Political Notes: East Bay LGBTQ Dems to revote on endorsing out Assembly, supervisor candidates

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Monday July 18, 2022
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Rebecca Kaplan, left, is running for the District 3 seat on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, while Shawn Kumagai is running for the 20th Assembly District seat. Photos: Courtesy the campaigns
Rebecca Kaplan, left, is running for the District 3 seat on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, while Shawn Kumagai is running for the 20th Assembly District seat. Photos: Courtesy the campaigns

The East Bay Stonewall Democratic Club will vote for a second time on endorsing in two high-profile races featuring out candidates. In both cases, the outcome of the contests in November could be historic.

Lesbian At-Large Oakland City Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan is vying to become the first LGBTQ person elected to the Alameda County Board of Supervisors. Meanwhile, gay Dublin City Councilmember Shawn Kumagai is seeking to become the first LGBTQ state legislator of Japanese descent in Sacramento.

In the June primary for the open District 3 supervisor seat, Kaplan took first place with 41.01% of the vote, and former Alameda city councilmember Lena Tam landed in second with 28.13%. The district 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.

Kaplan has served on the Oakland City Council since 2008. She decided to seek the supervisor seat following the death last November of longtime supervisor Wilma Chan, who was struck by a driver while walking her dog in Alameda.

In his primary race for the open 20th Assembly District seat, Kumagai came in second place with 23.93% of the vote. Labor leader Liz Ortega finished first with 32.17%.

They are vying to succeed Assemblymember Bill Quirk (D-Hayward), who opted against seeking reelection. Earlier this year he endorsed Ortega to represent the district redrawn following the 2020 decennial census count to include parts of West Dublin and Pleasanton along with the cities of Hayward and Union City.

When the Stonewall club held its endorsement vote in March for various races on the June 7 ballot, no candidate running for the county supervisor or Assembly seats was able to secure the 60% threshold needed to secure Stonewall's backing of their candidacy. Thus, the political group will revote Monday (July 18), on endorsing in both races.

It will do so after hosting forums with the two pairs of candidates at the Port Bar in downtown Oakland. The public is invited to attend the free event, LINK: https://bit.ly/3yOunkI set to begin at 6 p.m.

"This is a great opportunity for our community to meet the candidates up close and hear how they will fight for the issues we care about," stated East Bay Stonewall President Lisa Hu. "We are fortunate to live in a community where LGBTQ folks can see ourselves reflected in those who are seeking public office. We also have wonderful allies fighting hard for us."

Only members of the Stonewall club in good standing, however, will be allowed to vote on the endorsements. Joe Greaves, chair of the club's political action committee, told the Bay Area Reporter that it was "hard to predict" how the votes will go. Once again the threshold is 60% of the vote to be endorsed.

"Just like in November, winning Stonewall's endorsement on July 18 will ultimately come down to who turns out their supporters," stated Greaves.

In recent years Kaplan has not been able to secure Stonewall's support of her candidacies, such as her 2014 Oakland mayoral bid. Nor did the club endorse Kaplan's reelection to her council seat in 2016 and 2020, when she fended off out challengers both times.

Kaplan's campaign did not respond to the B.A.R.'s request for comment for this article by the deadline to do so Friday. While Greaves wouldn't disclose the results of the club's endorsement vote in March, he did tell the B.A.R. that Kaplan "did quite well" in it.

"I think there is recognition with Rebecca's candidacy there is an opportunity to put the first LGBTQ community member on the Board of Supervisors," he said. "I think there is a lot of enthusiasm for that."

As for the Assembly race, Kumagai may have a better chance of securing Stonewall's support now that gay nurse and union leader Jennifer Esteen is no longer in the running. She came in third place in the primary, thus failing to advance to the November general election.

Kumagai, a married Navy veteran, told the B.A.R. it would "mean so such" to him to have the club's support, especially since he would be the first out person elected in the Assembly district. He would also be the first out member of the state Legislature to represent a district that only includes parts of the East Bay.

(Bisexual Assemblymember Alex Lee, D-San Jose, represents parts of southern Alameda County and a northeastern section of Santa Clara County. Stonewall had endorsed him in March as he runs for reelection this year in the new 24th Assembly District that was slightly redrawn during the redistricting process.)

"As someone who served under 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' in the Navy, I am familiar firsthand with discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community. And as the first elected openly gay city council member in Dublin, I believe it's important to have representation of the LGBTQ+ community in elected positions and I am committed to fighting for equality and equity," stated Kumagai in a written reply. "That's what I will do in the Assembly and I hope to make my point to the Stonewall Democrats that I am the best candidate to fight for LGBTQ+ rights in the Assembly."

Stonewall members will also be voting on endorsing either Pamela Price or Terry Wiley for Alameda County district attorney. Price, an attorney who ran for the seat four years ago, took first place in the June primary with 43.23% of the vote, while Wiley, a longtime prosecutor in the DA's office, came in second with 27.13%. Current District Attorney Nancy O'Malley opted not to seek reelection and either way, the county will have a Black DA for the first time.

They are both expected to participate in a candidate forum at the club's endorsement meeting. As in the other two races, Stonewall did not endorse a DA candidate in the June primary.

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

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