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California Politics

Karen Bass elected as first woman mayor of Los Angeles

The Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s office is expected to certify the results on Dec. 5

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Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) (Photo Credit: Sam Garrett-Pate)

LOS ANGELES – Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif) has secured the votes to become the 43rd mayor of the City of Los Angeles, succeeding current mayor Eric Garcetti, according to projections from the Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times though thousands of votes still remain to be counted.

In addition to being the first woman elected she is the second Black politician in the city’s 241-year history after the legendary Thomas Bradley who served as the 38th Mayor of Los Angeles from 1973 to 1993.

The congresswoman’s victory comes on the heels of one of the most expensive campaigns ever conducted in the city. The Los Angeles Times reported the 69-year-old Bass achieved victory despite real estate magnate Rick Caruso spending more than $100 million of his own fortune on his mayoral bid, shattering local spending records and pumping previously unprecedented sums into field outreach and TV advertising.

Caruso, 63, outspent Bass more than 11 to 1 but was ultimately unable to prevail as a former Republican in a sapphire-blue California city.

The campaign towards the end before election day because rancorous as the two candidates traded accusations and as the Times noted:

[…] as both candidates fought fire with fire. Much of the bombardment centered around one of the most prominent private institutions in the city, with Bass and Caruso attacking their opponent’s relationships to scandals at USC. Caruso also hit Bass for a speech she gave praising Scientology. Bass and her supporters frequently hammered Caruso for his Republican past, with her allies branding him as a “liar” and a “phony.”

The L.A. County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s office is expected to certify the results on Dec. 5.

LOS ANGELES CITY GENERAL MUNICIPAL ELECTION Mayor

Candidate(s)VotesPercent
KAREN RUTH BASS (N)403,42753.06%
RICK J. CARUSO (N)356,84946.94%
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California Politics

WeHo Mayor John M. Erickson discusses re-election campaign

Erickson officially announced his re-election campaign for West Hollywood City Council this week & sits down with WeHo Times

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West Hollywood Mayor John M Erickson - (Photo by Paulo Murillo/WEHO TIMES)

By Paulo Murillo | WEST HOLLYWOOD – West Hollywood Mayor John M. Erickson, Ph.D. officially announced his re-election campaign for West Hollywood City Council this week.

WeHo Times caught up with the incumbent following his big announcement to discuss his campaign, some of his accomplishments from his first term and the challenges he faces ahead.

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So it’s official today. You announced your run for reelection.

Yes. I announced this morning I’m running for re-election to the West Hollywood City Council.

What is running for re-election looking like for you?

It looks like what I’ve been doing for the last four years, delivering for our residents and our businesses. When I look at the city and where I started four years ago, back then, we weren’t allowed to go outside. We were in masks, and now we are out in a vibrant, although a little gray and overcast today, sky. We have new businesses opening every day. We have residents that are further protected, thanks to some of the tenant harassment ordinances that we’ve passed. And we’re working on bringing the city into the future with new infrastructure and great new projects like the coast Playhouse and the purchasing of the Log Cabin on Robertson Boulevard. These things that are priorities to me and always have been, so the work that we’re doing continues on. My re-election ensures that the residents and businesses remain at the forefront of my mind, and I am committed to running strongly to ensure that we prioritize their needs.

Pandemic lockdown aside, how else is this campaign different from the last one?

I mean, the last time I ran, I ran a people forward campaign. It was a people centric campaign that really focused on bringing a new voice to the City of West Hollywood. And this time, it’s about holding true to those values that I ran on. I think the stuff that I’ve done over the last four years and also just the sheer logistics this time, we can go door-to-door, we can go out and see each other, and be within six feet, so making sure that the community feel we are back and are part of the campaign. That’s something I love so much.

What kind of feedback are you getting after people learned you were running for re-election?

I’ve announced it early. I’m really proud to say I am endorsed by over, I believe, 70 board members and commissioners. I’m endorsed by almost every elected official that represents West Hollywood and some are Congress member Adam Schiff, supervisor Lindsey Horvath, Senator Ben Allen, Assemblymember Rick Chavez, and my colleagues Vice Mayor Chelsea Byers and Councilmember Sepi Shine. When you look at the list, it’s a broad coalition of supporters and organizations already. I’m endorsed by Equality California, Victory Fund, The Los Angeles Building Trades Council, the Sierra Club, and the Los Angeles League of Conservation Voters. A lot of people jumped in early because they see the progress that we’ve made, and I’m really excited to see the momentum going forward.

What kind of challenges does your campaign anticipate?

