East Bay awash in LGBTQ candidates

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday October 12, 2022
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Assemblymember Alex Lee, left, and Alameda County Board of Supervisors candidate Rebecca Kaplan. Photos: Courtesy the campaigns
Assemblymember Alex Lee, left, and Alameda County Board of Supervisors candidate Rebecca Kaplan. Photos: Courtesy the campaigns

The fall election could bring a number of historic wins for LGBTQ candidates throughout the East Bay. Voters in both Contra Costa and Alameda counties could elect their first out members of their Board of Supervisors.

Meanwhile, the November 8 election could result in the first out state legislator elected to a solely East Bay district. And city councils from Richmond to San Leandro could see LGBTQ members elected to the municipal government bodies.

With out candidates seeking education posts and seats on transit and utility oversight bodies, the LGBTQ community is represented throughout the ballots that began dropping into voters' mailboxes this week. Based on interviews and endorsements from LGBTQ political groups, the Bay Area Reporter knows of 25 LGBTQ candidates from the East Bay running in general election contests.

The region may soon have two out Assemblymembers representing it in Sacramento. Incumbent Assemblymember Alex Lee (D-San Jose), who is bisexual, is expected to easily win reelection to the new 24th Assembly District, which includes the southern Alameda County cities of Fremont, Newark, and Sunol as well as the Santa Clara County city of Milpitas and parts of San Jose.

In the race for the open 20th Assembly District seat wholly within Alameda County, gay Dublin City Councilmember Shawn Kumagai is in a tough election fight against labor leader Liz Ortega, who is straight. She has the endorsement of outgoing Assemblymember Bill Quirk (D-Hayward), who opted not to seek reelection.

At the county supervisor level, lesbian at-large Oakland City Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan is vying for the open District 3 seat on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors. She would represent the cities of Alameda, San Leandro, a portion of Oakland, and the unincorporated communities of San Lorenzo, Hayward Acres, and a portion of Ashland if elected.

In Contra Costa County, gay Pleasant Hill City Councilmember Ken Carlson is running for the open District 4 supervisor seat. He would represent the cities of Concord, Pleasant Hill, Clayton, and parts of Walnut Creek if he wins election to the Board of Supervisors.

As for other countywide positions, Marguerite Young, a lesbian single mom, is seeking reelection to the East Bay Municipal Utility District's oversight body in its Ward 3. First elected in 2014, she was unopposed four years ago and automatically given a second term.

This year water utility planner Mark Seedall, who is straight, is running to replace Young on the board. He picked up the endorsement of the San Jose Mercury News, while the East Bay Stonewall Democratic Club, the LGBTQ political group for Alameda County, endorsed Young's reelection bid.

Her bisexual colleague, Andy Katz, who also identifies as gay, for the third election cycle in a row went unopposed for his Ward 4 seat so will be automatically appointed to another four-year term. He was first elected to the EBMUD board in 2006; both Katz and Young represent districts that span Contra Costa and Alameda counties.

AC Transit candidate Alfred Twu, left, Richmond City Council candidate Cesar Zepeda, and Concord City Treasurer candidate D'Marco J. Anthony. Photos: Courtesy the candidates  

Seeking to oust AC Transit Board Vice President Joel Young from his at-large seat on the board that oversees public transportation services in Alameda and Contra Costa counties is nonbinary queer architect and artist Alfred Twu, who serves on Berkeley's planning and landmarks commissions. Twu has racked up a broad endorsement list for their candidacy from myriad East Bay elected leaders and Democratic groups, making their contest one being closely watched by political insiders.

Should they win the seat, Twu would serve alongside lesbian AC Transit board member Jovanka Beckles. The former Richmond city councilmember won election to her Ward 1 seat in 2020.

With Kaplan potentially departing the Oakland City Council, the governing body is assured of continued LGBTQ representation due to two queer candidates competing for the District 4 seat. Social justice attorney Janani Ramachandran, who lost a bid for state Assembly last year, and sex shop owner Nenna Joiner, who is gender-nonconforming, are vying to succeed Councilmember Sheng Thao, a leading mayoral contender in Oakland this year.

Among the four candidates running for the District 6 seat on the Oakland City Council is tax preparer Nancy Sidebotham, a lesbian making her seventh bid to be elected to a council seat. It is also open this year, as City Councilmember Loren Taylor is another leading candidate running to be mayor of the East Bay city.

While the Stonewall club didn't endorse in either of the two council races, statewide LGBTQ advocacy organization Equality California this week dual endorsed Ramachandran and Joiner. EQCA also endorsed gay San Leandro City Councilmember Victor Aguilar Jr., who is running unopposed for his District 3 seat but will still appear on the ballot.

