Out candidates seek
East Bay Assembly seat
by Matthew S. Bajko
Voters in the East Bay will once again have a chance to elect an out person to the state Assembly when they head to the polls in 2014.
Two out candidates, so far, have jumped into the race to succeed Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), a longtime LGBT ally who has a lesbian daughter. Due to term limits, Skinner is barred from running for another two-year term in the Assembly.
Her 15th Assembly District includes portions of Alameda and Contra Costa Counties, including the cities of Albany, Berkeley, Emeryville, Piedmont, El Cerrito, Hercules, Pinole, Richmond, San Pablo, the community of Kensington, and a portion of Oakland, including Montclair and North Oakland.
Since the seat will be open next year, the race to replace Skinner is expected to draw a crowded field of candidates. Already, five Democrats have either launched campaigns or indicated they are interested in the seat.
Among them are lesbian campaign consultant Peggy Moore, an Oakland resident who worked on President Barack Obama's re-election last year, and bisexual East Bay Municipal Utility District board member Andy Katz, a Berkeley resident who is the government affairs director at Breathe California.
Also in the candidate mix are Oakland resident Elizabeth Echols, a former regional administrator for the Small Business Administration appointed by Obama; Emeryville resident Sam Kang, general counsel at the Greenlining Institute; former Richmond City Councilman Tony Thurmond, who previously ran for the seat and is a director at the Lincoln Child Center; and current West Contra Costa Unified School District board member Charles Ramsey, who lives in El Cerrito.
In recent weeks Katz and Moore both formally entered the Assembly race. On May 16 Katz, 33, wrote on his Facebook account that "it's official" and included a link to his campaign website at www.AndyKatz.com.
"Your continued friendship and support will mean so much as we begin this campaign," Katz wrote in a May 16 email sent to supporters in which he asked for donations to his campaign. "An open Assembly seat doesn't come along often, so this promises to be an incredibly competitive race. Let's get this campaign off to a strong start."
Also in early May, Moore, 49, created an event page on Facebook to kickoff her Assembly campaign, noting that she is "running for office." Her first official event was held May 19 in Edmond, Oklahoma at her aunt and uncle's house.
"This was not an easy decision for me as I have been on the campaign trail for a while now. But after nearly five years of running the California political department for President Obama and his campaign, I realize our work together is not done," Moore wrote in a message announcing the event.
She added that, "It is my Oklahoma values that you have all helped shape, that I bring with me to this effort. These core values, my faith in God and a little help from family and friends, I know that this is possible. Keep me in your prayers."
It is not the first time Moore has sought political office. In 2005 she unsuccessfully ran for the District 2 seat on the Oakland City Council after Danny Wan, the first out LGBT person to serve on the council, resigned to care for his ailing parents.
Since then she has built up her political connections in the East Bay and throughout the state by working for Obama's campaign and taking a leadership role in the LGBT-focused East Bay Stonewall Democratic Club. Moore is also well known within queer women's circles as the co-founder of the Sistahs Steppin' in Pride Dyke March that was held for a decade in Oakland and ended in 2011.
Moore did not return a call seeking comment this week. Following her Midwest fundraiser, which occurred amid devastating tornados, Moore posted a thank you onto Facebook.
"Special shout out to those family and friends here who made it out in the middle of the storm. The foundation has been set and I am forever grateful," wrote Moore, adding that "our prayers" are with those hit by the tornado that destroyed the town of Moore, Oklahoma.
As for Katz, he was first elected to the East Bay Municipal Utility District in 2006, representing Ward 4, which includes Albany, Berkeley, El Cerrito, Emeryville, Kensington, and North Oakland. He currently serves as president of the EBMUD board and his current term will expire December 31, 2014.
In his announcement email he pledged to "fight tirelessly to ensure our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender sisters and brothers throughout the state are afforded the equal rights we all deserve."
He told the Bay Area Reporter in a phone interview that he started coming out publicly shortly after his last election. With as many as four or more likely opponents, he said it was important to start campaigning now to build up support.
"I am exited about the race because it is an opportunity to bring my expertise in energy and environmental issues and health care to the state legislature," said Katz. "I think it may seem early but community members are starting to pay attention and this is an important seat."
He earned a BA and his master's degree in city and regional planning from UC Berkeley, and a law degree from Santa Clara University. He is a former chair of the Sierra Club California and has been involved in passing clean energy legislation in Sacramento.
"My experience makes me uniquely qualified for this office. I've worked to protect our environment, clean up our air, support working families, and create jobs," wrote Katz in his email to supporters. "I have a deep commitment to education, to social justice, and to improving the lives of those I serve. My values reflect the progressive values of our district."
Under the state's top-two primary system, Katz and Moore must first survive the June primary next year and advance to the run-off in November. The two candidates with the highest vote counts, regardless of their political party affiliation, will face-off in the fall election.
It is not the first time an out candidate has sought an East Bay Assembly seat, though none have succeeded in winning their race.
Last fall Oakland resident Abel Guillen , who identifies as two spirit and dates both men and women, lost his bid for the 18th Assembly District seat in a campaign that saw his opponent and eventual winner, former Alameda City Councilman Rob Bonta, play up his being a married father with kids in his campaign literature.
Back in 2007 gay Berkeley City Councilman Kriss Worthington announced he planned to seek the seat that Skinner holds when it was last up for grabs. A push poll in that race asked voters about Worthington's sexual orientation and gay issues; he ended up in third place in the June 2008 primary in which Skinner placed first and Thurmond second.
The race next year for the Berkeley-centered Assembly seat won't be the only Bay Area contest for a legislative seat to feature at least one out candidate. In the South Bay gay Campbell City Councilman Evan Low is expected to seek the 28th Assembly District seat.
Low, 30, works for the incumbent, Assemblyman Paul Fong (D-Cupertino), who will be termed out next year. In 2011 Low suspended his campaign for Fong's seat when his boss decided to seek re-election and not a higher office.
Currently serving as mayor of his hometown, Low's council term expires in November of 2014.
In San Francisco gay District 9 Supervisor David Campos is widely expected to jump into the race to succeed gay Assemblyman Tom Ammiano. Serving in the city's eastern 17th Assembly District, Ammiano is termed out of office next year, and along with Campos, District 3 Supervisor David Chiu, the board president, is also expected to run for the legislative seat.
Neither has officially declared their intentions yet to run for the Assembly.
Web Extra: For more queer political news, be sure to check http://www.ebar.com Monday mornings at noon for Political Notes, the notebook's online companion. The column returns Monday, June 3.
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Got a tip on LGBT politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 861-5019 or e-mail email@example.com.