Political Notes: West Coast LGBTQ US House races feature rematches, newcomers

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Monday July 17, 2023
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Jamie McLeod-Skinner, left, has announced her fourth campaign for an Oregon congressional seat next year while David Kim is mounting his third bid for a Southern California congressional seat. Photos: Courtesy the candidates
Jamie McLeod-Skinner, left, has announced her fourth campaign for an Oregon congressional seat next year while David Kim is mounting his third bid for a Southern California congressional seat. Photos: Courtesy the candidates

The 10 contests for West Coast House races in 2024 with LGBTQ candidates that the Bay Area Reporter is already tracking feature a number of rematches and several newcomers seeking to serve in Congress. The number of out congressional candidates could continue to grow as the December filing deadline for California races nears.

Over recent weeks two out candidates who lost their races last year announced they were reviving their candidacies in 2024. In Southern California gay progressive lawyer David Kim will, for a third time, take on fellow Democrat Congressmember Jimmy Gomez in Los Angeles' 34th Congressional District.

Kim lost to Gomez 51% to 49% in their contest last November. But it represented a significant narrowing of the gap from when Kim lost by 6% to Gomez in their 2020 race.

"I'm running for Congress because our current representative — Jimmy Gomez — continues to prioritize corporations and the wealthy few over the needs of his constituents. We deserve a representative who will co-govern and implement life empowering policies that will put people over profit," Kim informed his supporters in a July 6 email.

The son of an immigrant pastor, Kim would be the first out Korean American elected to Congress should he win. He would also be the second LGBTQ Asian American to serve on Capitol Hill after gay Congressmember Mark Takano (D-Riverside), who is expected to easily win reelection in 2024 to his 39th Congressional District seat in Southern California.

Last Monday, July 10, lesbian former Santa Clara city councilmember Jamie McLeod-Skinner announced she was again seeking Oregon's 5th Congressional District seat. After defeating moderate congressmember Kurt Schrader in the Democratic primary last year, McLeod-Skinner lost by roughly 2% to Republican Congressmember Lori Chavez-DeRemer (R-Happy Valley) in the November general election.

This will mark McLeod-Skinner's fourth attempt to be elected to Congress. She failed to survive her Democratic primary race in 2020, two years after she had advanced to the November ballot in 2018 but lost to the Republican incumbent.

With the 2020 redistricting process reshaping the Beaver State's congressional districts, leading to her strong electoral showing last year, McLeod-Skinner launched her 2024 campaign with an impressive list of endorsements from numerous state and federal leaders, including Takano. Also endorsing her were national groups like the LGBTQ Victory Fund; Equality PAC, the political action committee for the Congressional LGBTQ Equality Caucus; and LPAC, which works to elect LGBTQ women and nonbinary candidates.

"I remember a time in our history not too long ago when an out, gay woman running for Congress would have been unthinkable. But while we've come incredibly far in the past few decades, we still have a long way to go until we reach true equality," noted McLeod-Skinner, who nabbed more than $100,000 in donations within 24 hours of her announcement. "I will be proud to be Oregon's first openly LGBTQ+ member of Congress when we win in 2024."

Her decision, and strong backing from party officials, prompted Kevin Easton to suspend his campaign for the congressional seat and throw his support behind McLeod-Skinner. As the Political Notes column had reported in May, the gay former San Francisco resident had also suspended his 2022 congressional bid when he found himself drawn into Oregon's new 6th Congressional District where a number of other Democrats were also running.

As he and his husband live just across from the border of the 5th Congressional District, and House candidates are not required to reside in the district they would represent, Easton had told the B.A.R. he would seek the seat next year. But he saw his chances of success evaporate due to McLeod-Skinner's entrance into the race.

"She came incredibly close to winning this race last year and has built a winning team. The math, money, and momentum are all on her side to achieve a Democratic victory," acknowledged Easton in a July 10 statement announcing his decision to withdraw. "We share common values and she will give Central Oregonians a seat at the table and I will be proud to stand next to her as our first openly LGBTQ+ member of Congress from Oregon. Come join me on #TeamJamie!"

California races

Two gay congressional candidates in California are mounting rematches against the Republican congressmembers they lost to in 2022. As the B.A.R. has previously reported, progressive Democrat Derek Marshall is again running against Congressmember Jay Obernolte (R-Hesperia) in the state's 23rd Congressional District.

While Marshall continues to lack support from the Democratic Party, gay attorney Will Rollins has already attracted significant backing from the party and Democratic leaders for his rematch next year against Congressmember Ken Calvert (R-Corona) in the 41st Congressional District that includes the LGBTQ resort and retirement mecca Palm Springs where Rollins now lives.

