Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 12 / 22 March 2018

Political Notebook: SF LGBT Democratic clubs endorse candidates, eschew debates in fall races


District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim received the Milk club's endorsement but did not get backing from the Alice club. Photo: Rick Gerharter
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One sign of this fall's low-wattage election season in San Francisco is the lack of forums or debates with candidates for local offices.

Unlike in years past, when both sponsored candidate debates or forums, neither of the city's two main LGBT Democratic clubs, Alice B. Toklas and Harvey Milk, are planning to do so this year.

"I don't know there were any races where we felt it was necessary," Tom Temprano, co-president of the more progressive Milk club, told the Bay Area Reporter. "To be honest, I have heard about very few forums with the candidates."

Zoe Dunning, co-chair of the more moderate Alice, told the B.A.R. that the club's board has not discussed holding any candidate forums this fall.

"I think most of the supervisor races are fairly non-controversial," said Dunning, noting that several candidates have no opponent. "We have some unopposed incumbents. But school board is going to be a competitive race, as well as community college board and some of the ballot propositions."

Asked if Alice would sponsor a forum with the candidates for the educational oversight bodies, Dunning did not rule it out.

"We don't know yet," she said.

As for Milk, Temprano said that the club hasn't "traditionally done forums for either of those offices," meaning the seats on the school and community college boards.

To date, Temprano said, "There is seemingly not a whole lot of interest" in this year's elections.

One race that has sparked enough interest to merit candidate forums, apparently, is the District 6 supervisor seat, where the incumbent, Supervisor Jane Kim, is seeking re-election to a four-year term. Running against her are three men: gay Rincon Hill resident Jamie Whitaker; neighborhood activist Michael Nulty, who told the B.A.R. he identifies as homosexual; and David Carlos Salaverry, a Republican who placed third in the June primary for the 17th Assembly District seat.

Whitaker told the B.A.R. this week that the South Beach Democratic Club is hosting a candidate forum for the three Democrats in the race at 7 p.m. September 3 at the South Beach Harbor service building located at Pier 40 near AT&T Park.

The League of Women Voters of San Francisco, added Whitaker, also has a District 6 forum scheduled at 6 p.m. Friday, September 19 at Golden Gate University, Room 2201, 536 Mission Street.

The league, which did not return a call seeking comment by press time, has yet to list any candidate forums on its website other than one for the state Assembly District 17 seat, where Supervisors David Chiu and David Campos are running against each other to succeed termed out gay Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco).

Its schedule lists the debate as taking place from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday, October 2; a location has yet to be given.

After the B.A.R. went to press Wednesday, the league's chair of candidate forums, Jolinda Sim, responded to the request for comment left with the group Tuesday. She said the Assembly race forum will take place at UCSF Mission Bay's Genentech Hall.

Sim also said the league is planning to host forums with the candidates running in the District 10 supervisor race and for community college board. Details for those events have yet to be worked out.

The league is not planning anything with the school board candidates or for the other supervisor races this fall, added Sim.


Alice, Milk endorse in local races

This week the two LGBT political clubs did decide their endorsements in the local races for political offices and ballot initiatives. Unsurprisingly, the members of Alice and Milk took different positions in a number of races. (See the Monday, August 25 Political Notes online column for a report on the club's ballot initiative endorsements.)

Of the five even-numbered incumbent supervisors seeking re-election this year, Alice has endorsed all but one, Kim in District 6. The club opted for no endorsement in that race this year.

District 10 Supervisor Malia Cohen was endorsed by the Alice club. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland

District 2 Supervisor Mark Farrell , District 4 Supervisor Katy Tang , and District 10 Supervisor Malia Cohen this week all won Alice's backing in their re-election campaigns. Gay District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener had already won an early endorsement from the club in February.

In an email to the B.A.R., Alice Co-Chair Ron Flynn explained the snub of Kim was largely due to her vote not to oust San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi from office after he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge stemming from a dispute he had with his wife in late 2013 that left her arm bruised.

"Alice considered the full record of Supervisor Kim, who is an ally on many issues. We remain, however, committed to standing with victims of domestic violence and the workers that support them," wrote Flynn. "Taking it all into consideration, we did not endorse any candidate."

The Milk club took a nearly polar opposite position in the supervisor races. It endorsed Kim and took no endorsement stances in Farrell, Tang, and Wiener's races. Tang is running unopposed and Farrell has one opponent, Juan-Antonio Carballo.

The moderate Tang, said Temprano, "doesn't reflect our values as a club." While Farrell, who is also a moderate, has reached out to the club on several issues, Temprano said that, "A majority of the club wasn't pleased enough with his record to vote for the endorsement."

Wiener faces four protest candidates: nude activist George Davis; gay blogger and LGBT global rights activist Michael Petrelis; Tom Wayne Basso, whose family owned a now-closed Noe Valley eatery; and community activist John Nulty , who, like his twin brother Michael, also told the B.A.R. that he identifies as homosexual.

"There wasn't any indication on my end that any one of the candidates had particularly strong support among the club members," said Temprano. "The strongest sentiment was just disappointment there wasn't a more viable challenger to Supervisor Wiener."

