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WeHo candidates neglect LGBT issues at forum

Are gay candidates erasing their own?

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Homelessness, affordable housing, development, traffic, mass transit and the burgeoning cannabis business dominated the discussion at the Jan. 29 West Hollywood City Council Candidate Forum. The forum— sponsored by the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and the League of Women Voters of Los Angeles—was moderated by out KNBC reporter Robert Kovacik who asked questions drafted by the Chamber and voters.

Nine of the 11 candidates seeking three council seats in the March 5th election participated: current City Councilmembers Lindsey Horvath, Lauren Meister, and John D’Amico and challengers Brendan Hood, Duke Mason, Shawn Davis Mooney, Marquita Thomas, Tom Demille and Sepi Shyne. Candidates Jack Cline and Eric Jon Schmidt did not participate.

The candidates largely agreed on the issues, including the discomfort at being pressed to answer big questions in 45-second responses. Some themes were carried over, such as Mason’s call for the city to reassess the zoning map, which would help figure out what new development should go where and what neighborhood housing should be preserved.

When asked about the city’s nightlife, Mooney noted that “we’re all kind of grown up and married” but he’s “fine” with the bars on Santa Monica Boulevard and the Sunset Strip. Meister said more venues were needed on the Strip with the demise of the House of Blues. “Less hotels, more venues,” she said. Thomas noted that extended hours are coming and that is a public safety issue, as well as an increase in noise for nearby residents.

But as the 150-minute forum stretched on, it became increasingly clear that while seniors, the homeless, Russians and diminishing middle class were all being addressed—no one was talking about the city’s renowned LGBT population. What made the benign neglect even more striking is that all of the candidates are gay and lesbian, except straight incumbents Horvath and Meister.

And during his final two minutes, instead of talking about the need to “Save Boystown,” the spirit that got him elected in 2011, D’Amico pointed to his husband, smiled and talked about how happy he is living in West Hollywood.

“West Hollywood remains a hub of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) culture and a tourist destination for gay and bisexual men around the globe. The City is also home to a large number of gay and bisexual men — roughly 40% of the city’s population,” reports the city’s 2013 Community Survey.

“Thirty-nine percent of all respondents to the West Hollywood Community Study survey selfidentify as gay men; another two percent of
respondents identify as bisexual men. The percentage of gay and bisexual men living in West Hollywood has held constant over the past 15 years with similar figures reflected in surveys conducted in 1998, 2000, and 2006,” the survey said.

However, there appears to be an exodus of LGBT residents as rents for both apartments and small businesses continue to rise. Only Mooney briefly touched upon the issue, promising to keep alive the legacy of ACT UP and LGBT history. But no one addressed the need to retain the LGBT community and its culture, with which the city has been so long proudly identified. Isn’t LGBT history as valuable as an old Hollywood house?

Additionally, no one thoughtfully addressed the need for social services, including help for people with HIV/AIDS, even though the 2013 Community Survey reported that the “cumulative number of people living with HIV and the cumulative number of people living with AIDS continued to increase” in West Hollywood. And no mention was made of the city’s drug and crystal meth problem or the alarming increase of STDs in WeHo.

A 2019 Community Survey is apparently underway. But the “Community At A Glance” graphic provided for prospective business owners makes no mention of the LGBT community at all. It does indicate, however, that about 80% of the city’s 35,797 (a 2016 figure) residents are white.

That statistic and general impression of White WeHo has been more popularized since the death of young black escort Gemmel Moore in 2017 at the WeHo apartment of white political activist Ed Buck. Rallies by activists from the black community have alleged malfeasance on Buck’s part, though the Sheriff’s department concluded that Moore died of an accidental drug overdose. The death of a second gay African-American man, Timothy Dean, at Buck’s apartment only intensified the belief that whites are treated with unaccountable deference in West Hollywood.

Though there is an ongoing investigation into Dean’s death, the candidates were not prohibited from discussing WeHo’s image problem.

It was a point made by Jerome Kitchen as the forum was ending.

