Out CA Leg. candidates advance
by Matthew S. Bajko
Tuesday's primary saw a number of out candidates for state legislative seats, as well as a Riverside congressional seat, advance to the November general election.
Out male candidates faired particularly well in the June primary, where the top two vote-getters, regardless of party affiliation, moved on to the fall contests. Lesbian Assembly candidates in Los Angeles and San Diego, however, failed to survive the June 5 election.
In the fiercely fought race for the Assembly seat covering the gay enclave of West Hollywood, neither of the out candidates placed first or second, according to unofficial returns Wednesday.
In Oakland community college leader Abel Guillen, who identifies as Two Spirit, survived a four-person matchup by placing second for an Alameda County Assembly seat. He would be the first out person elected to the state Legislature from the East Bay should he capture the seat this fall.
Guillen, 37, who serves on the Peralta Community College District board of trustees, will face off against Alameda city councilman Rob Bonta for the open 18th Assembly District seat. Bonta came in first Tuesday with 15,245 votes or 36.84 percent; while Guillen, who earned a last minute endorsement from Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, placed second with 11,562 votes or 27.94 percent.
Placing in a distant third with 7,819 votes or 18.90 percent was AC Transit director Joel Young. While the local attorney was the presumed favorite going into Tuesday's election, Young had been the subject of unflattering press reports about his personal life since last summer.
Republican Rhonda Weber, who didn't mount much of a campaign, landed in fourth with 6,551 votes or 15.83 percent.
At his election night party at Liege Spirits Lounge in downtown Oakland, Guillen was joined by Quan and her husband, Floyd Huen, as he thanked supporters and talked about the fall campaign.
"We know we have a lot of work to do," Guillen told the packed crowd. "We need you to start walking with me and organizing tomorrow."
Guillen referenced campaigning in the city of Alameda, where Bonta serves as vice mayor. "The reception was warm in Alameda," he said to laughter.
Down in Riverside gay Democratic educator Mark Takano, the sole out candidate seeking a U.S. House seat in California this year, placed second in the five-person race for the 41st Congressional District seat. Based on unofficial returns, Takano garnered 36.3 percent of the vote, while the first place finisher was Republican John Tavaglione with 44.9 percent.
In one of the most competitive races for a state legislative seat, lesbian LGBT activist Torie Osborn and gay Republican leader Brad Torgan fell short in their bids for the 50th Assembly District seat covering not just West Hollywood but also the coastal city of Santa Monica.
Osborn, a former San Francisco resident who announced her Assembly bid in late 2010, was in third place Wednesday morning with 11,744 votes for 24.3 percent. Close behind in fourth was Torgan, with 11,730 votes for 24.2 percent.
The first place finisher was Assemblywoman Betsy Butler (D-Marina Del Rey) with 12,519 votes for 25.9 percent. Less than 100 votes behind Butler in second place was Santa Monica Mayor Richard Bloom. The two straight Democrats will now compete against each other in November.
Butler had to move into the 50th Assembly District in order to run for the seat, as her current 53rd Assembly District was carved up due to redistricting. She does represent a small slice of the new AD50, but Osborn and her supporters refuted Butler's claims to be the incumbent in the race and painted her as a carpetbagger.
Osborn's poor showing Tuesday is a blow to lesbian former state lawmaker Sheila Kuehl, a former partner of Osborn's who had fought hard to see her be elected. Butler's first place finish is a win, on the other hand, for gay Assembly Speaker John A. Perez (D-Los Angeles), who had made her election a key priority.
Perez, who placed first Tuesday with 59.6 percent of the vote in the Assembly District 53 race, convinced Butler to seek the AD50 seat. He also pushed a gay WeHo councilman to drop out of the race and support Butler.
In a concession statement she posted to her campaign site Wednesday morning, Osborn once again took aim at the Assembly leader's political maneuvering.
"Well, we made history. We built an insurgent campaign that was vibrant, grassroots, people-powered. We drew over 2,300 individual donors, and dozens of newly engaged volunteers," wrote Osborn. "But, it wasn't enough to overcome a determined and aggressive Sacramento machine – and a praiseworthy surge by my Santa Monica mayor."