I think the main topic of conversation will be what the future of the City of West Hollywood looks like, and I really welcome those conversations. I’m going to be running a positive campaign like I always did. I’m not going to be getting into the mud because I believe that residents want a positive mayor and a positive candidate out there putting forth a vision of the city that not only shows our progressive values, and our history, but also leans us towards the future in the way that we’ve been going. Is everything sunshine and rainbows? No candidate should ever say that. But we have work to do, and I’m really looking forward to that work and in those robust conversations.

What are some of the issues that are coming up for you, in this this election versus your first run?

This time it’s about building more affordable housing and housing, as a whole. We have a lot of housing to build and transportation infrastructure. We’re trying to bring the city into the 21st century when it comes to our roads and sidewalks and making sure that they’re accessible to everyone, and getting people out of cars and maybe onto bikes are another mode of transit. Walking is another great example. I think the last and most important thing that I said when I first ran was climate change. I’ve really made that a staple of my campaign, sustainability practices and climate resilience and I have that record to back it up. That’s why I’ve already received endorsements from the two leading organizations in that field. And we have a lot of work to continue to make sure West Hollywood leads on those issues. Then I think when we always invest in community safety and our businesses, you can’t go wrong there.

How is your campaign addressing public safety?

As many know, I led the charge to bring back two deputies after hearing the response from the community and making sure that our people felt safe. The first call we always get is always going to be about community safety. We need to make sure we’re responsible to that and so we’re building and pushing forward a robust public safety plan. I’m already endorsed by the firefighters and that’s really important to me, because they are our first responders. We’re building a new state-of-the-art Fire and Sheriff Station in partnership with LA County so that first responders have 21st-century tools to ensure that our diverse community is safe at home and in our neighborhoods.

So what do you tell the voter who isn’t sure about you?

I would ask them to look at my work ethic, and look at the work that I have done, and look at my response to the community. When you email City Hall, do you not get an email back? Do you not get a phone call back? What I say to the voter that’s unsure is that I’ve led the City with distinction and I’ve led the city with, I believe, the honor that I’ve always been taught by my former mentors. I’m looking forward to continuing that and making sure that the people of the City of West Hollywood know that they’re my first priority.

How will your campaign address your detractors?

There’s always going to be detractors. I would say that even my detractors would say that I answer the phone when they call. I don’t think anyone can ever say that I don’t welcome a robust conversation. I have very strong values and morals. I’m really proud of that. My grandmother taught me those things when as a young queer kid in Ripon, Wisconsin. I think the most important thing that I can say to my detractors is, you may not like what I’ve done, or you may not like what we’re trying to do as a city, but I want you to come and talk to me and give it a chance. If after that, you still don’t want to be involved in the conversation, you can always call me if something’s happening because I’m there for you just as I’m there for everyone else.

What do you love most about being Mayor and council member of the City of West Hollywood?

The best part about being the mayor and the council member in the City of West Hollywood is you get to see and interact with people on a person-to-person basis in a way that we all work together for a better future for our city. When the principal of West Hollywood Elementary School can call the mayor directly and not have to go through staff, when a resident can call, or a parent at a school can call the Mayor of West Hollywood and say they’re having this issue, or need more green space, or they want to have pickleball courts in the city… my answer is going to be yes, because that’s the role of our local government. Local is where community happens. And I’m so proud of that. This is why I post my Plummer Park event for the last 34 months now without missing a single one. The community needs to know that we’re out at a school, or we’re out in the streets, or their businesses. The mayor is listening and I think that’s the best part of being here, we get to hear right from the community.

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For a full list of endorsements, biography, issues, and more visit www.erickson4weho.org and follow John on social media @JohnEricksonWH.

To read about John’s accomplishments in his first term, go to: https://erickson4weho.com/about-john

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Paulo Murillo is Editor in Chief and Publisher of WEHO TIMES. He brings over 20 years of experience as a columnist, reporter, and photo journalist.

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The preceding article was previously published by WeHo Times and is republished with permission.

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California Politics

Raul Ureña battles recall election in Calexico over his trans identity

For Ureña, the recall is more than a political hurdle; it is a litmus test for the values of the community he serves

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Raul Ureña (center) with supporters last month in Calexico, Calif. (Photo Credit: Raul Ureña/Facebook)

CALEXICO, Calif. – A battle is underway that encapsulates the broader national struggle over LGBTQ+ rights, environmental policy, and the future direction of local governance. At the center of this storm is Raul Ureña, 26, one of the youngest and first openly transgender city council members in Calexico’s history.

Ureña faces a recall election orchestrated by a faction of past politicians and fueled by a campaign marred with alleged misinformation and accusations rooted in prejudice.

