Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 7 / 15 February 2018

Online Extra: Political Notes: Herrera's mayoral team fixes gay online gaffe


A screen grab from Dennis Herrera's campaign website last week includes the words "sexual preference." The site has since been corrected.
Print this Page
Send to a Friend
Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on MySpace!

City Attorney Dennis Herrera's mayoral campaign team made a major gay gaffe when it launched his new campaign website last month. It referred to being LGBT as a choice.

Rather than use the term sexual orientation, the website erred and had used the phrase "sexual preference."

"Dennis Herrera believes that protecting San Francisco's quality of life is a fundamental value. It means that San Francisco should remain an enjoyable and safe place to live and work for people of regardless of their race, sexual preference, national origin or income," read both a teaser on the site's main page and another page under the "On the Issues" section.

The National Lesbian and Gay Journalist Association's stylebook advises reporters and media outlets to "avoid" using "sexual preference," which implies that people choose to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. Instead, it instructs reporters and editors to use "sexual orientation," which it defines as "innate sexual attraction. Use this term instead of 'sexual preference.'"

Herrera's campaign announced on January 26 that the website had gone live. Within 24 hours, several people had contacted his political consultants at San Francisco-based firm Barnes Mosher Whitehurst Lauter & Partners about the poor word choice.

While the error was fixed in the "Preserving Our Neighborhoods" category under the "On the Issues" section, the incorrect language remained on the homepage at as of Friday afternoon last week. When contacted by the Bay Area Reporter about the gaffe, it was immediately changed to read "sexual orientation."

"It was an oversight. It was supposed to be sexual orientation," said Jill Nelson, a spokeswoman for Herrera's campaign.

As Nelson was being interviewed, she said the firm's technology person was making the change to the website. It is a surprising blunder for a political consulting firm that was co-founded by the late gay consultant Robert Barnes and has run many of openly gay state Senator Mark Leno's (D-san Francisco) campaigns.

"Some of our friends reached out to us and we made the change immediately," said Nelson. "I hope there are a lot of other great things Dennis has done for LGBT people that people will see on the site that Dennis has done."

Perhaps that is why it is so surprising that Herrera, of all people, would make such a mistake. Despite being in different political camps, Herrera never wavered in defending former Mayor Gavin Newsom's decision in 2004 to marry same-sex couples in defiance of California's anti-gay marriage statutes.

He and his team of deputy city attorneys, including out lesbian Therese Stewart, filed a suit against the state later that year that led to the 2008 decision by the California Supreme Court to allow same-sex marriages to take place. And his office has continued to defend the marriage rights of LGBT people in the federal courts in a case seeking to overturn Proposition 8, the voter-approved measure that overturned the state court's decision.

Matt Dorsey, Herrera's openly gay press secretary, chalked up the error to the speed often necessitated by the Internet.

"It is just a careless error. One thing I have noticed with websites and campaigns, it tends to be a committee process and there is an anxiousness to get them up," said Dorsey. "I am sure the campaign will be more careful of reflecting better on Dennis."

Dorsey, who normally uses his personal time to assist his boss on the campaign trail, isn't doing that as much this year with Herrera's mayoral bid.

"I feel bad. I should have been vetting this on my personal time," he said. "I wish I had seen it sooner."

Once he did notice the website mistake, Dorsey said he immediately contacted the campaign.

"When I found out about it, I explained to the campaign web master that my sexual orientation is gay and my sexual preference is Ben Affleck," said Dorsey, adding that mistakes are not uncommon online. "For two years the city attorney website had his wife's name spelled wrong."

Herrera leads in fundraising race

While his campaign team may have egg on its face due to the gay gaffe, Herrera can gloat that he is leading his opponents in the money race.

According to the latest campaign finance reports, made public Monday, January 31, Herrera had netted more than $265,000 since pulling papers last August to run for City Hall's Room 200. The contributions came from 800 individual donors, more than half of whom are San Francisco residents, noted his campaign.

"I've been enormously encouraged by the enthusiasm and support I've received throughout this great city since I announced my candidacy for mayor," stated Herrera. "Like me, they're optimistic about the future, and believe we can make ours a city that works. But they also know it's going to take strong, principled leaders who are committed to the right priorities, and who are willing to do the hard work necessary to solve the problems we face. I'm proud to have their support."

Coming in second was state Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco), who reported raising $170,000 in just seven weeks after announcing his mayoral bid. At nearly $25,000 raised per week, Yee's campaign boasted it is well poised to have a healthy fundraising network to help turn out the vote on November 8.

Of Yee's 700-plus donors, over half gave $100 or less. And they represented 26 of the 28 zip codes in San Francisco. Last week, his campaign announced that the San Francisco Building and Construction Trades Council, AFL-CIO, had endorsed him.

"I am honored by the overwhelming support for our campaign," stated Yee. "I look forward to continuing this discussion with the people of San Francisco regarding what they want of city government and their next mayor."

Landing in third place was political novice Joanna Rees. The venture capitalist netted $154,000.

Former District 8 Supervisor Bevan Dufty, so far the only out declared candidate for mayor, reported raising $108,000. Now that he is out of office, Dufty intends to focus full-time on his campaign. With his limiting donations to $200 per contributor, he is at a disadvantage in the money race compared to his opponents, who can collect up to $500 per person.

Landing in last place in the money hunt was Assessor-Recorder Phil Ting, with $53,000 raised to date. Former Supervisor Tony Hall did not report raising any money for his mayoral bid during the most recent filing period.


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

Follow The Bay Area Reporter
facebook logo
facebook logo
Newsletter logo
Newsletter logo
ISSUU logo