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Campa-Najjar vs. Hunter is now a ‘toss-up’

Devoted Christian challenges anti-LGBT culture of corruption

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Ammar Campa-Najjar. (Photo courtesy Campa-Najjar)

Stonewall Democrats laughed when Ammar Campa-Najjar described himself as Donald Trump’s “worst nightmare”— a Latino, Arab-American millennial who talks unabashedly about morality, under-representation of minorities and the administration’s “assault on our values” and “country over party.”

“Whether you’re Latino or Middle Eastern or LGBTQ or maybe both–or all three–it’s a really defining time for our country. We have to stand for our values. An assault on any one of us is an assault on all of us,” said the 29-year-old challenging anti-LGBT Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter in California’s 50th congressional district, covering northeastern San Diego County.

 

“We’ve seen how Donald Trump has really enabled the worst of the worst to come out of people. And right now it’s really about bringing people back together again,” Campa-Najjar told the Los Angeles Blade last July, noting that he has an LGBTQ stepsister and his stepfather, a Vietnam veteran, is a Trump supporter.

Though the 50th CD is on the list of GOP seats Democrats are hoping to flip to win back the House, this race is a steep climb. Though Hunter was the target of an FBI investigation before the June primary, a San Diego Union-Tribune poll showed Hunter with 43% of the vote to Campa-Najjar’s 10%.

Then the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Diego released a 47-page indictment charging the Hunters with 60 criminal counts, including illegally using $250,000 in campaign funds for personal expenses such as flying their pet rabbit across the country and purchasing clothing itemized as “golf balls for a wounded warriors” nonprofit, as well as conspiracy, wire fraud and falsifying records. Hunter blamed the Democrats for the “witch-hunt” and threw his campaign manager wife under the bus: “Whatever she did, that’ll be looked at, too, I’m sure, but I didn’t do it.”

Unlike Trump, Hunter doesn’t wear corruption and irresponsibility well. A Monmouth University Poll subsequently revealed that Hunter was still leading with 49% but Campa-Najjar had jumped to 41%, with 10% undecided. 

Hunter could lose his legacy seat, handed down from his anti-LGBT father, Duncan Hunter Sr., who won reelection from 1981 to 2009 largely because of his position on the powerful House Armed Services Committee. Hunter Jr. has used his seat on that committee to collect campaign money and posit anti-LGBT legislation like the proposed ban on transgender military service, advocated by the Family Research Council.

House Speaker Paul Ryan temporarily removed Hunter from three House committees after the indictment. But he still uses his committee connections to wield political power. On Oct. 15, Hunter released a letter labeled “Security Alert” from retired brigadier general Terry Paul and two retired major generals, Randall West and T.L. Corwin—all three lobbyists with business before the House Armed Services Committee. They allege Campa-Najjar is a “national security risk” who would use “secret information on U.S. military operations” to protect disengaged family in the Middle East.

“Mr. Hunter’s ongoing attacks on me, his wife, and the Justice Department aren’t just political; they’re pathological,” Campa-Najjar said in a statement. VoteVets encouraged 148,000 Twitter followers to complain to the Marine Corps.

But Hunter went even lower. “Ammar Campa-Najjar is working to infiltrate Congress,” says the narrator of Hunter’s ad on YouTube. “He’s used three different names to hide his family’s ties to terrorism.”

That outraged the conservative San Diego Union-Tribune: “We endorse Campa-Najjar for Congress. He is far superior to the troubled incumbent. This fact is underlined by the despicable ad that Hunter has begun to air in recent days suggesting that his ‘Palestinian Mexican millennial’ opponent was linked to terrorist groups and was ‘working to infiltrate Congress.’”

Ammar Campa-Najjar with his mother Abby Campa and his “abuelita,” Abigal Campa, in 2017. (Photo courtesy the Campa-Najjar campaign on Facebook)

The Union-Tribune disputed the allegation that Campa-Najjar—who was raised by his single Catholic Mexican mother after his Palestinian father left when he was a boy—is a risk to national security because his grandfather, who was killed by Israeli commandos 16 years before Campa-Najjar was born and whom he has strongly disavowed, was a terrorist who helped plan the 1972 attack on Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics.

“It’s also well-known that Campa-Najjar, a Christian, has had literally nothing to do with his grandfather. As Campa-Najjar notes, when he worked at the White House, he was ‘given a security clearance by the Secret Service after a thorough background check.’ With this smear, Hunter continues to demolish his own reputation,” said the Union-Tribune editorial.

