Political Notebook: East Bay bi councilwoman Rubio seeks state Senate seat

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday February 7, 2024
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San Ramon City Councilmember Marisol Rubio is seeking a state Senate seat. Photo: Courtesy the candidate
San Ramon City Councilmember Marisol Rubio is seeking a state Senate seat. Photo: Courtesy the candidate

For nearly three decades Marisol Rubio's top priority has been taking care of her daughter, Alexandria, who was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer shortly after being born. Ignoring the advice of doctors to pursue hospice care, Rubio fought for her infant child to receive treatment.

It led Rubio to earning a degree in molecular and cell biology, with a neurobiology emphasis, from UC Berkeley and having a career as a home health care provider. She also became an advocate for women's reproductive health care and for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Her public advocacy efforts also led her into pursuing a political career to advocate on behalf of other families facing similar situations as that of her and her daughter. After losing her 2020 primary bid against state Senator Steve Glazer (D-Orinda), Rubio was seated on a local water services board in Contra Costa County when no one else ran for it that fall.

Two years ago she won a tough race for a San Ramon City Council seat. Now, with Glazer termed out of office, she is running again for Senate in the 9th District that now includes portions of southern Alameda County due to the 2021 redistricting process.

"I came into this to fight for the communities I represent and families like mine who have been suffering way too long," Rubio told the Bay Area Reporter about her decision to seek elected office. "While we have been lucky to have some champions step forward and are vocal and speak up, we don't have enough. We really don't."

As one of just two candidates in the race, Rubio is assured of advancing out of the March 5 primary to the November 5 ballot. But she once again is facing a tough campaign due to running against Assemblymember Tim Grayson (D-Concord) for the Senate seat.

The two Democrats have both secured endorsements from various unions and women's rights organizations, while moderate party members have endorsed Grayson and progressives have sided with Rubio. Having secured LPAC's endorsement, Rubio is campaigning for the first time as an out bisexual candidate.

"Anyone coming out and being vocal about this, it is a very personal thing. We have to make ourselves vulnerable," said Rubio. "At the same time we are doing that, we are lifting up so many other people who are suffering and don't feel safe speaking up."

As last week's Political Notebook reported, Rubio, 50, came out personally at age 18 but put her dating life on hold after becoming a single mom. That changed last year when Alexandria, 28, enrolled in college — she transferred last month to UC Davis where she is majoring in psychology and Spanish — and Rubio found herself having time again to seek a relationship.

"We have to put a face to what our community really looks like, which is everybody, and dismantling those stereotypes ... I think a lot of people tend to attribute certain stereotypes to the LGBTQIA community, which are wrong and incorrect," said Rubio, who is also gender-nonconforming and demisexual. "We have the same aspirations and goals, and have families we love and care for. We want them to be safe and grow and be prosperous in their lives just like anyone else."

Part of a record number of six bi women seeking state legislative seats on the primary ballot, Rubio is one of two vying for open Senate seats. Sasha Renée Pérez is running in the 25th Senate District spanning Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties.

To date, the only bi member of the Legislative LGBTQ Caucus has been Assemblymember Alex Lee (D-San Jose), who is seeking a third two-year term this year. Aiming to join him as its second bi male member is Hawthorne City Councilmember Alex Monteiro, who is seeking the open Senate District 35 seat in Los Angeles County.

The octet of bi candidates is among the 30 LGBTQ people running for either an Assembly or Senate seat on the March 5 primary ballot, where the top two vote-getters regardless of party advance to the general election. It marks the largest group of out legislative candidates to run in the Golden State based on records kept by the B.A.R.

Rubio grew up in Chicago in a Catholic household, the youngest of three sisters raised by a single mother, as her immigrant parents from Colombia separated when she was five. (Her father died in 2022 and her mother now lives in Southern California along with one of her siblings.)

In 2003, Rubio and her daughter moved to the East Bay for her to attend UC Berkeley. This March will mark their 10th anniversary of living in San Ramon.

With her Senate candidacy (https://www.marisolforca.com/) and being a local elected leader, Rubio told the B.A.R. she hopes to inspire LGBTQ youth that there is a future waiting for them. She has been alarmed by the national backlash against rights for LGBTQ young people, especially those who are transgender, which also has become an issue in her local community.

"We are causing them so much harm, they are even willing to contemplate taking their own lives," said Rubio. "To me, it is just very sad and really a reflection of a lack of compassion and understanding and really seeing each other as human beings and seeing ourselves in each other."

Milk club backs gay SoCal House candidate

A gay former San Francisco resident seeking a House seat in Los Angeles picked up the support of the Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club ahead of the March 5 primary. Jirair Ratevosian, Ph.D., is one of 15 candidates running for the open 30th Congressional District seat being vacated by Congressmember Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) due to his decision to run for a U.S. Senate seat this year.

Ratevosian formerly worked for Congressmember Barbara Lee (D-Oakland), who is also running for the Senate seat once held by the late Dianne Feinstein, as her legislative director in the early 2010s. The decade prior he had lived in San Francisco while enrolled in a medical post-baccalaureate program at UCSF.

"I do have some history in the Bay Area. I was very excited about that endorsement," said Ratevosian about securing the Milk club's support of his candidacy.

As the Los Angeles native told the B.A.R. last year, Ratevosian credits his time in the Bay Area, which included his working for Gilead Sciences a decade ago, as helping him come out of the closet later in life. The Armenian American had found it hard to do so having grown up in a conservative culture.

"My years in San Francisco really shaped my identity and my own coming out, really," said Ratevosian, who last fall married Michael Ighadaro, a gay Nigerian who had sought asylum in the U.S.

He is one of several out candidates aiming to survive the primary race for the House seat and be one of the two advancing to the November 5 ballot. Also running are lesbian West Hollywood City Councilmember Sepi Shyne, who is Iranian; gay Armenian American GOPer Dr. Alex Balekian; and nonbinary transgender drag queen Maebe A. Girl, an at-large representative on the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council who has sought the congressional seat in the last two elections.

Ratevosian also secured the endorsement of gay former congressman Barney Frank, a Democrat from Massachusetts, whom he had gotten to know via his working for Lee.

"When I called him and I told him about the race, he asked me tough and important questions about foreign policy issues," said Ratevosian, who quit his State Department job under the Biden administration last spring to run for Congress.

He had called for a ceasefire of Israel's war in Gaza on October 17, 10 days into its bombing campaign against Hamas. Supportive of Israel's efforts to defeat the terrorist group following its deadly October 7 attack on the country, Ratevosian also has criticized Israeli leaders for not being more precise with their strikes in the Palestinian territory, which have killed more than 27,400 people.

"Israel has the intelligence and sophisticated weaponry to be more targeted. They don't have to bomb their hospitals to pursue their goals," said Ratevosian.

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 a press gaggle held by lesbian U.S. Senator Laphonza Butler (D-California) while in San Francisco.

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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