Kitchen, who identified himself as a friend of one of the deceased men, loudly asked why none of the candidates had addressed the deaths. He was considered a disrupter and shouted down.

Several candidates mentioned the importance of West Hollywood “values,” but no one really discussed what those values are and how they are maintained.

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California Politics

LA Mayoral race tight- Luna maintains lead over Sheriff Villanueva

In the race to replace Eric Garcetti as Mayor, Rep. Karen Bass is leading billionaire businessman Rick Caruso – 34% to 31% among all voters

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Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES – New polling released Monday showed that in the race to replace Eric Garcetti as Mayor of Los Angeles, Rep. Karen Bass is leading billionaire businessman Rick Caruso – 34% to 31% among all voters.

In the new UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies survey, Caruso is now just 3 points behind — which is within the poll’s margin of error. In August, Caruso trailed by 12 points although the poll found that among likely voters, Bass still leads by 15 points – 46% to 31%.

In the race for Los Angeles County sheriff, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday that retired Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna has a formidable, 10-point lead among likely voters over the incumbent, Alex Villanueva, a new UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies/Los Angeles Times poll showed.

With little more than a month until the Nov. 8 runoff election, 36% of likely voters polled said they are planning to cast ballots for Luna, while 26% said they favor Villanueva.

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California Politics

Race to the Midterms: Victory Fund touts 450+ candidates

“The Victory Fund’s nonpartisan – So we don’t talk about ‘holding the House’ so much as ‘keeping the forces who want to harm us at bay'”

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Los Angeles Blade graphic

By Karen Ocamb | WEST HOLLYWOOD – With just six weeks until the Nov. 8 midterm elections, Democrats are furiously working to stop MAGA Republicans from hanging democracy with the noose they propped up for then-Vice President Mike Pence on January 6.

The possibility of GOP Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy winning the five seats necessary to take back the House and gavel from Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell having power to shape the judiciary with prompting from The Federalist Society — LGBTQ people, people of color and women could be in for decades of rule by straight white supremacist Trump cultists.

The overturning of Roe v Wade, taking away the right to bodily autonomy, is just the beginning of the unraveling of individual privacy protections, the dismantling of equal justice under law and the murder of democracy by MAGA ideologues with the power to invalidate votes. 

But all is not lost just yet. Power is still in the hands of voters who prize real patriotism over fantasies about Trump’s Big Lie. And a lot of those patriots are LGBTQ candidates running for elected office across the nation.   

In this special episode of Race to the Midterms, we talk with former Houston Mayor Annise Parker, now President and CEO of the LGBTQ Victory Fund and the Victory Institute. The Victory Fund has now endorsed and promoted more than 450 out candidates seeking congressional seats and down-ballot state and local seats. Victory is also on the ground campaigning and getting out the vote in states such Texas, Florida, North Carolina, Minnesota, Kentucky, New York, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Connecticut. 

Annise Parker (Screenshot/YouTube)

The Victory Fund, founded in 1991, endorsed two people that year Sherry Harris for Seattle City Council candidate in Seattle and Los Angeles-based attorney Bob Burke, who was running for the California State Assembly. “This year we have more than 450 candidates so you can see the tremendous growth,” Parker says. 

Victory was able to identify more than 1100 out LGBT candidates but they also have a strict viability standard. “We are trying to push the envelope. And amazingly, our candidates are 30% more diverse than the general candidate pool. If you go to VictoryInstitute.org, you can look at our some of our research” showing demographics of all of the candidates in United States and then the LGBT candidates.

Victory’s Spotlight candidates, in particular, illustrate the essential intersectionality of LGBTQ candidates. “We are part of every community and we understand that,” says Parker. “But what is also happening is that more and more candidates of color from across the political spectrum are bringing their full selves to their races. I’m not going to say that it’s helpful to be openly LGBT. But I’m going to be really clear — it’s not a negative. 