Ammar Campa-Najjar with gay California Assemblymember Todd Gloria (Photo via Facebook)

An Oct. 15 Washington Post editorial also noted that the “ad’s claims have been thoroughly discredited, earning a four Pinocchios rating from The Post’s Fact Checker, which concludes the Hunter campaign ignored or distorted basic biographical facts about Mr. Campa-Najjar.”

The Post pointed out that Campa-Najjar’s job in the Obama White House “reviewing letters sent to the president” and his public affairs position at the US Department of Labor “required him to pass FBI background checks (something the Fact Checker noted Mr. Hunter would be unable to do because of his indictment)…. The only danger posed by Mr. Campa-Najjar is to Mr. Hunter’s reelection chances.”

Nonetheless, Hunter doubled down, enlisting his father after an Oct. 4 Los Angeles Times/University of California-Berkeley poll showed Hunter with only a 2% lead, well within the margin of error. “Mr. Najjar is a security risk,” Duncan Hunter Sr. said at an Oct. 16 press conference. “As an American congressman, he would have the right to know about American troop movements in the Middle East.”

Campa-Najjar didn’t wait for a call from reporters—he went to the news conference and charged the former congressmember with “race-baiting” and promoting “disinformation.”

“This is an act of desperation,” Campa-Najjar said. “Daddy had to come out and save him…. I’m my own man and the people of my district respect people who fight for themselves.”

It’s a flash of anger from a contemporary Christian gladiator. Campa-Najjar speaks with such authentic empathy and thought about the biblical principles of love, as well as the distortions caused by “toxic masculinity,” he sounds like an updated version of Thomas a Kempis’ “Imitation of Christ.” In fact, the real “nightmare” Campa-Najjar may pose to Trump and anti-LGBT religious right hero Mike Pence is his grasp of humanity and real morality. 

“You have to extend love to those who you may not maybe share views with. That’s how we have to deal with Trump,” Campa-Najjar tells the Los Angeles Blade. “Even that slogan that ‘love trumps faith.’ I think that is something that is rooted in our humanity but also can be found in our Christian teachings.”

Agape, for instance, is “unconditional love. That no matter what you do, what you believe in, how different you may look or feel or love or live—that is irrelevant to the fact that you have to show people love,” he says.

“The opposite of love is condemnation and then putting that condemnation into action by persecuting others is very far away from what God died for, in my view,” Campa-Najjar says.

“In the Bible, there’s only one time where Jesus was angry, like outright angry, uncharacteristically outraged and it was the event that led to his crucifixion. It was when he went to the temple and there were the money changers, the tax collectors, and those who were trying to basically get money out of everybody to give them something to leave at the alter for God,” he says. “And literally homeless people and widows and people with no money—the least of these—were giving pennies, whatever they had to scrape together, to get some commodity to offer to the alter to God—a pigeon,” a valueless “rodent with wings.”

Campa-Najjar continues, as if recalling a memory: “And Jesus was so angry that he turned over the tables and the money and he said to them, to the religious elites: ‘you’re white washed and beautiful on the outside but you’re dead inside.’ And he was so outraged that it led to his crucifixion” since Pontius Pilot saw this act as meaning that “Jesus was no longer containable,” that he was a rebel who posed a threat to the elites.

“I see that moment as today’s tax plan where it’s basically taking away from those who have almost nothing just to give more to those who are at the very top,” he says. “The income inequality that turns into gender and racial and generational inequality—that’s the kind of thing that morally outraged Jesus so much that it led to his crucifixion. And I think right now we have an administration that is doing the same thing— but in the 21st century, in the form of giving tax breaks to the wealthy at the expense of those who are really, really struggling,” the lower and middle class.

“That’s the kind of outrage that I think even Jesus would express,” Campa-Najjar says. “And it’s OK and healthy and I think within our bounds as Christians to speak truth to power when there is gender, generational or income inequality, when the least of these are either religious minorities, or any minority, be it women or orientation, we have an obligation to speak out and defend them. On that grounds, we do have, as Christians, an obligation to speak up against the moral bankruptcy of all of this today.”

Besides, Campa-Najjar says, “ I made a promise to my mom that her future granddaughter, her life would be fairer, her opportunities would be more equal and her rights would be more protected. And I can’t keep that promise with the way the world is going today. So I’m desperately looking forward to getting involved and making sure that we hold people accountable in Washington.”

For more, visit campacampaign.com

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West Hollywood

West Hollywood’s new mayor & mayor pro tempore take office

In their speeches after they took their oaths, both women laid out their visions looking towards the future of the City

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City of West Hollywood, California (Blade file photo)

WEST HOLLYWOOD – In a ceremony conducted virtually due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic in the greater Southland, just prior to the nitty gritty of the city’s business being conducted, the city council installed its new mayor and mayor pro tempore this past Monday.

