Political Notebook: Out candidates trail in marquee Bay Area races

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday November 16, 2022
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Alameda County supervisor candidate Rebecca Kaplan, left, state Assembly candidate Shawn Kumagai, and Santa Clara mayoral candidate Anthony Becker have come up short in their respective races. Photos: Courtesy the candidates
Alameda County supervisor candidate Rebecca Kaplan, left, state Assembly candidate Shawn Kumagai, and Santa Clara mayoral candidate Anthony Becker have come up short in their respective races. Photos: Courtesy the candidates

Around the Bay Area LGBTQ candidates in a number of marquee November 8 general election races continue to fall short in their bids. Two out South Bay candidates and two in the East Bay, however, are set to join their city councils, with a fourth holding on to a lead in their race.

Meanwhile, straight female mayoral candidates in Oakland and San Jose who had considerable LGBTQ support remain locked in second place. Yet, with thousands of more ballots still to be tallied, neither race had been called as of Wednesday afternoon by the Bay Area Reporter's print deadline.

Rebecca Kaplan, the butch lesbian Oakland City Councilmember hoping to become the first out member of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, remained in second place after Tuesday's vote count update. Former Alameda city councilmember Lena Tam leads in their contest for the District 3 seat with 53.62% of the vote, according to the unofficial returns.

Reelected two years ago to a four-year term, Kaplan will remain on her city's council if she loses her supervisorial bid. She is leading the charge to bring a Women's National Basketball Association team to Oakland and will take part in a virtual rally at noon Friday to drum up public support for the effort.

"Oakland is ideally suited for a WNBA team because of our fervent and rooted fanbase, existing arena space, and shared core values with the WNBA," Kaplan wrote Tuesday in an emailed invite to the rally, which people can register for at www.wnbaoakland.com/rally.

As the B.A.R. reported online last Wednesday, gay Dublin City Councilmember Shawn Kumagai conceded his East Bay race for the open 20th Assembly District seat on November 9. He lost to labor leader Liz Ortega, who is straight and received 59% of the vote. She had received the endorsement of outgoing Assemblymember Bill Quirk (D-Hayward), who opted not to seek reelection.

Kumagai will soon depart from his city council seat, as he was elected four years ago as the first out LGBTQ councilperson in the Tri-Valley area of the East Bay. Instead of seeking reelection this fall, he opted to run for the legislative seat.

"I'm proud of the campaign we ran and the critical issues we brought to the center of the conversation — the importance of public safety, fiscal responsibility with hard-earned taxpayer dollars, and making housing more affordable and attainable," stated Kumagai. "I want to congratulate Liz Ortega on her victory and I look forward to helping her address these issues that impact our community and state."

Celina Reynes, a bisexual third-generation resident of San Leandro, continues to be in first place in her race for the District 1 city council seat. As of Tuesday, Reynes was ahead by 681 votes.

"It's unclear how many votes are left to count, but the Registrar is updating every day at around 5:00 PM," tweeted Reynes. "Hopefully we can make an announcement later this week!"

In Cupertino, attorney J.R. Fruen, a gay man mounting his second council bid after losing in 2020, has fallen from second to third place among the eight candidates running for three citywide council seats. He is now at 16% of the vote, and if his lead holds over the fourth place finisher, Fruen will be the first LGBTQ person to serve on the Cupertino City Council.

Noting there were still more votes to count, Fruen had tweeted November 11 that "it looks like we've prevailed, despite the endless stream of smears and money thrown against us."

While Fruen awaits a final vote count, with the next update set for Wednesday by 5 p.m., two other Silicon Valley city council races with out candidates have been decided. Omar Torres, a gay community college board member, won election to the District 3 council seat in San Jose, and Richard Mehlinger, a bisexual and queer resident of Sunnyvale, was elected to his city's District 5 council seat.

Close mayoral races

In three of the Bay Area's largest cities, the races to lead them as mayor are all razor close. Gay Santa Clara City Councilmember Anthony Becker appears to have fallen short, once again, in his bid to become the first LGBTQ person elected mayor of a large city in the nine-county region.