Ureña, alongside fellow young councilmember Gilberto Manzanarez, has been instrumental in ushering in a new era of progressive policy-making in Calexico, aimed at rectifying a decade of economic downturn, political strife, and social neglect. Their tenure has been marked by significant investments in the community’s infrastructure, environmental initiatives, public safety, and efforts to boost the financial health of the city, in stark contrast to the practices of previous administrations.

The Recall Effort: A Closer Look

The recall, set against the backdrop of Calexico’s 116th anniversary, emerges as a politically motivated attempt to derail the momentum gained by Ureña and his colleagues. Ureña provided insights into the recall’s dynamics: “Right now it is April 5, we are 11 days from the recall election that was petitioned by a group of very hateful citizens,” Ureña told The Bolade. “They have raised north of $30,000, which is a substantial amount for our small city, mainly to circulate petitions for the recall.” 

Despite the financial and political onslaught, Ureña remains undeterred, highlighting the backing from organizations like the United Auto Workers, a testament to his environmental advocacy and progressive policies, including the introduction of the county’s fastest and only electric vehicle chargers.

The Impact of Ureña’s Policies

Under Ureña’s stewardship, Calexico has witnessed tangible progress across several domains:

  • Financial Health: Addressing the city’s financial mismanagement has been a priority, with corrective measures now steering Calexico away from a state-designated “High Risk” status due to previous overspending and budgetary inaccuracies.
  • Transportation and Infrastructure: Ureña’s role as the city’s commissioner at the Imperial County Transportation Commission has been pivotal in securing funding and advancing projects like the $13.4 million Intermodal Transportation Center, set to enhance regional mobility and address border traffic issues.
  • Environmental Advocacy: A staunch environmentalist, Ureña has championed the New River Improvement Project, aiming to remediate one of the nation’s most polluted rivers, alongside initiating the city’s first micro-transit system, which has become the county’s most successful transit service.
  • Community and Public Safety: Investments in emergency services, the rehabilitation of essential facilities like Fire Station #2, and improvements in parks and recreation underscore the commitment to public welfare and community engagement.
  • ProWorker Policies: Ureña and Manzanarez have implemented pro-worker policies as part of their economic development strategy in Calexico, focusing on the well-being of the working population. They spearheaded an equitable spending plan for the American Relief Plan Act (ARPA), allocating 1 million dollars in “hero pay” to essential workers who served during the COVID-19 pandemic, recognizing their contributions as equally valuable to those of other city employees who received similar compensations in the past.

Facing Down Hate and Misinformation

Addressing the recall campaign’s undertones, Ureña stated, “The claims against me for the recall are just dog whistles for transphobia.” 

He remains committed to his agenda, asserting that he takes the right’s labeling his party as “radicals” as a complimentary testament to their dedication. “We have our goals and strong ideas. we  said we were going to clean up the new river and that project is under construction. The electric vehicle chargers are under construction. We are building the largest transportation center in the imperial county. We are building affordable housing. We are radical, because when we say we are going to do something, we go ahead, and we do it. No excuses.”

Equality California (EQCA) has thrown its support behind Ureña.

“Ureña is one of only a handful of out transgender elected officials in California and, at a time when trans Californians are facing unprecedented political attacks, trans representation in elected office is more important than ever,” said EQCA Executive Director, Tony Hoang. 

The Future of Calexico

As the recall election looms, the stakes for Calexico and for Ureña could not be higher. A city at a crossroads, Calexico’s voters face a choice between continuing on a path of progressive reform and environmental stewardship or reverting to the governance that precipitated years of decline.

For Ureña, the recall is more than a political hurdle; it is a litmus test for the values of the community he serves, the efficacy of his policies, and the resilience of progress against the tide of misinformation and intolerance.

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Evan Low survives historic primary race, will be on November ballot

Elections officials certified their vote counts Thursday. It is reportedly the first time three candidates will advance out of a primary race

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Gay Assemblymember Evan Low is part of a trio of candidates moving on to the general election race for an open South Bay U.S. House seat. (Photo Credit: Assemblymember Evan Low)

By Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor | CUPERTINO, Calif. – Having survived a historic primary race for an open South Bay U.S. House seat, gay Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Cupertino) will now vie in November to be the Bay Area’s first gay congressmember. But he is facing a tough three-person contest this fall.

As the Bay Area Reporter first reported online April 3, Low ended up tying for second place with Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian once all ballots were counted this week. The two Democrats both received 30,249 votes.

Because California’s election code does not allow a tie vote in a primary to be determined “by lot,” the pair will both appear on the November 5 ballot along with former San Jose mayor Sam Liccardo. The fellow Democrat finished first in the March 5 primary race with 38,489 votes.

One of the three will succeed Congressmember Anna Eshoo (D-Palo Alto), as she decided to retire when her current term expires. Her House District 16 seat spans San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.

