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Hundreds of thousands of dollars are being spent on the June 3 primary elections. But politicos fear that the top two winners—who will compete in November—will actually be chosen by a relative handful of California voters. Apparently apathy now trumps civic responsibility and the recognition of the historic struggle by women and minorities to win the right to vote. Frontiers does not endorse candidates, but we have selected some races and candidates of special importance to the LGBT community. Check out the L.A. County Democratic Party, Stonewall Democratic Club, Stonewall Young Democrats, Equality California and the Log Cabin Republicans websites for their endorsements.
Former Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez is running for State Controller, and if he wins, he could become the first openly gay person elected to a state constitutional office in California. He argues that his experience in the labor movement and as Speaker—leading and negotiating three state budgets on time—qualify him to be the state’s fiscal watchdog. His Democratic opponent, longtime LGBT ally, grassroots activist and State Board of Equalization member Betty Yee, also knows budgets and tax policy. But in a recent field poll, both trailed Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, a Republican who has evolved on LGBT issues. Among other influential duties, the State Controller administers CalPERS, the huge public employee fund that just divested from a major anti-gay business in Russia.
SAN DIEGO'S 52nd CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT
Gay Republican Carl DeMaio, a former San Diego city councilmember, is considered a serious threat to incumbent Rep. Scott Peters, a strong Democratic LGBT ally, in the 52nd Congressional District. In mid-May, pollster Stuart Rothenberg ranked Peters’ re-election “a pure toss-up” because of DeMaio’s “high name identification, proven vote-getting ability” and fundraising power. DeMaio says he’s a “change agent,” a new generation Republican with a track record of getting results. The Union Tribune, owned by Prop. 8 supporter Doug Manchester, mentioned DeMaio’s sexual orientation in its endorsement—illustrating an “evolution” and “the historic nature of my candidacy,” says DeMaio. If elected, he wants to work with groups that are “genuinely interested” in solving LGBT issues in a non-partisan way.
L.A. COUNTY ASSESSOR
There are 12 candidates running for Los Angeles County Assessor, including Jeffrey Prang. If elected, he would be the second openly gay assessor—the first was Kenneth P. Hahn, the twice-elected, highest-ranking openly gay official in L.A. who hired Prang in the early 1990s. In 1997, Prang started his five terms on the West Hollywood City Council, a blip of an indication of how much Prang loves government service. He was recruited back to the Assessor’s Office in March 2012 to help clean up and restore trust in the scandal-smeared office, and he has compiled an impressive roster of “establishment” endorsements. “I am the most experienced candidate for Assessor and have earned a reputation for professional competency and integrity,” he says.
LOS ANGELES SUPERVISOR'S RACE, 3rd DISTRICT
The race to replace termed-out Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky to represent the 2 million residents in the Westside 3rd District features two openly gay candidates—former state lawmaker Sheila Kuehl and West Hollywood Councilmember John Duran, either of whom could become the first openly LGBT person elected to this incredibly powerful position. They face rich former Santa Monica City Councilmember Bobby Shriver, who has contributed $1 million of his own money to his campaign. The fourth candidate is former Malibu City Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich. Duran, Shriver and Ulich have all served as mayor in their respective cities.
1994 was a gloomy year—right-winger Newt Gingrich’s Republican “revolution” was in full swing, and prospects for gay equality were dim. Ironically, being out is what helped catapult Sheila Kuehl into the California Legislature, as an old gruff man explained to her in a diner. “You’ve already told us the worst thing about yourself,” ergo, he would vote for Kuehl because she was honest. Kuehl went on to serve in the Assembly (1994-2000), then in the State Senate (2000-2008), repeatedly making history. Her “Dignity for All Students” bill helped shift the belief that bullying was a rite of passage to an understanding that it was discriminatory harassment. She’s been preparing to run for Supervisor for years. “I’m a consistent, collaborative leader with a calm, decisive temperament, and I’m a proven change agent who has participated in reforming big government systems,” Kuehl says. “Youth, including LGBT youth, will be my top priority.”
