Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 3 / 18 January 2018

Political Notebook:
Gay CA controller candidate
hangs on to second place


John A. Perez has widened his lead for the second spot in the state controller's race.
(Photo: Rick Gerharter)
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A gay candidate for California controller saw his hold on second place widen this week, according to unofficial returns Wednesday morning.

As of Wednesday, candidate Betty Yee is in third place in the controller's race.(Photo: Yee for Controller campaign)

In recent days the results in the close contest have seesawed between gay Assemblyman John A. Perez (D-Los Angeles) and Betty Yee, a Democrat who represents the Bay Area and northern California on the state Board of Equalization.

Since placing second on the night of the June 3 primary, Republican candidate David Evans is now lagging behind in fourth place. Evans lives in California City in Kern County and is the vice present and chief financial officer of Boardwalk Motor Car Group in Redwood City.

Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin is in first place in the race for state controller.
(Photo: Courtesy Swearengin for Controller campaign)

Meanwhile, Republican Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin continues to hold on to first place in her bid for the relatively unknown controller position. Under California's open primary system, the candidates with the top two vote totals, regardless of party affiliation, advance to the general election in November.

The Yee and Perez campaigns have remained largely quiet over the last two weeks. In an email to supporters the afternoon of June 4, Perez sounded confident that he would survive the primary.

"In the coming days, counties will be counting late absentee ballots and we are confident that they will continue to strengthen our position to win in November," wrote Perez.

In her last email to supporters, Yee wrote on June 6, "I remain strong and optimistic."

Perez, the first out LGBT person elected to the powerful Assembly speaker post, which he resigned from last month, would like to be the first out candidate to win a statewide seat.

If he does, he would be only the second known LGBT person to hold one of the state's eight constitutional offices. The first is believed to be Tony Miller, a gay man and Democratic lawyer who was appointed to the vacant secretary of state position in 1994.

Miller, however, lost his bid for a full term, and in 1998, he again came up short in his bid for lieutenant governor.

As of press time Wednesday afternoon Perez's total vote count stood at 859,226 votes, giving him a 1,688-vote lead for second place over Yee. He also had inched up to 21.8 percent of the vote, ending the 21.7 percent statistical dead heat he and Yee had been in for days.

Yee remained stuck in third with 857,538 votes, and Evans trailed in fourth place with 830,289 votes. Swearengin had a comfortable hold on first place with 980,744 votes.

County election officials have until Friday, July 4 to send their final counts to the Secretary of State's office. The state agency must complete its review of the county results by the following Friday, July 11.


Advocate: Tie pot legalization to seniors

Speaking to the Bay Area Reporter about his testimony before a state Assembly committee on aging, a well-known AIDS advocate suggested proponents of legalizing marijuana in California should tie their proposal to funding senior services.

More specifically, Jeff Sheehy, a gay man who advised former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom on HIV policy, said the state should designate tax money gained from legal pot sales toward addressing the needs of seniors, whether LGBT or straight. Based on demographic trends, he noted that one-in-five California residents will be seniors soon.

"There is no money right now. There are no funds to take care of people who are aging," said Sheehy. "It makes political sense. The group least likely to vote for this is older folks uncomfortable with legal cannabis. Why not give them a stake in moving that forward?"

It is likely that California voters will be asked to decriminalize cannabis use at the ballot box in 2016. Usage of marijuana for medical reasons has been legal in the Golden State since voters approved Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act, in 1996.

The B.A.R. spoke with Sheehy after he addressed the Assembly Committee on Aging and Long-Term Care, which convened a special hearing focused solely on LGBT senior issues Tuesday, June 10. He was invited to address lawmakers in his role as the patient advocate and member of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine Board of Directors.

In his comments during the hearing Sheehy suggested one way to ensure doctors in California have the training they need to treat LGBT patients would be to require cultural competency as a part of their getting licensed to practice medicine.

"They should have to take course work and pass it," said Sheehy.

As the B.A.R.'s online Political Notes column reported Monday, June 16, the Assembly aging committee plans to issue a report on the needs of the state's seniors this November.


CA lawmaker embraces AIDS group's name

Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada (D-Davis), presiding over the hearing last week on LGBT aging issues, brought some levity to the proceeding when she introduced the co-founder of the San Francisco-based group Let's Kick ASS.

"That is the acronym for AIDS Survivor Syndrome. I must say that is the acronym in case this will ever be captured for opposition research," joked Yamada, who is termed out of her Assembly seat this year and may run for higher office someday. "Yeah, but I believe in kicking ass."

During his testimony Tez Anderson , who had been invited to address the Assembly committee, was unapologetic about using a swear word in the name of his group.

"Despite my relatively aggressive sounding name with kick ass, it really has something to do with describing a symptom of something that no one is addressing," he said. "I saw a need and we are filling it. It would be nice to have money to do that sometime; for now we are doing well on our own with grassroots [support.]"


Web Extra: For more queer political news, be sure to check Monday mornings at noon for Political Notes, the notebook's online companion. This week's column reported on the CA Assembly hearing on LGBT aging.

Keep abreast of the latest LGBT political news by following the Political Notebook on Twitter @

Got a tip on LGBT politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 861-5019 or e-mail

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