow Democrat was elected to his Ward 3 council seat in 2019 and owns a restaurant and cocktail bar in the city, where he was born and raised.

"Assemblymember Sabrina Cervantes has been an effective advocate for our region and has delivered for our residents during her tenure in the State Assembly," stated Fierro in announcing his candidacy December 2. "I am confident that if there is an open seat, I am the best candidate to continue her strong work and represent the 58th District and fight for inland residents in the State Assembly."

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