Political Notebook: Former Pelosi, Breed aide Lazar enters tough Sacto Assembly race

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday July 19, 2023
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Alex Lazar is seeking a Sacramento-area Assembly seat. Photo: Courtesy Alex Lazar
Alex Lazar is seeking a Sacramento-area Assembly seat. Photo: Courtesy Alex Lazar

Alex Lazar, a former aide to San Francisco Democrats Mayor London Breed and Congressmember Nancy Pelosi, is aiming to be one of the first out gay members of the state Legislature elected from the Sacramento region. But he is facing a crowded field and a tough primary race next March to achieve his electoral goal.

"I was under the tutelage of the master legislator of our time. I learned a lot," Lazar, who worked in Pelosi's district office as one of her senior congressional aides for nearly eight years in the 2010s, told the Bay Area Reporter during a phone interview July 14.

Lazar, whose given first name is Alexias but goes by Lex, currently works for Google and commutes several days a week from Sacramento to his job as an administrative business partner for the Bay Area tech giant. He celebrated his four-year anniversary with the company July 8 and now handles the scheduling for three executives in addition to several other duties he oversees.

"I am the first Googler to run for office and not take a leave from work," said Lazar, 44, who moved to the state's capital city in August 2020 after buying a home in the North Oak Park neighborhood.

Over that time he has watched a homeless encampment in front of his home grow in size, with Lazar and his neighbors unable to get much help from the police in addressing their safety concerns, he said. It led him to again take up Taekwondo and factored into his decision to seek elected office.

"We need to build more housing," said Lazar, who is single and lives with his cat, Jessie. He told the B.A.R. he wants "to be the YIMBY candidate and build up housing for the people living on my street."

Several other out candidates have also launched bids for the Assembly District 6 seat being vacated by Assemblymember Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento), who is seeking to be elected his city's mayor next year. Evan Minton, a onetime legislative aide for Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), jumped into the race last week and would be the first transgender man elected to a legislative seat in California should he win.

"Making the decision to run wasn't easy. My professional and lived experiences make me prepared to tackle the biggest challenges and continue to deliver for our community," noted Minton, who is suing Dignity Health after one of its hospitals had suddenly canceled his scheduled hysterectomy due to his gender identity.

Also seeking the seat is Carlos Marquez, a gay married man who formerly served as executive director of American Civil Liberties Union California Action and was a senior vice president of the California Charter Schools Association. Lesbian Sacramento Municipal Utility District Director Rosanna Herber has also pulled papers to seek the seat.

(After this article went to press, the B.A.R. learned that Preston Romero, the president of the Log Cabin Republicans Sacramento club for LGBTQ GOPers, had also decided to seek the Assembly seat. Should all five of the LGBTQ community leaders make it onto the ballot, it will mark a record for a state legislative race, as the most to run for the same seat in prior elections had been three.)

Meanwhile, prosecutor Maggy Krell dropped her Sacramento mayoral bid in order to run for McCarty's Assembly seat, and Paula Villescaz, a former school board member and new mom, is seeking the seat after losing her 2022 state Senate bid. Also in the race are fathers Sean Frame, a former school board member, and Emmanuel Amanfor, who serves on several Sacramento oversight bodies.

As for the historic nature of the race, which could result in another pink political glass ceiling being broken in the Golden State, Lazar doesn't think it will be much of a factor with voters of the district, which includes downtown Sacramento. Where candidates stand on various issues will be more important, argued Lazar, who launched his campaign in early July with detailed policy proposals for numerous issues on his website.

He was the first candidate last week to come out in support of the ballot measure state legislators have put before voters next fall to repeal the definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman that remains embedded in the California Constitution due to the passage of Proposition 8 in 2008. It is among the various stances he has outlined on his website in regard to LGBTQ concerns.

"I think, from what I know of this district and the three years I have been here, the district is very smart. The winning candidate will emerge not because of a label but what they bring to the table in respect of representing this district," predicted Lazar.

