CA LGBTQ supervisor candidates await final ballot counts

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday March 6, 2024
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Jennifer Esteen, left, and John Bauters, both of Alameda County, and Monica Martinez of Santa Cruz County sought Tuesday to be the first LGBTQ members of their boards of supervisors. Photos: Courtesy the candidates
Jennifer Esteen, left, and John Bauters, both of Alameda County, and Monica Martinez of Santa Cruz County sought Tuesday to be the first LGBTQ members of their boards of supervisors. Photos: Courtesy the candidates

Running in elections across California Tuesday were eight LGBTQ supervisor candidates aiming to be the first out members on their county boards. Several are now in a wait-and-see mode as their county election offices count the remaining ballots to determine what their electoral fates will be.

The lone out supervisorial candidate who entered the March 5 primary assured of victory was lesbian Tulare County Supervisor Amy Shuklian of Visalia. As no one filed to run against her, she cakewalked into a third term as her board's District 3 supervisor, having first been elected in 2016.

In the Bay Area, gay candidates Jennifer Esteen and John Bauters ran to be the first LGBTQ supervisors in Alameda County. According to the latest returns, both were in second place in their respective races.

For Esteen, a nurse who lost a bid for state Assembly two years ago, such a showing won't be enough to oust District 4 Supervisor Nate Miley from the office he first won in 2000. With roughly 37% of the vote, Esteen was trailing far behind the incumbent Tuesday night.

Miley, the current board president, was in a commanding first place with 63% of the vote. With just the two candidates on the ballot, the top vote-getter from Tuesday's race will be declared the winner of the seat.

In the race for the East Bay board's District 5 seat, being vacated this year by Supervisor Keith Carson, Bauters was in second place with 20% of the vote according to the early returns. The Emeryville city councilmember was one of nine people seeking to succeed Carson.

Due to the crowded field, none were expected to receive more than 50% of the vote Tuesday to clinch the contest. Thus, the top two finishers will compete on the November 5 ballot.

Currently in first place in the race is Oakland City Councilmember Nikki Fortunato Bas, who had nearly 27% of the early vote count. And in third place was Berkeley City Councilmember Ben Bartlett with nearly 19% of the vote.

In the North Bay's Solano County gay former Vallejo city councilmember Michael Wilson was in first place with 51% of the vote in the race for the open District 1 Supervisor seat. He is seeking to succeed his boss, District 1 Supervisor Erin Hannigan, as the first LGBTQ person on the countywide governing body.

Hannigan had endorsed Wilson in the race. His only opponent, Vallejo Housing and Community Development Commission Vice Chair Cassandra James, was trailing him by 232 votes.

Seeking to become the first LGBTQ person elected to the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors is Monica Martinez. She sought the District 5 seat being vacated by Supervisor Bruce McPherson, who endorsed Martinez in December.

The nonprofit executive and queer mom, who grew up in Bakersfield, would also be the first woman to serve on the countywide body since 2012. She would also be the first woman elected to the District 5 seat, which includes the San Lorenzo Valley and its communities of Ben Lomond, Boulder Creek, and Felton, where Martinez resides.

Based on the early vote count Martinez was in first place but falling short of the 50% plus one vote threshold to win the seat outright and avoid a fall runoff race. As of the latest count she was at 47%.

Currently in second place with nearly 20% of the vote is Christopher Bradford, followed by builder Tom Decker at nearly 19%. Theresa Bond, an advocate on local water issues like Bradford, was in fourth place with 13%.

In the Central Valley, Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission LGBTQ+ resource manager Jennifer Cruz is coming up short in her bid to oust from office Fresno County Supervisor Nathan Magsig. The Republican voted last year to create a board tasked with reviewing books in the county's library following complaints about LGBTQ titles it had displayed during Pride Month.

Cruz, the mother of two children, is in second place with 30% of the vote. Magsig easily took first place with 70% based on the early returns.

In the race for the District 4 seat on the Kern County Board of Supervisors, gay Wasco Mayor Alex Garcia's goal Tuesday was to be one of the two candidates advancing to the fall ballot since no candidate was expected to surpass the 50% threshold to win outright. Based on the early returns, he is so far in third place with nearly 16% of the vote.

In first place is incumbent Supervisor David Couch, first elected in 2012, with almost 54% of the vote. Delano City Councilmembers Salvador Solorio-Ruiz and Veronica Cruz Vasquez were in second and fourth place, respectively, with nearly 18% and 13%.

In Southern California Gay Skyforest resident Graham Smith also appears to have fallen short in his bid to be the first gay supervisor in San Bernardino County. One of several candidates running against District 3 Supervisor Dawn Rowe, Smith is currently in third place with 11% of the vote.

Rowe was leading in first place with roughly 59% of the vote, enough to avoid a runoff race in November.

Shuklian is among the eight known LGBTQ county supervisors in California. District 3 San Diego County Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer, a Democrat who is nonbinary and pansexual, is fending off a challenge from Republican former San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer on the fall ballot. (Because they were the only ones to file, there was no need to hold a primary race Tuesday to determine the two candidates moving on to November.)

The other six are all gay men, none of whom are on the ballot this year. Martin Huberty serves in Calaveras County; Ken Carlson in Contra Costa County; Yxstian Gutierrez in Riverside County; and Rafael Mandelman, Matt Dorsey, and Joel Engardio all serve in San Francisco County.

Editor's note: This story will be updated as new vote totals are released.

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