Political Notes: Out San Diego supervisor candidate looks to survive primary

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Monday August 14, 2023
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San Diego County Board of Supervisors candidate Janessa Goldbeck, center, talked with supporters in the Southern California city. Photo: Courtesy the campaign
San Diego County Board of Supervisors candidate Janessa Goldbeck, center, talked with supporters in the Southern California city. Photo: Courtesy the campaign

A queer military veteran with ties to San Francisco is aiming to double LGBTQ representation on the San Diego County Board of Supervisors. First, she has to survive Tuesday's special election for the board's vacant District 4 seat.

Janessa Goldbeck, 37, who is queer and had served in the Marine Corps, is one of four people vying to represent the district that includes parts of central and southeast San Diego, the cities of La Mesa and Lemon Grove, and the unincorporated area of Spring Valley. It is expected that the special election will see the first female supervisor elected to represent the district.

In 2020, Goldbeck failed to make it out of the primary for an open congressional seat in San Diego County. Earlier this year, she had announced she would seek the supervisorial seat when it was expected to be open in 2024.

The former District 4 supervisor, Nathan Fletcher, had announced that he would seek next year the state's 39th Senate District seat, which is being vacated in 2024 by termed out lesbian Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins (D-San Diego). Then news broke that Fletcher was facing legal action for alleged sexual discrimination against several women, and he ended his legislative bid. He also resigned from his seat on the county board in May to seek treatment for post-traumatic stress and alcohol abuse.

His decision led to the special election Tuesday, August 15, for which voting has already been underway. With no candidate likely to secure more than 50% of the vote in order to win the seat outright, the top two vote-getters are expected to face off in a runoff election on the November 7 ballot.

Having secured support from a number of liberal groups and Democratic officials, including Atkins and Congressmember Scott Peters (D-San Diego), Goldbeck is considered one of the frontrunners in the race. She currently serves as CEO of the nonprofit Vet Voice Foundation and, in 2021, earned a master's degree in public leadership from the University of San Francisco.

"She is a dedicated advocate for veterans, the #LGBTQ+ community, and #ReproductiveRights. She is the voice we need on the Board of Supervisors!" wrote Atkins August 10 in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

The other leading candidate in the race is San Diego City Councilmember Monica Montgomery Steppe, 44, the lone African American on the governing body. She has the backing of the San Diego County Democratic Party in addition to various labor unions and elected officials, such as Congressmembers Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) and Sara Jacobs (D-San Diego). Jacobs won the House seat that Goldbeck had sought three years ago.

Also on the ballot are two Republicans. Retired Marine gunnery sergeant Paul McQuigg, 46, lives in San Diego and is a field representative for the U.S. Census Bureau. La Mesa resident Amy Reichert, 55, is a licensed public investigator who founded the nonprofit Reopen San Diego.

Reichert lost to Fletcher last year when he was reelected to his supervisor seat. Whoever wins the race to serve out his term won't be up for reelection again until 2026.

Should Goldbeck win the seat, she would serve alongside District 3 Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer, a Democrat who is nonbinary and pansexual. Elected in 2020, Lawson-Remer will be up for reelection next November, and Republican former San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer is already vying for the seat that spans the coast from Coronado to Carlsbad and also includes the inland communities of Mira Mesa, Rancho Penasquitos and Rancho Santa Fe.

Goldbeck, who was born and raised in San Diego County, would also triple the number of known out non-male county supervisors in California, as Amy Shuklian, a lesbian, serves on the Tulare County Board of Supervisors. A victory by Goldbeck would also bring the number of out county supervisors in the state to at least nine, as there are six known gay men currently serving on county boards: Martin Huberty in Calaveras County; Ken Carlson in Contra Costa County; Yxstian Gutierrez in Riverside County; and Rafael Mandelman, Matt Dorsey, and Joel Engardio in San Francisco County.

In June, Goldbeck was one of the California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus' Pride honorees. She formerly served as a uniformed victim advocate, working with sexual assault survivors in the military, and has served on several local oversight bodies, including San Diego County's Behavioral Health Advisory Board and the San Diego Mayor's LGBT Task Force.

Goldbeck, an alumnus of Northwestern University, where she earned a bachelor's degree in journalism, sits on the board of Equality California. The statewide LGBTQ advocacy organization endorsed her supervisor bid in May.

"Her unwavering commitment to service and a fierce focus on the most vulnerable is the kind of forward-thinking leadership we urgently need at this critical time," stated EQCA Executive Director Tony Hoang. "Janessa has fought for veterans, LGBTQ+ equality and women's rights — and we are confident she'll fight for all San Diegans once elected."

As for Goldbeck, she stated she was "deeply honored" to have EQCA's support in the race.

"In District 4, where the vibrant heart of San Diego's historic LGBTQ+ community resides, this endorsement holds special significance," stated Goldbeck, who lives in San Diego's Talmadge neighborhood with her wife, Carol, and their two dogs and hen flock. "I look forward to standing with Equality California as we work together to create a more inclusive, equitable San Diego County."

To learn more about her candidacy, visit Goldbeck's campaign website.

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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