“I am honored to have won the support of our community to advance to the general election to replace the esteemed Anna Eshoo for Congress. Thank you to all of my incredible supporters who gave their time, money, and votes to support our campaign,” stated Low. “This historically close race shows that every vote really counts. I could not have made it this far without every one of you, and I hope to earn your support once again in November.”

Low also expressed thanks to the other candidates who ran in the primary, including bisexual Palo Alto City Councilmember Julie Lythcott-Haims, “for a thoughtful campaign and for their commitment to serve our community. I look forward to continuing to share my vision for the future with every voter in the coming months.”

Elections officials in both jurisdictions certified their vote counts Thursday. It is reportedly the first time three candidates will advance out of a primary race since California began using its open primary system. Adopted by voters in 2010, normally only the top two vote-getters regardless of party affiliation advance out of the primary for a federal office to the general election.

In the case of a tied vote, per the state’s election code, “if only one candidate receives the highest number of votes cast but there is a tie vote among two or more candidates receiving the second highest number of votes cast, each of those second-place candidates shall be a candidate at the ensuing general election along with the candidate receiving the highest number of votes cast, regardless of whether there are more candidates at the general election than prescribed by this article.”

Any of the candidates or a registered voter in the state can ask for a recount. They now have five calendar days to do so, but it will cost them tens of thousands of dollars because the financial burden falls on them and not the county election offices.

In announcing her certification of the primary election results in Santa Clara County, Registrar of Voters Shannon Bushey noted, “The results of this election exemplify why your vote truly matters.”

Other close races

The House race was one of several primary contests with LGBTQ candidates across the Golden State that took weeks to determine due to razor-thin vote margins. It wasn’t until March 28 that bisexual Riverside City Councilmember Clarissa Cervantes declared victory in her race for an open Assembly seat.

Cervantes took second place over fellow Democrat Ronaldo Fierro by 202 votes. In November, she will compete against Republican Leticia Castillo, who placed first in the primary, for the 58th Assembly District seat that spans Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

“I want to extend my deep gratitude and appreciation to my daughter, my family, my dedicated team, our tremendous volunteers, and every labor union and organization who stood with us and believed in my candidacy,” stated Cervantes. “Thank you for standing with me. I am ready to champion the needs of our communities in Sacramento and ready to deliver lasting results for the Inland Empire.”

If victorious, Cervantes will be one of the Golden State’s first bisexual female legislators. She would also succeed her sister, lesbian Assemblymember Sabrina Cervantes (D-Corona), who is favored to win her November 5 race for the open Senate District 31 seat against GOPer Cynthia Navarro.

The Cervantes sisters, who are both moms, would be the first pair of LGBTQ siblings to serve together in the California Legislature. Of the two, Clarissa Cervantes is likely facing the tougher fall campaign.

Castillo and Republicans likely will continue hammering her over being arrested last year for drunken driving weeks after a judge had dismissed her DUI conviction from 2015. Cervantes has been sober for more than seven months now, per a campaign spokesperson, and was one of several Democratic primary candidates who overcame DUI headlines to win in March.

State Senator Dave Min (D-Irvine) also faced attacks stemming from his DUI arrest last year in Sacramento. Nonetheless, he survived his March 5 contest for an open U.S. House seat in the heart of Orange County and is competing in November against former Republican Assemblymember Scott Baugh of Huntington Beach.

Min’s campaign blasted Baugh Thursday over his benefitting from an April 3 fundraiser in Newport Beach with Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson of Louisiana. It signaled how their race “is ground zero in the fight for the House,” stated Min campaign spokesperson Amelia Matier. “Baugh’s connections to white nationalists and his backing by groups against abortion and LGBTQ+ rights fit right into Johnson’s MAGA Congressional playbook.”

They are seeking the District 47 seat being vacated by Congressmember Katie Porter (D-Irvine), as she lost her primary bid for the U.S. Senate seat that for years had been held by the late Senator Dianne Feinstein. After her death last fall, Democratic lesbian U.S. Senator Laphonza Butler was appointed to fill the vacancy by Governor Gavin Newsom.

Butler opted not to seek a full term this year and will step down shortly after the November 5 election. Congressmember Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) is expected to easily win the seat over his GOP opponent, retired baseball star Steve Garvey.

The state’s current two gay congressional members, Democrats Mark Takano of Riverside and Robert Garcia of Long Beach, both represent Southern California districts and are expected to easily win reelection in November. They both had endorsed Low in his primary race.