“Our candidates win at the same rate that any other candidates win,” Parker continues. “When you control for your experience and the demographics of the district and the quality of the campaign, which is a really good sign. , and the fact that more and more people are acknowledging their gender identity or their sexual orientation — for us, having been in this game for so many decades with a singular purpose, whether someone is successful, I mean, we do want to see candidates win, but whether they ultimately are successful at the ballot box — when they run as their authentic selves, they’re true to themselves, they’re comfortable in their own skin, it has a transformative effect. And we’re excited about the possibilities this year.”

While Victory has endorsed numerous congressional candidates, our strength as an organization is really down ballot from there. No other national organization does down ballot races,” Parker says. State house races are really, really important because “the really stupid stuff starts in the state house and the really bad anti-LGBTQ stuff starts in the state houses and it can metastasize. In fact, there are organizations that stamp out some of these really ugly bills like cookie cutter, stamping them out and sharing them with right wing legislators, cross country so we really work hard at that level.”

And there have been victories, including helping three Black LGBT leaders win their primaries. “They will be the first Black members of the Texas legislature,” says the woman who became the first out lesbian mayor of a major city, identifying former Houston City Council member Jolanda Jones in Houston, longtime HIV and Dallas community activist Venton Jones, and in Beaumont, Christian Manuel Hayes.  

Parker also notes that the Victory Fund is a nonpartisan organization and we do support Democrats — and Republicans. So we don’t talk about ‘holding the House’ so much as ‘keeping the forces who want to harm us at bay.’ Parker mentions Sharice Davids as “not only a great example of an amazing member of Congress, but as an intersectional person — as an Indigenous woman, a Native American woman. This is her third run. She was elected twice, but redistricting was not good to her district — it was just eviscerated in Kansas. This is a tough state. So, I’m a little worried about Sharice.”  

Redistricting and voter registration is also working against the congressional reelection campaigns of Angie Craig in Minnesota and Chris Pappas in New Hampshire. There are new candidates, too, such as Will Rollins running in Palm Springs against anti-gay Ken Calvert, “who is no friend of the community, voted to against the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, voted for the Defense of Marriage Act. They’re neck and neck out there. For most voters, congressional races all turn on these national issues — where people were on January 6th and the Big Lie about Trump and that he won the last election, that sort of thing. The down ballot races are run on local issues — and that’s why our candidates do so well.”

Another interesting congressional race is New York’s Third District in Long Island. Victory has endorsed Democrat Robert Zimmerman. But his Republican opponent, George Santos, is also openly gay. “They both have deep ties to the district. No carpetbaggers. They’re credible candidates. And they raise good money. They have their party’s nomination,” says Parker. “Unfortunately, from our viewpoint, Santos was on the mall on January 6 and was part of the Big Lie trying to overturn the election, which made him not suitable for our endorsement.”

Parker also highlighted three governors’ races: Colorado Gov. Jared Polis is running for reelection “and should be OK. But we could take Massachusetts with Maura Healey and we can take Oregon with Tina Kotek. Maura is doing really well. Tina Kotek is in a three-way race. The interesting thing there is all three are women: a Republican and Democrat and independent. Tina Kotek is the Democrat. Any one of them could win.”

Annise Parker closed out the interview talking about her intersectional family — she’s been with her wife Kathy Hubbard for 31 years and they have a Black son Jovan and two bi-racial/Black daughters and a third daughter who is Anglo Hispanic. 

Jovan, now 46, was a 16-year-old gay street kid when 17-year old Treyvon Martin was murdered. “He was on and off the streets of Houston and he was being raised by his grandparents and they just — they kept trying to force the gay out and he’d run away or they’d throw him out and back and forth,” Parker says. “And then we finally said ‘Enough with that’ and invited him into our family.” 

Parker had her own motherly response when Treyvon Martin was killed and President Obama said that if he had a son, he would look like Treyvon. In fact, Obama said at the time in 2012, he looked like Treyvon growing up.

“When Obama said that I couldn’t help thinking my mother adored my son Jovan.  My mother at the time was living in Charleston, South Carolina,” she says. “Jovan was about 30 the first time he ever went to visit her on his own and drove over to Charleston. And I had to have this conversation with him before he went. It’s like, ‘she’s an older white woman living by herself. Don’t let her give you a key. Make sure you knock on the door. She opens the door. Anybody driving by can see that you’re going in. That she’s welcoming you in. Just be really, really careful.’