Swearing in WeHo’s new Mayor Lauren Meister, was former West Hollywood City Councilmember John Heilman, and administering the oath of office to newly designated Mayor pro tempore Sepi Shyne, was Melahat Rafiei the principal and founder of Progressive Solutions Consulting, a premier political consulting and fundraising firm based in Long Beach, California and also the Secretary of the California Democratic Party.

Meister, was first elected to the City Council on March 3, 2015 and re-elected for her second term on March 5, 2019.

Shyne, elected to her first term on the City Council November 2020, also managed to set a mark in history as the first openly lesbian Iranian woman to serve and with her election giving the city Council a female-led majority.

In their speeches after they took their oaths, both women laid out their visions looking towards the future of the City.

Mayor Meister in her remarks noted;

Lauren Meister at a regular city council meeting in 2019. (Blade file photo)

Today is kind of bittersweet. It is the second anniversary of Spike’s passing but it is also the beginning of the Jewish holiday, Sukkot, the season of rejoicing. According to Chabad, “it’s a festival — laden with unique mitzvahs, quality time with our community and family, all with an extra-large serving of joy.” I’m hopeful that my swearing in on this festive day is a good omen!

I want to thank everyone for their well wishes and support.  I want to thank my family for their love, encouragement, and unlimited patience. Thank you to my colleagues for your vote of confidence as I take on the role of Mayor for the second time. 

I also want to thank my former Council colleague, John Heilman, for swearing me in as your mayor tonight. It means a lot to me.

When I was installed as Mayor back in April 2016, I spoke about renewing the community spirit that helped form this great city nearly 37 years ago, which John and others were a big part of. 

As a community, we gathered as one after 9/11, we mourned the tragedy of the Pulse Nightclub mass murder, we celebrated marriage equality, and we marched, stood up to, and survived a challenging national political climate. 

I have lived in this city over 30 years, and over the years, I have witnessed many stages in our city’s maturity – I have seen issues divide our city. I have seen the east side pitted against the west side, businesses pitted against residents, tenants pitted against landlords. 

But I have to say, that after being elected to Council, the drama that seemed to plague every Council meeting with a controversial topic… the theatre – and a lot of it was theatre – seemed to dissipate.  

Now, however, we’re seeing a divisiveness that I haven’t seen in a while, and it’s disturbing.  It’s disturbing because we are still one small city and one community – a community comprised of people from all walks of life, a community with young people and older people; a community with businesses and workers.  All must be valued; none should be discounted. A rainbow flag is not just six colors or 10 colors – if it truly represents our community, then it is an infinite number of colors. Putting people into categories, labeling them, disparaging them, does not serve this community. 

I’d like to say, today, that my goal as Mayor is to solve our three biggest issues: homelessness, housing affordability, and making our city safer. 

As Mayor, I’d like to strengthen our neighborhoods, encourage economic diversity, and further initiatives to protect our renters and our small businesses. I’d like to make West Hollywood a premier green city by increasing our urban forest and embracing biodiversity. I’d like to find a companion care center close to home for our lost, found, and abandoned animals. 

And, importantly, I’d like for West Hollywood to be the most prepared and resilient city in the country – for whatever emergency or disaster strikes – whether it be earthquake, drought, pandemic, or recession. 

But none of this can happen if we don’t work together and focus on the city’s recovery from this pandemic. None of this can happen, if we don’t focus on keeping people healthy and getting people vaccinated.  And none of this can happen if we, as a council, don’t make recovery our number one priority. 

So, in the coming weeks, I will be bringing forward a proposal requesting that the city manager arrange several team-building workshops for council, designed to help foster communications among council members, to clarify council’s role, and to identify priorities and common goals. The objective of the workshops will be to transform our new council and our new city manager into an effective, problem-solving team.

Now, I come full circle to why I asked my former colleague, John Heilman, to swear me in today as Mayor.  As many of you know, John and I did not agree on every issue, and in fact, before I was on Council, I was probably one of Council’s most vocal critics. But, once we were colleagues, we learned to work together, respect each other, and most importantly, acknowledge that we both cared about the best interests of the city, even when we didn’t agree. 