Southern California congressional candidate Will Rollins has received support from the Democratic Party. (Photo: Courtesy Will Rollins)  

But as he is seeking a safe Democratic seat that will not factor into if Democrats retake the House this year, Low will not have the same party advantages as gay congressional candidate Will Rollins has in his bid for a House seat in the Palms Spring area. Rollins is aiming to oust from office conservative Congressmember Ken Calvert (R-Corona) from his 41st Congressional District seat.

His race is seen as a possible pickup for the Democrats, and unlike when he first ran against Calvert in 2022, Rollins has received early backing and support from his party since he launched his campaign last year. Thursday Rollins announced raising over $1.8 million in the first three months of 2024.

His campaign noted it is the single-highest fundraising quarter ever for a candidate running against Calvert. Rollins is also reporting having more than $3 million in cash on hand as he ramps up his fall campaign.

“The contrast in our race could not be clearer, and that’s demonstrated by our continued fundraising success,” stated Rollins. “Voters in California’s 41st District know that 32 years of Ken Calvert is far too much. It’s time to turn the page from his decades of corruption and MAGA extremism and bring in new leadership that works across the aisle to get things done for Riverside County. Together, we are going to win this race and deliver a pro-democracy and pro-working family agenda for the people of our district.”

Two other gay Democratic congressional candidates are mounting rematches this year and have not gotten the same party support as Rollins has received. Progressive lawyer David Kim aims to oust from office Congressmember Jimmy Gomez (D-Los Angeles) from his District 34 House seat to become the first out Korean American elected to Congress.

Progressive activist Derek Marshall is seen as the underdog in his race against Congressmember Jay Obernolte (R-Hesperia) for the District 23 House seat in the high desert country east of Los Angeles.

In the East Bay race to succeed outgoing Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Oakland), who also lost her primary bid for Feinstein’s former Senate seat, queer candidate Jennifer Kim-Anh Tran, Ph.D., is also seen as the underdog against fellow Democrat Lateefah Simon. The BART board member took a commanding lead in their primary race for the District 12 House seat and is expected to easily win it come November 5.

Equality California Executive Director Tony Hoang following the victory by Evan Low in the CA-16 primary election, released the following statement:

We are thrilled to see Evan Low advancing to the November General Election after his victory in California’s 16th Congressional District. With LGBTQ+ civil rights under attack, we need leaders like Evan in Congress. He has been on the front lines of the fight for LGBTQ+ civil rights for years —and he would make history as the first LGBTQ+ leader to represent the Bay Area in Congress.

As Chair of the Legislative LGBTQ Caucus, he has advanced legislation to better the lives of LGBTQ+ Californians in various arenas, including healthcare, safe and supportive schools, cultural competency for law enforcement, and more. Last year, he joined Sen. Scott Wiener in successfully advancing ACA 5 through the legislature — a constitutional amendment that will remove the discriminatory, anti-marriage equality language of Proposition 8 from our state’s constitution once and for all. Thanks to his leadership, voters will have the opportunity to protect same sex-and interracial marriages this November.

Evan’s experience and strong record make him the best candidate to represent California’s 16th Congressional District, and we look forward to helping ensure he wins in November.”  

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The preceding article was previously published by the Bay Area Reporter and is republished with permission.

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California Politics

‘Don’t disturb me after work hours,’ new worker rights bill introduced

If passed by lawmakers and signed by Governor Gavin Newsom, California would be the first state to implement a “right to disconnect” law

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Photo Credit: Facebook/Assemblymember Matt Haney

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – A measure introduced on Monday would allow public and private sector employees to essentially silence their notifications from employers after scheduled work hours.

Assembly Bill 2751, introduced by Democratic San Francisco Assemblymember Matt Haney, would require employers to guarantee that their employees would have uninterrupted personal and family time outside of clearly defined set work hours. The only exemptions would be emergencies or for scheduling purposes.

If passed by both the Assembly and the Senate and signed by Governor Gavin Newsom, California would be the first state to implement a “right to disconnect” law.

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California Politics

Trans city councilmember Lisa Middleton, state of safety & inclusion

Middleton’s insights come at a crucial time amid a deluge of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and anti-trans discrimination inundating the country

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Palm Springs City Councilmember Lisa Middleton speaking with a PSFD First Responder. (Photo Credit: Councilmember Lisa Middleton)

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – In a heartfelt exclusive interview with the Los Angeles Blade, transgender Palm Springs City Councilmember Lisa Middleton, shared her thoughts on the current state of safety and inclusion for LGBTQ+ individuals, particularly in educational environments. Middleton’s insights come at a crucial time amid a deluge of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and anti-trans discrimination inundating the country. 

