Political Notes: CA LGBTQ 2024 US House races begin to take shape

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Monday March 13, 2023
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Queer West Hollywood Mayor Sepi Shyne, left, and nonbinary drag queen Maebe A. Girl have announced bids to run for California's 30th Congressional District seat in Los Angeles. Photos: Courtesy the campaigns
Queer West Hollywood Mayor Sepi Shyne, left, and nonbinary drag queen Maebe A. Girl have announced bids to run for California's 30th Congressional District seat in Los Angeles. Photos: Courtesy the campaigns

With less than a year until the 2024 primary election in California, the U.S. House races in the state with LGBTQ candidates are beginning to come into focus. Currently, there are just two gay men among the Golden State's congressional delegation.

All 52 of the state's House seats will be up next year, while just one of its two Senate seats will be on the ballot. The state's senior senator, Dianne Feinstein (D), opted not to seek reelection following media reports about her mental acuity and health issues, most recently a hospital stay for treatment of shingles.

It does not appear the race to succeed her will draw any well-known LGBTQ candidates. To date, two Southern California congressmembers and one from the Bay Area, all Democratic straight allies, have launched campaigns for the Senate seat.

Among them is Congressmember Barbara Lee of Oakland. Her decision not to seek reelection next year to her 12th District seat has paved the way for a rare open House seat in the East Bay.

Yet, it also does not appear any LGBTQ elected officials from Alameda County will seek it. Instead, BART board member Lateefah Simon has emerged as the clear Democratic frontrunner in the race, launching her campaign last month with the backing of state Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) and Assemblymembers Mia Bonta (D-Oakland) and Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland).

The first member of Congress to endorse Simon was gay Congressmember Robert Garcia (D-Long Beach). He is currently serving in his freshman term.

Garcia and gay Congressmember Mark Takano (D-Riverside) are both expected to seek reelection to their Southern California House seats next year. As both represent districts that favor Democrats, they should have an easy time of it on the campaign trail.

Looking to join them on Capitol Hill is West Hollywood Mayor Sepi Shyne, who would be the first queer Iranian woman to serve in Congress. She announced last month that she would seek to succeed Congressman Adam Schiff (D-Los Angeles), as he is vying for Feinstein's Senate seat.

"It is time to shift out of the chaos that has taken ahold of our country. We can do that together. That's why I am running for Congress," said Shyne in her announcement video posted at her campaign site.

Shyne has deep ties to the Bay Area, as the Los Angeles Blade noted in covering her entrance into the House race. She and her family settled in Cupertino in the South Bay in 1982, and Shyne went on to graduate from San Jose State University then the Golden Gate University School of Law in San Francisco.

Running again for Schiff's 30th District seat is Maebe A. Girl, a nonbinary drag queen elected in 2019 as the at-large representative for the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council in Los Angeles. She first ran in 2020 for the House seat but failed to survive that year's March primary race.

Last year, she ended up advancing to the November ballot but lost to Schiff. The progressive Democrat has an extensive platform detailed on her campaign site and would be the first drag queen elected to federal office at a time when Republican lawmakers in a number of states are working to enact bans on drag shows.

"If elected to Congress, the first piece of legislation I will introduce is a sweeping federal bill to protect the rights of all LGBTQIA+ people in the United States that I call The Protect LGBTQIA+ People Act," she tweeted last week.

Their race is expected to be a crowded field, as last week actor Ben Savage also launched his campaign. Running as a Democrat, Savage found fame with his role on the popular 1990s ABC sitcom "Boy Meets World."

He also has ties to the Bay Area, having graduated from Stanford University with a degree in political science. Savage now lives in West Hollywood.

Other races

Congressmember Katie Porter (D-Irvine) is also vying for Feinstein's Senate seat. It is not expected that the race for her 47th District seat in more conservative Orange County will attract an LGBTQ candidate.

The Democratic frontrunner in the race is state Senator Dave Min (D-Irvine), who has been endorsed by Porter and a host of party leaders, including lesbian state Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins (D-San Diego). Former Democratic congressmember Harley Rouda is also seeking the seat.

After coming close to ousting from office last year conservative Congressmember Ken Calvert (R-Corona), former federal prosecutor Will Rollins had left open the possibility of running again in 2024 in the 41st District that includes a large part of the gay retirement and tourist mecca Palm Springs. Rollins, a gay man, lives with his partner in Canyon Lake.

Many of his supporters have been pushing Rollins to once again take on Calvert. Rollins told the Bay Area Reporter he has yet to decide on mounting another campaign for the House seat.

"I'm very grateful for all of the encouragement I've been getting and am strongly considering another run. I hope to have a decision finalized in the next couple of months - there's no doubt Calvert can be beaten in 2024," wrote Rollins in a texted reply last week.

In the Bay Area gay state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) has opened an exploratory committee for a possible bid in 2024 to succeed Congressmember Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco). The former House speaker has yet to say whether she plans to seek reelection next year or retire after serving 37 years in Congress.

In a statement issued to the media, Wiener noted, "Speaker Emerita Pelosi is one of the most effective and transformational leaders we've ever had. It's a privilege to serve our community as state Senator, and I look forward to continuing to work day and night for the people of San Francisco."

Because next year is a presidential election year, California will hold its primary in the winter instead of the spring as it does during midterm election years. The filing deadline for candidates who wish to seek offices on the March 5, 2024 primary ballot is December 8.

If the incumbent officeholder opts not to run for reelection, then the deadline will be extended to December 13. Under the state's open primary system, the top two vote-getters regardless of party affiliation will advance to the November 5, 2024 general election.

The Political Notes column will return Monday, March 27.

Keep abreast of the latest LGBTQ political news by following the Political Notebook on Twitter @ http://twitter.com/politicalnotes

Got a tip on LGBTQ politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 829-8836 or e-mail [email protected]

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