So, I appreciate that John was a part of my swearing in today because, to me, it symbolizes hope… that there’s hope that people with different perspectives can work together effectively for the city they love. And, as your mayor, I’m confident this is something that we – Council, residents, businesses, and other community members – can achieve in the months to come

Then mayor pro tempore Shyne spoke;

Sepi, her wife Ashlei-Shyne and also Chloe ‘the Queen of Weho’ (Photo Credit: courtesy of Sepy Shyne0

Thank you to my colleagues for electing me to serve as Mayor Pro Tem. Thank you to all of our residents, community members, colleagues and staff and my wife, family and friends who have been so supportive over the past 9 months that I have served in office. Thank you to my dear friend Melahat Rafiei for swearing me in and for your support. Thank you to outgoing Mayor Horvath for your leadership and taking up the reigns when we asked you to serve a much longer term during the pandemic as Mayor and thank you to our new Mayor Meister for your leadership. I am honored to serve in this new leadership position with you.

Serving on this Council these past 9 months has been the honor of my life and serving as your Mayor Pro Tem is a responsibility I take very seriously. West Hollywood has always been on the forefront of making history and we did it once again this evening. 

When my parents and I fled Iran when I was 5 to escape the oppressive Islamic regime and the war between Iran and Iraq, I never imagined that one day I would be sworn in as the first Iranian, first woman of color and first Lesbian to serve as Mayor Pro Tem of West Hollywood. 

When kids in kindergarten bullied me throwing things and using anti-middle eastern slurs, I never ever imagined that one day, I would be sworn in as Mayor Pro tem of West Hollywood.

When fellow high school students verbally gay bashed and stalked me for being a lesbian, I never imagined that one day, I would be sworn in as Mayor Pro Tem of West Hollywood. 

In college, when my girlfriend and I were thrown out of a coffee shop by a police officer and the coffee shop manager for holding hands, I made up my mind to go to law school, learn the law and stop that from ever happening to others and that is what I did. But, even then, I never imagined that one day, I would be sworn in as Mayor Pro Tem of West Hollywood. 

The reason I never imagined serving in elected office is because growing up, I truly did not see anyone that looked like me, grew up like me and loved like me in elected office. But since November 2020 and especially now, I know that another little Middle Eastern, Brown, immigrant girl who may be queer can now imagine herself in elected office because now she does see herself. And that is one of the most powerful reasons why representation truly matters. 

I wanted to serve on the City Council to represent the people of our amazing city and to bring your voices and more equity to City Hall. The people wanted progressive change. 

In the past 9 months, I have delivered on that mandate. I have had countless conversations and virtual and in person meetings with residents, workers and stakeholders to discuss how we can make West Hollywood better. I have had the honor to serve on our Laurel House, Homelessness, Event and Pride Subcommittees with my colleagues as well as now representing West Hollywood as the Chair on the Westside Cities Council of Governments. 

I have initiated, co-sponsored and passed 34 council items which I am so proud to say have nearly all had unanimous council support. Some of the ones I want to highlight tonight are: 

  1. The creation of the Social Justice Task Force that is now successfully appointed and working on policy recommendation for us to help address systemic racism; 
  2. The creation of business roundtables, grants for the most vulnerable small businesses, and the creation of the Business Recovery Task Force; 
  3. Incentives for LGBTQ people, BIPOC, women and local residents to start small businesses in our city; 
  4. An ordinance strengthening our Tenant Harassment Ordinance and providing further protections for our renters;
  5. The Multi Stall Gender Neutral Bathroom Ordinance which will ensure our Transgender and Non-Binary family, same sex parents of opposite sex children and people with disabilities that have an opposite sex caretaker have equal and safe access to bathrooms;
  6. The development of a Citywide Behavioral Health Crisis Response Unit that will reduce law enforcement response to homelessness and in other areas the unit serves in order to provide solutions from experts that work;
  7. Several items that direct staff to study or update our zoning code related to affordable housing and capacity, bring our codes up to date with newer type housing developments being proposed so there are standards in place rather than loopholes; 
  8. An Initiative to highlight Pet-Friendly businesses and develop “Pet Week” in West Hollywood, which includes a special day dedicated to our beloved Felines; and
  9. Making sure that Recovery includes Everyone by expanding Protections and Wage Equity for Hotel Workers, including panic buttons, the Right of Recall and Retention, overtime consent, Public Housekeeping training and excessive workload compensation. 

For the next year and four months, I look forward to working with Mayor Meister to ensure efficiency and continued good leadership. I look forward to continue being accessible to constituents. I am excited about the Business Recovery Task Force, which will soon be formed to ensure we have a 5 year blueprint for business success, recovery and diversification. I look forward to continuing to pass items that help our residents, small businesses and workers. Items that create more affordable housing, bring more equity to all, bring more transparency and ethics to our government, create a more healthy environment to combat our climate crisis, have more community-based solutions to strengthen our community safety, help get our unhoused neighbors the housing and services they need as well as focusing on our City’s recovery. 