As of Tuesday night he was trailing in his effort to oust from office Mayor Lisa Gillmor by 696 votes. According to the latest results, Becker remains in second place with 48.74% of the vote compared to Gillmor's 51.26%. He lost to Gillmor in 2018 and won election to his District 6 council seat two years later.

Adding to his agony as he awaited additional ballots to be counted was Becker's contracting the flu over the weekend. As he disclosed in a November 13 post on his Facebook campaign account, he ended up running a fever for several days and being bedridden.

"This will for sure be a bad flu season. Following the election, getting flu was a sign of how overworked I have been as well as how exhausted I have been," Becker wrote, adding that he remained hopeful of pulling off a victory. "Thank you everyone for your support, we have made a lot of progress in this election and there was clearly no mandate for either side."

Their contest largely centered on the ramifications of the city luring the San Francisco 49ers to Santa Clara a decade ago. Becker lambasted Gillmor's support of the stadium deal and her antagonistic relationship with the football team ever since.

She painted Becker as in the pocket of owner Jed York due to the millions of dollars the team spent in support of Becker's candidacy. It is an accusation decried as inaccurate by Becker, who argued new leadership at City Hall is needed that can negotiate with the 49ers for terms on the stadium more beneficial to Santa Clara taxpayers.

His term on the council runs through 2024, and with the reelection of his two council allies — Councilmembers Karen Hardy and Raj Chahal — it appears the pitched battles between the two council factions are here to stay for the next few years.

Next door in San Jose in a race that pitted two straight allies against each other, City Councilmember Matt Mahan has the edge in his bid to become mayor of the Bay Area's largest city. He is leading with 51.32% of the vote against Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez, who trailed with 48.68% as of Tuesday. On Wednesday, Chavez conceded.

"I have called Matt Mahan to wish him the best of luck in his two-year term as mayor," Chavez stated. "San Jose faces numerous challenges in the months and years ahead, requiring that we all work collaboratively with the entire City Council to reach meaningful and equitable solutions."

Mahan had the backing of termed out Mayor Sam Liccardo and the San Jose Mercury News. Chavez, a former San Jose councilmember, had support from many LGBTQ South Bay leaders.

In the Oakland mayor's race, District 6 City Councilmember Loren Taylor appears set to succeed termed out Mayor Libby Schaaf. He continued to be in first place Tuesday evening with 51.4% of the vote, though with several hundred thousand ballots in Alameda County still to count, Taylor has yet to declare victory.

"Our lead in this race remains strong, and we're confident in our position," he tweeted Monday night. "We want to extend our thanks to the dedicated election workers who spent the weekend to ensure that a safe and fair election was conducted."

Mayoral candidate District 4 City Councilmember Sheng Thao, a former aide to Kaplan, remains in second place with 48.60% of the vote. In a November 15 tweet she noted, "While today's election update is encouraging, there are still tens of thousands of ballots left to count. I look forward to see the updates in the coming days and am grateful for the hard work of our Alameda County Registrar of Voters employees."

Thao will be departing from the council and will be succeeded by queer social justice attorney Janani Ramachandran, who easily defeated queer sex shop owner Nenna Joiner with 67% of the vote in their November 8 contest.

"I will now be the youngest Councilmember to ever be elected in Oakland's history — at age 30," Ramachandran noted in a congratulatory email sent November 10 to her supporters. "I am also the city's first South Asian Councilmember, and the first LGBTQ woman of color to be elected to our City Council as well!"

In the race to succeed Taylor on the council, Kevin Jenkins easily defeated tax preparer Nancy Sidebotham, a lesbian making her seventh bid to be elected to a council seat, with nearly 70% of the vote.

Web Extra: For more queer political news, be sure to check http://www.ebar.com Monday mornings for Political Notes, the notebook's online companion. This week's column reported on the quartet of out California justices who won their retention races.

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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