Middleton, known for her pragmatic approach to governance on the Palm Springs City Council and her unwavering commitment to the LGBTQ+ community, spoke candidly about the tragic death of nonbinary student, Nex Benedict, underscoring a harrowing reminder of the vulnerabilities faced by queer youth. “That was a horrible, terrible death and an unnecessary one,” Middleton lamented, highlighting the dire need for safe and accepting spaces in schools. “Everyone has the right to feel safe and wanted,” she added, pointing out the predictable nature of such tragedies in a climate where civic leaders use LGBTQ+ children as targets. “We are at our best when we celebrate the diversity of humanity.”

Asserting the humanity of transgender individuals as an integral part of the human spectrum, Middleton criticized the binary norms that segregate individuals into ‘normal’ and ‘other.’ “This idea that some people can be called normal and other folks are not normal is absolutely ludicrous. All of us are entitled to respect for our individual humanity,” she stated, championing the diversity of humanity as a source of strength and enrichment.

Middleton also told The Blade that she is optimistic about the future of LGBTQ+ student’s rights amidst the recent recall of homophobic school board members in three communities, a move she views as a victory for inclusivity and educational integrity. “Those recalls were because the voters and the people of their communities did not want their schools turned into circuses,” Middleton said. 

Looking ahead, Middleton discussed her ambitions to bring pragmatic solutions to Sacramento, especially in addressing the needs of California’s growing regions. Her focus remains on improving infrastructure, public safety, and emergency management resources, ensuring the state is prepared for any crisis, including climate-related disasters.

Middleton also highlighted the importance of standing up against attacks on the community. “We have to stand up to those attacks,” she asserted, stressing the importance of amplifying transgender voices and advocating for the community’s aspirations, dreams, and hard work. “Transgender people can achieve things everywhere, and anywhere we are very much a fundamental part of humanity.”

Middleton’s leadership has not only been recognized within the LGBTQ+ community but also across a broader spectrum, as evidenced by her unanimous election as vice president of a diverse leadership body. “They picked me to be one of their leaders because they know I can stand up not only for my community—the LGBT community, the transgender community—but for every city across the state,” Middleton said.

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California Politics

Out Chair of L.A. County Democratic Party steps down

Mark Gonzalez announced that he’s stepping down to focus on the race for the California State Assembly District 54 seat

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Mark Gonzalez, chair of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party, speaking with LA area First Responders. (Photo Credit: Mark Gonzalez)

LOS ANGELES – Mark Gonzalez, chair of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party (LACDP), announced Friday that he’s stepping down to focus on his state Assembly race. He released a statement regarding his decision after more than six years leading the Los Angeles Democratic Party.

“Serving as your party Chair for the largest County Central Committee in the nation has been the privilege of a lifetime,” he said. “As I embark on the next phase of my journey, with a focus now on ensuring that Sacramento continues to create policy that works for all, the work we have done together will forever remain close to my heart. With that focus in mind and to ensure our party’s continuity of leadership and continued success, I am stepping down as Chair effective immediately.”

Gonzalez noted that LACDP Vice-Chair Patt Sanders will take over the top leadership role. He assumed the position of Chair in 2017 at the age of 33, serving as the first openly gay, Latino and the youngest person to wield the gavel.

The LACDP is the largest local Democratic Party in the country and one of the most influential, serving over 3.1 million registered Democrats.

Gonzalez, who won the California State Assembly District 54 primary election earlier this month, will now focus on the race for the California State Assembly District 54 seat in the general election this November, where he will face John Yi. Gonzalez won the primary with 45% of the vote against Yi, who had 34%.

District 54 represents most of Downtown Los Angeles and surrounding areas, including Silver Lake, Echo Park, Koreatown, and East Hollywood.

Gonzalez’s political activism began early on in his life, playing significant local roles in the 2004 presidential campaign, 2005 City of Los Angeles mayoral race, 2006 gubernatorial race, and the 2008 presidential campaign for Barack Obama.

In 2020, he worked on Joe Biden’s presidential campaign. He also distinguished himself within the LADCP by organizing a series of successful new citizen voter registration drives throughout Los Angeles County, helping to secure the region as a Democratic stronghold.

Ruby Medrano, a longtime Northeast L.A. Democratic activist, recognized Gonzalez’s commitment and dedication and urged him to join the Democratic Party Central Committee. He was later appointed and elected as a member.

Mark Gonzalez speaking with voters. (Photo Credit: Mark Gonzalez)

As Gonzalez rose through the ranks of LACDP, he held other leadership positions within the organization including Assembly District Delegation Chair, Corresponding Secretary, and Vice-Chair.

In addition to his responsibilities with the LACDP, he had served as District Director to Assemblymember Miguel Santiago. Previous to this position, he was a Senior Field Representative to then Assembly Speaker John A. Perez and Field Representative to then-Assemblymember Anthony Portantino.