District 10 challenger Tony Kelly was endorsed by the Milk club. Photo: Courtesy Kelly for Supervisor campaign

In the District 10 race, Milk snubbed the incumbent and gave a first choice endorsement to Tony Kelly, who nearly won the seat in 2010, and a second choice endorsement to Ed Donaldson. Under the city's ranked-choice voting, voters can rank up to three candidates on their ballot.

"I think the club feels very strongly it is time for a change in D10 and to have a new voice on the Board of Supervisors," Temprano said.

Assessor-Recorder Carmen Chu and Public Defender Jeff Adachi, who are both running unopposed for four-year terms in November, ended up with polar opposite endorsements from Alice and Milk. Chu won Alice's support but not Milk's; Adachi garnered Milk's backing but not Alice's.

The clubs also differed in the races for seats on the city's two educational oversight bodies.

In the race for three open seats on the San Francisco Unified School District Board of Education, Alice snubbed the two incumbents in the race, Emily Murase and Hydra Mendoza. It endorsed one candidate: gay communications and marketing consultant Mark Murphy .

Milk also snubbed the incumbents and instead endorsed Stevon Cook and Jamie Rafaela Wolfe , a transgender woman who works at a nonprofit school for children with emotional and developmental issues.

In the race for three four-year seats on the Community College Board of Trustees, which oversees City College of San Francisco, once again the two incumbents, John Rizzo, the board's president, and Anita Grier, its vice president, failed to secure support from either Alice or Milk. Gay activist Dan Choi, best known for getting arrested in front of the White House for opposing the military's former ban against out service members, was also snubbed by the two clubs as he makes his first bid for political office.

Alice endorsed Haight neighborhood leader Thea Selby and former college board member Rodrigo Santos, who filed after the initial deadline had been extended due to gay board member Lawrence Wong 's decision to not seek re-election. Santos lost his bid for a full term on the board in 2012.

The Milk club also endorsed Selby as well as Wendy Aragon and Brigitte Davila . In the race for a two-year term on the college board, to fill a vacancy created when Chris Jackson resigned, Milk is backing former gay student trustee William Walker. Alice, however, endorsed Amy Bacharach.

In the race for the District 8 BART Board of Directors seat, which covers the city's western neighborhoods, Democrat Nicholas Josefowitz , a solar energy company founder, won Alice's backing in his bid to oust the incumbent, James Fang , the lone Republican to hold public office in the city. The Milk club voted for no endorsement in the race.

Because it is a nonpartisan race, Temprano said the Milk club could have endorsed Fang in the race despite his being a member of the GOP. Due to his siding with BART workers during their recent strikes, Fang has attracted labor and progressive support in his re-election bid.

Nonetheless, Fang could not meet the club's threshold of 50 percent plus one vote to nab an endorsement from Milk.

"There was no consensus around the best candidate for the race," explained Temprano.

Also this week the Alice club swung its support to Carol Kingsley in the judicial race for the open Office 20 seat on the San Francisco Superior Court. The club earlier this year had backed Assistant District Attorney Kimberly Toney Williams in the race, but she did not survive the primary. Milk had endorsed and continues to support criminal defense attorney Daniel A. Flores , who placed first in the primary and is now running against Kingsley on the November ballot.

Oakland mayoral candidate Rebecca Kaplan was the first choice of the Milk club in her bid to unseat Mayor Jean Quan. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland

East Bay races update

The Milk club this week voted to endorse lesbian Oakland At-Large City Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan as its first choice in the Oakland mayor's race and civil rights attorney Dan Siegel as its second choice. Like San Francisco, Oakland has ranked-choice voting for its mayoral elections.

Kaplan, whom the club had endorsed when she ran for re-election in 2012, had sought out Milk's endorsement in the mayoral race. A number of club members then suggested Milk also consider supporting Siegel.

"Really, it is unorthodox for us to endorse an Oakland candidate, period, obviously," said Temprano. "Though, interestingly, an increasing number of our members have to live in Oakland now."

Oakland City Councilwoman Pat Kernighan , who holds the District 2 seat, has given her sole endorsement in the race to succeed her to Abel Guillen , who identifies as Two Spirit and currently serves on the Peralta Community College District Board of Trustees.

"Abel Guillen is the right person to tackle the challenges we face in Oakland. As a municipal finance adviser and community college trustee, he knows what it means to balance a budget while protecting essential services for residents," stated Kernighan in an email Guillen's campaign sent August 15 announcing her endorsement decision. "I enthusiastically support Abel to continue my work on behalf of District 2."

Guillen, who lost a bid for a state Assembly seat in 2012, faces four challengers in the race, including former news anchor Dana King and Kevin Blackburn , the assistant vice president for legislative and regulatory affairs at the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco. Also running are Ken Maxey and Andrew Park, a Baptist minister who works at UC Berkeley.

In El Cerrito, gay City Council candidate Gabriel Quinto , who is HIV-positive and Filipino American, is now facing a competitive race due to the late entrance of community activist Nick Arzio.

Quinto, a local Democratic Party activist, and the city's current mayor, Janet Abelson, had filed to run by the August 8 deadline. Because incumbent Councilwoman Rebecca Benassini opted not to seek re-election, the filing deadline was extended allowing for Arzio to enter the race.

According to the West County Times, it marks the first time the city, which is in Contra Costa County and not in Alameda County, as last week's Political Notebook mistakenly reported, has had a contested council race since 2008.


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 California lawmakers designating June 11 as a special day honoring LGBT veterans.

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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