Online Extra: Political Notes: Gay Latino activist Luis Lopez seeks LA-area Assembly seat
by Matthew S. Bajko
Luis Lopez, a founding board member of the Latino LGBT political action committee Honor PAC, aims to be the third out gay man from the Los Angeles area serving in the Assembly.
Lopez, 38, is seeking the state's 45th Assembly District seat in the 2012 election. At one time it had been held by Jackie Goldberg, one of the first out lesbians to serve in the state Legislature. Goldberg is now supporting Lopez in the race.
The district is based in East Los Angeles and parts of the city of Los Angeles and is 67 percent Latino, as currently drawn. There is a sizable LGBT Latino population in East LA as well as pockets of LGBT people in the LA neighborhoods of Silver Lake, Echo Park, and Hollywood.
Should he win the election next year, Lopez would join two other Los Angeles-area gay Assemblymen, Speaker John A. Perez and freshman member Ricardo Lara, in the state Legislature, should they win re-election to their seats.
"I am happy to be running as an openly gay candidate," said Lopez during a recent fundraiser in San Francisco's Castro District.
Perez and Lopez are longtime friends, having worked together on the Latino Coalition Against AIDS. Lopez said he would be meeting with Perez to seek his endorsement in the race.
He will also be seeking the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund's backing to help raise money. He expects he will need upwards of $400,000 to run a successful campaign.
"We will do everything we can to make sure we are financially viable and competitive," Lopez said during an interview with the Bay Area Reporter while in town. "I am trying to make sure we have a broad coalition to win."
Other Democrats who have filed papers to run for the seat include Oscar Gutierrez; Arturo Chavez, who ran for the 46th Assembly District seat in 2008; and Jimmy Gomez. But the redistricting process could upend who runs for the seat, as Los Angeles is expected to lose up to two Assembly districts this year.
"Until the lines are drawn, we won't know who is in," said Lopez. "The lines can go any way."
No matter the new outlines for the 45th Assembly District, Lopez said he expects to find himself still a resident and eligible to run for the seat.
Among the local LGBT leaders lending their support to Lopez's campaign are Bevan Dufty, the former supervisor now running for mayor; Matt Foreman, the director of gay and immigrant rights programs for the Haas Jr. Foundation; and Miguel Bustos, senior program manager for the Americas class=at>at the Levi Strauss Foundation.
"We need more men of color in leadership roles from our community," said Dufty at the event.
Lopez lives in LA's Silver Lake neighborhood and grew up in City Terrace, a part of unincorporated East Los Angeles. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who held the Assembly seat after Goldberg, appointed Lopez to the city planning commission. Lopez also served on a parks oversight committee and co-chaired his local neighborhood council.
His partner of seven years is Hans Johnson, president of the D.C.-based Progressive Victory, which helps groups increase voter turnout. They met at the 2004 Democratic National Convention shortly after John Kerry gave his acceptance speech of the party's nomination.
Lopez's father emigrated from Mexico to work in the peach orchards of Stockton before landing in LA where he worked as a machinist. His mother was a stay-at-home mom who died from kidney disease when he was a young boy.
"Things got a little difficult," he said. "We all struggled with my mom's death."
While his brothers dropped out of school, Lopez excelled and took refuge in the library.
"The librarian took an interest in me and opened doors to a lot of worlds," he recalled.
He received a B.A. in sociology at Pomona College and earned a master in public policy at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government. As a state lawmaker, Lopez said his goal would be to ensure the state's budgeting process upholds progressive values.
"I will make sure we don't balance the budget on the backs of low-income people," he said, stating he favors imposing a tax on oil companies with drills in the state similar to those they pay in Alaska and Texas. "We need to be smart about our choices."
Due to his Assembly bid Lopez stepped down from the Honor PAC board and resigned as president of its affiliated organization the Honor Fund.
To learn more about his campaign, visit www.lopezforassembly.com.
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