Trans activist Ashlee Marie Preston announced in a statement Friday she is dropping out of the race for the California State Assembly seat vacated by Sebastian Ridley-Thomas.
“You’ve never abandoned me; and I promise not to abandon you,” Preston told supporters in a written statement sent to this reporter via text message: “This truly is not the end of anything; this is actually THE BEGINNING of our true path to victory.”
The out trans woman of color is on the Yale campus in New Haven, Conn. Friday and will be speaking to students at the pride center about her decision, according to The Daily Beast. In an exclusive interview, she told the site she decided overnight to issue her statement Friday morning because she couldn’t go out and pretend she was still a candidate.
“I cried the entire night,” Preston said. Earlier in the day, Preston participated in a panel on black feminism at Yale, and told the site she plans to return to Los Angeles to address her supporters at home.
Preston had insufficient time to mount an effective campaign, she explained in her statement, adding that she believed the deck was stacked against her from the beginning: “The system as it stands is set up against non-establishment candidates — not only to run, but to win.” (Her full statement appears below.) The deadline for filing her candidacy with the California Secretary of State was Thursday at 5 p.m. PST.
The transgender activist announced her bid for the District 54 seat on December 30, just four months after she made international headlines by confronting Caitlyn Jenner over President Trump’s announced ban on transgender military service.
“You’re a fucking fraud,” Preston told the transgender Trump supporter at a concert of the Trans Chorus of Los Angeles. She posted video of the showdown to Facebook. “It’s really fucked up that you continue to support somebody… that does everything with the military, that’s erasing our fucking community. And you support it.” Video of the August 26th confrontation went viral, has been viewed more than 531-thousand times, and made her a favorite trans activist among LGBT Angelenos.
According to The Daily Beast, Preston said she would refund unspent donations made to her campaign as of a date to be determined. Money already spent on staffing, she told the site, would not be returned.
Although the activist solicited funds for her campaign prior to filing as a candidate, and then decided to not file as of the deadline date of February 8th, an official at California’s Fair Political Practices Commission tells the Los Angeles Blade there is absolutely nothing improper about that.
“Anyone that meets the qualifications set by the jurisdiction can run for office, can raise money to run, spend the money on political, legislative, or governmental purpose, and if they chose not to run, can give the remaining money back, or can set up a new campaign committee for a different office,” says FPPC communications director Jay Wierenga in an email, directing those with questions to the commission’s website.
Another expert with knowledge of campaign law, who was not authorized to speak on the record about any particular campaign, commented that what Preston did is no different than what Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom has been doing for three years, as of this month: raising money to gauge support for his bid to be California’s next governor.
Newsom started 2018 with more than $16 million raised, reports the Los Angeles Times, compared to less than $6 million each for former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and state Treasurer John Chiang, his closest rivals in the race. Although he declared he was running on Feb. 11, 2015, Newsom has until March 9th to officially file the necessary paperwork.
Preston issued the following statement Friday morning to journalist Dawn Ennis (Ennis is a contributor to this paper and broke the story in The Daily Beast):
“Part of being an excellent leader is being able to examine situations, evaluate progress, and determine the effectiveness of a given strategy. Throughout this hard-fought campaign, I discovered a few things.
“1) The system as it stands is set up against non-establishment candidates – not only to run, but to win.
“2) In a special election, it’s even more challenging because a regular campaign that usually takes over a year and a half to run, is compressed into approximately THREE months. (Less time than that because mail-in ballots go out early)
“3) Unless you are part of the current system (a fixed establishment pick) and have the resources immediately available to win a special election, you are not only fighting against the system itself, you also face another bigger enemy— TIME.
“It has become crystal clear to me that if an outsider wants to run the most effective campaign and break the mold, they need reasonable time to be as competitive as possible. Having a year and a half, would allow for the kind of campaign required to challenge this broken and corrupt system.
“It is my responsibility not only as a leader; but as a dutiful servant to he community— to make decisions outside of my own personal interests. It is important to me that I honor my supporters who contribute their time and finances and that we are all in the very best position to win. I have decided to forgo this current effort due to the aforementioned and other unfavorable circumstances.
“Let me be very clear; I am not going ANYWHERE. This has made me that much MORE fired up and determined to fight harder than I ever have in my entire life! This experience has taught me what it means to ‘pick your moment’. When that moment comes, (and you know that it will…) I will see to it that it is one the establishment never forgets— I promise. This truly is not the end of anything; this is actually THE BEGINNING of our true path to victory.
“This is not just my journey. This is a movement—a path that we walk together. You’ve never abandoned me; and I promise not to abandon you. As difficult as this is, I have to do what is most effective to ensure that we succeed when the moment is right. In order that those whose voices continue to be silenced, those who are ignored, marginalized, and set up to fail in this country, are finally afforded justice, respect, dignity, and representation.
“I honestly see this as part of a much larger picture. If we build a house on sand, it’s only a matter of time before the tide comes crashing in washes away everything we are working so hard for. If we rebuild our political system on solid foundation; it will stand strong and resilient. I know exactly what we need to do to win. But time is a key element in order to break through— and we will soon come upon it once more.
“From the bottom of my heart, I want to let my supporters know that I am so grateful to you for your love and support. You have shared your hopes and dreams with me and each of you have inspired me to continue to fight to make our voices heard.
“There is no doubt in my mind that we will do great things together—as many of us in the trenches have been doing long before I ran for office. May we keep steady, keep focused, and may we give our unwavering support to those who dare to run up against the odds.”