Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 13 / 29 March 2018

Online Extra: Political Notes: CA LGBT legislative candidates rake in cash


Berkeley school board member Judy Appel, seen here at last year's Oakland Pride parade, is running for the 15th District Assembly seat in the East Bay. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland
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Of the dozen LGBT legislative candidates running in California this year, the majority reported impressive fundraising hauls in 2017.

Candidates had to file their fundraising reports covering the period of July 1 through the end of 2017 last Wednesday, January 31. The disclosures, which included totals for all of last year, are closely scrutinized to see who looks like a viable candidate in the races for state Assembly and Senate seats heading into the June 5 primary, where the top two vote-getters regardless of party affiliation in each contest will advance to the November election.

As the Bay Area Reporter noted last month, there are a record number of lesbians vying for seats in the state Legislature this year. So far at least eight lesbians are looking to be elected to the Statehouse, two more than had sought legislative seats in 2012.

It marks the largest group of lesbian legislative candidates in the Golden State over the last decade. Coincidentally, the four out men, three gay and one bisexual, known to be running for legislative seats this year is the smallest number of male candidates from the LGBT community seeking to be elected to the state Legislature since 2008. The previous low mark for male candidates came four years ago when one gay Senate candidate and four gay Assembly candidates were on the June primary ballot.

The only competitive race in the Bay Area with out candidates is the contest for the open 15th Assembly District seat, which stretches from Richmond south into parts of Oakland. The incumbent, Assemblyman Tony Thurmond (D-Richmond), is running to be the state's superintendent of public instruction after serving two two-year terms in the Legislature.

Among those running are lesbian Richmond City Councilwoman Jovanka Beckles, lesbian Berkeley school board member Judy Appel, and bisexual East Bay Municipal Utility District board member Andy Katz , who is vying a second time for the seat.

Of the trio, Appel posted the best fundraising report, having netted $163,873 in contributions last year. She started 2018 off with $118,145 in the bank.

"My hard work and deep roots in this community is paying off," stated Appel. "I've received overwhelming support from the people of this district who have recognized my longtime commitment to social justice, grassroots activism, and working families."

Katz reported raising $127,249 in 2017, with $77,225 coming in during the last half of the year. He spent hardly any of the money, giving him $125,565 to spend in the coming months.

Beckles raised the least amount of money among not only the three out candidates but also of all seven on the candidates that filed financial reports for 2017. She reported raising just $82,868 last year – $33,319 of which came during the last six months of 2017 – and began the year with only $4,280 in her campaign account.

Among the four straight candidates in the race, former Obama administration staffer Buffy Wicks raised the most money. She collected $520,124 in 2017 – $310,810 of which came in over the last half of the year – and reported having $384,356 to spend this year.

El Cerrito City Councilwoman Rochelle Pardue-Okimoto raised $100,628 last year and started off 2018 with $96,145.

Berkeley City Councilman Ben Bartlett raised $106,607 last year and had $83,312 remaining. Oakland City Councilman Dan Kalb raised $156,098 last year and had $119,833 in cash on hand.

Another out candidate who reported strong fundraising results was Palm Springs resident Joy Silver, a lesbian expert on aging issues who is running for the state's 28th Senate District seat. She is looking to oust Senator Jeff Stone (R-La Quinta), one of the most anti-LGBT members of the Statehouse.

A former board member of the GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco, Silver reported a total of $158,275 in donations in 2017 with $105,126 in cash on hand. Stone raised $139,265 in 2017 and reported having just $26,159 in his campaign account at the start of the year.

Lesbians trail in money race against GOP incumbents

Three other lesbian candidates running against Republican incumbents this year are so fair trailing their opponents in the money race. But they could benefit from voter discontent at the national level with the GOP as well as an ongoing sexual harassment scandal in Sacramento that already has seen two male lawmakers resign and a third placed on suspension.

In San Diego, lesbian real estate agent Sunday Gover , who lives with her partner and their four children in Scripps Ranch, is running against Assemblyman Brian Maienschein (R-San Diego). The former San Diego city councilman was first elected to his 77th Assembly District seat in 2012 and has been very supportive of LGBT legislation over the last six years.

Gover raised $77,346 in 2017 and had $63,832 in the bank, while Maienschein raised $325,303 to bring his campaign war chest he was sitting on at the start of 2018 to more than $1.3 million.

Lesbian former Long Beach City Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske is seeking the 34th Senate District seat, which is largely based in Orange County but includes Schipske's former council district in the Los Angeles County beach community. A lawyer, registered nurse, and a faculty member at Cal State Long Beach, Schipske is running to unseat Senator Janet Nguyen (R-Garden Grove).

