Political Notes: In 1st ever ad, Congressmember Eshoo highlights support of LGBTQ bill

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Monday June 6, 2022
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A screenshot of Congressmember Anna Eshoo's reelection ad highlights her support of the Equality Act. Photo: Screengrab
A screenshot of Congressmember Anna Eshoo's reelection ad highlights her support of the Equality Act. Photo: Screengrab

Since being elected to her South Bay House seat in 1993, Congressmember Anna Eshoo (D-Palo Alto) hadn't run TV ads during her bids for reelection. That is, until this year.

Last month, Eshoo's campaign began airing a brief 15-second spot on cable news station MSNBC and during local Bay Area newscasts, plus other TV programs and on streaming platforms. It touts her being an original co-sponsor of the Green New Deal, a congressional resolution laying out how the U.S. can address climate change, and the Equality Act, the federal omnibus LGBTQ rights legislation adopted by the House last year.

A black and white image of Eshoo on the right side of the ad is juxtaposed with white text on top of a green background shown on the left side. A female narrator says, "Congresswoman Anna Eshoo is an original cosponsor of the Green New Deal and the Equality Act," as a version of the Progress Pride flag design appears on screen.

"A leader goes first," intones the narrator as Eshoo's image begins to expand on screen as the camera pulls back.

It is believed to be the first time a Bay Area congressmember has highlighted their support of the Equality Act in a campaign commercial. Speaking to the Bay Area Reporter Friday, June 3, Eshoo said she was unaware of one of her local colleagues having done so.

"If I am the first, all to the good. It is Pride Month, and I am proud of that ad," said Eshoo.

Due to the brevity of the commercial, Eshoo said she had to choose what she is "proudest" of among her "long buffet" of legislative work. She picked the Equality Act due to it being a "transformational" piece of legislation.

"I have always believed there is one class of citizenship in our country and that is first class. So without the movement for equality and fullness of citizenship that can't happen," said Eshoo. "I am very proud of that, so I wanted to highlight the Equality Act."

The House of Representatives passed it last year with a bipartisan vote of 224-206. Among its provisions are anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people in employment, housing, credit, education, public spaces and services, federally funded programs, and jury service.

It would amend existing civil rights laws and several laws regarding employment with the federal government so they explicitly include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected characteristics. The legislation also amends the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to prohibit discrimination in public spaces and services and federally funded programs on the basis of sex.

President Joe Biden has repeatedly said he will sign the bill into law if it gets to his desk. He reiterated his call for passage of the Equality Act in his first State of the Union speech in March and again in his proclamation issued May 31 declaring June as "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Transgender, Queer, and Intersex Pride Month, 2022."

Because "the rights of LGBTQI+ Americans are under relentless attack" in statehouses across the country, noted Biden in the proclamation, is why he continues "to call on the Congress to pass the Equality Act, which will enshrine long overdue civil rights protections and build a better future for all LGBTQI+ Americans."

But due to the filibuster in the Senate, which means the support of 60 senators is required in order to bring a bill up for a vote, the legislation is all but dead this congressional session. The chamber is split 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats, and it is unlikely there are 10 GOP senators who would vote in support of holding a vote on the bill.

Thus, following this year's midterm elections, lawmakers will need to reintroduce the Equality Act in 2023. Should the Democrats buck expectations and hold onto the House, paving the wave for another vote in support of the LGBTQ rights bill, it remains highly unlikely the Senate would vote on it even if the chamber remains under Democratic control due to still lacking the needed 60 votes following this year's midterm elections.

Asked about the fate of the bill going forward, Eshoo said it would only make it to Biden's desk if there is a change in the Senate. She pointed out that many legislative efforts supported by a majority of Americans, from LGBTQ rights to gun control measures, remain stalled in the upper chamber of Congress.

"It seems to me, if you want to block something, be in the Senate," said Eshoo. "I think the Senate is exhausting the American people."

As for the concerns that the U.S. Supreme Court's expected decision later this month, or in early July, overturning a federal right to abortion could lead to repeal of same-sex marriage and other LGBTQ rights, Eshoo told the B.A.R., "it is a legitimate fear."

In terms of what she would tell LGBTQ Americans and others wondering what they can do to push bills like the Equality Act forward, Eshoo had a simple reply.

"What I would say is it is simple yet profound and difficult; that is we need to change the Senate," she told the B.A.R.

Eshoo was back in the Bay Area for a last weekend of campaigning ahead of Tuesday's primary, where the 79-year-old former San Mateo County supervisor is expected to easily prevail as the top candidate. Among her seven opponents for her District 16 seat are fellow Democrats Greg Lin Tanaka, a Palo Alto city councilmember, and Rishi Kumar, a Saratoga city councilmember who ran against Eshoo two years ago.

Under the state's nonpartisan primary system the top two vote-getters regardless of party affiliation advance to the November election. In the 2020 race, Eshoo went on to defeat Kumar on the fall ballot with 63% of the vote.

Should one of the three Republican candidates running this year advance to the fall ballot then the race will be all but decided Tuesday. Eshoo is guaranteed of easily winning in the heavily Democratic congressional district against a GOP opponent come November.

TV ad buy

In terms of her TV ad buy this year, Eshoo pointed to two factors that led her to "listen" to the advice of her campaign team in pushing her to have a presence on the airwaves ahead of the primary. With Governor Gavin Newsom facing little opposition as he seeks a second term following his lopsided victory last summer against the attempt to recall him, the lack of a contest at the top of the primary ballot is expected to result in record low voter turnout this year.

Thus, it is even more important this election cycle for down-ballot candidates to promote their candidacies "because the primary in California is really a rather quiet one," said Eshoo.

The upside is that because there isn't the usual deluge of ads from gubernatorial candidates flooding the Bay Area's TV stations "it is not as expensive," noted Eshoo, as in previous years for candidates to buy TV ad time this election cycle.

Endorsed by both the B.A.R. and the Bay Area Municipal Elections Committee, which helps elect LGBTQ candidates and straight allies in the South Bay region, Eshoo attended a BAYMEC event Friday in San Jose's Rose Garden neighborhood aimed at helping to get out the vote for her reelection as well as that of gay Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Campbell) and bisexual Assemblymember Alex Lee (D-San Jose).

"I have a long association with BAYMEC to its origins when it was founded when I was on the Board of Supervisors in San Mateo County," noted Eshoo. "I am so proud when I think of the early beginnings and how elected officials were really fearful to put their names down next to BAYMEC to what it has grown into today. So much progress has been made in our region."

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Got a tip on LGBTQ politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 829-8836 or e-mail m.bajko@ebar.com

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