Her hat tip to Bloom could presage Osborn endorsing him in the runoff against Butler.
Lesbian businesswoman Laurette Healey also came up short in her bid for the Assembly District 46 seat in the San Fernando Valley. She placed fifth in the six-person race with just 10.6 percent of the vote.
Gay Democratic candidate Brian C. Johnson, meanwhile, was holding on to second place in the AD46 race. Unofficial returns had the charter school executive and education reformer at 20.3 percent with 6,691 votes.
"While it is still extremely close, with 100 percent of precincts reporting, I look forward to a vigorous campaign through November!" Johnson wrote on his Facebook page after the polls closed.
In third place with 6,608 votes, or 20 percent, was Republican candidate Jay L. Stern. The first place finisher as of Wednesday morning, with 27.5 percent of the vote, was Democrat Adrin Nazarian, chief of staff to L.A. City Councilman Paul Krekorian.
In the nearby 51st Assembly District covering Los Angeles' Echo Park and Eagle Rock neighborhoods, gay Latino activist Luis Lopez was also holding on to a slim lead for second place as of Wednesday morning. Lopez had 5,453 votes for 24.5 percent.
Close behind in third place was Arturo Chavez, the district director for state Assemblyman Gilbert Cedillo (D-Los Angeles). Chavez had 5,204 votes for 23.4 percent. Should Lopez's lead hold, he will face off in November against nurses' lobbyist Jimmy Gomez, who placed first Tuesday with 8,362 votes for 37.6 percent.
In San Diego, lesbian Democratic Party leader Pat Washington failed to survive the primary race for the city's 79th Assembly District seat. She landed fifth in the six-person contest with 8.1 percent of the vote.
Incumbent lesbian Assemblywoman Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) easily placed first Tuesday in her three-person race for the 78th Assembly District seat. She garnered 59.6 percent of the vote, while gay GOPer Ralph Denney also advanced to November by coming in second with 28.1 percent of the vote.
Central Valley lesbians advance
Two Democratic lesbian lawmakers near Stockton advanced to the fall general election. Stockton City Councilwoman Susan Talamantes Eggman placed first in her bid for the 13th Assembly District seat.
She trounced her four male opponents by capturing 39.7 percent of the vote for a tally of 15,485. Coming in a distant second was Republican K. "Jeffrey" Jafri with 21.5 percent for a vote count of 8,401.
Having captured more votes than the two GOP primary candidates combined, Eggman is all but assured of winning in November. If she does, she will be the first out woman of color elected to the state Legislature.
Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani (D-Stockton), who came out publicly last fall, is facing a harder runoff fight for the newly drawn Senate District 5 seat. She placed first Tuesday with 41.3 percent of the vote for a tally of 38,547.
In second place was Assemblyman Bill Berryhill (R-Stockton) with 33,504 votes for 35.9 percent. In third was GOPer Leroy Ornellas with 21,190 votes for 22.7 percent.
The two Republicans combined captured nearly 16,200 more votes than Galgiani, giving Berryhill a leg up going into the general election. It is also unclear how her sexual orientation will play out in the fall race.
Los Angles Assemblyman Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) will become the first out person of color elected to the state Senate as he ran unopposed for the newly drawn Senate District 33 seat. With the election this fall a mere formality, look for Lara to dole out his political contributions to other Democratic Senate candidates in order to build up clout prior to being sworn in to the Legislature's upper chamber.
The rest of the state's LGBT Legislative Caucus members on Tuesday's ballot also came out on top.
In San Francisco state Senator Mark Leno is running for the newly drawn Senate District 11 seat, which no longer includes Marin or Sonoma counties. He received 81 percent of the vote Tuesday, while his GOPer challenger, Harmeet K. Dhillon, won 18.5 percent.
Assemblyman Tom Ammiano captured 83.6 percent Tuesday in the city's new 17th Assembly District. His gay GOP challenger, Jason Clark, received 16.4 percent of the vote.
On the Peninsula Assemblyman Rich Gordon (D-Menlo Park) received 56.1 percent of the vote in the new 24th Assembly District. His opponent in the fall will be Republican Chengzhi "George" Yang, who placed second Tuesday with 29 percent.
The three Bay Area Democrats are all expected to easily win their races come the fall.