Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Queer Demos Make Busby for Congress a Priority Campaign


Copyright © 2006 by Mark Gabrish Conlan for Zenger’s Newsmagazine • All rights reserved

“You still love me! Thank you!” said an exuberant Francine Busby, Democratic candidate against Republican incumbent Brian Bilbray in the 50th Congressional district, to the predominantly Queer San Diego Democratic Club August 24. Despite her disappointing loss to Bilbray in the June 6 runoff to replace Randy “Duke” Cunningham — who was driven from the seat when he pleaded guilty to accepting millions of dollars’ worth of gifts from lobbyists in the biggest corruption scandal involving a single Congressmember in U.S. history — Busby is the Democratic nominee against Bilbray in the regular election November 7. “I have a lot of work to do, and I’m still fighting,” she said.

“This country is no better now than it was in April [when Busby led the field in the first round of the special election but failed to win a majority],” Busby told the club. “It’s no safer than it was in June. The polls are saying that the rest of the country is waking up to the fact that Iraq has nothing to do with terrorism and debt is just as bad when it’s Republican as when it’s Democratic. People are waking up.”

And, Busby added, she’s confident that enlightenment is coming even to voters in as heavily Republican an area as the 50th district. “The fact that 45 percent of the people voted for me is proof of how anxious they are to get rid of [Bilbray],” she said. “Ninety percent of the Republicans didn’t vote and 45 percent voted for someone other than Bilbray. Businesspeople are not that happy with him because his only two issues are the Mt. Soledad cross and illegal immigration. Businesspeople are against illegal immigration but they also want a guest worker program,” which Bilbray opposes.

According to Busby, the combination of voter dissatisfaction with Bilbray and the makings of an overall “Democratic year” makes her race winnable despite her defeat in their initial matchup in June. She cited a nationwide map of Congressional districts published by the New York Times which changed her district “ from solid ruby-red to pink” — indicating it was still “leaning” Republican but was winnable by a Democrat. She’s also hoping for a fair chance to present her views without the nasty campaigns both the Republican and Democratic Congressional campaign committees ran last time.

Busby’s impassioned speech won her what she most wanted from the club: status as a “priority race” in November, as she had had in June. A priority race for the San Diego Democratic Club is one for which they make a special effort to raise money, volunteers and publicity. Prior to the August 24 meeting the club had designated two campaigns as priorities: Phil Angelides’ race against Arnold Schwarzenegger for governor and openly Gay Chula Vista mayor Steve Padilla’s re-election bid. On August 24, they added Busby’s race and also no on Proposition 85, the latest attempt to weaken California’s pro-choice abortion laws by requiring minors to notify their parents if they intend to have an abortion.

Though she really didn’t need to — the club had already endorsed against 85 and prioritized it before she spoke — Caroline Desert of San Diego Planned Parenthood laid out the case against the measure. “Proposition 85 is unrealistic, unnecessary and dangerous,” Desert explained. “Three out of five teenage girls already talk to their parents about their abortion decision, and the others don’t because they fear for their safety or being kicked out of their homes.” She called Proposition 85 “part of a larger strategy to chip away at choice,” and added, “We cannot mandate parent-child communication.”

Desert acknowledged that the drafters of 85 had eliminated the worst feature of the previous parental notification initiative, Proposition 73 — defeated in the statewide special election in November 2005 — that would have written into the California constitution a definition of life as beginning at conception, which could have been read as automatically banning abortion in the state if Roe v. Wade is overturned. But she described the differences between 73 and 85 as “just superficial and mostly minor changes in language.”

In addition to Busby, the club also heard from various Democratic candidates for office, including one of the most controversial: Maxine Sherard, an African-American woman and retired professor who won the nomination against two-term Republican Shirley Horton in the 78th Assembly District. Sherard’s appearance was a fence-mending expedition aimed at reassuring the membership that she “will have an open-door policy” as an Assemblymember and has a Transgender person on her staff.

But the club received her coolly, partly because of a leaflet placed on people’s seats before they came in. It was a reproduction of an ad Sherard’s campaign placed in the February 2004 Philippine Village Voice during a previous campaign for the seat. The ad, which was in Tagalog — though whoever reproduced it provided an English translation — showed two other candidates with their families, said they supported “women marrying women and men marrying men,” and added that “according to Dr. Maxine Sherard this should not be allowed. Why? Because the Filipino culture and Catholic Religion says marriage is sacred. Marriage should be defined as between a man and a woman. This is what God told us through Adam and Eve: ‘Go and multiply.’”

The club also heard from Alejandra Sotero Solis, candidate for mayor of National City and a former staff member for Assemblymembers Lori Saldaña and Judy Chiu; and Patty Chavez, candidate for Chula Vista City Council. “I started out like the rest of you, fighting graffiti, traffic and crime,” she said. “I started the Adopt-a-Park program, and as a City Councilmember I have continued to roll up my sleeves and get things done.” The club agreed to endorse Chavez after the unsuccessful primary candidate the club had supported before, Pat Moriarty, announced that she’s not only endorsing Chavez in the general election but is working on her campaign team.

The only potential glitch for Chavez came over an answer she gave on the club’s issues questionnaire that she was “undecided” on whether or not the state should require married women seeking abortions to notify their husbands. Asked why she had given this answer, Chavez said, “I took it back to my marriage. I have three children, and as soon as I got pregnant it was about our marriage.” After a follow-up question, though, she conceded that as a matter of public policy “we shouldn’t be regulating anything” on this issue.

In addition to endorsing no on Proposition 85, the club also endorsed yes votes on two other statewide ballot measures: Proposition 84, a bond measure to invest in water quality and safety projects; and Proposition 87, a tax on petroleum products to find alternative energy. The club put off discussion of many of the most controversial measures on the ballot — including Propositions 1A through 1E, Governor Schwarzenegger’s infrastructure bonds; Proposition 83, a toughening of California’s already strict reporting and residency requirements for convicted sex offenders; Proposition 86, a tax on cigarettes to fund hospitals and emergency medical services; Proposition 89, a so-called “clean money option” for publicly funding political campaigns similar to laws already in place in Arizona and Maine; and Proposition 90, an attempt to restrict state and local governments’ right to take private property via eminent domain.