Gonzalez currently serves as Chairman of the Northeast Community Clinics, and sits on the Board of Equality California, Directors for Vista Del Mar Child and Family Services as a Leadership Advisory Member.

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California Politics

Gay Assemblymember Evan Low short 12 votes in U.S. House bid

South Bay U.S. House race with gay Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Cupertino) still too close to call nearly two weeks after March 5 primary

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Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Cupertino) at an event in Sacramento in late 2023. (Photo Credit: Office of Assemblymember Evan Low)

By Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor | SAN JOSE, Calif. – Gay Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Cupertino) has once again seen his vote deficit decrease as the remaining ballots in his primary race for an open South Bay U.S. House seat are tabulated. As of Monday, he is trailing in third place by 12 votes.

Low has been locked in a tough fight for second place with Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian since the March 5 primary. Only the top two finishers will move on to the November 5 ballot.

Coming in first place is former San Jose mayor Sam Liccardo. Either Low or Simitian will compete against him to succeed Congressmember Anna Eshoo (D-Palo Alto). She opted not to seek reelection to her 16th Congressional District seat, which spans San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.

San Mateo elections officials have 20 ballots left to count and will next post an update by 4:30 p.m. Wednesday. The county registrar noted that are 680 challenged ballots that can be “cured” before 5 p.m. on April 2, meaning those voters have a chance to address the irregularity found with their ballot in order to have it be counted.

Another update from Santa Clara’s registrar will come by 5 p.m. Tuesday, as the county’s elections officials are whittling down the 1,400 ballots they had left as of Saturday. The county also reported having 1,200 challenged ballots pending due to issues with voters’ signatures.

Liccardo’s current total is 38,421 votes. Simitian now has 30,204 votes, while Low is is closely trailing behind with 30,192 votes.

Low’s campaign has not issued comment since last week, when it posted on X March 13 that it was waiting for “all votes being counted in this race.” That Wednesday, Low had taken the lead for second place for the first time in the primary race.

By Friday he had see-sawed back into third place. But with each new vote count Low has inched closer toward Simitian’s second place standing.

A campaign spokesman for Low did not respond Monday to the Bay Area Reporter’s inquiry if it was asking its supporters to ensure their ballots don’t need to be cured or have been challenged.

Low is vying to become the first LGBTQ congressmember from the Bay Area. In the East Bay race to succeed outgoing Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Oakland), who failed to survive the March 5 primary race for the seat long held by the late U.S. senator Dianne Feinstein, queer candidate Jennifer Kim-Anh Tran, Ph.D., is seen as the underdog of her runoff race on the November 5 ballot.

She came out of the primary for the District 12 House seat in Alameda County far behind BART board member Lateefah Simon, who is currently in first place with 56% of the vote. Tran trails in second with 14.7%.

Of the two Democrats, Simon has received the bulk of support from the party and other Democratic leaders. Lee endorsed Simon in late January, followed by the state’s two Democratic U.S. Senators, Alex Padilla and Laphonza Butler, in early February.

Butler, a lesbian, chose not to seek a full term after being appointed last fall to fill the vacancy created by the death of Feinstein. She is expected to step down after the November election, in which Congressmember Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) is now favored to win against Republican Steve Garvey, a retired baseball player.

Southern California House races

In the race to succeed Schiff (D-Burbank) in his District 30 House seat, first-place finisher Assemblymember Laura Friedman (D-Glendale) is the odds-on favorite to win come November in the heavily Democratic district, which includes the LGBTQ enclave of West Hollywood. Her opponent will be gay Republican Dr. Alex Balekian, an ICU physician who is Armenian American.

Equality California, the statewide LGBTQ+ civil rights organization, last week endorsed Friedman in the race. It also endorsed Democrat Joe Kerr, a retired fire captain who is moving on to the runoff race for the District 40 House seat against Congressmember Young Kim (R- Placentia.)

“We are thrilled to endorse these pro-equality champions running for Congress,” stated EQCA Executive Director Tony Hoang. “The challenges we continue to face in creating a world that is just and fully equal for all LGBTQ+ people demand that we elect representatives who will work to defend our hard-fought gains, as well as continue to lead the charge in the ongoing fight for full, lived equality. The road to regaining a pro-equality majority in the House runs through California, and we look forward to supporting these candidates throughout election season.”

Three Southern California House races will feature fall rematches between the incumbent and their gay opponent. Congressmember Jimmy Gomez (D-Los Angeles) is fending off another challenge from gay Democrat David Kim for his District 34 House seat, having defeated the progressive lawyer in 2022.

