Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 11 / 15 March 2018

Online Extra: Political Notes: Talk turns to replacement for vacant Dem Party post


California Democratic Party Chair John Burton. Photo Rick Gerharter
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As delegates from San Francisco descend on the brand new JW Marriott in Los Angeles later this week for the annual California Democratic Party state convention, they will not only be focused on who the party should back in various state races on the June 8 primary ballot.

They will also be discussing who should be appointed to the vacant region 4 director post following the sudden death last week of August J.P. Longo, a gay disabled man who had held the party job for three years. Talk will also center on fulfilling Longo's wish to see the party's 2011 state convention return to San Francisco.

Longo, who died Tuesday, April 6, represented both San Francisco and San Mateo counties within the state party's governing apparatus. He fought a fierce re-election campaign for the post last spring, defeating San Francisco Supervisor Chris Daly in a landslide at that year's state convention.

John Burton, chair of the California Democratic Party, said last week he thought the delegates from the region would likely vote first on who they would like to see fill the vacant post.

"I have no idea. There will probably be a special election," said Burton when asked about filling the post by the Bay Area Reporter.

Aaron Peskin, chair of the San Francisco Democratic Party, had to look up the rules when asked how a replacement is picked.

"The person I would normally ask would be August Longo, who could tell me off the top of his head all the rules," said Peskin.

Should there be a vote of the delegates during this weekend's convention for a new regional director, the state party's executive committee could use it to guide its decision in the matter.

"August had a year left on his term," said Peskin, who is a member of the state party's executive committee.

But some friends of Longo's suggested last week that no decision would be made during the convention on how to pick a successor for the post. Rather, they predicted that a person would not be named until the executive committee's next meeting this summer in Sacramento.

One possibility is seeing former Daly City Councilmember Judith Christensen, a member of the San Mateo County Democratic Central Committee, be appointed.

The pick would be a compromise between Longo's more moderate supporters in San Francisco and Peskin and his progressive majority on the local party's DCCC. Christensen could not vote on endorsements of candidates in the fall supervisor races because she does not live in San Francisco.

But there is a chance of seeing Daly get the seat. He told the B.A.R. Friday that he would be willing to serve as regional director if asked.

"I haven't dealt with or thought about it or talked to anyone about the political ramifications of" Longo's death, said Daly. "If the party wants a youthful invigoration on the grassroots level, which I think the party needs, I would be ready to serve. At this point it is up to the Sacramento power base of the party."

 Even though he is not running in the June primary to retain his seat on the DCCC, Daly said he does plan to remain active in the local party. He also said that despite having his family living in Fairfield, where he bought a home, he continues to maintain his primary residence in San Francisco and would continue to do so should he be elected to fill the regional directorship vacancy.

"Clearly, as long as I maintain my domicile and my voter registration on Stevenson Street in the 13th Assembly District, clearly I would be qualified," said Daly, who will be termed out of his District 6 supervisor seat in January. "If the state party chairman called me about serving out this term, I would have that conversation."

But Daly would likely face strong opposition from the city's elected leaders in Sacramento, such as state Senator Mark Leno and Assemblywoman Fiona Ma. Both have seats on the local DCCC and exert huge influence on Democratic Party matters.

Both supported Longo in his race against Daly last year. Asked last week about the matter of filling the vacant post, Leno said he had yet to talk to any party leaders about it.

"The process should unfold organically within the region of the party," said Leno. "It is too early given the recent passing of August. I have heard nothing on that issue."

Union strife hinders SF convention

Another topic of speculation at the Democratic confab, which takes place April 16-18, will be where next year's state party convention will take place. It has been so long since California's Democrats met in San Francisco that no one contacted by the B.A.R. last week could remember the year when the city last played host to it.

Prior to his death, Longo had been working feverishly to convince party leaders to select his hometown to host the 2011 state party convention. And many of his friends feel doing so would be a significant way to honor his work and leadership within the Democratic Party.

"He was working really hard to bring it to San Francisco," said Julius Turman, a close friend to Longo.

Turman said he thought it had been 17 or 18 years since the state Dems met in San Francisco.

"I hope they do bring it to San Francisco. It would be a big tribute to the man who loved this city," he said.

Peskin said that many local Dems have been pushing to see the state party return to San Francisco.

"All of us have been trying to get the convention moved back here. That decision has not been made yet to my knowledge," said Peskin.

But Burton said last week it would be near impossible for Democrats to select the city to host their next state convention when the unions are boycotting local hotels. Last week workers at the Hilton San Francisco held a three-day strike.

The work stoppage came nearly eight months after contracts covering Hilton employees as well as 8,000 other San Francisco hotel staffers expired. They are members of Unite Here Local 2.

"Until this is settled and we can find a hotel, we wouldn't hold a convention in a town where the hotels are on strike," said Burton.

Newsom loses SoCal gay groups in lt. gov bid

Mayor Gavin Newsom continues to have trouble attracting support from LGBT people in southern California for his lieutenant governor campaign.

As the B.A.R. reported last week, the predominately LGBT San Diego Democratic Club endorsed Los Angeles City Councilmember Janice Hahn in the race in a lopsided 67 percent to 27 percent endorsement vote.

The West Hollywood/Beverly Hills Democratic Club and the Long Beach Lambda Democratic Club have since followed suit and are backing Hahn in the race. And out lesbian Sheila James Kuehl , a former state senator from Los Angeles, also announced her endorsement of Hahn in the race last week.

The Lambda Club vote to endorse Hahn was unanimous, while the executive board of the West Hollywood/Beverly Club recommended an endorsement of Newsom but was overridden by a vote of its membership.

The San Diego Stonewall Democratic Club's membership last week also overturned its leaders' initial decision to remain neutral in the race, shot down a move to back Newsom and ultimately endorsed Hahn. Out lesbian state Senator Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego) announced Sunday that she too had endorsed Hahn.

"Janice Hahn is my next lieutenant governor," said Kehoe. "She stands for equal rights, education and the environment, so for me it's an issues trifecta."

Keep abreast of the latest LGBT political news by following the Political Notebook on Twitter @

Got a tip on LGBT politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 861-5019 or e-mail  

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