West Hollywood is truly one of the best cities to live, work and play in and I am so grateful to be your new Mayor Pro Tem.

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Los Angeles

LGBTQ+ ally City Councilman Kevin de León announces run for mayor

De León currently represents Council District 14 that takes in the predominantly Latino neighborhoods of Boyle Heights and El Sereno

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Kevin de León from campaign advert (Screenshot via YouTube)

LOS ANGELES – Standing in front of a group of enthusiastic supporters Tuesday at the El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument, Los Angeles City Councilman Kevin de León announced that he was joining the mayor’s race for next year’s city elections.

Councilman de León, a Democrat, is the third city elected official to announce his intention to seek the mayor’s chair after current Mayor Eric Garcetti, who was elected for a four-year term in 2013 and again in 2017- who’s limited to serving no more than two terms, was picked by President Joe Biden to serve as the U.S. ambassador to India on July 9, 2021.

Born in Los Angeles of Guatemalan and Mexican descent, raised by a loving, hard-working single mother, de León, 51, got an education and spent 12 years in Sacramento, rising to become the President Pro Tem of the California Senate, authoring and passing legislation and making history. It was his bill that then Governor jerry Brown signed into law making California a “sanctuary state”—a law that was upheld by a federal appeals court.

In an August 2018 interview with former Los Angeles Blade Editor Karen Ocamb, he reflected on his relationship with the LGBTQ+ community.

“I’ve always been very close to the LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual) community even before I even knew all the initials that keep growing,” de León says with a laugh during an extensive phone interview with the Los Angeles Blade. “It’s always been my core set of values that every human being deserves a real opportunity to succeed, regardless of who they love and regardless of the hue of their skin and regardless of their legal status. That is embedded in my DNA.”

De León learned to care about LGBT people as a child from his mother and aunt around the kitchen table.

“My mother got a third grade education and my aunt even less,” he says. “I was very young and they were talking about a gay friend, a colleague of theirs. I didn’t understand. Obviously, they didn’t understand themselves. But they spoke with such affection, such tenderness. And here were two immigrant women with limited formal education and the way they spoke so lovingly, tenderly, beautifully about their gay friend. I could deduce the person they were talking about was gay—they kind of spoke in code around me when I was just sitting there listening to them at the kitchen table. And it transcended ethnicity and legal status and poverty—that we’re all human beings and we deserve dignity and respect. That had an ‘Ah Ha’ impact.”

De León’s LGBT education continued as he picked his mother up from her work as a housekeeper at convalescent homes. “She had quite a few gay colleagues with her and I just remember they were just so beautifully nice with my mother and my mother with them and that had a huge impression on me of the universal values of treating everybody with dignity and with respect. So when there is a discriminatory blow against anyone in the LGBTQIA community, I feel that blow equally.” 

De León, 54, is by far the most prominent Latino running. Fluent in Spanish, he represents a district that takes in the predominantly Latino neighborhoods of Boyle Heights and El Sereno, as well as much of downtown, where a development boom has fueled huge growth over the past decade, KTLA reported.

Two other candidates — Councilman Joe Buscaino and City Atty. Mike Feuer — have been campaigning for several months. The race also features two business leaders: Jessica Lall, who heads the downtown-based Central City Assn., and real estate broker Mel Wilson, who has been involved with several San Fernando Valley business groups.

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Los Angeles

Hermosa Beach Pride Lifeguard Tower is here to stay

“The rainbow tower is beautiful and has become a symbol of this community’s love and support for LGBTQ rights,” said Supervisor Hahn

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Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

Hermosa Beach — Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn is announcing that the Pride Tower in Hermosa Beach is here to stay.  The 13th street Los Angeles County Lifeguard Tower, which was painted rainbow in June, was originally meant to be repainted its original blue color at the end of summer.  The rainbow paintjob will now be permanent. 

“The rainbow tower is beautiful and has become a symbol of this community’s love and support for LGBTQ rights,” said Supervisor Hahn, whose support paved the way for the project. “None of us wanted to see it painted over and I am proud to announce that the Pride Tower is here to stay.”

The idea to paint the tower originally came from lzzy Bacallao, a local non-binary teen. Izzy, who uses the pronouns they and them, was responding to the burning of rainbow-painted Pride lifeguard tower in Long Beach in March. The rainbow-painted tower was unveiled at the Hermosa Beach Pride event June 26, 2021.

The new Pride Tower’s rainbow paintjob will be maintained by the Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors which maintains all LA County Lifeguard Towers.   The Department of Beaches and Harbors also maintains another permanent Pride tower in Venice. 

Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles
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