Equality PAC and the LGBTQ Victory Fund have already endorsed Rollins, who announced a record-breaking haul of $875,000 in donations for his 2024 campaign account. According to his campaign, he is the first congressional challenger in the Golden State to raise that much money in their first quarter after launching their campaign in the off-year prior to their election.

"I'm deeply humbled by the outpouring of support behind our campaign," stated Rollins. "Folks across the Inland Empire and Coachella Valley know what's at stake in this election, and they're stepping up in a tremendous way to ensure we have the resources to communicate a clear contrast and a clear vision for our district's future."

Nonetheless, Calvert reported raising more than $900,000 in the second quarter of 2023. His campaign has raised more than $1.9 million so far this year and is sitting on more than $1.5 million in cash-on-hand to spend.

"Our campaign continues to receive extraordinary support from people who understand what's at stake in this next election," stated Calvert. "We simply can't afford to return to the inflationary spending and massive government growth fueled by radical Democrats."

Other Southern California House races

Also making another stab at being elected to a Southern California House seat is Maebe A. Girl, a nonbinary drag queen elected in 2019 as the at-large representative for the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council in Los Angeles. She first ran in 2020 but failed to survive that year's March primary race.

Last year, she ended up advancing to the November ballot but lost to Congressmember Adam Schiff (D-Burbank). With Schiff running next year to succeed retiring U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California), Maebe A. Girl is again seeking Schiff's 30th District seat.

Also vying for it is West Hollywood Mayor Sepi Shyne, who would be the first queer Iranian woman to serve in Congress. The former resident of Cupertino in the South Bay graduated from San Jose State University then the Golden Gate University School of Law in San Francisco.

Shyne is also endorsed by LPAC. (Equality PAC and the Victory Fund have yet to endorse in the race.)

"I'm running to be a new voice in Congress and to speak up for the voices who have long been ignored by our political establishment," stated Shyne.

The contest for Schiff's seat has also attracted Jirair Ratevosian, Ph.D., a gay man who is Armenian American. A former legislative director for Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Oakland), he recently reported raising $100,000 for his campaign.

"This milestone reflects the belief that our supporters share in our goals of creating opportunities for everyone to achieve their American dream," stated Ratevosian. "With this level of support, I am more committed than ever to be the voice of all communities and advocate for the issues that matter most to us all."

Two other queer candidates of color are running for House seats also being vacated by Democratic incumbents seeking Feinstein's Senate seat. Dom Jones, who is Black and a former contestant on the reality TV game show "The Amazing Race," is running for the 47th Congressional District seat in Orange County.

Currently held by Congressmember Katie Porter (D-Irvine), the race for the open seat has also attracted Scott Baugh, the Republican former state legislator who lost to Porter last year, and state Senator Dave Min (D-Irvine), who was arrested in May for drunk driving in Sacramento.

Lee is also stepping down from her 12th Congressional District seat centered in Oakland to seek Feinstein's Senate seat. Vying for her House seat is Jennifer Kim-Anh Tran, Ph.D., a leader within the state's Vietnamese American community and the partner of Oakland sex shop owner and nightlife venue operator Nenna Joiner, who lost a bid last year for an Oakland City Council seat.

Also in the contest are fellow Democrats BART board member Lateefah Simon, who has already netted $600,000 for her campaign coffers, and business owner Tim Sanchez, a U.S. Navy Reserves veteran who served in Afghanistan.

Rounding out the list of out West Coast House candidates in 2024 is gay Congressmember Robert Garcia (D-Long Beach), the first openly gay immigrant to serve on Capitol Hill. The freshman representative who was born in Lima, Peru, is expected to easily win a second term in California's 42nd Congressional District along the coast of Los Angeles County.

Garcia has endorsed Simon in her East Bay House race and also Rollins' candidacy.

Ready to join the list of out House candidates is gay state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), who has opened an exploratory committee for a possible bid in 2024 to succeed Congressmember Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco). The former House speaker has yet to say whether she plans to seek reelection next year or retire after serving 37 years in Congress.

Because next year is a presidential election year, California will hold its primary in the winter instead of the spring as it does during midterm election years. The filing deadline for candidates who wish to seek offices on the March 5, 2024 primary ballot is December 8.

If the incumbent officeholder opts not to run for reelection, then the deadline will be extended to December 13. Under the state's open primary system, the top two vote-getters regardless of party affiliation will advance to the November 5, 2024 general election.

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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