Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 7 / 15 February 2018

Chiu's the choice in AD 17


David Chiu waves a rainbow flag in last year's San Francisco Pride parade. Photo: Chiu for Assembly campaign
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Residents in San Francisco's Assembly District 17, which covers the eastern side of the city, are fortunate to have two qualified Democratic candidates seeking to replace gay progressive stalwart Tom Ammiano, who is termed out of office. And while the Bay Area Reporter exists to serve the LGBT community and its interests, that doesn't mean we will always recommend the gay candidate in a race. This is one of those times, as we urge readers to vote for David Chiu for Assembly.

Chiu is a straight man who is so thoroughly committed to equality that he hopes to join the Legislature's LGBT caucus. He has been with the community from the beginning of his professional career, even, in fact, before that. During our editorial board meeting, Chiu told us of growing up in Boston in the 1970s, which was not particularly diverse. "I grew up hearing a lot of hate slurs," including anti-gay epithets, he said. "I really came to associate those sentiments with something I wanted to fight." In the 1990s, Chiu worked against the Defense of Marriage Act when he was a congressional staffer for the late Paul Simon, one of the few senators who thought DOMA "was horrific," he noted. It was part of the reason he decided to move to San Francisco 17 years ago.

Ten years ago he began working on LGBT issues here. And since being elected to the Board of Supervisors and becoming its president more than five years ago, Chiu has made sure to backfill HIV/AIDS funding cut by the federal government. He has delivered funding for vulnerable LGBT students at nonprofits like the Lavender Youth Recreation and Information Center, and passed resolutions supporting the reunification of LGBT immigrant families. He worked with gay board members to shore up the finances of the LGBT Community Center. On every issue affecting the LGBT community that the board has taken up, Chiu has been on our side.

All told, Chiu has managed to get 97 of his ordinances passed by the board. That speaks to his ability to work with divergent interests and to reach consensus, something that will be necessary in Sacramento, where the Assembly is nearly eight times the size of the Board of Supervisors. There's a difference in leadership – tone and culture – that Chiu and his opponent, gay Supervisor David Campos, bring to the table. But Chiu has the edge in all areas, in our opinion, and will be a more effective legislator. There are times when he will take on special interests; leading the fight against the 8 Washington development last year is but one example.

Whoever wins the Assembly race will need to shift from focusing on exclusively local issues to more regional and statewide concerns, and California, the eighth largest economy, has plenty of problems to address, from a slow economic recovery in parts of the state to the high cost of living and lack of affordable housing in cities like San Francisco.

State issues affecting the Bay Area are vast – there's housing, water, and reform of Proposition 13 to name just a few. Regarding Prop 13, the decades-old property tax initiative that has led to loss of funding for public education and other services over the years, Chiu said he is committed to pushing all sides to change it. At present, there seems to be more support for changing the commercial property tax aspect of the law, but Chiu vows to look at all of it. He has a record of success working with business, even though he was elected as a progressive. "I worked really hard to create an 11-0 business tax and helped move to a job creating tax," he told us, adding that the business tax reform recently passed by voters took over a decade to work out. "I don't come to this with one-size-fits-all," he said, referring to Prop 13. "I think everyone knows when property tax [revenue] drops 60 percent you have to do something. I'm open to a variety."

Chiu said that San Franciscans from the 17th District deserve a representative who will champion new legislation and groundbreaking programs for the LGBT community. His platform calls for more state resources for building senior affordable housing that includes LGBT seniors, and providing rental and homeowner assistance and legal services, as well as supporting LGBT-specific aging in place programs. For LGBT youth, state policies need to ensure students are safe from bullying and that foster youth are well-served. Other priorities include adequate funding for HIV/AIDS patients, fair drug prices, and the health care needs of lesbians and transgender people.

"And while the battle for marriage equality in California is thankfully over, we need to continue to fight LGBT discrimination in the workplace and in housing decisions, particularly for transgender people," Chiu said in a follow-up statement.

We are under no illusions that we live in a post-gay society, but we don't think that being gay should be our sole litmus test either. It is definitely important to have LGBT representatives at all levels of government, especially outside of San Francisco. However, the community has matured since the days of Harvey Milk when he won a seat on the Board of Supervisors and became the first gay elected officeholder in California. Back then, no one was arguing for us. Now, more and more politicians are arguing for us, including mainstream Democrats, independents, and an increasing number of Republicans. In Milk's day, he won over labor unions and built consensus around the Coors boycott. Fast forward to 2014, it's candidate Chiu who has more labor support in the race.

Chiu stated the obvious when he told us that he has not lived the experience of a gay man. But he said that he believes whoever the next assemblyman is, he should be a leader for LGBTs. "I will work my hardest," he said.

As board president, Chiu has been extremely effective at navigating the tricky trails of San Francisco politics. He has done it with civility and a work ethic that demonstrates his commitment to the city and its residents. He will bring that energy and know-how to Sacramento. It's one thing to fight for an issue by holding press conferences and speaking at rallies; it's another to actually come up with a plan and see it through to becoming policy by passing an ordinance. That's the difference between Chiu and his opponent, and why, at the end of the day, we recommend Chiu for Assembly.


