Gay applicant loses bid for Alameda supervisor vacancy as Márquez selected

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Thursday March 30, 2023
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Gay college board member Harris Mojadedi, left, was not appointed to the vacancy on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors as Hayward City Councilmember Elisa Márquez was selected to replace late supervisor Richard Valle. Photos: Mojadedi, Irene Yi; Márquez, Facebook
Gay college board member Harris Mojadedi, left, was not appointed to the vacancy on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors as Hayward City Councilmember Elisa Márquez was selected to replace late supervisor Richard Valle. Photos: Mojadedi, Irene Yi; Márquez, Facebook

Alameda County supervisors opted not to appoint a gay applicant to a vacancy on the board and instead selected one of the three straight women who had sought the appointment after an hourslong special meeting Thursday. It means the East Bay governing body will continue to have no LGBTQ representation on it.

Harris Mojadedi, a member of the Chabot-Las Positas Community College District Board of Trustees, had sought the appointment to the board's District 2 seat. The elected position became vacant following the death in early February of supervisor Richard Valle, who represented the communities of Hayward, Union City, Newark, and portions of Fremont.

Mojadedi, who lives in Union City, had become the first gay Afghan American to hold an elected public office in the U.S. following his appointment last year to a vacancy on the college board. He was automatically given a full term when no one filed to run against him in last November's election.

Going into the supervisors' deliberations on who should be named to Valle's seat, Mojadedi had been seen as an underdog candidate. Unlike the trio of female applicants, who had secured four votes to advance to the interview stage of the selection process, Harris had received only three votes from the current four supervisors.

While Mojadedi had earned praise for his performance before the board's March 28 meeting when they interviewed all four of the applicants, the supervisors after three rounds voted unanimously to name Hayward City Councilmember Elisa Márquez to the vacant seat. She will be formally appointed and sworn into office at the board's April 4 meeting.

Márquez will double female representation on the five-person board and serve alongside District 3 Supervisor Lena Tam, who was elected last November. Once she is seated, there will be four supervisors of color on the county board.

Supervisor Nate Miley, president of the board, had signaled before the vote that he was looking at the gender makeup of the body as a major factor in his decision.

Noting how the county board is one of the most ethnically diverse in the state, Miley said, "also important in my mind, no disrespect to you Harris, I want to support a female."

In the first round of voting the four supervisors each could cast votes for their top two picks, with the three applicants garnering the most votes advancing. Three picked Márquez as one of their choices, while two picked Harris and two choose Fremont City Councilmember Teresa Keng.

Márquez then advanced out of the second round of voting with support from three of the supervisors, while Keng joined her with three votes. Harris dropped out from consideration due to only receiving two votes — one from Tam and one from Supervisor David Haubert, the board's vice president.

In the third vote round Miley, Haubert, and Supervisor Keith Carson all voted for Márquez, while Tam went with Keng. Tam then seconded Haubert's motion to nominate Márquez for the vacancy, which all four supervisors voting to support.

In order to serve out the remaining two years of Valle's term, Márquez will need to run for election on the March 2024 primary ballot. Should she win then she would run for a full four-year term in 2026.

In response to a question posed to the applicants at Tuesday's board meeting, both Márquez and Ariana Casanova, a political organizer at SEIU Local 1021, said they intend to seek the seat in next year's election. Márquez also announced in her reply that she was hosting a campaign fundraiser in April on her birthday.

Casanova already has launched a campaign website, as she noted in her response that she had planned to run for Valle's seat after his term expired with his blessing. She reportedly recently moved from Oakland to Hayward in order to seek the seat; she fell out of consideration Thursday after only netting one vote from Miley.

As for the other two applicants, Keng told the supervisors her running for the District 2 seat "is a possibility." She lost her bid for a state legislative seat last year.

Mojadedi told the supervisors that it was "too early for me to determine" if an electoral bid for the board seat next year made sense for him.

Last year, lesbian at-large Oakland City Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan lost to Tam for the open District 3 seat that includes the cities of Alameda, San Leandro, a portion of Oakland, and the unincorporated communities of San Lorenzo, Hayward Acres, and a portion of Ashland. They had sought the supervisor seat following the death in late 2021 of longtime supervisor Wilma Chan, who was struck by a driver while walking her dog in Alameda.

The supervisors had appointed Chan's former aide, Dave Brown, to serve out the remaining 14 months of her term after he committed to not seeking election to the seat.

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