EQCA endorses out supervisor candidates on California primary ballots

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday November 15, 2023
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Alameda County Board of Supervisors candidate Jennifer Esteen has won an early endorsement from Equality California. Photo: Courtesy the candidate
Alameda County Board of Supervisors candidate Jennifer Esteen has won an early endorsement from Equality California. Photo: Courtesy the candidate

Statewide LGBTQ advocacy organization Equality California has early endorsed several out supervisor candidates running in races on the March primary ballot. Among them are two out local leaders vying to become the first LGBTQ members of their county board of supervisors.

In the Bay Area, EQCA is backing Jennifer Esteen in her Alameda County race. It also threw its support behind Michael Wilson in Solano County.

Esteen is running to oust from office longtime Supervisor Nate Miley in order to become the first LGBTQ person to be elected to the East Bay board. While the filing deadline for their March 5 race isn't until early December, at this point the race is expected to be solely between Esteen and Miley, who is vying for his seventh term.

Thus, it is possible one of the two candidates will receive more than 50% of the vote in order to win the race outright in March. If neither does, they will square off again on the November 5 ballot to represent East Oakland, Montclair, Castro Valley, Ashland, Cherryland, Fairview, El Portal Ridge, and Pleasanton.

"This race is likely to be a one and done, and the winner takes all in March," Esteen told the Bay Area Reporter.

Not only is she "incredibly thrilled" with having the support of EQCA, Esteen said its doing so builds on the early backing she has already received from the national LGBTQ+ Victory Fund and local queer political groups the Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club of San Francisco and the East Bay Stonewall Democratic Club of Alameda County.

"Having Equality California as a co-partner in this moment feels like kind of a strong showing of support because we have an opportunity to elect a history maker. I will be the first out LGBTQ Black supervisor in California," noted Esteen, a nurse and former union leader. "It is really impressive each of these LGBTQ organizations agree this is a race to get behind; that I am a candidate that represents our community well."

EQCA had co-endorsed Esteen and gay former Dublin city councilmember Shawn Kumagai in last year's race for the Assembly District 20 seat. Esteen failed to advance out of the primary, while Kumagai fell short in the general election race.

A masculine of center woman, Esteen lives in Ashland, an unincorporated area, with her wife, a marriage and family therapist. They have three adult children.

Esteen formerly served as vice president of organizing for Service Employees International Union Local 1021. She now works for San Francisco's public health department as a psych nurse in the community, having previously been employed as a psychiatric nurse in the San Francisco General Hospital Psychiatric Emergency Room.

She is one of a septet of out supervisor candidates on March ballots around the Golden State. In all of the contests, if no candidate secures more than 50% of the ballots cast then the top two vote-getters advance to fall runoff races.

Wilson did not respond to the B.A.R.'s interview request prior to publication. He is running to succeed his boss, District 1 Supervisor Erin Hannigan, who opted not to seek reelection.

Supervisor races outside Bay Area

Gay Skyforest resident Graham Smith is aiming to be the first gay supervisor in San Bernardino County. He is one of several candidates running against District 3 Supervisor Dawn Rowe in March.

Lesbian Tulare County Supervisor Amy Shuklian is seeking reelection in March to her District 3 seat. First elected in 2016, she represents her hometown of Visalia on the county board.

While EQCA has yet to endorse Smith or Shuklian, on Wednesday it did endorse District 3 San Diego County Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer, who is nonbinary and pansexual and is running for reelection next year. The Democrat is facing a challenge from Republican former San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer.

It also endorsed gay Wasco Vice Mayor Alex Garcia in his bid against District 4 Supervisor David Couch to be the first LGBTQ person on the Kern County Board of Supervisors. The first out person to be elected in his Central Valley county, Garcia two years ago was asked to step down as his town's mayor following his arrest for driving under the influence.

And in Santa Cruz County EQCA endorsed Monica Martinez in the race for the open District 5 seat on the county's board of supervisors. A queer mom, Martinez is CEO of the county's largest health and human services nonprofit, Encompass Community Services, and would be the first out person elected to the county board.

There are currently eight known LGBTQ county supervisors in California; the other six are all gay men who won their 2022 elections. Martin Huberty serves in Calaveras County; Ken Carlson in Contra Costa County; Yxstian Gutierrez in Riverside County; and Rafael Mandelman, Matt Dorsey, and Joel Engardio all serve in San Francisco County.

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