The Castro in San Francisco is buzzing with the possibility of finally electing its first gay mayor. Former San Francisco Supervisor Bevan Dufty is now considered a top candidate, and voters in the city predict November will be a historic election.
Dufty served two terms as Supervisor in District 8, the same seat held by LGBT hero Harvey Milk, long considered the “Mayor of Castro Street.” Milk and Mayor George Mascone were assassinated in November 1978.
“There is no question in my mind that had it not been for Dan White [assassinating Milk and Moscone],” Dufty recently told supporters, “Harvey Milk would have been our first gay mayor. Our time is now.”
Some of his San Francisco supporters compare Dufty with Milk, a comparison the Dufty campaign carries over to Los Angeles when the candidate makes a May 8 fundraising stop hosted by the Victory Fund, which has endorsed him.
“Someday Los Angeles will likely elect an openly LGBT mayor, and that person may just be getting his or her start in politics now. It’s important that we nurture those leaders and support their campaigns early, so that they gain the experience and skills to move up to higher office and continue speaking out as openly LGBT leaders,” said Denis Dison, Vice President of Communications for Victory Fund.
Dufty says the memory of Harvey Milk is still alive. “Harvey symbolized the freedom to live with authenticity to millions of LGBT women and men across the world,” said Dufty.
This principle has been a model that Dufty, iconic singer Billie Holliday’s godson, has followed as he worked for civil rights heroes such as former Congressmember Shirley Chisholm (the first black woman to serve in the U.S. Congress), Congressmember Julian Dixon and legendary Mayor Willie Brown. Dufty was a leader in establishing the first LGBT History Museum, providing housing to LGBT Youth and expending services for crystal meth addicts.
Dufty believes his election will send a strong message to parents and kids all over the country to see a gay man in the highest office in one of the nation’s largest cities. He pauses for a moment during an interview and then becomes emotional as he talks about the epidemic of teen suicides caused by bullying and anti-gay slurs. Dufty was bullied as a 9-year-old, and the memory still sticks with him.
“It was a lonely time, and I remember having nowhere to go and feeling ashamed, even though I was the victim. Today, I use that memory to motivate me—and I believe this election will prove to many youngsters that it does gets better,” said Dufty, referring to the “It Gets Better” campaign.
“For me, this election is not about politics. It’s about the bigger picture,” said Dufty, who has been in politics for 18 years. “While San Francisco has always been a city about potholes and dog poop, it is also about diversity and the freedom to live. It is a city that has also stood in the national spotlight as a model for struggling gays nationwide, and its people have fiercely fought for equality. It is time we get a seat at the head of the table in this wonderful city that has stood by us.”
But Dufty is as concerned about schools and crime as he is about equal rights: he is the father of a 4-year-old girl who is about to start kindergarten.
“It’s an amazing campaign—to watch people gravitate towards Bevan Dufty. His campaign transcends the ‘one issue’ candidate,” said campaign manager David Feighan, son of former Congressmember Edward Feighan. “People from one end of the city to the other and across the country have told us it’s about time.”
Dufty’s busy schedule has included attending a forum in Chinatown with business leaders, joining a community vigil against hate—sparked by a brutal beating in the transgender community—and making an appearance with his daughter Sidney in the César Chávez Parade.
Dufty also negotiated to have singer Britney Spears film a video for ABC’s Good Morning America in San Francisco. Before her concert, he also escorted the singer on a tour of the Castro, including the LGBT Historical Society Museum.
Asked what it would mean to be elected as San Francisco’s first gay mayor, Dufty says he has listened to and studied one of his closest friends, Stuart Milk, Harvey Milk’s nephew and founder of the Milk Foundation, which celebrates its 35th anniversary this year.
“I know the way we make progress and break the glass ceiling is to be a movement, and I intend to be a movement candidate,” Dufty said. “There is a lot that the queer community has contributed, and we need to continue to be vibrant and never expect less than respect. A victory would put us one step closer to achieving Harvey’s dream. It would also create hope for countless others.”
For more information, visit Dufty’s campaign website at bevandufty.com. For information on the Sunday, May 8 event from 3-5 p.m., go to victoryfund.org/bevandufty.