Schipske raised $53,391 last year and had $41,848 in cash on hand, whereas Nguyen collected $576,890 in 2017 and was sitting on $964,461 to use for her re-election bid.

She is the only person challenging Nguyen, a former Orange County supervisor first elected to the state Senate in 2014. The Senate race could open up if Nguyen opts to run for the congressional seat held by Republican Ed Royce, who announced earlier this month he would not seek re-election.

In Placer County former San Jose resident Jackie Smith is running to oust freshman Assemblyman Kevin Kiley (R-Granite Bay) from his 6th District seat. She moved with her wife, Darlene Smith , to Rocklin six years ago and founded the LGBT political group Placer Stonewall Democrats.

Having begun her campaign in mid-December, Smith has yet to report any fundraising totals. Kiley reported having raised $346,022 in 2017 with $252,550 in his campaign account by the end of the year.

According to the Log Cabin Republicans, the group for LGBT GOPers, its member Matthew Munson has decided to enter the 20th Senate District race. He has yet to form a campaign committee for the contest against incumbent Senator Connie Leyva (D-Chino), who raised more than $500,000 last year and had $439,520 in the bank.


LGBT incumbents rake in cash

Currently, there are eight out members of the state Legislature, four each in the Assembly and Senate. None of the senators are up for re-election this year, while all four Assembly members are facing relatively easy bids for re-election come the fall.

Gay Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell), chair of the California Legislative LGBT Caucus, raised class=txt7>$696,215 last year and had more than $1.1 million in his account at the start of 2018. He so far has no opponent this year for his 28th Assembly District seat.

Lesbian Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton) is also expected to easily win re-election this year to her Central Valley seat. She raised $243,307 in 2017 and had $422,283 in her campaign account. Like Low, she has yet to attract an opponent for her 13th Assembly District seat.

Freshman gay Assemblyman Todd Gloria (D-San Diego) raised $338,345 last year and had $248,547 for his campaign this year. His Republican opponent for his 78th Assembly District seat, Navy veteran Maggie Campbell, has yet to report any fundraising amount.

It is also increasingly likely that freshman lesbian Assemblywoman Sabrina Cervantes (D-Corona) will face an easy path to re-election this year, two years after ousting a Republican incumbent. She raised $691,197 last year and had $546,266 in her campaign account.

The state GOP had said it would target Cervantes for defeat, using her vote for the state's controversial gas tax increase against her. Meanwhile Equality California, the statewide LGBT advocacy organization, had told the B.A.R. its highest electoral priority would be ensuring Cervantes a second term.

But the lone Republican to pull papers for the race, Corona City Councilman Randy Fox, has yet to report raising any money for an Assembly bid. In September he told a local newspaper he was "leaning more heavily" toward running for re-election to his council seat this fall.

The deadline for state legislative candidates to file for the June primary ballot is March 9.


Out senators seeking higher office post impressive totals

The two out senators seeking higher office this year both posted impressive fundraising totals.

Gay state Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) is vying to become state insurance commissioner. If he wins, Lara would become the first LGBT person elected to statewide office.

The incumbent, Dave Jones, is term-limited from seeking re-election this year, and Lara for months had been seen as the favorite to easily succeed Jones come November as he had been facing token opposition from Republican Peter Kuo , a Santa Clara insurance agent. But his victory became less certain after Dr. Asif Mahmood decided to enter the race last month, ending his bid for lieutenant governor.

Their fundraising totals speak to the new dynamic in the race. Lara raised $386,359 in the last half of 2017 and reported having $305,102 in the bank. While that dwarfed the $11,095 Kuo raised and the $3,726 he had left over, it paled in comparison to the money Mahmood had in his lieutenant governor campaign account, which he can now use for his insurance commissioner campaign. He netted $400,663 in contributions over the last six months of 2017 and reported sitting on more than $1 million in cash to spend.

Lesbian state Senator Cathleen Galgiani (D-Stockton) raised class=txt7>$497,803 for her bid for the open District 2 seat on the state's Board of Equalization that includes San Francisco and much of the state's northern coast. She ended the year with $390,116 cash remaining.

In that race San Francisco Supervisor Malia Cohen, who is termed out of her District 10 seat on the board this year, raised $224,724 and had $470,617 in her account at the start of 2018.

Republican Cupertino City Councilman Barry Chang, meanwhile, netted $23,000 and had a little more than half of that remaining in his campaign account.


The Political Notes column will return Monday, February 26.


Keep abreast of the latest LGBT political news by following the Political Notebook on Twitter @

Got a tip on LGBT politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 829-8836 or e-mail

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