Online Extra: With resignation, Palm Springs state Senate seat opens up

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday October 30, 2019
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State Senator Jeff Stone is resigning November 1 in order to take a job with the Trump administration. Photo: Courtesy Wikipedia
State Senator Jeff Stone is resigning November 1 in order to take a job with the Trump administration. Photo: Courtesy Wikipedia

Due to the sudden resignation announcement Wednesday by state Senator Jeff Stone (R-La Quinta), who is joining the Trump administration, a special election will be called to fill his Palm Springs area seat. It represents a possible pickup not only for Democrats but also an opportunity for the Legislative LGBTQ Caucus to expand its ranks next year.

Lesbian Palm Springs resident Joy Silver, who narrowly lost to Stone last November, had already announced she planned to run again in 2022. The aging expert is a likely candidate to enter the special election in 2020 to serve out the remainder of Stone's term.

Silver did not immediately return a call seeking comment from the Bay Area Reporter on if she intended to do so. As of August 1, she had reported having $757 in her 2022 campaign account.

"People know what I stand for at this point. We just have to focus on bringing a few more people out to vote and we got this," Silver had told the B.A.R. in February when asked about her political plans. "Maybe this time we didn't get there but I am just getting started. And I am going to stand for the same things we all stand for: progressive values and practical solutions."

Gay Palm Springs City Councilman Geoff Kors, who is running for re-election next month and formerly led the statewide LGBT rights organization Equality California, also did not immediately return the B.A.R.'s request for comment on if he was interested in jumping into the race for the open seat.

Stone, who will resign from his seat Friday, November 1, quickly endorsed Republican Temecula City Councilman Matt Rahn's bid to serve out his Senate term. Senate Republican Leader Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) also endorsed Rahn, who has lived in Temecula with his wife Kelcey and daughter Delilah since 2010.

"One of my major considerations when deciding to accept this appointment from the President was to make sure our district continues to be represented by someone who shares our values and commitment to protect taxpayers, expand Riverside County's economy and be a strong advocate for public safety," stated Stone in announcing his endorsement. "Councilman Matt Rahn checks all those boxes and more. He is a dedicated public servant with an impressive background and I am very happy to endorse Matt."

Governor Gavin Newsom must call for a special election within 14 days of Stone's seat becoming vacant. It is likely Newsom will schedule it so that it coincides with the March 3 primary. If none of the state Senate candidates receive more than 50% of the vote, then the top two vote-getters would advance to a runoff election.

Stone's 28th District seat represents a large swath of Riverside County, including the LGBT retirement and vacation meccas in the Coachella Valley. The legislator has repeatedly voted against LGBT rights bill since entering the Legislature in 2017.

He is leaving the Statehouse to serve under Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia as Western Regional director in the Department of Labor. Stone's responsibilities will include overseeing workplace safety, wage laws, and employment data gathering in Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington.

The Desert Sun noted that Stone has long condemned labor unions for what he says is an "outsize influence on California politics." The paper reported that Stone stated he was "deeply honored to be appointed by the president" in a news release his office issued Wednesday afternoon.

"The nation under President Trump is experiencing unprecedented economic growth that requires a highly trained and skilled workforce," Stone added.

Lesbian state Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego) congratulated her colleague in her own statement in response to Stone's presidential appointment.

"The California Senate wishes him the best as he begins this new chapter in his career," stated Atkins.

Republicans hold just 11 seats in the Legislature's upper chamber, giving Democrats a super-majority of the 40 Senate seats. The body's 20 odd-numbered districts will be on the ballot next year, including Atkins's 39th Senate District.

According to the Desert Sun, Republicans have a 1.5 percentage point two-way registration advantage over Democrats, 35.2% to 33.7%, in Stone's 28th District. Those registered as "No Party Preference" account for 25.6% of voters.

At the moment there are seven out state legislators in Sacramento, with three serving in the Senate. Gay state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) is also defending his 11th District seat next year, while the third out senator, Cathleen Galgiani (D-Stockton), is termed out of office next year.

Lesbian Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton) is favored to succeed Galgiani in the state's 5th Senate District. Gay former Assemblyman John Laird (D-Santa Cruz) is also considered the frontrunner in the race to succeed state Senator Bill Monning (D-Carmel), who is termed out of his 17th Senate District seat along the Central Coast.

And San Bernardino City Unified School District board member Abigail Medina, who identifies as both queer and lesbian, is running in the 23rd state Senate District race. She is one of a number of candidates vying to succeed the incumbent, Mike Morrell (R-Rancho Cucamonga), who is termed out of office next year.