Gay Long Beach mayor Garcia headed to Congress

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Tuesday November 8, 2022
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Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia is headed to Congress after a strong showing in Tuesday's election. Photo: Courtesy City of Long Beach<br>
Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia is headed to Congress after a strong showing in Tuesday's election. Photo: Courtesy City of Long Beach

California is assured of having two gay members of Congress with the election Tuesday of gay Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia to a U.S. House seat. He will serve alongside Congressmember Mark Takano (D-Riverside), who easily won his November 8 reelection bid.

Garcia will be the first openly gay immigrant to serve in Congress. Born in Lima, Peru, he moved to the U.S. at age five.

"Hey everyone, my name is Robert Garcia and we are going to Congress," he tweeted.

Ever since he finished first in the June primary, Garcia had been favored to win the new, open 42nd Congressional District along the coast of Los Angeles County. He easily finished first in the November 8 election with 66% of the vote, according to the unofficial returns, while his Republican opponent John Briscoe received 40%.

"We are confident Robert's deep policy experience and ability to build strong, diverse coalitions will make him an exceptional legislator," stated LGBTQ Victory Fund President and CEO Annise Parker. "His win tonight will inspire countless other LGBTQ and first-generation Americans to pursue careers in public service."

With Garcia's victory, two gay men of color will be part of the Golden State's congressional delegation. Takano, who is Japanese American, easily took first place in his House District 39 race Tuesday with 60.4% of the vote against his Republican opponent Aja Smith.

A third gay member of Congress could join them, as former federal prosecutor Will Rollins has a strong showing in his bid to oust from office conservative Trumper Congressmember Ken Calvert (R-Corona). According to the unofficial returns, Rollins is at 56.5% of the vote, while Calvert is at 43.5%.

With the LGBTQ retirement and tourist mecca of Palm Springs drawn into the new district, Calvert faced a decidedly different electorate than he had in past races. LGBTQ groups rallied around Rollins and ran ads in support of his candidacy.

In dueling statements Wednesday, neither Rollins nor Calvert was willing to concede with an estimated 120,000 ballots left to count.

"This is going to be a close race, but we are encouraged by the early results. I couldn't be prouder to stand with the Democrats, Republicans, and Independents who united in this campaign for compromise, civility, and progress in the United States. And no matter who you voted for in this election, thank you for participating in our democracy, even in the rain," stated Rollins. "Democracy can be slow, but I am committed to making sure that every vote is counted fairly and that all of our voices are heard."

Calvert, meanwhile, insisted he would win the race once all the votes are tabulated.

"We know from recent elections and vote-by-mail return data that the early results disproportionately favor Democrats. In contrast, the in-person and late-arriving vote-by-mail ballots, including those handed in on Election Day, disproportionately favor Republicans," he stated. "Again, there are 120,000 of those ballots remaining to be counted. After all the votes are counted, we will prevail."

Three other out Southern California House candidates appear to have fallen short in their races. Gay progressive Democrat Derek Marshall, with 47% of the vote, is trailing Congressmember Jay Obernolte (R-Hesperia). He currently stands at 53% of the vote in their High Desert 23rd Congressional District east of Los Angeles.

G "Maebe A. Girl" Pudlo, a nonbinary drag queen elected in 2019 as the at-large representative for the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council in Los Angeles, fell short in their attempt to oust Congressmember Adam Schiff (D-Los Angeles) for the state's 30th Congressional District. Schiff is sailing to reelection with 74.2% of the vote compared to Pudlo's 25.8%.

In the rematch between Congressmember Jimmy Gomez (D-Los Angeles) and gay lawyer David Kim (D), who lost to Gomez in 2020, it appears Kim has again fallen short. He was at 46% of the vote while Gomez was leading with 54%.

In the other West Coast congressional race with an out candidate, lesbian former Santa Clara City Councilmember Jamie McLeod-Skinner is in a tight race for Oregon's open, newly drawn 5th Congressional District. She is in second place with 47.6% of the vote, while her Republican opponent Lori Chavez-DeRemer has 52.4% of the current vote tally.

The progressive McLeod-Skinner, who had run for a U.S. House seat in the Beaver State in 2018 and lost, this year had defeated moderate Congressman Kurt Schrader (D-Canby) in the June primary to advance to the fall ballot. But with voters' growing concerns over crime and Democrats' handling of the economy, McLeod-Skinner faced strong headwinds in the general election.

If elected, McLeod-Skinner would be her state's first LGBTQ House member and the first lesbian from the West Coast serving in Congress. Of the current 11 LGBTQ members of Congress, only three are lesbians.

This article will be updated as more ballot returns come in.

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