Political Notebook: SF again faces prospect of having no LGBTQ state legislator

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday May 31, 2023
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San Francisco District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, left, and San Francisco Democratic Party Chair Honey Mahogany may both run for a legislative seat in 2024.. Photos: Courtesy the subjects<br><br><br><br><br>
San Francisco District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, left, and San Francisco Democratic Party Chair Honey Mahogany may both run for a legislative seat in 2024.. Photos: Courtesy the subjects

Back in 2016, when gay former state Senator Mark Leno was term-limited from running again for his San Francisco seat, the city was facing the possibility of having no LGBTQ representatives in the state Legislature. Yet Scott Wiener, a gay man serving at the time on the Board of Supervisors, won a hard-fought race to succeed Leno and took his oath of office that December.

With Wiener eying a run next year for Congress, San Francisco is once again faced with the prospect of seeing no one from the LGBTQ community represent it in Sacramento following the 2024 elections. It all depends on if a series of electoral musical chairs plays out among the city's political leaders, and who decides to run for — and wins — the city's state Senate seat and two Assembly seats.

The candidacy news would first be set off by Congressmember Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) opting not to run for reelection next year. Wiener, who already has set up an exploratory committee to seek the House seat, would then officially jump into the race for Pelosi's open 11th Congressional District seat.

As his current term in the Legislature is up next year, it would mean Wiener's Senate District 11 seat would now be open in 2024. A likely candidate to succeed Wiener would be Assemblymember Matt Haney (D-San Francisco), who was just elected to his 17th Assembly District seat last year.

"If Scott were to run for Congress ... then I would consider it at that time. I am not spending time on it right now," Haney told the Bay Area Reporter when asked about his running for the legislative seat.

He has pulled papers to seek reelection to the Assembly next year. But with Haney long talked about as a mayoral candidate at some point, his holding the citywide Senate seat is seen as bolstering his chances in a future bid for Room 200 at City Hall.

Yet he could find himself fending off a challenge from a more progressive Democrat were he to run for Wiener's seat. Haney would also face questions about wanting to leave the Assembly so soon for the Legislature's upper chamber.

"Haney needs to stop playing musical chairs. He needs to finish a term," said gay former Assemblymember Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco). "It is a bad look for us and a bad look for him."

Were Haney to run for Senate, it would mean his Assembly seat would be up for grabs in 2024, as the elected position is on the ballot every two years. Jumping into the race would almost assuredly be gay District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, now serving his final term on the board.

Mandelman has made no secret of his desire to run for a legislative seat. He recently opened up a 2028 state Senate campaign account, which is when Wiener would be termed out of office if he ends up running for reelection next year.

"If there is an open state legislative seat, I intend to run for it. Which and what year remains to be seen," said Mandelman.

He could transfer any funds raised in that account toward a 2024 Senate bid. But when asked about how next year's elections could play out, Mandelman told the B.A.R. he isn't interested in competing against a sitting state legislator.

"I have no intention of running against Matt Haney," he stressed. "Lots of different things could happen and could happen quite soon. I would like to be ready for any eventuality."

Another likely candidate for Haney's Assembly seat would be his district director Honey Mahogany, who is transgender and nonbinary. The well-known Black LGBTQ leader currently chairs the San Francisco Democratic Party and lost her bid last year to succeed Haney in the District 6 supervisor seat.

"I am going to keep an open mind, certainly. I haven't made that decision," Mahogany recently told the B.A.R. when asked about running for the Assembly seat.

Mahogany did say she has no plans to move to either District 5, which now includes the Transgender District she helped form, or District 9, where she lived for a number of years, in order to run for one of those supervisorial seats next year.

"I think it is a pretty crowded field already," she said of the D9 race, where three out candidates have already pulled papers, as the Political Notebook reported last week. "District 5 now includes a neighborhood that remains near and dear to my heart, the Tenderloin. But I don't live there now and don't plan on moving out of D6 in the future."

