Political Notebook: EQCA blasted for endorsing straight candidate in LA
by Matthew S. Bajko
Equality California has come under fire for snubbing Torie Osborn, a lesbian candidate running for a state Assembly seat that covers Santa Monica and West Hollywood, with its decision to endorse her straight opponent, Assemblywoman Betsy Butler (D-Marina Del Rey).
As the Bay Area Reporter noted online November 7, the decision by EQCA's political action committee was hardly a surprise. Butler serves on the Equality California Institute's board of directors, which is separate from the EQCA PAC, and had earned the backing of the state's largest LGBT advocacy group last year when she also found herself running against an openly gay candidate.
But EQCA's decision in 2010 not to endorse gay Manhattan Beach Mayor Mitch Ward did not produce the same backlash as its announcement has this year. For one thing Ward was not seen as strong a candidate as is Osborn, a former executive director of the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center.
And Butler was running for a seat centered in her hometown. This time she has opted to move into the newly drawn 50th Assembly District, provoking Osborn and her supporters to label Butler a carpetbagger.
Butler contends that label doesn't apply. Even though her current home address is outside the district, a sliver of her 53rd Assembly District does fall within the boundaries of the new AD50 seat.
Courage Campaign Founder and Chair Rick Jacobs issued a statement saying he was surprised by the endorsement and called on EQCA to reconsider. The openly gay Jacobs added that the PAC should first meet with Butler, Osborn, and another candidate, Santa Monica Mayor Richard Bloom, before making a decision.
"EQCA owes itself, the community and the candidates the decency to withdraw its endorsement of a candidate who sits on their board, interview all candidates in this open district while insisting that it cannot endorse anyone on their board, and making its endorsement process public," wrote Jacobs. "I would hope that all three candidates would agree that this is the right thing to do to restore faith in an otherwise tarnished and meaningless endorsement."
Longtime LGBT activist David Mixner wrote on his blog that EQCA had "stepped in it big time" by choosing "the safe straight candidate over an exciting lesbian pioneer." The endorsement flap even got the attention of the San Francisco Chronicle over the weekend, which took note of the "mud-flinging" in the race.
EQCA's PAC has defended its decision, pointing to its policy of automatically endorsing lawmakers up for re-election to the same chamber who earn 100 percent on its legislative scorecards. It does not do dual endorsements, and EQCA leaders note that their role is not merely to see LGBT people be elected.
The group contends it needs to show straight lawmakers who support pro-gay bills they will be rewarded come election time.
"We have an endorsement policy that helps support our mission of working in the Legislature to advance equality," said EQCA spokeswoman Rebekah Orr.
Not everyone in LA thinks EQCA erred. Ari Ruiz , the political vice president for the local gay Stonewall Young Dems club, said Butler has been a "straight ally" for a long time and has proven she deserves the LGBT community's support.
"EQCA, I think, did the right decision," said Ruiz, noting while he supports Butler the Stonewall club has yet to endorse in the race. "It is important for us to have the backs of our straight allies when they need it."
EQCA isn't the only group put into an awkward situation due to Butler's decision to seek the AD50 seat. The LGBT Legislative Caucus has also had to re-examine its stance in the race.
Despite the fact that all seven of its members have individually endorsed Butler in the race, the caucus as a whole is withholding its endorsement in deference to Osborn. Yet up until this week Butler had erroneously included the caucus among her list of endorsers in the race.
It hasn't been the only confusion over who is backing whom. Both Osborn and Butler for a time this fall listed openly gay state Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) as a backer on their campaign sites. Leno initially had given Osborn his endorsement prior to the new maps being released by the state redistricting commission.
Once Butler jumped into the race, Leno withdrew his support and switched allegiances to his colleague in Sacramento. He acknowledged to the B.A.R. last week that he should have waited for the new maps to be released.
And he agreed with EQCA's reasoning that when an incumbent ally, who has a perfect scorecard on LGBT interests, is running for re-election that it's important to support them.
Meeting on SF redistricting this weekend
The city's Redistricting Task Force has been holding a series of outreach meetings to gather community input as it prepares to redraw the boundaries of San Francisco's 11 supervisor districts. The lines need to be redrawn due to the population growth recorded in the 2010 census.
The task force has until April 15 to complete its work so that the new lines will be ready in time when voters in odd districts go to the polls next November to elect new supervisors.
This weekend it will focus on District 8, which includes the gay Castro neighborhood, as well as South of Market's District 6 and District 3 in Chinatown and North Beach. The meeting begins at 10 a.m. Saturday, November 19 at the Tenderloin Community School, 627 Turk Street.
The task force's regular meetings take place the first Wednesday of each month at 3 p.m. in Room 406 at City Hall and the third Friday of each month at 6 p.m. in Room 416 at City Hall.
Web Extra: For more queer political news, be sure to check http://www.ebar.com Monday mornings around 11 a.m. for Political Notes, the notebook's online companion. This week's column features an interview with White House LGBT media point man Shin Inouye.
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Got a tip on LGBT politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 861-5019 or e-mail mailto:.