Election 2020: San Diego poised to elect gay mayor

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday March 4, 2020
Share this Post:
Senator Kamala Harris, left, stumped Sunday in San Diego for mayoral candidate Todd Gloria, who finished first in Tuesday's primary. Photo: Courtesy Gloria for Mayor campaign
Senator Kamala Harris, left, stumped Sunday in San Diego for mayoral candidate Todd Gloria, who finished first in Tuesday's primary. Photo: Courtesy Gloria for Mayor campaign

San Diego is poised to elect the first LGBT mayor of one of the Golden State's largest cities this November after the commanding finish by gay state Assemblyman Todd Gloria in Tuesday's mayoral primary. He would also become the first person of color elected to lead the Southern California city.

For more than a year Gloria (D-San Diego) has been seen as the odds-on favorite to succeed Mayor Kevin Faulconer, a Republican who is termed out this year. Gloria briefly served as San Diego's interim mayor in late 2013 through early 2014 due to the resignation of former mayor Bob Filner amid sexual harassment accusations.

He easily took first place among the six people in the mayor's race with 40% of Tuesday's vote, according to unofficial returns. In second and third place were San Diego City Council members Scott Sherman, a Republican with 25%, and Barbara Bry, a Democrat with close to 24%.

The top two vote-getters in the March 3 primary will advance to the November 3 general election. Former Houston mayor Annise Parker, a lesbian who is now president and CEO of the LGBTQ Victory Fund, hailed Gloria's victory Tuesday night, noting he is likely to become the third highest ranking out LGBTQ mayor in the country's history.

"Todd is on-track to make history in November, becoming one of just a handful of openly LGBTQ people ever elected mayor of a major American city," stated Parker a few hours after the polls closed. "Both LGBTQ people and people of color face tremendous obstacles when running for public office, but San Diegans overwhelmingly chose Todd because of his strong record of public service and his inspirational vision for the city he wants to represent."

Gloria, 41, is a third-generation San Diegan and is the first LGBT person of Native American and Filipino ancestry to serve in the state Legislature. Even before being elected to the state Assembly in 2016, Gloria had long been talked about as a potential mayoral candidate one day.

With 1.4 million residents, San Diego is the eighth-largest city in the country and the second largest in the state. After serving on the City Council, Gloria was elected to the 78th Assembly District seat, succeeding Toni Atkins, a lesbian former city councilwoman who also had served as interim mayor of San Diego.

Now President pro Tempore of the state Senate, Atkins has had a historic tenure in the state Legislature, becoming the first out woman to lead both chambers. She easily won her primary race Tuesday with 100% of the vote, as she was unopposed.

In the race to succeed Gloria in the Assembly, gay San Diego City Councilman Chris Ward is the heavy favorite. He came in first Tuesday with nearly 59% of the vote, while fellow Democrat Sarah Davis, a queer single mom and midwife, was in second with nearly 27% of the vote. Third place went to nonprofit technology consultant Micah Perlin, a Democrat who netted 16.49% of the vote.

In a tweet Wednesday morning Ward thanked his "voters, volunteers, and supporters who gave us a strong first place finish in the primary! Looking forward to hard work ahead finishing my time at city hall, and turning our values into action as the next #ad78 Assemblymember!"

Shortly after midnight Wednesday Davis had emailed her supporters to thank them and urge them to donate to her "insurgent grassroots campaign." She wrote that "the big donors funding my opponent are going to take us seriously now. I'm still committed to not taking money from industries such as fossil fuels, prisons, pharmaceuticals, so every single dollar from individual donors counts."

Queer congressional candidate advances

Queer San Diego City Councilwoman Georgette Gomez is headed toward a bruising general election fight for an open House seat against former Hillary Clinton campaign adviser Sara Jacobs. The two Democrats were the top vote-getters Tuesday, according to the unofficial returns.

Jacobs came in first place with more than 25% of the vote, while Gomez took second with more than 18%. Fifteen people were in the running for the 53rd Congressional District seat as Congresswoman Susan Davis (D-San Diego) opted not to run for reelection.

Landing in sixth place with 7.42% of the vote was political newcomer Janessa Goldbeck, who is queer and a military veteran. She had gotten a surprise boost last month after the San Diego Union Tribune unexpectedly endorsed her, though it wasn't enough to overcome her lack of name recognition and political record.

The Victory Fund had endorsed Gomez, and in a statement, Parker noted that "Georgette is on-track to shatter a lavender ceiling come November, becoming the first openly LGBTQ Latina member of Congress in American history. Georgette's experiences and perspectives will make her a unique and critical voice on the important issues facing our country, from healthcare to climate change to reducing homelessness."

If Gomez, who was endorsed by the California Democratic Party, wins the seat, she would be only the third LGBT community member elected to Congress from California. The first, gay Congressman Mark Takano (D-Riverside), came in first place Tuesday in the primary race for his 41st congressional district seat. Takano had 48% of the vote and in November will face off against Republican Aja Smith, who took second with 37.6% of the vote.

The first out woman among California's congressional delegation, bisexual Congresswoman Katie Hill, resigned last year following reports of an improper sexual relationship with a staffer, which she has denied, and the publication of nude photos of her. No out candidate ran in the special election March 3 for her 25th Congressional District seat north of Los Angeles.

In that race LGBT advocates had rallied around Assemblywoman Christy Smith (D-Santa Clarita), who took first place with close to 30% of the vote Tuesday. In second was Republican Mike Garcia, a former Navy pilot who worked for Raytheon for a decade, with 25.5% of the vote.

Two candidates with a history of homophobic comments fell short: Republican Steve Knight, who lost to Hill in 2018, came in third with 20%, while Democrat Cenk Uyger garnered 5% of the vote.

Gay GOP House candidate falls short

In another open San Diego House race, Republican gay former San Diego councilman and unsuccessful mayoral candidate Carl DeMaio failed to advance out of the primary Tuesday, according to the unofficial returns.

He was seeking the 50th Congressional District seat once held by disgraced Congressman Duncan Hunter (R), who resigned after pleading guilty to stealing campaign funds. But DeMaio, who doesn't live in the district, came in third place with nearly 22% of the vote.

Former Republican Congressman Darrell Issa, who also doesn't live in the district, took second with nearly 24% of the vote. He will now face off against first-place finisher Ammar Campa-Najjar, a Democrat who was a relative unknown when he ran against Hunter in 2018. He netted close to 34% of the vote Tuesday.

The primary race was marked by gay-baiting tactics wielded by the Republican candidates. DeMaio accused Issa of a homophobic attack for noting he was gay in a campaign ad, yet DeMaio also created a website that accused Issa of voting "to force the military to pay for sex-change surgeries" of transgender service members.