Online Extra: Political Notes: EQCA sits out House races
by Matthew S. Bajko
Equality California, the statewide LGBT lobbying group, has chosen to stay out of this year's congressional races. It is a reversal from 2010 when it endorsed House candidates in the Golden State for the first time.
The reason EQCA has given for its silence on the 2012 congressional match-ups has to do with the decennial redistricting process putting more statehouse seats into play this year. A record number of LGBT candidates also sought legislative seats this year, making review of their candidacies a top priority for EQCA's political action committee.
The switch to having primary contest winners be the top two vote-getters regardless of party affiliation also added to the need to focus on the legislative races for Assembly and Senate seats, said Alice Kessler , EQCA's legislative advocate who coordinates with its PAC.
"We are not doing federal races this year. With redistricting at the state level there was more work to do probably than ever before. We needed to focus our resources," Kessler said. "We are a statewide organization and our focus is on the state Legislature. We wanted to do that well and not spread ourselves too thin."
EQCA leaders have also had to focus much of their time over the last year on internal issues that have buffeted the organization. They have struggled with a leadership deficit at the top as well as fiscal constraints ever since Roland Palencia unexpectedly quit as EQCA's executive director in October.
Laurie Hasencamp, EQCA's interim executive director since February, rarely speaks to the press and has little public presence. There has been no word on when a permanent person will be named.
Critics have suggested in recent months that the group has lost some of its standing with lawmakers in Sacramento. In a piece last month on her LGBT POV blog, longtime lesbian Los Angeles-based reporter Karen Ocamb referred to EQCA as "so inert, so ineffectual" that it had in essence become a "hollow" organization but that "no one seems to care."
In a separate August article covering EQCA's recent Los Angeles gala, Ocamb chastised the organization for not being more involved in the federal races this year.
"The November election will be marked as yet another missed opportunity for EQCA to be an effective movement leader – this time on the federal level, when the organization is most needed," she wrote.
Yet it is unclear how much influence EQCA's PAC could have played this year considering the ongoing problems at the organization. And the PAC's experience in 2010 with endorsing in congressional contests likely influenced its decision not to focus on this year's House races.
Two years ago when EQCA announced its inaugural congressional endorsements the initial list of candidates it backed was shockingly thin. It included just eight of the candidates seeking one of the state's 53 House of Representative seats.
All but two of the endorsed candidates hailed from southern California, with most of the Bay Area delegation missing. In order to secure EQCA's endorsement candidates had to answer a three-page questionnaire and score a perfect 100 percent; in turn few House members or candidates bothered to respond.
EQCA leaders at the time pointed to the fact that the group had never endorsed House candidates before as partly to blame for why so many of the state's congress members had not bothered to seek its endorsement. They also suggested the lengthy EQCA questionnaire – most groups ask congressional candidates to fill out only one page of questions – could have been a factor.
After the Bay Area Reporter began contacting the Bay Area House candidates on the 2010 ballot about EQCA's endorsement, many chalked up their failure to respond as an oversight. Several subsequently turned in their questionnaires and won EQCA's backing.
Kessler said the PAC did discuss if it should weigh in on the 2012 congressional races with openly LGBT candidates. But the PAC decided that if it did then it would open itself up to requests for endorsements from pro-equality straight candidates.
"Again, we are focused on state races this year. We are trying to have a focused effort in an area where we have the most expertise to contribute," said Kessler.
The lone out congressional candidate in California this election cycle, Mark Takano from Riverside, told the B.A.R. last week that he did not know why EQCA decided not to endorse in House races this year.
"I don't know if I can say I am disappointed," said Takano, when asked about not having EQCA among his endorsers. "I am not sure why they made that decision."
Takano, in town for a fundraiser Thursday, September 13, added that, "I, of course, would welcome endorsements from any pro-equality group."
Should Takano win his race in November he may be able to say he has EQCA's endorsement when he seeks a second term in two years.
Kessler did not rule out EQCA's PAC wading into the House races in 2014.
"In the future we could expand to federal races," she said.
To see the list of state legislative candidates EQCA's PAC has endorsed in 2012, visit http://www.eqcapac.org/site/pp.aspx?c=5oIBJNPwGjIWF&b=5817187.
Lesbian PAC hosts SF event
The newly launched national LPAC, short for lesbian political action committee, is holding its first event in San Francisco since it went public earlier this summer. Its stated purpose is to help raise money for and elect "progressive, pro-lesbian candidates."
The event Tuesday, September 18 is hosted by LPAC's advisory board and will feature special guests National Center for Lesbian Rights Executive Director Kate Kendell; Emily's List Western Regional Director Michelle Ortiz ; and Leanne Pittsford , CEO of marketing consultant firm Start Somewhere.
The event takes place from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Bubble Lounge, 714 Montgomery Street in North Beach. To RSVP visit http://action.teamlpac.com/p/salsa/event/common/public/?event_KEY=68088.
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Got a tip on LGBT politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 861-5019 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.