In a move that went largely unnoticed last fall, state lawmakers extended the terms for people serving on county central committees, the oversight panels that run local Democratic, Republican, American Independent, and the Peace and Freedom parties.
Lesbian former state Senator Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego) introduced the bill, SB 1272, that included the term-limit change. Kehoe (seen at right) was termed out of office last year.
The legislation amended Section 7225 of the Elections Code to read that “at every presidential primary election, a county central committee may be elected in each county.”
Nowhere does it specify that the bill is retroactive to last summer’s election, and it has only been in recent weeks that the effect of the switch has come to be realized by local politicos.
Scott Lay, who tracks the state Legislature for the Around the Capitol website, told the Bay Area Reporter that he was unaware of the change until contacted by a reporter Thursday (January 24). He surmised that the legislation was enacted as a cost-saving measure.
“Since there need not be partisan ballots in non-presidential primary years, SB 1272 will save counties significant money by not requiring partisan ballots simply to elect central committee members. Further, the higher turnout found in presidential primary years will yield more public exposure for central committee candidates,” wrote Lay in an emailed response.
But Tom Temprano, president of the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, expressed misgivings about the change. He said that he only learned about the term extension at the local Democratic County Central Committee’s meeting Wednesday, January 23.
“I think it is really troubling as a voter to hear you have elected someone for a 2-year term and then to find out without further input from voters who elect those candidates that they have now doubled the length of their intended term,” he said. “I have some serious reservations about it.”
In San Francisco it means that instead of electing new DCCC members in June of 2014 ahead of the even-numbered supervisor races that fall or the mayor’s race in 2015, the current people on the committee will determine endorsements in those elections.
The local Democratic Party’s endorsements are seen as critical support for candidates seeking local offices, as it comes with inclusion on the party’s slate card mailed to voters and access to campaign volunteers. And the term-limit extension now sets up some interesting situations for the DCCC when it comes to endorsing in upcoming elections.
In 2014 both gay District 9 Supervisor David Campos and District 3 Supervisor David Chiu are expected to run for the 17th Assembly District seat when gay Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) is termed out. Campos and Chiu were elected to the DCCC last summer and will have front-row seats for the panel’s debate on whom to back for the Assembly seat.
It also means that gay District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener will be serving on the DCCC when he seeks re-election in 2014 to the Board of Supervisors or decides to also seek the Assembly seat. District 11 Supervisor Malia Cohen is in a similar situation, as she won a seat on the DCCC last June and will have to decide in 2014 if she wants to seek re-election or also run for Assembly.
The term extension also gives a leg up to those DCCC members elected from the 17th Assembly District who may be eying runs for the open supervisor seats in 2014 or another elected office on an upcoming ballot. Same for those DCCC members from the 19th Assembly District on the westside of San Francisco thinking of seeking public office.
Several ideas of how to address the switch were floated at the DCCC’s meeting this week. But it remains to be seen if a new election for the 24 seats on the oversight panel will be held prior to 2016.
For now those people who were planning to run for DCCC in 2014 find themselves shut out from seeking an entry way into local politics for three years.
“For young LGBT folks who ran for seats last time around and didn’t make it – and I know there are young LGBT folks who were looking forward to running again next year – now in all likelihood won’t have that opportunity,” said Temprano.