Issue:  Vol. 47 / No. 42 / 19 October 2017
 

Political Notebook: Gay men take over local Democratic Party posts

NEWS


m.bajko@ebar.com

San Mateo County Democratic Party Chair Jeffrey Adair. Photo: Courtesy Jeffrey Adair
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For the first time, gay men are serving as Democratic Party chairs in San Mateo and Contra Costa counties.

The Democratic Party of Contra Costa County elected Jeff Koertzen, of Concord, as its chair January 15. That same night Jeffrey Adair, of Redwood City, was elected chair of the Democratic Party in San Mateo County.

Contra Costa County Democratic Party Chair Jeff Koertzen. Photo: Courtesy Jeff Koertzen

Their elections bring the current number of out gay Democratic Party chairs in the state to four. Eric C. Bauman continues to serve as chair of the party in Los Angeles County as does Gregory Rivera in San Benito County.

"We celebrate the elevation of LGBT leaders as an important affirmation of the tremendous talent and leadership in our community," stated the California Democratic Party's LGBT Caucus Executive Committee in an email. "Jeff and Jeffrey earned the support of their colleagues through tireless dedication to and advocacy for our party. Contra Costa and San Mateo Counties will be well-served by their leadership, as will the whole Bay Area."

Adair, 57, had been serving the past two years as southern vice chair for the San Mateo County Democratic Central Committee. He is also a co-founder and chair, for now, of the Peninsula Stonewall Democrats, a political club for LGBT people in the county.

He is actively seeking someone to succeed him as chair of the Stonewall club so his main focus can be running the county party apparatus.

"My biggest goal is to bring more diversity to the party representatives. I want to start Democratic clubs based on ethnicities," said Adair, the owner of J Floral Art who has been with his husband, Craig Kozlowski, 24 years. "There is a Latino club starting right now that has had two meetings, I think. I really want to get an African American Democratic club going as well."

In terms of LGBT-specific goals, Adair said he accomplished them by forming the Stonewall chapter, which will continue to encourage LGBT people to seek public office in San Mateo County. As local party chair, he is restricted to only supporting those candidates endorsed by the party.

"Really, I am there to support the ones the committee as a whole does," said Adair. "I am there to make sure we, as a party, are supporting them in their campaigns by getting the word out and doing mailers."

Koertzen, 45, who is single, has served on the Democratic County Central Committee in Contra Costa since 2012, and as of 2013, has also served on the state Democratic Party's executive board. In addition to looking to recruit more LGBT candidates for public office in the county, Koertzen said his main goal is to see that those Democratic candidates who are elected are fully supportive of LGBT rights.

"People out here are accepting of gay marriage but there are still some people who don't really understand transgender issues. I want to try to get some education out here on why this is a Democratic value," said Koertzen, the business information manager at the California Transplant Donor Network.

His first major test of steering the party will come with the special election to fill the state Senate seat vacated by Mark DeSaulnier after he was elected to Congress last fall. Two Democrats with strong records on LGBT rights are in the March 17 primary: Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla (D-Concord) and former Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan , who was termed out of office in December.

Beyond that contest, said Koertzen, "We are working on assessing all races across the county where we are under represented and identify seats to get someone elected representing the Democratic Party."

While Contra Costa County now has more registered Democrats than San Francisco – as of November there were 258,862 Democrats in the East Bay jurisdiction compared to 241,000 in the city – Koertzen said he is concerned about the increasing number of voters who opt to decline to state their party preference.

"I want to get people involved in the Democratic Party and have them feel like the Democratic Party represents them," he said.

The former Seattle resident had served as chair of that city's influential LGBT political group known as the Seattle Metropolitan Election Committee. An employee at Microsoft, he quit in 2005 when the tech giant opted not to support an LGBT rights bill pending in the state Legislature due to threats of a boycott made by a Christian preacher.

His decision to resign became national news, and faced with growing complaints from the LGBT community, Microsoft reversed course and backed the bill during the next legislative session.

Koertzen was unable to find work and relocated to Sacramento in search of a job. Five years ago he moved again to Concord when a friend offered to rent Koertzen a mother-in-law unit he owned there.

"Being out of work for so long, my credit took a hit. I was not able to apply for apartments," he recalled. "It was the perfect circumstance and I have a great landlord."

The one drawback of living in the area is the lack of LGBT organizations, said Koertzen, other than a couple of centers focused on youth.

"There aren't that many organizations specifically for LGBT adults out here," he noted.

 

City College board elects gay prez

At its first meeting in a year and a half, the board of trustees for City College of San Francisco elected a gay man to serve as president.

Rafael Mandelman, who lost a bid to serve in the position when he was first elected to the board in 2012, was unanimously elected president at the board's meeting January 22, its first since June 2013. Haight neighborhood activist Thea Selby , recently elected to the board, was picked to serve as vice president.

The board was stripped of its powers as part of the fallout stemming from City College's accreditation threatened with revocation by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges. A special trustee was put in charge of City College and continues to maintain oversight of the academic institution.

Mandelman told the Bay Area Reporter he wants to reclaim the board's power by the end of the year.

"For accreditation reasons and democracy reasons, we have to have the local board in control," said Mandelman, an attorney who is the sole LGBT person serving on the elected body. "We also have to demonstrate we are competent to run this really important institution, which it is, at a time when City College is facing huge challenges, including really seriously declining enrollment."

The college did receive some good news earlier this month regarding its accreditation fight. As the B.A.R. class=dateline>reported last week, a state court judge ruled January 16 that the accrediting commission acted unlawfully in reviewing City College's accreditation.

And two days prior to the judicial decision, the accreditation committee granted "restoration" status to CCSF, giving it two years to fully comply with the requirements needed to be in good standing.

The board is now meeting again regularly at 4 p.m. on the fourth Thursday of the month in the Multi Use Building, Room 140, on City College's Ocean Campus. The next meeting will be February 26.

"It is going to be a gradual process, but I will be seriously disappointed if we don't have most of our authority back by the end of the year. I think it is likely that we will," said Mandelman.

 

Wiener elected chair of transportation board

Gay District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener was elected chair of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority Tuesday, January 27. The body is made up of the city's 11 supervisors and is responsible for long-range transportation planning for the city.

Created by voters in 1989, the transportation authority administers the half-cent transportation sales tax and serves as congestion management agency for San Francisco. The agency is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

Wiener had sought the position, and didn't request heading a board committee because of it, he told the B.A.R. earlier this month.

The supervisor noted that "there's a lot of queer leadership around transportation issues." He and fellow gay District 9 Supervisor David Campos, who chaired the CTA in 2012, represent the city on the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, and Tom Nolan, a gay man who used to run Project Open Hand, chairs the Municipal Transportation Agency board of directors and represents the city on the Caltrain board.

 

Correction

Last week's column about the Outside the Frame festival incorrectly referred to the feature-length film Bassam Kassab is submitting to be screened. It is Sin Visa, (translated Without a Visa), about a Mexican undocumented immigrant whose views on homosexuality are challenged when a same-sex couple befriends him.

The online version of the column has been updated.

 

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. This week's column reported on LGBT support for a "right to die" bill before the CA Legislature.

Keep abreast of the latest LGBT political news by following the Political Notebook on Twitter @ http://twitter.com/politicalnotes.

Got a tip on LGBT politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 829-8836 or e-mail m.bajko@ebar.com.






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