Keeping the queer left in the game

  • by Tom Temprano
  • Tuesday December 30, 2014
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As we say goodbye to 2014 the left in San Francisco has a lot to be proud of. Despite losing the most important political battle of the year, the Assembly race between David Campos and David Chiu, by less than 3,000 votes out of over 120,000 cast, our movement made aggressive advances. Campos, and his incredible campaign staff made up of many skilled queer organizers, led one of the most spirited efforts we've seen in over a decade. The Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club flexed muscle that it hasn't had in years, leading two of its biggest political programs ever and showing that the queer left is alive, well, and only getting stronger. We showed that in a changing city we are still a force to be reckoned with and that, despite these changes, San Francisco's moral compass still leans to the left.

The coming year marks the beginning of a new era where we can take the lessons of campaigns past (and a relatively off electoral year) to lay the foundation for fresh leadership in a changing city. Those of us organizing are already moving forward with our eyes on the jam-packed 2016 ballot �" a ballot which will feature supervisors races, an open state Senate race, and of course a presidential race that ensures a large turnout, which is usually a bonus for the left.

We are already at work building a strong bench of candidates ready to run for office. This bench is comprised of people that mirror the diversity of our neighborhoods with queers, parents, and people of color ready to take the helm and run for everything from supervisor to school board.

Look for the first wave of new candidates to emerge in the June 2016 election for the city's official Democratic Party body, the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee. The DCCC sends out arguably the most important election endorsements in the city each year and in 2014 it did not endorse a single LGBT candidate aside from incumbent District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener. That is a real problem, and one that demonstrates the need for new voices from the left and from the LGBT community.

A quick look at the city's commissions, committees, and task forces shows a number of promising members of San Francisco's LGBT left, a number that you can expect to grow in the coming year as new opportunities open. Serving on these panels is an important introductory experience into city government and helps develop the skills and connections necessary to run for higher office.

As part of our ongoing efforts to ensure LGBT voices are leaders amongst the city's left, the Milk club has been working diligently to support the efforts of our members to serve the public on bodies ranging from the Entertainment Commission to the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force to the Geary Bus Rapid Transit Citizens Advisory Committee. The club's incoming executive board, led by a slew of energetic and passionate organizers, is full of future commissioners and potential candidates.

Despite a strong effort from the Campos campaign to reach out to the ever-increasing number of absentee voters �" and winning 57 percent of the vote on Election Day �" 2014 underscored the need to be even more aggressive as we grow our vote-by-mail base. Supervisor Campos is already at work on a groundbreaking solution �" having the Department of Elections send every registered voter an absentee ballot. The ultimate goal in any election is to have as many people as possible vote so, since people who vote by mail have far higher turnout, why not send everyone a ballot?

In addition to policy fixes, the left is already beginning the work of organizing renters, LGBT people, and members of the Latino and African-American communities to form a formidable and dependable absentee voter bloc. With a demonstrated track record of success on Election Day and a growing absentee program, we will be poised to overcome the avalanche of billionaire cash that San Francisco's own Koch Brothers, Ron Conway and Reid Hoffman, have used to buy victories in the past couple cycles.

Having spent the past four years as a member of the Milk club's board, serving as president and co-president for the past two, I am proud of the work we have done to grow our membership, increase our presence in City Hall, and significantly impact elections. We have worked hard to recruit an effective and diverse group of leaders who have revamped the club and restored it to the pillar of San Francisco's left that it ought to be. As we usher in a new era in San Francisco politics, you can look to the Milk club for aggressive voter recruitment, envelope-pushing policies and the elected leaders of tomorrow.


Tom Temprano is the outgoing co-president of the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club. For more information, visit