Send these 5 to CA Assembly

Voters in the South Bay, on the Peninsula, in the East Bay, and the Westside of San Francisco have the opportunity to send five qualified candidates to the state Assembly. In the June 3 primary, the Bay Area Reporter recommends the following:


Evan Low, Assembly District 28

Evan Low, the outgoing South Bay politician, has been a rising star in the Democratic Party and the LGBT community since 2006, when he became the first Asian American, openly gay, and youngest person ever elected to the Campbell City Council. He went on to serve as mayor, again making history, and was re-elected. At 31, he has the experience serving in public office and is a regional leader on an array of issues. Low championed marriage equality and spoke out against the federal government's ban on blood donations from gay men.

He is running to succeed his boss, Assemblyman Paul Fong (D-Cupertino), who is termed out. The district includes Campbell, Cupertino, Los Gatos, and parts of San Jose.

Low also worked on issues affecting Campbell, including a balanced budget that did not cut vital city services like public safety. He is an advocate for transparency in government and pushed to make City Council meetings available online. He helped cut red tape for business owners and is a leader on environmental and sustainability issues.

In short, Low is a qualified Assembly candidate who can bring his local government experience to Sacramento.


Rich Gordon, Assembly Distirct 24

Rich Gordon (D) is running for re-election to his Peninsula seat and wholeheartedly deserves our endorsement. He is a gay man who has been an effective representative for his district and an unwavering advocate for equality.

Gordon is effective because of his bipartisan approach to pass a variety of bills, 33 of which have been signed into law. These include making more money available to local housing trusts and extending a child care subsidy plan in San Mateo County that maximizes limited funds while aiding working families.

Gordon chairs the powerful Assembly Rules Committee and was elected chair of the Legislature's LGBT caucus for an unprecedented third consecutive term. The work of the caucus has been shaped by events occurring across the country – from marriage equality being restored in California to the U.S. Supreme Court's decision invalidating a provision of the Defense of Marriage Act. Gordon led the caucus to reaffirm its commitment to ensure that the policies originating with the Legislature or established by state agencies are inclusive of all families.


Elizabeth Echols, Assembly District 15

Elizabeth Echols (D) is a longtime East Bay resident who recently held an important post in the Obama administration where she was regional administrator of the Small Business Administration and senior adviser on Clean Tech and Energy Efficiency Initiatives. She is running to replace Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), who is termed out.

In her role at the SBA, Echols helped local small businesses and entrepreneurs expand and create high quality jobs by providing access to financing, business training, and federal contracts.

Echols's main issues are public education, local businesses, and the environment. She is a good fit for the district, which includes cities in Alameda and Contra Costa counties. Skinner has endorsed her.

Echols is an executive board member of the National Women's Political Caucus Alameda North Chapter.

She received the endorsement of Equality California. As a straight ally, Echols is committed to ensuring everyone in the state enjoys equal rights and equal opportunity. In her announcement of the endorsement, she said she looks forward to working with EQCA, meaning the LGBT community has a firm ally in this very diverse district.


Rob Bonta, Assembly District 18

Rob Bonta (D) is running for re-election to this East Bay district that includes the cities of Oakland, Alameda, and San Leandro. He is the first Filipino to serve in the Legislature and is a solid ally of the LGBT community. This year, he authored a bill to distribute condoms in state prisons, which is aimed at decreasing HIV transmission and other sexually transmitted infections. He had written similar legislation last year but Governor Jerry Brown vetoed it. This time, Bonta added some flexibility to the bill to satisfy concerns by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Since the prison department would have to implement the plan, such flexibility seems reasonable.

In the Assembly, Bonta worked to restore millions of dollars to East Bay public schools with more local control. He's fighting for stronger local gun laws and funding for more police officers. And he is focused on income inequality, strongly supporting last year's California minimum wage increase bill that the governor signed.

Bonta has been endorsed by Equality California and earned a 100 percent rating on the LGBT lobbying organization's scorecard. He will continue to be an effective representative for the East Bay.


Phil Ting, Assembly District 19

Assemblyman Phil Ting (D) represents the West side of San Francisco and is running for re-election facing no major opposition. Highlights of his first term include legislation that would provide fiscal relief to same-sex couples who are hit with increased tax bills due to health care benefits. This bill was needed at the time because of DOMA, a major component of which was ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court last year.

He is also the author of legislation that would permanently give pharmacists the choice to sell syringes to adults without prescription if the pharmacists meet requirements for providing information about safe disposal and other conditions. This bill's goal is to lower HIV transmission.

Ting, a straight ally and the city's former assessor-recorder, has long been a supporter of marriage equality and also has a 100 percent score from Equality California, which endorsed him.

He knows his district and knows San Francisco, and is effective at advocating for both.

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