Editorial: Barbara Lee for US Senate

  • by BAR Editorial Board
  • Wednesday January 24, 2024
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U.S. Senate candidate Barbara Lee. Photo: Courtesy the campaign
U.S. Senate candidate Barbara Lee. Photo: Courtesy the campaign

There is one Democratic U.S. Senate candidate who stands above the others when it comes to LGBTQ and HIV/AIDS issues and that's why we're recommending Congressmember Barbara Lee of Oakland for the U.S. Senate in the March 5 primary. Senator Dianne Feinstein occupied the seat for decades before her death last September. Governor Gavin Newsom then appointed Laphonza Butler, a Black lesbian, to replace Feinstein, but Butler said she would not seek election and is thus serving as a caretaker.

We're endorsing Lee because of her deep experience with the LGBTQ and HIV/AIDS communities. In fact, during Monday's debate, Lee was the only candidate to specifically mention the LGBTQ community, which was in the contexts of health clinics and equal rights. She will stand up for us and stand with us in this deeply polarized political climate. Lee, a straight ally, is a founding member and vice chair of the Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus and has consistently been ranked as the most progressive member of Congress, she stated in her Bay Area Reporter endorsement questionnaire. "I have a record of unspoken advocacy and legislative action on behalf of underrepresented communities," she wrote.

One of Lee's most significant accomplishments was working with then-President George W. Bush and congressional Republicans on her global HIV/AIDS legislative package, the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR. The groundbreaking act has been credited with saving more than 25 million lives over the last 20 years, and has funded billions of dollars to curb AIDS cases and HIV transmission across the globe. We noted last year that PEPFAR's reauthorization was in doubt, but Congress did approve a one-year funding patch last September.

So Lee has demonstrated an ability to work across the aisle even while maintaining her progressive bona fides. That will be critical in the Senate, which is narrowly divided, and hopefully, can remain under Democratic control next year. The Senate's most important job right now is voting to confirm federal judges. Lee stated that she will prioritize federal judge nominees with a strong track record of standing up for justice — economic justice, racial justice, social justice, political justice, and environmental justice.

"In striving for a more equitable and ethical legal system, it's also essential that federal judicial nominees reflect the varying experiences of people in our country, including those who have traditionally been excluded from having a seat at the table," she stated. "I will advocate for personal and professional diversity in nominations, including out LGBTQ+ people, to progress our federal judiciary toward being truly representative." Lee does support term limits for the federal judiciary, including the Supreme Court, and a congressionally-enacted, enforceable code of ethics for all judges as measures of accountability.

Addressing California's housing crisis, Lee stated that as a senator she would pass legislation to fully fund the Section 8 rental assistance program, establish a national rent control standard, strengthen the Fair Housing Act, and implement a Section 8 non-discrimination law so that landlords can't discriminate against anyone based on their source of income.

Lee is a fighter who has stood up to MAGA extremists and even her fellow members of Congress. Just last week, Lee was booted from a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee hearing on Cuba policy "because the Republican chair didn't like my views," as she wrote on X. Lee's been working on U.S.-Cuba policy for her entire career, so the move was a head-scratcher.

Lee will strongly advocate for our communities and be a champion for all Californians. She stands on principle — even when it is not easy. Some residents may be too young to remember, but Lee was the only member of Congress to vote to oppose the authorization for use of military force in Afghanistan on September 14, 2001, just days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, because she didn't want a blank check for endless wars. As she stated, "I've never stopped fighting for what's right."

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