It also is backing in the race for the District 1 seat Celina Reynes, a bisexual third generation resident of San Leandro, where she lives near the city's BART station with her husband, Ted. The longtime teacher is currently pursuing a law degree at UC Hastings and would be the first out woman elected to the City Council.

Also on the ballot in San Leandro is Abbey Kerins, a bisexual public school leader seeking the Area 2 seat on the city's school board. If elected, she would serve alongside gay trustee and current school board president James Aguilar, who was unopposed this year for his Area 6 seat.

With Kumagai set to step down from the Dublin City Council, as his term ends in December, lesbian council candidate Lynna Do is aiming to maintain out leadership on it. An interpreter trainer, Do is one of three candidates, including incumbent Councilmember Jean Josey, running for two council seats.

In Union City, bisexual resident Kristy Boer is one of three people seeking the open District 3 seat on the city council. Should she win election, Boer would be the first known LGBTQ person to serve on it.

Gay Richmond resident Cesar Zepeda is again seeking election to his city's council. This year he is one of two people running for the open District 2 seat.

Looking to join him as the District 4 councilmember is Jamin Pursell, who is nonbinary and queer. A Richmond resident for 11 years, Pursell bought a home in the city's May Valley neighborhood with their husband, Kelly Nabours, due to transferring to Cal State East Bay, where they earned degrees in philosophy and political science in 2012.

Having worked on the campaigns of gay San Francisco mayoral candidate Bevan Dufty in 2011 and Beckles' Richmond council bid in 2014, Pursell told the Bay Area Reporter mounting their own electoral bid was always "in the back of my mind." With the District 4 seat open this year, Pursell began laying the groundwork for a campaign in early 2022 and is one of two people running for it.

"I started in February canvassing and have knocked on over 3,500 doors. I wanted to talk to as many people as possible," said Pursell, who has a master's degree in science of the law from University of the Pacific's McGeorge School of Law and is planning to launch their own gender-neutral swimwear line next year.

Pursell told the B.A.R. they believe the two out candidates have "a really great chance" of returning out leadership to Richmond's council. They have worked with Zepeda on the city's Pride events.

While EQCA has endorsed Zepeda, it has yet to do so for Pursell. The national LGBTQ Victory Fund has endorsed both their candidacies.

"It is huge," said Pursell of having its support. "It means a lot because it is a national organization, so you know people are looking at you and it really matters."

Gay El Cerrito City Councilmember Gabriel Quinto, currently serving as mayor, is seeking reelection to a third term. Looking to join him on the council is Carolyn Wysinger, a lesbian who is president of San Francisco's Pride committee. They both have the backing of EQCA and the Victory Fund.

In Alameda, gay former city councilmember Jim Oddie is seeking to win election two years after voters bounced him off the council. He is one of six candidates running for two council seats in November, with City Councilmember Tony Daysog the only incumbent in the race.

Two gay married dads are among the four candidates vying for two seats on the Alameda Unified School District board. Leland Traiman is running again after losing in 2020, while Ryan LaLonde is making his first bid. The Stonewall club is backing LaLonde and Oddie in their respective races.

Oakland resident Nick Resnick, a married father of two sons, is vying for the District 4 seat on the school board that oversees the Oakland Unified School District. Should he be elected, Resnick would become the first-ever known LGBTQ person to serve on it and the first known transgender person to be elected to a local school board in California.

Queer labor leader Valarie Bachelor is seeking the District 6 seat on the school board. She is running against board member Kyra Mungia, who was appointed in June to fill a vacancy.

In Berkeley, bisexual single mom Tatiana Guerreiro Ramos is one of six candidates running for three seats on the city's school board. She and her three children, one of whom is nonbinary, all have ADHD and are "proudly neurodivergent."

Mounting an underdog campaign to be Concord's city treasurer is queer candidate D'Marco J. Anthony. Believed to be the first out person to seek the elected position, Anthony is running against longtime treasurer Patti Barsotti.

The 26-year-old Anthony graduated Sonoma State University in 2018 with a degree in political science. He is employed at a Walnut Creek law firm doing support and records, while earlier this year he worked for the San Francisco elections department as a voter data coordinator for the school board recall election in February.

With a bare-bones campaign Anthony told the B.A.R. he knows he faces long odds of being elected. Nonetheless, he hopes his candidacy can inspire other LGBTQ young people and people of color to seek public office.

"I am feeling excited. Win or lose I am going to run the campaign, I am going to run and be an inspiration for people who are part of the queer community, people of color, and young people," said Anthony, who is Black and of Ashkenazi Jewish descent.

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