With so many Democrats in the running, it is likely a Republican could also jump into the race. While they would have a shot at surviving the primary, they would be unlikely to win the decidedly Democratic district in November. (To date, no GOP contenders are listed as having pulled papers for the seat on the candidate site overseen by the secretary of state's office.)

Lazar told the B.A.R. he expects a GOP candidate to emerge and wouldn't be surprised if the person is a member of the conservative Proud Boys group, as its members are active in the area, in particular, having pushed earlier this year an anti-LGBTQ agenda in the Roseville school district. Under the state's open primary system, the top two vote-getters regardless of party affiliation advance out of the primary to the general election ballot.

It is conceivable two of the Democrats will take the top two spots in March, with a pair of the out candidates squaring off in November. But if it is a Democrat versus a Republican, the race will effectively be considered decided coming out of the primary.

"Because of the presidential primary next year, and all the Republicans will want to go out and vote for Trump, that is my calculus," said Lazar of seeing a GOPer jump into the race. "I am trying to go up against a Republican in November. That is my goal here."

There has yet to be an LGBTQ legislator elected to a seat in the Sacramento metro region, with the 2024 elections providing a chance to see one elected to both chambers of the state Legislature. Seeking an open state Senate seat next year is gay former West Sacramento mayor Christopher Cabaldon, a strong candidate to win the race for the sprawling Senate District 3 seat being vacated by termed out Senator Bill Dodd (D-Napa).

While Cabaldon has been securing support from prominent Democrats, LGBTQ leaders and groups, it remains to be seen how the AD 6 candidates fare in lining up backers who do not split their support among them. The endorsement process for the AD 6 race will be a good barometer of who may survive the primary.

Lazar has already been making the rounds of various local Democratic clubs in hopes of securing their support, he told the B.A.R. He is also trying to walk as many precincts as possible in order to introduce himself to voters throughout the district, which covers most of Sacramento, parts of Carmichael, and the unincorporated communities of Elverta, Rio Linda, Antelope, La Riviera, and Arden-Arcade.

"It is about name recognition. Everybody will have to build that," said Lazar.

He told the B.A.R. he has modeled his campaign on his experience as director of the Mayor's Office of Neighborhood Services, a job he held in Breed's administration for 10 months starting in August 2018. It required him to work in the city's neighborhoods and meet residents where they live, he noted.

"Because of that, it prepared me to go into the Assembly District, which has 500,000-plus people, and introduce myself and what I can do for this district," said Lazar. "It was a very big learning opportunity, and I am proud of the work we did."

Grew up in Bay Area

Raised in Sunnyvale, Lazar moved with his family when he was 10 to Santa Clara where he had been born. His mother had emigrated with her three daughters from Zacatecas, Mexico, to the Bay Area and married his father, a Tejano from Texas who had two children of his own. There is a roughly 10-year age difference between Lazar and his youngest half sibling.

He graduated with an associate liberal arts degree from De Anza College in Cupertino, and earned a B.A. in political science from San Francisco State University. He spent some time trying to break into Hollywood and worked briefly as a model; it was how he landed on using the name Lex. During his time in Los Angeles Lazar interned at Leeza Gibbons' talk show, read scripts while interning for an entertainment company, and worked at Paramount Studios.

While it was a fun experience, Lazar decided to return home to the Bay Area and figure out what he wanted to do for his career.

"I didn't see a future there because of the lack of diversity," recalled Lazar. "While Los Angeles is heavily Latino, once you get behind the gates of a studio, it is not diverse at all."

After working for several years at Trader Joe's, Lazar got hired to work for Pelosi. Although he told the B.A.R. he isn't interested in serving in Congress himself, his time working for the former House speaker and assisting her constituents navigate the federal bureaucracy was a defining time in his life.

"As emotionally exhausting that was, it was the most fulfilling work I ever did," said Lazar, who hopes to secure Pelosi's endorsement of his Assembly candidacy.

UPDATED 7/20/23 to add Preston Romero to the list of candidates in the race.

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 the record number of West Coast LGBTQ candidates already running for U.S. House seats in 2024.

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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