Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 8 / 22 February 2018

UPDATED: SF lesbian supervisor candidate earns backing of Equality California

Kimberly Alvarenga, left, greets a voter while out campaigning. Photo courtesy Alvarenga's campaign.

Kimberly Alvarenga, left, greets a voter while out campaigning. Photo courtesy Alvarenga’s campaign.

Equality California, the statewide LGBT advocacy group, has endorsed Kimberly Alvarenga, a lesbian seeking the District 11 supervisor seat in San Francisco.

Alvarenga learned of the support from EQCA’s political action committee Wednesday, the same day she and her supporters were able to block her opponent, Ahsha Safai, from securing the San Francisco Democratic Party’s endorsement for a second time.

As noted in a front page story in Thursday’s Bay Area Reporter, it has been 16 years since a lesbian has served on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Several candidates have vied for a seat over the ensuing years, but none has been successful post 2000 when board seats reverted back to being elected by district.

Alvarenga is aiming to end that drought of lesbian leadership in the city – it has been eight years since a lesbian candidate has been elected to any political office in San Francisco – by succeeding District 11 Supervisor John Avalos, who is termed out of office and has endorsed her bid.

She and her wife, Linnette Haynes, have been together 17 years and live in the city’s Crocker-Amazon neighborhood, where they are raising their 4-year-old son, Oziah.

“I am just overjoyed to be getting support from basically the largest advocacy organization for our LGBT community,” said Alvarenga, 47, the political director of Service Employees International Union Local 1021. “In light of the fact we are losing so many queer people to other places, I feel blessed today to have their support.”

EQCA Executive Director Rick Zbur told the B.A.R. that the organization sees Alvarenga as part of a farm team of local politicians it is trying to elect this fall that can go on and run for statewide or legislative seats in the future.

“Kimberly obviously fits into that. She is experienced and has a deep understanding of our issues” said Zbur, pointing to her prior work with gay former state Assemblyman Tom Ammiano. “We think she will be a really strong elected official.”

(The organization publicly announced its endorsement of Alvarenga this afternoon, Friday, September 30, several hours after the B.A.R. broke the news on its blog.)

This is the second high-profile race in San Francisco that EQCA has taken sides in this political season. It not only has endorsed gay District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener’s bid for state Senate, but its PAC has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on attack ads against his straight opponent, District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim.

Her campaign has repeatedly attacked EQCA and Wiener for the ads, claiming the PAC has been using money from real estate interests and others to pay for the ads. In response, as the B.A.R. first reported back in May, EQCA and Wiener’s campaign have said it should come as no surprise that it is working to elect the gay candidate in the race.

EQCA has made Wiener’s election a top priority, since San Francisco would be without any out lawmakers in its state delegation since 1996 if Kim wins.

That same consideration played out in the decision to endorse Alvarenga, said Zbur, as there is the possibility of seeing no LGBT people on the board depending how several races turn out in November.

“Another thing that guided this endorsement is we do believe it is important that the LGBT community have a seat at the table,” he said. “Having someone who can speak from personal experience and authenticity is important in advancing LGBT civil rights and social justice.”

EQCA will be donating $500, the total it can, to Alvarenga’s campaign. And it will be using its PAC funds to send out a mailer on her behalf to its members in San Francisco and to voters in the district. She can greatly benefit from the PAC’s largess, as she was not endorsed by the local Democratic Party, and therefore, cannot tap into its financial resources.

She and her supporters were able to block Safai from having the party’s support a second time at Wednesday night’s Democratic County Central Committee. His supporters had the oversight body for the local Democratic Party vote a second time on endorsing Safai but they fell short.

District 11 supervisor candidate Ahsha Safai. Photo courtesy Safai's campaign.

District 11 supervisor candidate Ahsha Safai. Photo courtesy Safai’s campaign.

“Thank you to the more than 70 community leaders, labor allies and elected officials that helped us stand against big money and the real estate industry last night! I am truly inspired by your commitment to San Francisco’s working people,” Alvarenga posted on her campaign’s Facebook page following the vote.

This morning Safai announced that he had secured the sole endorsement of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 10 – “the union that brought San Francisco the great labor leaders – Harry Bridges and LeRoy King,” he wrote in an email to supporters. “They join over 20 local unions who support my campaign for Supervisor. I am so honored to have such strong support from my brothers and sisters in labor.”

Safai, 43, lost to Avalos in 2008 for the District 11 seat, which includes the city’s southern neighborhoods of the Excelsior, Ingleside, Oceanview, Outer Mission, and Crocker-Amazon. A first generation American of Iranian descent, Safai was born in Iran and, at the age of 5, moved with his mother to Cambridge, Massachusetts.

After graduating from Northeastern University in 2000, he and his wife, Yadira, who was born in San Francisco, moved to the city. They live in the Excelsior with their two children.

Considered the more moderate candidate, Safai worked for former mayors Willie Brown and Gavin Newsom and has been the political director for San Francisco Janitors Union Local 87 since 2008.

— Matthew S. Bajko, September 30, 2016 @ 11:10 am PST
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