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

Political Notebook: CA LGBT caucus elects first inland lawmaker as chair


Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman. Photo: Rick Gerharter
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By electing lesbian Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton) its chair, the California Legislative LGBT Caucus is being led for the first time by a lawmaker from the state's inland region.

Since its creation in 2002 the affinity group for out lawmakers had elected chairs from the coastal regions in both northern and southern California. For the past three years gay Assemblyman Rich Gordon (D-Menlo Park) had served as chair.

Eggman's election to her Assembly seat three years ago marked the first time a Central Valley legislator had joined the LGBT caucus. To date only one other member of the group, which now numbers seven, has hailed from the state's inland region: lesbian state Senator Cathleen Galgiani (D-Stockton).

(After former Republican Bakersfield state Senator Roy Ashburn came out as gay in 2010 following his arrest on drunk driving charges after he left a gay Sacramento nightclub, he did not join the LGBT caucus. He was termed out of office in November of that year.)

"As an Assembly member from the Central Valley, one thing I have focused on since I arrived here is the inequities between coastal California and inland California," Eggman told the Bay Area Reporter . "As chair of the LGBT caucus, that is something I will continue to focus on."

Eggman, elected chair January 7 during the LGBT caucus' first meeting of 2015, said there is an "intersection" between the issues confronting LGBT and rural residents of the Golden State, such as poverty and the concerns of youth and seniors.

Within both communities "disparity exists," said Eggman, 53, a former Stockton City Council member who married her longtime partner, Renee L. Hall, last summer.

Although the state has made remarkable strides in advancing rights and protections for its LGBT residents, Eggman said she is concerned about how those advancements and gains are being enacted at the local level in more conservative areas.

"Sometimes the implementation in rural communities is not the same as on the coast," Eggman said, adding that a priority of hers is finding "ways to advance that feeling of safety and equality across the state as far as LGBT issues are concerned."

In terms of actual LGBT legislation to be introduced this legislative session, Eggman said the caucus members "have a lot of ideas still. We haven't narrowed down the legislative agenda yet."

One top priority for Eggman over the next year will be to recruit LGBT people to run for state Assembly and Senate seats. In 2016 three of the caucus' current members will be termed out of office: lesbian Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), gay state Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), and Gordon from his Peninsula seat.

As was evidenced last year in the race to replace gay Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), who was termed out of office, there is no guarantee that their successors will be LGBT. Due to the defeat of gay San Francisco Supervisor David Campos by Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco), who is straight, in their race for Ammiano's 17th Assembly District seat, the city for the first time in nearly two decades has no LGBT representation in the Legislature's lower chamber.

The same scenario could play out again in the races next year for all three of the legislative seats held by out lawmakers that will be up for grabs. Any LGBT candidates are sure to face strong challenges for the seats from straight opponents.

Ensuring the longevity of the LGBT caucus was among the topics its members discussed during their meeting last week, said Eggman.

"Certainly, I will be able to be out in the forefront searching for candidates," she said. "We are really looking at picking up seats in 2016. I think we will be very visible across the state this legislative cycle."

Eggman noted recruitment of LGBT candidates dovetails "very nicely" with her role as both Democratic Caucus chair in the Assembly and also the head of the LGBT caucus' own political action committee, its fundraising arm. Eggman intends to duplicate Gordon's success in raising money during the last election for the LGBT caucus' endorsed candidates in 2016.

"Rich has done a phenomenal job raising money for our PAC. We maxed out our donations to all the LGBT people running in the last election," she said.

In a statement following Eggman's election as chair of the LGBT caucus, Gordon praised his successor in the role.

"Assembly member Talamantes Eggman has been a strong advocate for the rights of the LGBT community, and I am confident the caucus will continue to thrive under her leadership," he stated.

Leno also had high praise for Eggman's ability to lead the LGBT caucus.

"It was a unanimous decision and I appreciate Susan stepping up to the plate to take on the responsibility and hard work necessary to do the job justice," Leno told the B.A.R. in an interview. "I've been impressed with Susan Eggman since the first day I met her."

And he also was effusive about Gordon's leadership of the group.

"Rich Gordon took the caucus to the next level and did a fantastic job," said Leno.


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 expected leadership changes at LGBT Dem clubs in SF.

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) 829-8836 or e-mail mailto:.


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