AIDS and gay civil rights activist John Duran cut his teeth as a law clerk for MECLA Co-Chair Diane Abbitt in 1984, becoming co-chair of the LIFE Lobby from 1987-1992, writing the AIDS legislation and the gay civil rights bill AB 101. When Gov. Pete Wilson vetoed AB 101 in 1991, Duran protested in a suit and tie. He co-founded the political fundraising group ANGLE and legally challenged the anti-gay Traditional Values Coalition, after which the White Aryan Resistance set fire to his Santa Ana office. He continued his law practice after moving to West Hollywood, where he was elected to City Council in 2001 and was re-elected three more times. He subsequently became co-chair of Equality California, raising over $1 million to fight Prop. 8. “I hope that individuals who feel it is strategic to support and strengthen our relationship with Latinos in Southern California will see me as the more strategic choice,” says Duran.
Bobby Shriver is the son of Sargent and Eunice Kennedy Shriver of the famous Kennedy clan and is Bono’s business partner in the effort to fight AIDS in Africa through the ONE Campaign. A Yale lawyer who’s worked in a New York financial investment firm, Shriver has also raised money for the Special Olympics, founded by his mother. In 2004, he was elected to the Santa Monica City Council and served until 2012 with a focus on homeless vets and the environment. Shriver says he would “prioritize the construction of supportive housing” for the homeless, including LGBT youth and would spur the Public Health Department to improve their communication and engagement with the LGBT community, presumably a reference to criticism over the meningitis scare. “We cannot have any delay that can greatly affect those who are sick or who can be at potential risk,” he says.
Pamela Ulich, a lawyer and former councilmember for the City of Malibu, is largely unknown to most LGBT voters. She served as legal counsel for the Directors Guild and Screen Actors Guild, but after 9/11, when the union denied her request to shift to part-time work, she left to be with her family. However, after a politician said she should “stay home and bake cookies” instead of running for office, she balked, ran, won and won again in 2008. Her grassroots campaign “is about getting money out [of politics]—and love in—so citizen’s win,” Ulich says. “Love is about tolerance and acceptance, not judgement.” When told that her pitch as the candidate for “traditional family values” could be construed as anti-gay code, Ulich replies that “members of my immediate family and many of my friends are proud to be in the LGBT community.”
CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT 33 / CALIFORNIA SENATE DISTRICT 26
Democratic go-to politico Eric Bauman says both the race to replace retiring Rep. Henry Waxman in Congressional District 33 and the race for State Senate District 26 are unpredictable—and confusing. No one can fill Waxman’s shoes, a longtime LGBT ally and defender of science against Tea Party know-nothings, but 17 candidates are vying to take that seat. The LA Times endorsed Matt Miller for C.D. 33, but he only recently came out supporting marriage equality, at the behest of his daughters. Over in Senate District 26, Ben Allen, endorsed by The Daily News, is a progressive teacher who is primarily funded by millionaire former Republican Bill Bloomfield, who supports the controversial education reform movement espoused by Michelle Rhee. Below we take a look at the candidates whom the LGBT community knows.
CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT 33
Wendy Greuel has been ubiquitous in the LGBT community for three decades. In the 1980s, Greuel was Mayor Tom Bradley’s liaison to the LGBT community during the second wave of AIDS. In 1988, she fought to ensure the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Community Services Center’s two HIV clinics kept their insurance and established the city’s first AIDS coordinator—Being Alive’s Dave Johnson—at a time when rabidly anti-gay Rep. William Dannemeyer was claiming that AIDS was an airborne disease. She also worked with Gabe Kruks to get LGBT homeless youth off the streets, subsequently working in the Clinton administration’s Department of Housing and Urban Development. While on the City Council, she advocated for the city’s Equal Benefits Ordinance, and the former City Controller is also a longtime supporter of marriage equality. “In Congress,” she says, “I promise to continue to be a fierce advocate for ending discrimination and ensuring all Americans are treated with dignity and respect.”
