Political Notes: CA 2024 LGBTQ legislative candidates pick up early endorsements

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Monday April 3, 2023
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LGBTQ legislative candidates Lisa Middleton, left, sisters Sabrina and Clarissa Cervantes, José Luis Solache, and Joseph Rocha have all won endorsements from the California LGBTQ Legislative Caucus and Equality California. Photos: Courtesy the candidates
LGBTQ legislative candidates Lisa Middleton, left, sisters Sabrina and Clarissa Cervantes, José Luis Solache, and Joseph Rocha have all won endorsements from the California LGBTQ Legislative Caucus and Equality California. Photos: Courtesy the candidates

A quintet of out candidates seeking California legislative seats in 2024 has picked up early endorsements from two influential LGBTQ groups in the Golden State. The support comes less than a year from when the five office seekers will first face voters in next year's March primary.

The California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus, the affinity group for out legislators in Sacramento, announced last week it had endorsed the five candidates in their respective races to represent either Assembly or state Senate districts in Southern California. It followed the endorsements earlier in March of the candidates by statewide LGBTQ advocacy organization Equality California.

Those garnering the two groups' early support were Senate candidates Palm Springs City Councilmember Lisa Middleton, who is seeking the open District 19 seat, and lesbian Assemblymember Sabrina Cervantes (D-Corona), who is vying for the open District 31 seat. Middleton would be the first transgender member of the Legislature should she win election.

Among the trio of endorsed Assembly candidates was Cervantes' younger sister, Clarissa, who is queer and bisexual. She is seeking to succeed her sibling in her District 58 seat and would be the first bisexual woman elected to serve in Sacramento.

Should the sisters win their races, it would mark the first time an LGBTQ California legislator has been succeeded by their out sibling. They would also be the first pair of LGBTQ siblings to serve together in Sacramento.

Rounding out the list of the endorsed candidates were two gay men seeking open Assembly seats. Lynwood City Councilmember José Luis Solache is running for the District 62 seat being vacated by termed out Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood). Veteran Joseph C. Rocha is vying for the District 76 seat being vacated by termed out Assemblymember Brian Maienschein (D-San Diego).

In a statement announcing its endorsements, the LGBTQ caucus noted all five of the candidates "possess the courage and strength to advance the rights and protections of the LGBTQ+ community in a time of unprecedented level of threat and violence directed at our community. Each, as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, have shown the capacity for leadership that is desperately needed throughout this nation."

The caucus members added, "We are proud to endorse their candidacy for state office and look forward to serving (and continuing to serve) with them as colleagues in the California State Legislature."

Several of the caucus' dozen members also issued their own individual endorsements for the various candidates. (Each member of the caucus can make their own personal endorsements, which sometimes includes backing candidates who haven't been endorsed by the affinity group or endorsing them before the caucus does.)

For instance, gay Assemblymember Chris Ward (D-San Diego) issued a personal endorsement of Rocha last month at the same time as the LGBTQ caucus announced its backing of his candidacy. He is now one of seven caucus members to personally endorse Rocha.

"San Diego County has a proud legacy of electing openly LGBTQ leaders to represent us in the California Legislature, and I know my friend Joseph Rocha will be a champion for our community in Sacramento," stated Ward, who is the affinity group's vice chair this legislative session. "I'm thrilled to endorse Joseph for Assembly because I have seen his courage, commitment and character in action, and he is exactly the type of principled leader we need fighting for North County in the Legislature."

And last week gay Assemblymembers Evan Low (D-Cupertino) and Rick Chavez Zbur (D-West Hollywood) both issued personal endorsements of Middleton's Senate bid.

"I've seen Lisa in action firsthand, and I can personally attest to her deep commitment to improving the lives of the people she serves," stated Zbur, formerly EQCA's executive director. "I know that in the state Legislature, Lisa will always have the back of hard-working families throughout California, combat our climate crisis, enhance local transportation networks, and advocate for full, lived equality and the dignity of all people. I look forward to helping her get elected."

Added Low, who had chaired the LGBTQ caucus the past several years, "I know she'll be a champion for greater investments in local public schools, reimagined public transportation systems, cleaner air and water, and full, lived equality for every Californian, and I look forward to helping Lisa make history once again as California's first transgender state legislator."

The state legislative races will be on the March 5, 2024 primary ballot, as the election is being held early due to it being a presidential election year. Under California's top-two primary system, the quintet of out candidates will need to place either first or second in their respective contests in order to advance to the November 5 general election that fall.

Both EQCA and the LGBTQ caucus are aiming to maintain the current record of 12 out legislative members. It is the first time that LGBTQ statehouse members have represented 10% of their legislative body in one of the country's 50 states.

"We are thrilled to support these qualified pro-equality candidates and hopeful for more to come as we build upon the historic level of 10% LGBTQ+ representation achieved during the 2022 election cycle, which made California the first state in the nation to achieve this across state legislatures," stated EQCA Executive Director Tony Hoang.

The filing deadline for candidates interested in running for a state legislative seat is in early December. A spokesperson for the LGBTQ caucus told the Bay Area Reporter last week that so far it has not heard from any other LGBTQ non-incumbent Assembly or Senate candidates who wish to have its endorsement.

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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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