Political Notebook: CA transgender House candidate Maebe A. Girl sees path to victory

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday August 2, 2023
Share this Post:
Maebe A. Girl is running for a Southern California House seat. Photo: Courtesy the candidate
Maebe A. Girl is running for a Southern California House seat. Photo: Courtesy the candidate

The last two times Maebe A. Girl has run for a Los Angeles-based U.S. House seat, she garnered 12% in the primary. While it wasn't enough for her to advance to the general election in 2020, it did net her one of the two spots on last fall's ballot.

But the progressive Democrat lost to incumbent Congressmember Adam Schiff (D-Los Angeles) by a wide margin. Nonetheless, she saw her percentage of the vote nearly triple to 28.9%, netting 60,968 votes.

With Schiff running next year to succeed retiring U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California), his 30th Congressional District seat is now open. And Maebe is counting on those voters who cast ballots for her last November to help her survive what is shaping up to be a crowded primary race next March, where the top two vote-getters regardless of party affiliation will advance.

Nearly 20 people have pulled papers to seek the seat. Due to federal election rules, Maebe must use her given name of G. Pudlo in addition to her preferred name for her ballot designation.

"Now is my best chance," noted Maebe, 37, during a recent interview with the Bay Area Reporter at coffeehouse Intelligentsia near where she lives in the Silver Lake district of Los Angeles. "I got 60,000-plus votes in 2022, and with that many people running next year, that is a winning number for the March primary."

Should she win the seat, Maebe would be the first nonbinary drag queen elected to Congress and could be one of several of the first transgender people to serve on Capitol Hill. Since 2019, she has been an elected at-large representative on the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council, an advisory body to the Los Angeles City Council, the first trans person elected to such a municipal position.

Maebe has an extensive platform on her campaign site detailing what she would want to accomplish as a congressmember. First and foremost would be to introduce the Protect LGBTQIA+ People Act, a comprehensive LGBTQ rights bill to counteract the hundreds of discriminatory measures being proposed and adopted by Republican-controlled statehouses across the U.S., such as bans on drag shows at public venues.

"I feel very confident in our campaign this time around," said Maebe. "It is time California's 30th Congressional District got a progressive representative and for Congress for the first time to see a trans person walking the halls."

Yet, Maebe is seen as an underdog in the race, largely due to her paltry fundraising to date. According to her campaign finance report for the first half of 2023, she raised $30,572 and had $16,593 in cash on hand.

She has had to fight for media coverage in mainstream outlets and is often overlooked due to the current and former elected officials now running for the House seat. To date, they include straight allies Assemblymember Laura Friedman (D-Burbank); former state senator Anthony Portantino, who lost his bid last year for a county supervisor seat; and former Los Angeles city attorney Mike Feuer, who had served in the state Assembly and on the Los Angeles City Council and dropped out of the mayoral race last year.

"It is frustrating," Maebe told the B.A.R., noting she requested a correction earlier this year from the Los Angeles Times after it reported on the race and didn't mention her. "I am one of the frontrunners as someone who made it to the general election last year. They called it a landslide loss for me, yet any one of the people now running would have lost last year if they had run."

Next year's race has also attracted several other out candidates. Lesbian West Hollywood Mayor Sepi Shyne, profiled in last week's Political Notebook, would be the first queer Iranian woman to serve in Congress were she to win the seat. Also running are gay Armenian Americans Jirair Ratevosian, Ph.D., and Dr. Alex Balekian, an ICU physician.

Ratevosian is a Democrat and former legislative director for Congressmember Barbara Lee (D-Oakland), who is also running for Feinstein's seat. Balekian had filed as no party preference but recently switched to run as a Republican.

He came under fire from Maebe last month for misgendering her and using her deadname. After she posted about it on Instagram, both Shyne and Ratevosian offered support for her and other trans individuals who face similar disrespect from people not using their correct names or pronouns.

"It is wrong and no candidate for office should be treated this way especially when standing up for our community," wrote Shyne, the first candidate in the race to respond.

Added Ratevosian, "We will not tolerate hate and transphobia from anyone, let alone a candidate for Congress."

Despite living in one of Los Angeles' more LGBTQ-friendly neighborhoods, Maebe is no stranger to homophobia and transphobia. During her interview with the B.A.R. last week, a man with "Trump for President" bumper stickers on his car began shouting a gay slur at patrons of the coffee shop.

"If you are not at the table, you are on the menu," said Maebe, as for why she has remained committed to seeking the House seat. "LGBTQIA people are very much on the menu right now."

Asked about her breaking through a pink political glass ceiling, Maebe responded, "Why shouldn't a trans person be elected to Congress when all this anti-LGBTQ legislation is moving through the U.S.?"

Originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Maebe moved to Chicago at the age of 9. In 2010, she helped move a friend to Los Angeles and fell in love with the city.

Two years later she started renting her Silver Lake apartment and moved permanently to California by 2014. She came out as trans in 2016 but has yet to legally change her name, thus it is why her given name appears on ballots.

During the day she works at a cafe in the city's Echo Park neighborhood but declined to name it due to the online harassment she receives. At night she performs in drag and hosts a drag brunch on Sundays in West Hollywood.

"Between those, it is enough to get by," said Maebe.

Her first taste of elective politics came when she sought a seat on her neighborhood council. Now in her third two-year term, Maebe is the most tenured person on it and serves as treasurer.

"It is the job nobody wants to do," she joked about the fiscal role, "but after I was appointed by my predecessor, I loved it. Budgets are moral documents, and my intent is to give back as much money to the community and spend the least amount on administrative purposes."

She had thought about running for a City Council seat but opted not to after other progressives entered the race, as "I didn't want to dilute the vote," Maebe told the B.A.R.

Dissatisfied with Schiff, a more moderate Democrat, Maebe decided to run against him. Despite being outspent 100-to-1, she came to realize that money alone isn't a deciding factor when seeking public office. Even more important is having a strong ground campaign, she argued.

"I am not being naïve that money doesn't matter in running a campaign, because you have to get your message out there," acknowledged Maebe, though she also noted, "You can raise a lot of money, but it doesn't equate to voters. It is why I put in the work in this district."

She is aiming to raise $100,000 ahead of the primary. Although she has no plans to fundraise in the Bay Area, Maebe told the B.A.R. she would make a trip up north should someone host her for an event.

"Our campaign, as local and grassroots as it is, we have already raised close to $40,000, which is more than we raised during the whole 2022 race," she noted.

Planning to rev up her get-out-the-vote efforts after the holidays, Maebe also plans to wield her large social media presence to her advantage. She argued that her positions she has taken on myriad issues, from being a pacifist and anti-war to supporting universal health care and housing for all, align with that of most voters in the congressional district.

"My values represent the voters of District 30. A lot of my opponents are DINOS, or Democrats in name only," argued Maebe.

Most LGBTQ groups have yet to endorse in the House race, though Shyne does have the support of LPAC, which works to elect lesbians, queer women, and nonbinary people to office. Maebe has applied for an endorsement from the national LGBTQ Victory Fund and is in the process of doing so with the statewide LGBTQ advocacy organization Equality California.

"I hope to have their support," she told the B.A.R.

To learn more about her candidacy, visit her campaign website at maebeagirlforcongress.org.

Editor's note: This is the second in a series of profiles of out 2024 congressional candidates in California.

Political Notes, the notebook's online companion, returns Monday, August 7.

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]

Help keep the Bay Area Reporter going in these tough times. To support local, independent, LGBTQ journalism, consider becoming a BAR member.