Without being asked or harboring any hidden agenda, State Sen. Lieu authored and passed controversial legislation that bans the practice of so-called “conversation” or “reparative therapy” to change a minor’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Lieu’s historic SB 1172 labels such efforts by religious quacks as “psychological child abuse.” The bill is now being replicated in other LGBT-positive state legislatures. Lieu’s is a rags-to-politician story. Coming from a poor immigrant family, he graduated magna cum laude from Georgetown University Law Center, joined the U.S. Air Force, saw active duty for four years and currently serves in the reserves as a lieutenant colonel. In 2002, he won a seat on the Torrance City Council, leaving in 2005 to serve in the Assembly and then the State Senate. “I have a track record since 2005 of working with stakeholders and passing complex, controversial legislation to help the LGBT community,” Lieu says.
If money talks, people are listening to Marianne Williamson. The best-selling author and inspirational speaker has raised more than $1.2 million. Though no longer a Democrat, she remains a darling of the Democratic Westside and of those who remember her Course in Miracles lectures during the dire days of the AIDS crisis. She and death/grieving counselor David Kessler founded Project Angel Food as an outreach program of the Los Angeles Center for Living. In 1990, they started preparing and delivering daily meals to homebound people with AIDS out of the kitchen of the Crescent Heights United Methodist Church in West Hollywood. “[T]he fact that on an external level, gay men, by coming to my lectures, put me on the map in Los Angeles is just a shallow tip of the iceberg. That situation created the imprint of my life’s work. And that’s why I am active today,” Williamson says.
CALIFORNIA SENATE DISTRICT 26
Many LGBT politicos first got to know Betsy Butler when she worked for pro-gay Lt. Gov. Leo McCarthy, who backed LIFE Lobby against anti-gay Rev. Lou Sheldon in the early 1990s. Butler became a Bill Clinton appointee to the Department of Commerce, where she worked on trade and intellectual property rights. But she gained renown on the Westside for her prodigious fundraising prowess for women’s and environmental causes. After being recruited to the board of Equality California, Butler raised tens of thousands of dollars for the fight against Prop. 8. In 2010, Butler was elected to the Assembly from the 53rd A.D. in the South Bay. She lost her re-election bid after re-districting resulted in a contentious battle with opponent Torie Osborn. “I was a vocal, principled supporter of the LGBT community long before I ran for office or got elected, because it’s the right thing to do,” says Butler.
Interestingly, Sandra Fluke graduated cum laude from Georgetown University Law Center, the same law school where State Sen. Ted Lieu, the man she’s trying to replace, also graduated magna cum laude. Fluke became nationally famous in March 2012 when Rush Limbaugh called the law student a “slut” after she testified about Georgetown’s policy on contraception at an unofficial hearing—after being excluded from the House debate on the contraceptive mandate in ObamaCare. Fluke argued that birth control should not be given a religious exemption in insurance coverage because the pill has other medical uses aside from contraception. But Fluke, a West Hollywood resident, has been a grassroots activist for years, including helping to pass legislation ending discrimination against LGBT people in family court. “Despite California being a very progressive state that leads on many issues, there is still a lot of work to be done,” says Fluke.
Vito Imbasciani MD
If extraordinary stories alone could win elections, Dr. Vito Imbasciani would be a shoo-in. A colonel in the California Army National Guard Medical Corps with 28 years in the Medical Corps—deployed four times in two wars—Imbasciani fought another war behind friendly lines. Secretly, Imbasciani approached House and Senate Armed Services Committee staff about testifying about the horrors of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Imbasciani also badgered the office of the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff “to stand up to the generals” who didn’t want to repeal DADT. After the repeal, the White House asked Imbasciani to introduce President Obama at an LGBT event in Los Angeles. “I know what it takes to fight for my community. I’ve done it on the battlefield and I’ve done it in the halls of Congress. I want to continue that by fighting for in Sacramento,” says Imbasciani.