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

With incumbent bowing out, lesbian Assembly Speaker Atkins set to win CA Senate seat

Assemblywoman Toni Atkins

Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins

Lesbian Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) is all but assured of winning a state Senate seat this fall now that the incumbent has bowed out of the race.

Senator Marty Block (D-San Diego) announced today that he would not seek re-election to his Senate District 39 seat. His decision ends what could have been a divisive battle between the Democratic colleagues and allows the party to focus its resources on other races.

Termed out of the Legislature’s lower chamber this December, Atkins shocked the Statehouse in September when she announced she would run for Block’s seat.

In explaining her decision to reporters, Atkins claimed that Block had agreed to give up his seat after one term so she could run. Block admitted to reporters that the two lawmakers had discussed such an arrangement but insisted he never agreed to step down next year.

While Block had support from his Senate colleagues to retain his seat, Atkins had amassed a large campaign war chest for her race next year. As the Bay Area Reporter noted in November, Atkins had nearly $1.6 million in campaign funds she could tap into for her race.

And this morning Atkins announced she had won the endorsement of the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee. The influential group represents more than 86,000 members and joins an already impressive list of groups and officials backing Atkins for the Senate seat.

“Toni is a champion of health care for all – and shows the effectiveness and leadership California needs from its state Senators,” stated CNA RN Co-President Malinda Markowitz. “And nurses know they can count on Toni Atkins to stand up to the for-profit health care interests in the fight to make sure ALL San Diegans and Californians have quality health care.”

Said Atkins of the endorsement, “Earning the support of the nurses is very personal to me. My sister is a nurse, and so was my mother-in-law. I’ve seen first hand their commitment to patients and the nursing profession – the same commitment the nurses showed when I worked at the community clinics. You can bet that I will be sharing this big endorsement with my constituents and voters.”

Around the same time that Atkins revealed the nurses’ support of her campaign, Block took to the floor of the state Senate to announce he was suspending his re-election campaign. According to the Sacramento Bee, he was greeted with “hugs and well wishes” from his fellow senators.

“The more I thought about it, the more it just didn’t make sense for us to be fighting,” Block said, according to the Bee “We can do so much more to move our agenda forward, an agenda we share, by working together.”

Due to Atkins’ lame duck status in the Assembly – she was first elected to her 78th Assembly District seat in 2010 under rules, since changed, barring her from seeking more than three consecutive two-year Assembly terms – Atkins is stepping down from the powerful speaker position in March.

Succeeding her will be Assembly Speaker-elect Anthony Rendon (D-Los Angeles). It will mark the first time a straight lawmaker has held the influential leadership post since 2009.

Due to the heavy Democratic makeup of Block’s 39th Senate District, which includes most of San Diego and the coastal cities of Coronado, Del Mar, and Solana Beach, Atkins is expected to easily win the seat come November.

She will likely join lesbian state Senator Cathleen Galgiani (D-Stockton) and gay state Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Los Angeles), who are both seeking re-election to their seats this year, in the Legislature’s upper chamber.

Gay Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) is termed out of office this fall, and should gay San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener win the race to succeed him, there will be four out state Senators in the next legislative session. Yet Wiener is facing a tough race against his fellow board colleague Supervisor Jane Kim for the seat.

Another out Senate candidate, Katherine Aguilar Perez-Estolano, is running in the 25th Senate District, which includes the cities of Pasadena, Burbank and Glendale. The married Perez-Estolano is an expert in urban planning and transportation who serves on the California High Speed Rail Authority.

Yet she is facing an uphill climb against three other Democrats and one Republican opponent in the June primary, where the top two vote-getters will advance to the fall general election.

— Matthew S. Bajko, January 28, 2016 @ 1:42 pm PST
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