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

Political Notebook: Lesbian union leader announces SF supervisor bid


District 11 supervisor candidate Kimberly Alvarenga. Photo: Courtesy Alvarenga for Supervisor Campaign
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With her entrance into the race for San Francisco's District 11 supervisor seat, lesbian union leader Kimberly Alvarenga is the first LGBT candidate to announce a 2016 bid to join the Board of Supervisors.

Should she win, Alvarenga would be the first out lesbian to win a district-based supervisor election since 2000, when the city's 11 supervisors reverted to being elected from districts rather than citywide. The last lesbian to serve as a supervisor was Leslie Katz , who left the board in 2001 and is now a city port commissioner.

Lesbians have not held a political office in the city since 2008, when Carole Migden lost her re-election to her state Senate seat. The last lesbian elected to a municipal office was Susan Leal in 2001 when she won re-election as the city's treasurer.

Since then a number of lesbians have run for local offices but fell short. The last queer woman to serve in an elected office, bisexual District 5 Supervisor Christina Olague, who was appointed to fill a vacancy, lost her bid for a full term in 2012.

Due to the dearth of lesbian elected politicians in not only San Francisco, but throughout the Bay Area, Alvarenga's campaign is sure to draw increased attention from within the LGBT community.

"For me personally, it makes a difference, as being a queer woman of color I always understand very personally what it means to not have a seat at the table and have my issues addressed, whether as a queer woman, a woman of color, or the child of immigrants," Alvarenga told the Bay Area Reporter in her first press interview since filing to run Friday, December 11. "I am running for supervisor in District 11 because I care very deeply about the city. Like many residents, I am trying to raise my family in the city and stay in the city."

Alvarenga, 46, the political director of Service Employees International Union Local 1021, and her wife, Linnette Haynes , have been together 16 years and live in the city's Crocker-Amazon neighborhood, where they are raising their 3-year-old son, Oziah . They moved into their home in 2008.

"When I moved there, I was not involved in politics at the time," said Alvarenga, who had worked for a number of social service agencies. "We were looking for a place to move and everything at that time was becoming more unaffordable. We found a wonderful small place in that neighborhood."

A San Francisco native and an only child, Alvarenga was raised by her mother, who came to the city from El Salvador. Her father came from Mexico. At age 10 she and her mother moved into a public housing complex in Bernal Heights.

She graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School, since renamed Phillip and Sala Burton High School, and attended City College of San Francisco. Eventually, she was able to transfer to Oakland's Mills College, where she graduated in 2005 with a degree in women's studies and a minor in ethnic studies.

She worked for a variety of nonprofits, including Catholic Charities and Bay Area Legal Aid, before being hired in 2008 by newly elected gay Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) as his district director. When Ammiano was termed out of office last December, she went to work for the union.

Long rumored to be interested in seeking the supervisor seat, Alvarenga said she has been talking to District 11 residents and other community leaders over the last year about entering the race. The current holder of the seat, Supervisor John Avalos, will be termed out in January 2017 and has endorsed Alvarenga to succeed him.

"District 11 is ground zero for the historic inequality affecting San Francisco," stated Avalos. "As a San Francisco resident who has fought against many obstacles to stay in San Francisco to raise a family here, Kimberly has that quiet tenacity to continue the fight against the wealthy interests that seek to deny working people a place in this city. District 11 still has a chance to be the home of San Francisco working and middle class soul. Kimberly is well suited to take on the challenge of leadership."

In addition to Avalos, Alvarenga has the endorsements of gay District 9 Supervisor David Campos, District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim, and District 1 Supervisor Eric Mar. Ammiano has also endorsed her bid.

"In the six years that Kimberly served as the district director of my district office her policy and constituent skills demonstrated leadership and ability to make her a perfect fit for District 11," stated Ammiano.

Ahsha Safai, who lost to Avalos in 2008, is again seeking the District 11 seat, which includes the city's southern neighborhoods of the Excelsior, Ingleside, Oceanview, Outer Mission, and Crocker-Amazon. He lives in the Excelsior with his wife, Yadira , and their two children.

Considered the more moderate candidate, Safai worked for former mayors Willie Brown and Gavin Newsom and has been the political director for San Francisco Janitors Union Local 87 since 2008. Among his backers are gay state Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), gay District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener , and gay former District 8 Supervisor Bevan Dufty.

It remains to be seen if any other candidates will enter the race. Early next year Alvarenga plans to host an official kick-off event for her campaign.

"I feel residents of District 11 haven't had an equal voice at the table in City Hall. John has advocated very strongly for the district, but it has not always gotten the attention from the mayor as it deserves," said Alvarenga. "I want to work in partnership with residents of District 11 to address the issues they face daily. So many of my neighbors say they want their children to be able to continue to stay in San Francisco and raise their own families here but that is becoming less of a reality today."


Alameda County Superior Court Judge Tara Flanagan

Lesbian judge fined by state agency

Lesbian Alameda County Superior Court Judge Tara Flanagan and her 2012 campaign committee treasurer Carol Pranka, a close, personal friend, have agreed to pay fines of $4,500 and $1,500, respectively, to settle a matter with a state watchdog agency.

The California Fair Political Practices Commission is expected to approve the settlement at its meeting Thursday, December 17. The women were fined by the agency for misreporting $25,000 in loans Pranka made to Flanagan when she ran for a seat on the county court three years ago.

According to the FPPC, Flanagan deposited the checks from Pranka into her personal accounts and then wrote checks for identical amounts to her campaign committee. An audit by the FPPC found that she did not properly disclose the money was from Pranka on her campaign financial statement.

In its report, the FPPC found the mistakes came from the judge and her friend not realizing that Pranka's loans couldn't be treated as Flanagan's personal funds, and therefore, when Flanagan contributed the money to her own committee had to report Pranka as the source of the funds.

"Instead of reporting that Pranka was the true source of the loans, the contributions were disclosed as personal loans from Flanagan to her own committee, in violation of government code ..." ruled the FPPC.

The agency also ruled that Pranka was in violation for not filing a major donor semi-annual campaign statement as she was required to do for contributing $25,000 to Flanagan.

The agency did note that the women were cooperative, provided documents asked of them, took steps to correct the reporting mistakes, and agreed to an early settlement of the matter.

In a statement to the B.A.R. Flanagan said she is "not able to personally comment on the pending matter, other than to say my campaign and I made some inadvertent mistakes in 2012 that were called to our attention, and we have since worked to clarify and take responsibility for them."

Flanagan's counsel, Tom Willis of Remcho, Johansen, and Purcell in San Leandro, told the B.A.R., "There was no intent at all to circumvent any contribution limits or hide the original source of funds."


Out leaders named to pot panel

Several out leaders were named this week to a panel tasked with prepping policy in San Francisco should state voters legalize marijuana use next year.

A ballot measure decriminalizing the personal use of marijuana is expected to be on the state ballot next fall. Should it pass, city leaders want to be prepared with plans for how to implement it.

This week the Board of Supervisors appointed nearly a dozen people to the Cannabis State Legalization Task Force, which gay District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener pushed to form. Among them were Terrance Alan , a gay man who is chairman of the SF Late Night Coalition; Laura Thomas, who identifies as queer and is the California deputy state director for the Drug Policy Alliance; Erich Pearson, a gay man who co-founded medical marijuana dispensary SPARC; gay architect Tom McElroy; and Jon Ballesteros , a gay man who is senior vice president of public policy for the San Francisco Travel Association.

Also tapped for the panel was Sara Payan , the director of education at the Apothecarium, a dispensary located on upper Market Street in the city's Castro district.


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 a state panel calling for Mavericks to allow female surfers.

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


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