While Mandelman and Mahogany would be strong out candidates for the Assembly seat, a straight candidate could also jump into the race and potentially win. San Francisco hasn't had an LGBTQ member of the Assembly since 2014, when Ammiano was termed out of office that December.

The westside

To date, no LGBTQ candidate has announced a run to succeed Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), who is termed out of his 19th Assembly District seat in 2024. San Francisco District 2 Supervisor Catherine Stefani, like Mandelman serving her last term on the board, has filed to seek the seat, which covers San Francisco's western neighborhoods and several of San Mateo County's most northern cities.

Queer BART board member and current president Janice Li has been talked about as a likely candidate for Ting's seat. But she told the B.A.R. Tuesday that she isn't planning to enter the race, with her focus squarely on addressing the regional transit agency's budget crisis and her professional work addressing anti-Asian hate.

"I am not making any moves to file and I am not making any moves to prepare for that filing deadline. That is probably the best and most accurate way to put it," said Li, who also noted that she has no plans to begin raising money for such a campaign.

With California holding its primary next year on March 5 due to it being a presidential election year, the filing deadline for 2024 legislative candidates is December 8. If the incumbent officeholder opts not to run for reelection, then the deadline will be extended to December 13.

"If I end up running it is because something has seriously happened that makes me feel I have to do it. I am not feeling that right now," said Li, who did tell the B.A.R. she would like to see a progressive Chinese leader enter the race. "I am not ready to jump in."

As for the prospect of seeing no LGBTQ legislator from San Francisco for the first time since 1996, Li told the B.A.R. part of the responsibility lies with the current officeholders helping to build a pipeline of younger out leaders who could step up and run.

Mahogany noted it would "be great" to see the city once again elect a woman to represent it in Sacramento. The last to do so was Fiona Ma, who was termed out of the Assembly in 2012 and is currently the state's elected treasurer.

"I am not worried about that. San Francisco has a long history of sending LGBTQ candidates to Sacramento. I am sure some LGBTQ representation will be continuing in Sacramento one way or another," said Mahogany. "Frankly, other communities are under-represented in Sacramento as well."

Haney told the B.A.R. there continues to be a need for an LGBTQ legislator from San Francisco and sounded confident such a person would be serving in Sacramento during the 2025 legislative session.

"Whether it is a senator or assemblymember, we absolutely should have an LGBTQ representative in Sacramento, and I think we will," he said.

Asked about the absence of queer representation in the Statehouse from San Francisco, Mandelman said, "I think that would be a significant problem at a time when folks around the country and around the world are looking to California to lead."

Gay man announces Sacto mayor run

Gay former Sacramento city councilmember Steve Hansen is running to become mayor of the state's capital next year. He was widely expected to do so after the city's current mayor, Darrell Steinberg, announced last week that he would not stand for reelection in 2024.

Hansen officially announced his candidacy Tuesday, May 30, with the release of a launch video. The partnered father of two young sons also emailed supporters of his past council campaigns about his decision.

"Growing up, people like me didn't serve in elected office. A closeted gay kid, raised by a single mom, my family struggled. We moved around a lot, faced housing insecurity, and even spent some time in a domestic violence shelter," wrote Hansen of his time living in St. Paul, Minnesota.

After graduating from Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, Hansen relocated to California. In 2012, he became the first out person elected to Sacramento's city council.

But he lost his bid for a third term on the March 2020 primary ballot and stepped down from his council seat that December. Now he is vying to be elected his city's first out mayor on next year's March 5 primary ballot; the national LGBTQ Victory Fund and statewide LGBTQ advocacy organization Equality California both endorsed Hansen May 31.

If no mayoral candidate wins more than 50% of the vote, the top two vote-getters will face off in the November 5 general election. Assemblymember Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento), prosecutor Maggy Krell and epidemiologist Flojaune Cofer are also running, with more candidates likely to get into the race.

Should Hansen be elected, he could be the second out mayor to lead one of California's 10 largest cities come 2025. Gay San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria is seeking a second term next year.

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. The column returns Monday, June 5.

Got a tip on LGBTQ politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 829-8836 or e-mail [email protected]

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