Copyright © 2012 by Mark Gabrish Conlan for Zenger’s Newsmagazine • All rights reserved
The predominantly Queer San Diego Democrats for Equality’s June 28 meeting turned into a love-fest for its endorsed candidates — at least those who survived the June 5 primary and made it into the November 6 general election. “This is my home Democratic club,” said Assemblymember Toni Atkins as she kicked off the celebration. She asked the club to endorse fellow Democrat Dr. Shirley Weber for another Assembly seat and spoke briefly about the budget she and the other Democrats in the legislature had just passed. “It’s not without pain,” she admitted, “but we worked hard over 75 budget meetings.” She thanked the club for supporting the 2010 initiative that allows state budgets to be passed with simple majorities in both houses of the legislature instead of two-thirds.
“Toni and I make a great team,” said fellow Assemblymember Ben Hueso. “I’m lucky to work with her and have the benefit of all her years of experience. We’re going into one of the most important elections. We can’t take anything for granted with Obama.” Hueso called the Affordable Care Act, the landmark health insurance reform legislation passed by a Democratic Congress in 2010 and derisively referred to by Republicans as “Obamacare,” “one of the most ground-breaking pieces” of legislation ever passed, and like many club members he showed his relief that that morning the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled the Affordable Care Act constitutional.
Next up was City Councilmember Marti Emerald, who first won in 2008 in District 7 and this year was re-elected with an outright majority in the primary of the new District 9. She thanked the club for supplying volunteer power for both her Council campaigns and, like Hueso, referred to the court victory for the Affordable Care Act. “We’re building a great future, but the war is just beginning,” she said. “We need to do the work of re-electing a great President, getting a Mayor who really cares about all of San Diego, and keeping a Democratic majority on the City Council.”
Dave Roberts, openly Queer Democratic candidate for retiring county supervisor Pam Slater-Price’s seat, mentioned his own history with the Affordable Care Act. “I’m an Obama appointee at the Department of Health and Human Services who has been working for 2 ½ years on implementation,” he said. He thanked the club for their endorsement of him, saying that “it was six months before the election and people were saying the endorsements were already taken. But we got 125 endorsements, including the Republican incumbent.” After reviewing the communities in the district where he did well and where he needs work, Roberts said, “When my husband and I look at our five children, and people see us, no one believes we’ll have an openly Gay man on the Board of Supervisors with Bill Horn and Ron Roberts.”
“I’m really pleased with getting 62 percent of the vote in the primary, but now I have to start all over again running citywide,” said Marne Foster, the club’s endorsed candidate for the District E seat San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) Board of Trustees. (The SDUSD board candidates run in district-only primaries but the top two finishers have to compete in a citywide election — like San Diego City Council candidates still had to until district-only elections, a reform the club supported, were put in in 1988.) “I look forward to supporting the LGBT [Queer] community and having a dialogue,” Foster said. “When I get on that school board, it won’t be about me, it’ll be about the children. I have four children and I want to make sure all our children are successful.”
Another successful school board candidate, John Lee Evans, didn’t appear in person but sent a statement. “This race is going to be very important in November,” Evans said in his statement. “The current progressive majority on the board could be undone if my opponent is elected to the board … We have made a lot of progress at San Diego Unified recently with Richard Barrera, Kevin Beiser and myself on the board. I was on a recent panel at the San Diego Psychological Association with [San Diego Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Community Center director] Dr. Delores Jacobs discussing San Diego Unified’s anti-bullying policy and the social education going on in the district.”
Lyn Neylon, who unseated a long-term incumbent in District 2 of the San Diego County Board of Education, also sent a statement. “It was a very close race,” she said — she won by a 1.5 percent margin — “and I am grateful and humbled by the support received from the San Diego Democrats for Equality, the San Diego County Democratic Party, the American Federation of Teachers, and all the volunteers who lent their help by making phone calls, placing yard signs or simply telling a friend. I also want to thank the voters of our community who responded by coming out to the polls for a local primary election. Thank you for the confidence you’ve shown in me. I will do my utmost to be worthy of our trust.”
Assemblymember Marty Block, who’s running for State Senate in the 39th District, sent a staff representative identified only as Roberto. Though Block was supported by the club throughout his Assembly career, Roberto stressed that his general-election opponent will be former Republican Assembly leader George Plescia. Roberto drew a dramatic contrast between the two candidates: “Marty was at the LGBT Awards that they gave at the Assembly last week, and he told me that Plescia had said, ‘Why do we even do this? It’s really silly and so unnecessary.’ That gives you an idea of where George’s mentality is at.” Roberto also noted that Block scored a 94 percent rating from the League of Conservation Voters to Plescia’s 5 percent, and Block received 100 percent from Planned Parenthood to Plescia’s 0 percent. Block, said Roberto, also received a 100 percent rating from organized labor.
The club followed Atkins’ recommendation and endorsed Dr. Shirley Weber for the 79th Assembly District. It also gave an acceptable rating to Robert Amador, a moderate Republican running for a judgeship against Right-winger Jim Miller. And in the first test of the club’s stringent new rules against endorsing candidates who are not 100 percent for marriage equality and reproductive choice, it refused to consider an endorsement for Juan Vargas for the 51st Congressional District even though he’s the only Democrat who survived the blanket primary and made it to the general election.
“I don’t think we should endorse in this race, because it would make us look foolish,” said club secretary Lyn Gwidzak. She noted that the club had first given him an acceptable rating along with fellow Democrat Denise Moreno Ducheny, then rescinded it after Vargas cast the deciding vote in a State Senate committee against a bill allowing nurse-practitioners and midwives to perform abortions. Vargas has also never come out for marriage equality and, when he spoke to the club in February, gave a long, rambling answer that suggested he doesn’t agree with the whole idea of civil marriage and thinks the definition of marriage should be left to churches.