“And I shouldn’t have had to have that conversation,” Parker says. “Nobody should have to have that conversation. But that’s the reality of the world we live in still.”

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California Politics

Race to the Midterms Preview: Victory Fund’s Annise Parker

MAGA GOP House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy only needs five seats to take back the Speaker’s gavel from fellow Californian Nancy Pelosi

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Annise Parker (Screenshot/YouTube)

By Karen Ocamb | WEST HOLLYWOOD – The tension is nearly intolerable. Just six weeks until the Nov. 8 midterm elections and headaches abound. Will voters really stick to tradition and give Republicans, the party out of power, congressional gains over quixotic turns in the economy, despite the GOP promise to pass a federal ban on abortion? California’s MAGA Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy only needs five seats to take back the Speaker’s gavel from fellow Californian, Speaker Nancy Pelosi.   

And it’s not just the House. “Yes, Democrats’ fortunes have improved, but the most likely outcome of the midterm elections is still a shift in power to the Republicans — and bigger headaches for President Biden over the next two years,” Axios reported Saturday. “Despite the streak of discouraging news, Republicans still have a clear path to retaking the Senate majority. They only need to net one seat to win back the upper chamber, and there are plenty of paths to get there even if many of their recruits fizzle out.”

Why are our LGBTQ leaders not screaming from the rafters? Report after report after report warns that LGBTQ people are at risk of not only losing access to the fruits and freedoms of democracy — including the First Amendment right to free speech — but could be erased state by state by state by state without more than a flareup of protest.  

“On March 28, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation that effectively bans discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in Florida’s schools. The so-called ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill creates new restrictions on classroom speech around LGBT people and same-sex families and empowers parents to sue a school if the policy is violated, chilling any talk of LGBT themes lest schools or teachers face potentially costly litigation,” the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law recently reported. “This bill is the latest in a record-setting year of legislation targeting LGBT people: in 2022 alone, more than 200 anti-LGBT bills have been introduced in state legislatures across a range of issues, with a majority targeting transgender individuals,” despite a recent PRRI poll showing that 79 percent of Americans favor laws that protect LGBT people from discrimination. 

“LGBT rights are the canary in the coal mine of democratic backsliding,” the report continues. “Authoritarian leaders may target LGBT people precisely because their rights are seen as less institutionalized than other groups….Even Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill was explicitly modeled after similar efforts in Hungary.  Against this backdrop, we should recognize the propagation of anti-LGBT laws in the U.S. for what it signifies: an existential threat to our inclusive democracy.”

One leader traveling around the country, raising the alarm and raising the stakes for the LGBTQ community facing the midterms is former Houston, Texas Mayor Annise Parker, now President and CEO of the LGBTQ Victory Fund and the Victory Institute. Founded in 1991 with two LGBTQ candidates, the Victory Fund has now endorsed and promoted more than 450 out candidates seeking election on Nov. 8 to not only congressional seats but down-ballot state and local seats, as well. Victory’s Political Team is also on the ground campaigning and getting out the vote in states such Texas, Florida, North Carolina, Minnesota, Kentucky, New York, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Connecticut. 

In the upcoming special episode of Race to the Midterms, produced by Karen Ocamb and Max Huskins in conjunction with the Los Angeles Blade, we talk to Annise Parker about the state of the nation and the Out candidates running to make America better.

“Our candidates win at the same rate that any other candidates win,” says Parker. “When you control for your experience and the demographics of the district and the quality of the campaign, which is a really good sign. , and the fact that more and more people are acknowledging their gender identity or their sexual orientation — for us, having been in this game for so many decades with a singular purpose, whether someone is successful, I mean, we do want to see candidates win, but whether they ultimately are successful at the ballot box — when they run as their authentic selves, they’re true to themselves, they’re comfortable in their own skin, it has a transformative effect. And we’re excited about the possibilities this year.”

Check LosAngelesBlade.com later today to see the full interview and clips of some of the candidates Parker highlights. 

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