Election Frenzy Heats Up, California Primary on June 5
Karen Ocamb

Nothing in politics is really predictable except campaign frenzy and, in this post-Citizens United America, big bucks. Who could have predicted, for instance, that cautious President  Barack Obama would have come out in support of marriage equality—in an election year—and that so many African-Americans (such as the NAACP) would follow suit?

But while many politicos predict that Obama’s marriage stance is a political ‘wash,’ Obama’s re-election is far from a done deal. Economically hurting blue collar voters in red or swing states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania are apparently listening to Republican Mitt Romney’s campaign claim that the former Bain Capitol hedge fund star is a “job creator”—not a job destroyer intent on making money for investors. So by November, the now-close race between Obama and Romney will probably still be about the economy.

How important is California? Very. Think ATM. On May 23, Obama attended another donor-rich fundraiser in the Bay Area while House Speaker John Boehner was in Woodside at a high-priced fundraiser to help Rep. Dan Lungren save his seat. Activists from MoveOn.org and CREDO SuperPAC (primarily funded by thousands of small-dollar contributions) chanted “Boehner, go home.”

“Congressman Lungren is California’s Rick Santorum,” Sam Briggs, District Director for CREDO SuperPAC, said in a statement. “Lungren has stone-age views on women, and has been practicing Tea Party extremism in California for decades. It’s time Californians sent Lungren packing in November.”

Also, there was Susan Monroe, of the Bay Area Patriots, who told the San Francisco Chronicle that she is “very disappointed in the direction of the country,” and though she’s not a big fan of Romney, will now “crawl over broken glass” to vote for him because “it’s ABO—anybody but Obama.”

Lungren’s challenger—physician Ami Bera of Sacramento County—is one of the Democratic Party’s top election priorities. Gay Colorado Rep. Jared Polis recently attended a fundraiser for gay congressional candidate Mark Takano at Rick Jacobs’ house in Los Angeles. Polis, chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s Red to Blue Program, told Frontiers that the DCCC is trying to win back the House “to ensure there’s a pro-equality majority in Congress.” He predicted that “the Democrats have an even chance or better of controlling the next Congress.”

Along with Bera, Takano’s race for the 41st Congressional District in Riverside is one key race Polis thinks the Democrats can win. In Northern California, he said they are defending Rep. John Garamendi’s seat in the new 3rd C.D. In the 52nd C.D. in San Diego, Polis said that either Democrat who wins the June 5 primary—Scott Peters or Lori Saldana—has a good chance at defeating Republican Rep. Brian Bilbray. Santa Barbara Rep. Lois Capps is also facing a difficult re-election bid, and two longtime Republicans from the Inland Empire—Reps. Jerry Lewis of Redlands and David Dreier of San Dimas—have both announced they are not seeking re-election.

“I think the Democrats hope to pick up four or five seats here towards reaching a majority in Congress,” Polis told Frontiers.  

Redistricting has played havoc with a number of races, the most frenzied being the clash between formerly friendly congressmembers Howard Berman and Brad Sherman for the 30th C.D., both of whom have their steadfast LGBT supporters. Stonewall Democrats endorsed Sherman, but, as Kevin Roderick at LAObserved pointed out, during Obama’s May 10 visit to L.A., the president was greeted in Burbank by Berman.

“These things don’t happen by accident,” Roderick wrote, “and it can’t be a happy development for Sherman, who recently lost the endorsements of both the Los Angeles Times and the Daily News to Berman. To give the snub a little extra zing, Bob Hope Airport used to be in Sherman’s district until the recent redrawing of lines. If I read the lines correctly, the fundraiser at Clooney’s home is in Sherman’s new district.”

The races for the California Assembly and Senate are also frenzied before the June 5 primary, where the top two vote-getters will face each other in November. The most watched contest is the 50th Assembly District (please see interviews with the four candidates) between Assemblymember Betsy Butler, lesbian community activist Torie Osborn, Santa Monica Mayor Richard Bloom and gay Republican attorney Brad Torgan. L.A. Weekly’s Patrick Range McDonald describes the 50th A.D. as one of the wealthiest and whitest districts in the nation.

“Stretching from the Pacific Ocean and Malibu eastward to the mansions of exclusive Hancock Park, and encompassing such communities as Topanga Canyon, Santa Monica, the Pacific Palisades, Bel-Air, Brentwood, Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, Larchmont Village and the Hollywood Hills, the 50th [A.D.] is one of the wealthiest Democratic districts in California—and the nation,” he writes. But the candidates might dispute his conclusion that this progressive district and these candidates “don’t share the same concerns as poor, working and middle-class neighborhoods in Middle America.”

Other races of importance to the LGBT community are the 38th A.D., where Edward Headington is running against a beatable right-winger; Andrew Lachman versus lesbian Laurette Healey in the 46th A.D.; gay Luis Lopez in the 511th A.D.; Al Muratsuchi in the 66th A.D.; and Danette Meyers for L.A. County District Attorney.

Read our interviews with Richard Bloom, Betsy Butler, Torie Osborn and Brad Torgan. For more information about the June 5 Primary, go to the L.A. County website L.A. Vote at LAvote.net.

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