Bisexual SoCal Assembly candidate Holstege concedes, won't seek recount

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Monday December 12, 2022
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Palm Springs City Councilmember Christy Holstege conceded Monday in her race for an Assembly seat. Photo: Courtesy the candidate<br>
Palm Springs City Councilmember Christy Holstege conceded Monday in her race for an Assembly seat. Photo: Courtesy the candidate

Palm Springs City Councilmember Christy Holstege conceded Monday in her race for an Assembly seat after deciding against seeking a recount of her election results. She lost to her Republican opponent, Greg Wallis, by 85 votes.

Holstege, a Democrat, was vying to become the 13th member of the Legislative LGBTQ Caucus in Sacramento and its first bisexual female member. She would also have been the first out legislator elected from the Palm Springs region.

Last week, shortly after the San Bernardino County registrar of voters certified its vote count for the November 8 elections, Wallis had declared victory in the contest for the open Assembly District 47 seat, which also includes parts of Riverside County. Wallis, who lives in Bermuda Dunes with his wife, won with 84,752 votes, according to the unofficial districtwide returns.

Holstege, meanwhile, said she would spend the weekend discussing with her campaign team if it made sense to seek a recount. She had until Tuesday, December 13, to do so.

But Monday morning she announced her decision to concede the race. She called Wallis to congratulate him on his win.

"The votes have all been counted, and it is clear that by the very thinnest of margins, we have fallen just short of victory, coming the closest this district has ever come to electing a Democrat to State Assembly," stated Holstege in an email she sent to her supporters announcing her decision. "With slightly better turnout, we would have flipped this district blue. I called Greg Wallis this morning to congratulate him, and expressed to him that I hope we can work together these next two years to deliver measurable results for our communities."

Since December 2014 Wallis has served as district director for former Assemblymember Chad Mayes (I-Rancho Mirage), whose term ended last week. Mayes opted not to seek reelection this year, so Wallis' win is a pickup seat for the GOP caucus in Sacramento, and under term limits, he could potentially serve in it for the next 12 years.

"I'm honored that the people have elected me to serve our community," stated Wallis in a December 8 tweet. "Now, it's time to roll up our sleeve and get right to work. The Governor has initiated a special session, and the legislature has already convened and started organizing. I'm excited to get to Sacramento right away and represent all constituents of our district."

Secretary of State Shirley M. Weber must certify the final statewide results for the November 8 election by December 16. The Legislature had already convened December 5 to swear in the winners of last month's races.

Neither Wallis nor Holstege was present due to their race still yet to be decided. The outcome of their race was one of the closest winning margins seen in an Assembly contest in more than four decades. (According to Alex Vassar with the California State Library, a 1980 Assembly race was decided by 35 votes.)

"The final margin was 85 votes out of 170,000 cast — the closest State Assembly race in over 40 years, and the closest that this district has ever been. The election was so close that the seat remained vacant on December 5th when all 79 other Assembly districts had their new members sworn in," noted Holstege in her emailed announcement. "I'm proud of the nearly 85,000 votes we earned in this race and I'm grateful to voters for responding to our message, caring deeply about the issues we highlighted, and participating in our democracy."

Record number in LGBTQ caucus

Despite Holstege's defeat, the affinity group for LGBTQ lawmakers in Sacramento now has 12 Democrats as members. It is the largest grouping since its founding in 2002. Accounting for 10% of the Legislature's 120 members, it also marks the first time an LGBTQ caucus has reached such proportional representation in a state legislature.

Only one of the dozen identifies as bisexual, Assemblymember Alex Lee (D-San Jose), whose election in 2020 marked the first time a bisexual candidate had won a state legislative race. He took his oath of office for a second time last Monday along with nearly all of the other winners of this year's state Senate and Assembly races.

Holstege, a civil rights attorney, will continue to serve on the Palm Springs City Council, as her term doesn't end until 2024. She and her husband, Adam Gilbert, a small business owner and third-generation resident of Palm Springs, have a 2-year-old son, Aden, and two dogs, Ollie and Layla.

"On a personal note, I'd like to thank my family and friends for their support during the campaign. I announced my campaign for State Assembly with a nine month old baby, and I'm proud to have campaigned with a baby and now toddler in tow to show him the meaning of civic engagement and to show the world that moms with young children can run for office and serve, though those barriers are still significant," stated Holstege. "I'm grateful to my husband and our parents for their help and I'm looking forward to enjoying some much needed time with my son and our family."

In her email Monday, Holstege also took note of her "history-making" legislative campaign.

"No openly bisexual woman has ever been elected to the California Legislature, and while we fell short, we came closer than any candidate ever has to breaking that glass ceiling," she wrote. "And we've learned, once again in 2022, we can never take a woman or an LGBTQ candidate winning a race for granted, since the barriers to our success are still very much real."

She hinted that another Assembly race could be in her future, possibly in two years when Wallis is up for reelection. The district could be even bluer by then, depending on how voter registration goes in the coming years.

"While I am disappointed by the outcome, I am determined to continue serving my community in every way possible," wrote Holstege. "Nothing about this election result changes my commitment to advocating for the issues that matter most to our community, and I will do everything in my power to make sure that our assembly district has strong representation that reflects our values, our communities get our fair share of resources, and we advocate collectively on important issues from fair wages, to climate change, to affordable housing, to equitable access to healthcare, to civil rights, and safer communities. I am not done serving and am not done fighting for our community."

Equality California, the statewide LGBTQ+ advocacy organization, had made Holstege's candidacy one of its top priority campaigns this election cycle. It said it "will be right by her side" in her future endeavors in responding Monday to her concession in the Assembly race.

"We couldn't be prouder to have supported Christy through this hard-fought and historic campaign," stated EQCA Political Director Tom Temprano. "Though she may have fallen just short of making history again this year, there is no doubt that Christy has inspired countless LGBTQ+ young people, women and new moms — throughout California and across the country — to run for office and fight for change in their communities. The impact of her candidacy should not be underestimated, and we know that she will continue this important legacy in the years to come."

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