Political Notes: Trans US House, lesbian state Senate candidates survive their CA primaries

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Monday June 20, 2022
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G "Maebe A. Girl" Pudlo, a nonbinary drag queen, left, and social worker Caroline Menjivar have advanced to the November general election in their respective races. Photos: Pudlo, courtesy votersedge.org; Menjivar, courtesy the candidate
G "Maebe A. Girl" Pudlo, a nonbinary drag queen, left, and social worker Caroline Menjivar have advanced to the November general election in their respective races. Photos: Pudlo, courtesy votersedge.org; Menjivar, courtesy the candidate

A transgender, nonbinary House candidate and a lesbian state Senate candidate have both survived their California primary races and are advancing to the fall general election. The Democratic duo had been trailing in third place in their respective Los Angeles County contests following the initial vote counts from the June 7 election.

But after days of additional ballots being tabulated, the pair leapfrogged into second place last week. G "Maebe A. Girl" Pudlo, a nonbinary drag queen elected in 2019 as the at-large representative for the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council in Los Angeles, is now set to face off against Congressmember Adam Schiff (D-Los Angeles) on the November 8 ballot.

And social worker Caroline Menjivar will now compete head-to-head against gay hotel manager Daniel Hertzberg in the newly drawn 20th Senate District seat covering the San Fernando Valley. They are vying to succeed Hertzberg's father, state Senator Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys), who is termed out this year.

Back in 2020 Pudlo also ran against Schiff but fell short in the primary that March by less than 1%. In the primary race this month for the state's 30th Congressional District, Pudlo landed in third place on election night less than 1% of the vote behind Republican Ronda Kennedy.

A week later Pudlo had moved into second place, and as of Friday, June 17, they were maintaining the second-to-the top spot with 11.5% of the vote. Their total vote count of 14,532 was 3,180 votes more than Kennedy's share.

Schiff was still in a commanding first-place position with 62% of the primary vote. He is favored to win reelection come the fall.

But as the first person from the left to contest the powerful congressmember in more than two decades, as well as being the first known trans/nonbinary person to compete in a general election for a U.S. House seat, Pudlo is assured of attracting intense interest in their candidacy over the next four months.

"They said there's no way they could win. They said how they are is a sin," Pudlo tweeted June 15. "Good lord they are trans / We tried the gay bans / And now the next stage they begin!"

With Menjivar and the younger Hertzberg advancing to the fall ballot, Los Angeles County is assured of once again having LGBTQ representation in the state Senate. The winner will become the first out LGBTQ state legislator elected from the San Fernando Valley.

On election night Menjivar found herself in third place behind GOPer Ely De La Cruz Ayao. Hertzberg had landed in first place and continues to lead with 31.6% of the primary vote.

But Menjivar last week took over second place as additional ballots were counted. As of Friday, she was maintaining that spot with 23,442 votes. She declared victory June 17 with just 547 votes ahead of De La Cruz Ayao.

In sharing another person's tweet June 14 about how fiercely fought her general election race will be, Menjivar wrote, "Hell of a runoff indeed and when I'm facing a potential political dynasty I'll need everyone's support."

Menjivar brings the number of out female candidates for state legislative seats on the November ballot to four. Lesbian Assemblymember Sabrina Cervantes (D-Corona) is expected to win reelection for the newly drawn 58th Assembly District seat.

Palm Springs City Councilmember Christy Holstege is expected to become the first bisexual female Legislative LGBTQ Caucus member. She is the frontrunner for the new Assembly District 47 seat, which former Republican Assemblymember Chad Mayes (I-Rancho Mirage) opted against seeking reelection to this year.

Queer former San Diego City Council president Georgette Gómez was the top finisher, with 36.4%, in the primary for the Assembly District 80 seat. The second place finisher was fellow Democrat David Alvarez, also a former San Diego city councilmember, with 30.9%.

But the results were flipped in their contest - also on the primary ballot - to be elected to the vacant seat and serve out the remainder of former assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher's term through the end of the year. She had resigned to take over leadership of a powerful labor group and had endorsed Gómez to succeed her in Sacramento.

Yet Alvarez will now be sworn into the seat and can claim incumbency status as he vies for a full two-year term this fall. He won election to the seat with 54.3% while Gomez secured 45.7% of the vote.

Should Gómez be elected in November, she would be the first queer member of the LGBTQ affinity group for state legislators.

Although gay nurse and union leader Jennifer Esteen edged out of fourth place in the East Bay race for the open 20th Assembly District seat, she was only able to move into third place as more vote counts came in. Esteen received 22.2% of the vote, while Republican Joseph Grcar ended up with 21.7% in the primary.

Maintaining his second spot finish was gay Dublin City Councilmember Shawn Kumagai with 23.9% of the vote. Continuing to be the first place finisher in the primary was labor leader Liz Ortega, who is straight, with 32.2% of the vote.

The quartet was vying to succeed Assemblymember Bill Quirk (D-Hayward), who opted against seeking reelection and endorsed Ortega in the Alameda County contest. Should Kumagai win the seat in the fall, the Navy veteran would be the first LGBTQ legislator of Japanese descent in Sacramento.

The other male out candidates moving on to the November ballot include gay incumbent Assemblymembers Evan Low (D-Campbell) in the new 26th Assembly District and Chris Ward (D-San Diego) in his slightly redrawn 78th Assembly District seat, as well as bisexual Assemblymember Alex Lee (D-San Jose) in his newly drawn 24th Assembly District.

Corey Jackson, a gay man running for the Assembly District 60 seat in the state's Inland Empire, is likely to become the first LGBTQ African American elected to the California Legislature. Rick Chavez Zbur, the gay former executive director of statewide LGBTQ advocacy organization Equality California, is headed to being elected to the Assembly District 51 seat in Los Angeles County.

Gay Chula Vista City Councilmember Steve Padilla aims to join him as the winner of the open Senate District 18 seat in San Diego County. And gay veteran Joseph C. Rocha of Escondido is trying to oust state Senator Brian Jones (R-Santee) in the newly drawn 40th Senate District in San Diego County this fall.

Based on the results of the June 7 primary races, it appears the Legislative LGBTQ Caucus could grow from its current eight members to having at least 15 members, which would be a record, in the next legislative session.

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Got a tip on LGBTQ politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 829-8836 or e-mail m.bajko@ebar.com

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