Political Notebook: Gay trans man seeks Santa Cruz County college board seat

  • by Matthew S. Bajko
  • Wednesday July 25, 2018
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If Adam Spickler is victorious in his bid this November for a seat on the Cabrillo Community College Board of Trustees, he could become the first transgender man to be elected to public office in California.

According to LGBT political leaders, there have been trans male candidates who sought elective office in the Golden State but none won their races. Last November saw the first transgender person elected to a non-judicial post in the state when Lisa Middleton won a seat on the Palm Springs City Council.

"I don't see myself as being trans and queer identified as why I am running for a seat on the college board," said Spickler, 47, who lives in Santa Cruz and works for the county human services department as a senior analyst focused on $10 million in contracts for child welfare, housing support, and employment services. "But it does inform who I am and the skills I have that will help make me a good leader for the college. Definitely, it will inform how I govern."

In San Francisco, Martin Rawlings-Fein is hoping to share the distinction of being one of the state's first elected trans men with Spickler as he is seeking a seat on the city's school board. He is one of four out candidates, including transgender female candidate Mia Satya, who have pulled papers to run for school board this fall.

Spickler was a student at Cabrillo for eight years, prior to transitioning, and graduated in 2002 with an associate degree in early childhood education. The community college is based in Aptos and serves all of Santa Cruz County.

A preschool teacher while in school, he landed a job after graduation as the child care center director at a local nonprofit preschool. He then went to work for gay former assemblyman John Laird, the first and only out person to serve on the Cabrillo college board, in his district office in Santa Cruz.

When Laird, currently the California secretary for natural resources, was termed out of office, his successor, Bill Monning, retained Spickler on his staff. One of the areas Spickler focused on for the assemblyman was K-12 and higher education issues.

In a 2013 interview with the Bay Area Reporter, Spickler spoke publicly for the first time about his transitioning while working for Monning. As the paper reported, he was one of two transgender legislative staffers to transition their gender identities after being hired.

"It deepened my relationship with folks in leadership positions throughout the county," Spickler told the B.A.R. this week about his coming out as a trans man in such a public manner.

Saying it was "nothing but a wonderful experience," Spickler added it also broadened his relationships with business and religious leaders, an outcome he didn't expect.

"Folks I wouldn't stereotype that they would be comfortable working with somebody who is trans," said Spickler, whose husband, Scottie Johnson, is also a trans man and works as a medical assistant for the transgender health care program offered by Planned Parenthood in Santa Cruz.

Seven years ago, Spickler attended a candidate training held by the LGBTQ Victory Fund, which helps to elect LGBT people to public office. At the time he was interested in running for the college board but was unsure if he would.

He has been waiting for the holder of the board's Area II seat, Gary Reece, to retire. A Republican, Reece was first appointed to the seat 25 years ago and has never been opposed.

In the spring Spickler informed Reece that he would run for his seat no matter if he sought re-election or not. Reece, so far, has yet to decide if he will run, though Spickler expects he will.

"I don't expect him to truly decide until August," said Spickler.

The filing deadline is early next month and Spickler is the only one who has pulled papers to date. He kicked off his campaign in June and is hopeful to secure early endorsements this week from Equality California, the statewide LGBT advocacy group, and BAYMEC, the Bay Area Municipal Elections Committee, which works to elect LGBT candidates in several South Bay counties.

He has raised close to $8,000 so far and wants to reach $18,000 in order to fully fund his campaign. Having been a marginalized student at Cabrillo, not only for being queer but also due to being poor - he, at one point, was homeless - Spickler said he wants to be a voice for the college's current students who are struggling with the same issues.

"I feel it is really important for me to give back," said Spickler. "I wanted to do so in a way that provides equal access to education to other marginalized students who are trying to access this college."

To learn more about Spickler and his platform, visit his campaign website at http://adamspickler.org/.

Breed names gay men to mayoral staff

Among the new hires San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced this week to her mayoral staff are three well-known gay men.

Serving as her policy director is Andres Power, who served as an aide to gay former District 8 supervisor Scott Wiener, now a state senator. When Power and his husband, Rod Hipskind, had a child, their experience trying to take time off led Wiener to introduce a new parental leave law for the city that granted more benefits to parents.

He also previously served as a senior adviser to both former mayors Mark Farrell and the late Ed Lee. And prior to joining Wiener's staff in 2012, Power worked for the city's planning department.

Serving as Breed's liaison to boards and commissions is Mawuli Tugbenyoh, a position in which he served in two previous mayoral administrations. A former deputy director at a housing nonprofit for mentally ill adults, he started his work in local government in 2012 as a legislative aide to District 10 Supervisor Malia Cohen, the current president of the board.

And Alex Lazar left his position as a longtime aide to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) to be Breed's director of the Mayor's Office of Neighborhood Services. On the community advisory board at Strut, the men's health center in the Castro, Lazar also serves on the board of the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club, as does Tugbenyoh.

Another Alice board member, Selina Sun, has been hired as Breed's director of scheduling. In August, Jeff Cretan will leave his job as Wiener's communications director to become Breed's chief spokesperson.

Serving as Breed's senior adviser is Marjan Philhour and as her deputy chief of staff is Andrea Bruss, a lawyer and former legislative aide to the mayor when she served as the District 5 supervisor and board president. Acting budget director Kelly Kirkpatrick has been given the position permanently; Kanishka K. Cheng was hired as the mayor's liaison to the Board of Supervisors; and Judy Lee was named deputy director of the neighborhood services office as well as Breed's lead on Asian-Pacific Islander affairs.

Last month, Breed announced that former supervisor Sean Elsbernd, who currently serves as U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein's (D-California) state director, will return to City Hall as her chief of staff in November.

Gay man joins San Diego court

Last Friday, Governor Jerry Brown appointed a gay attorney to the San Diego County Superior Court. Loren G. Freestone, 47, is one of a number of out judicial appointees the governor's office has announced in recent weeks.

Freestone, a Democrat who lives in San Diego, is a partner at Higgs, Fletcher and Mack LLP. He earned a Juris Doctor degree from the University of San Diego School of Law and a Bachelor of Arts degree from UCLA. He fills the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge David J. Danielsen and will earn $200,042 as a jurist.

In congratulating Freestone on his appointment, the Tom Homann LGBT Law Association noted that he has been a longtime member, and former board member, of the San Diego LGBT legal group. He is also the immediate past president of the San Diego County Bar Association.

Since June Brown has named at least five LGBT judges to superior courts around the state. The first, lesbian Oakland resident Jenna M. Whitman, joined the Alameda County Superior Court bench earlier this month.

In August, lesbian attorney Barbara Phelan is expected to take her oath of office to become the first known LGBT judge on the Sonoma County Superior Court. And gay lawyers Gary Roberts and William A. Crowfoot were appointed last month to the Los Angeles County Superior Court.

The appointments bring the number of LGBT jurists serving on the state's appellate and trial courts to at least 61.


Last week's column incorrectly listed when Richard Winger, a gay man who ran for secretary of state of California in 1986, and his husband, Jarrold Kunz, married. It was in 2008. The online version of the column has been corrected.

Political Notes, the notebook's online companion, will return Monday, July 30.

Keep abreast of the latest LGBT political news by following the Political Notebook on Twitter @ http://twitter.com/politicalnotes .

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