Political Notebook: Gay SF BART director Dufty won't seek reelection

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday July 12, 2023
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BART board member Bevan Dufty said he would not seek reelection next year. Photo: Courtesy Bevan Dufty
BART board member Bevan Dufty said he would not seek reelection next year. Photo: Courtesy Bevan Dufty

The board that oversees the regional transit agency BART will be losing at least one of its current three out members at the end of 2024. Gay San Francisco BART director Bevan Dufty has decided not to seek a third term next fall in his District 9 seat that covers the city's eastern neighborhoods.

Dufty also told the Bay Area Reporter in a recent interview that he will not stand for reelection on the March primary ballot to his seat on the Democratic County Central Committee that oversees the San Francisco Democratic Party. The former mayoral candidate also told the B.A.R. he has no plans to enter the mayor's race next year.

"I am in a different phase of life and think it is time for new folks to come in and do their thing," explained Dufty, 68, who formerly served as the city's District 8 supervisor that includes the LGBTQ Castro district where he lives.

Speculation is also building that lesbian BART director Rebecca Saltzman, 41, will depart when her term ends next year rather than seek a fourth term in her District 3 seat, which covers parts of Alameda and Contra Costa counties in the East Bay. The El Cerrito resident had been expected to step down in 2020 but ended up running unopposed for a third term that November.

The outbreak of the COVID pandemic that year, which upended the transit service and led to a crash in its ridership numbers, had changed her mind. BART continues to struggle financially due to many workers limiting their return to their offices in downtown San Francisco and other business centers serviced by the transit agency, leaving its leadership to deal with hundreds of millions of dollars in projected lost revenues over the coming years.

Saltzman acknowledged to the B.A.R. that she is "exploring things" regarding her future plans but isn't yet ready to make any public announcements other than to say she isn't planning to run for a state legislative seat or for Congress. She expects to reveal her decision later this year.

"It is tremendously difficult to serve on the BART board that doesn't pay anything near a living wage and have a full-time job and be a mom," said Saltzman, the development director for Bike East Bay who has a young daughter with her wife, Caitlin Stone.

Nonetheless, Saltzman said she had no regrets about changing her mind three years ago and remaining on the BART board for another four-year term.

"I didn't feel like I could leave the agency in the lurch, and I am glad I did," said Saltzman.

As for Dufty's decision to step down when his current term ends, Saltzman told the B.A.R. he has been a "fantastic ally" on the board who brought much needed reforms and policies to the transit agency, from deploying unarmed ambassadors on trains to cleaning up stations and reopening long-locked bathrooms for BART patrons.

"We are so lucky to have him serve on the board for two terms there. He is a real leader for riders from San Francisco and for getting improvements to the system," said Saltzman. "I am so grateful he has been there that whole time and has made the agency a lot stronger."

Queer BART director Janice Li, currently serving as the board's president, told the B.A.R. it will be difficult to lose next year both Dufty and Lateefah Simon, a straight ally who holds the East Bay-centered District 7 seat on the BART board. Simon is running in 2024 to succeed Congressmember Barbara Lee (D-Oakland), who rather than seek another term in the House is running to succeed retiring U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California).

"Bevan and Lateefah are two incredible people that I look up to and have really been incredible leaders for BART, the Bay Area, and beyond," said Li, who represents BART's District 8 that includes the western neighborhoods of San Francisco and was reelected to a second term last year. "I knew this was coming and it still makes me sad to talk about."

Li and Dufty both told the B.A.R. they have yet to hear from someone intent on seeking Dufty's BART seat. They also have not yet endorsed in the race for Simon's seat, whereas Saltzman has endorsed Oakland resident Victor Flores, who works for the Greenbelt Alliance and announced his BART candidacy in early July.

"I think he is extremely qualified and has a unique background that is super needed on the BART board," Saltzman said of Flores.

In terms of who may replace him on the BART board, Dufty told the B.A.R. he would like to see it be someone from the city's LGBTQ community. He is just beginning to have conversations with people who may be interested; the filing deadline for candidates isn't until next August.

Playing a part in Dufty's decision to leave elective office for the foreseeable future is his son Sid, whom he is raising with co-parent, Rebecca Goldfader, is going into his senior year of high school this fall and plans to attend college, likely in New England, in the fall of 2024.

"It feels unbelievable to me, but it felt like a good point to pause and say, 'I feel good about what I have accomplished and I am so grateful.' I think I have won, now, seven elections and lost one big one," said Dufty, referring to his coming up short in the 2011 mayoral race.

He has been reflecting on his near 30-year career in local government, having recently hosted a luncheon to mark the 30th anniversary of the appointment of Susan Leal to the Board of Supervisors, the first and only Latina lesbian to date to serve on the board. (See story here.) Leal had hired Dufty as one of her City Hall aides, and he later went to work for former mayor Willie Brown before his being elected a supervisor in 2002.

After stepping down in early 2011 due to term limits, Dufty went to work for the late mayor Ed Lee as his homelessness czar. He left in 2015 and five years later won election to his BART board seat.

In 2012, Dufty first won election to the local Democratic Party oversight committee. He sees it as "a really great launch pad" for those wanting to seek elected office one day so wants to step aside to allow for someone new to city politics to have a chance to serve, Dufty told the B.A.R.

"I have encouraged young candidates to consider running for central committee. I think it is good experience because you have to take stances on tough issues and raise money," noted Dufty, in addition to voting on which candidates the local party endorses. "It is a good finishing school for people looking to embark on a political career."

As for the future of BART and the fiscal issues it is facing, Dufty told the B.A.R. he is confident the agency will be able to navigate a path forward. It will benefit from the $1.1 billion state leaders just budgeted for transit agencies across the state, with Bay Area transit operators slated to share in roughly $400 million over the next four years.

"We will work through these challenges," predicted Dufty. "BART has had to resurrect itself over the years, like San Francisco has had to rise like the phoenix from the ashes, going all the way back to when it seemed like the project wasn't going to happen ... it is part of its legacy."

A board member of LGBTQ rights organization Equality California, Dufty is hosting a meet and greet July 19 with gay freshman Assemblymember Corey Jackson, Ph.D., (D-Perris) the first out Black member of the state Legislature. Anyone interested in attending the happy hour event from 5 to 7 p.m. should email Dufty for the address at [email protected]


Last week's column should have stated that transgender Virginia Delegate Danica Roem received help from the Sister District New York chapter for her first race in 2017. Also, while the day after her 2021 reelection a Bay Area Reporter story had reported her margin of victory as being less than 2 points, Roem ended up with a winning margin of 8.6%. While it was a larger margin than her first campaign's margin of 7.8% in 2017, it was less than her 2019 re-election campaign's margin of 12%.

The online version of the July 6 Political Notebook has been updated, and an editor's note was added to the 2021 story.

Web Extra: For more queer political news, be sure to check http://www.ebar.com Monday mornings for Political Notes, the notebook's online companion. This week's column reported on lesbian Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins' historic turn as California's acting governor this month.

Keep abreast of the latest LGBTQ political news by following the Political Notebook on Threads @ https://www.threads.net/@matthewbajko

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

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