In an email to his supporters Tuesday, Kim asked them “to recommit ourselves to the task at hand, let us redouble our efforts, and let us continue to stand together as we march towards victory in November. I am proud to have you on this journey with me, and I am confident that, together, we will prevail.”

After defending his seat two years ago, Congressmember Ken Calvert (R-Corona) is again facing a challenge for his District 41 House seat from lawyer Will Rollins. With the gay retirement and resort town of Palm Springs now a part of it, where Rollins and his partner live, Democrats are targeting the seat as a pickup opportunity this year.

“The Cook Political Report reaffirmed their classification of our race as a ‘toss-up,’ and Punchbowl News is calling this the second most important race in the entire country for control of the House,” noted Rollins in a March 15 emailed fundraising pitch to his supporters.

Facing even longer odds to win the District 23 House seat in the high country east of Los Angeles is progressive activist Derek Marshall, who lost to Congressmember Jay Obernolte (R-Hesperia) in 2022. Marshall’s share of this year’s primary vote is currently at 36.5%.

The state’s current two gay Congressmembers, Mark Takano of Riverside and Robert Garcia of Long Beach, both easily won their primary races. The pair is expected to easily defeat their Republican opponents in the fall.

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Challenging Takano for his District 39 House seat is David Serpa. Opposing Garcia for his District 42 seat is John Briscoe.

California is currently the only West Coast state with LGBTQ representation in Congress, though candidates in Oregon and Washington are aiming to change that this year. Democrats Jamie McLeod-Skinner and Eddy Morales aim to survive their May 21 party-based primary races.

McLeod-Skinner, a lesbian former councilmember in the Bay Area city of Santa Clara, is running again for Oregon’s District 5 House seat after falling short in 2022. She aims to take on a second time Republican Congressmember Lori Chavez-DeRemer of Happy Valley.

Morales is seeking the Beaver State’s open District 3 House seat, as Congressmember Earl Blumenauer (D-Portland) opted not to seek reelection this year. The queer Grisham City Councilmember is expected to attend a March 23 fundraiser in San Francisco being hosted by a number of local LGBTQ leaders.

Washington State holds its primary August 6, and like California, it selects congressional candidates based on a top-two system. Queer Democratic state Senator Emily Randall, a former Bay Area resident, aims to succeed Congressmember Derek Kilmer (D-Gig Harbor) in the Puget Sound region.

She would be the first out congressmember from the Evergreen State. But Randall is facing a tough campaign, as Kilmer endorsed Washington Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz to succeed him.

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The preceding article was previously published by the Bay Area Reporter and is republished with permission.

Help keep the Bay Area Reporter going in these tough times. To support local, independent, LGBTQ journalism, consider becoming a BAR member.

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California Politics

Prosecuting the status quo, Rollins is running for a U.S. House seat

He stressed the urgency of passing the Equality Act to combat discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity

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Courtesy of Will Rollins

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – In a bid to challenge the status quo and bring accountability to Washington, former federal prosecutor Will Rollins has advanced to the ballot in his pursuit of a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives to represent California’s 41st Congressional District this November.

He will face Republican incumbent Ken Calvert in a rematch of the 2022 campaign for the seat that saw Rollins defeated by Calvert. Of the total vote count of 236,638, Calvert garnered 123,869 votes to Rollins’ 112,769.

Rollins is a seasoned legal professional with a focus on counterterrorism and counterintelligence cases. His decision to run for Congress stems from a deep-rooted concern for the threats facing democracy and communities, exacerbated by what he perceives as the extremism and corruption entrenched in current political structures.

Rollins lives in the desert city of Palm Springs with his partner of 13 years, Paolo Benvenuto. While they have no children of their own, Rollins emphasized that they love their role of being “Guncles” to their nieces and nephews. 

Courtesy of Will Rollins

Rollins’s upbringing in a family with bipartisan affiliations has deeply influenced his perspective on governance and reform. 

Growing up amidst discussions of legal proceedings and journalistic pursuits, Rollins developed a multifaceted understanding of societal dynamics and the importance of a free press. His father’s career as a journalist, including an encounter with notorious serial killer Ted Bundy, imbued Rollins with a deep respect for the power of print media in shaping public discourse and holding authority to account.

“I was raised to appreciate the intricate balance between law enforcement’s duty to protect and uphold constitutional rights,” Rollins said. “It’s about ensuring safety while also safeguarding individual liberties and holding those in power accountable.”

Rollins’s journey from the courtroom to the campaign trail embodies a fusion of legal acumen, familial influence, and a commitment to democratic ideals. 

As he progresses through the primaries, Rollins seeks to bridge partisan divides and champion a platform rooted in justice, integrity, and the collective well-being of Californians in the 41st District.

A Personal Journey Toward Equality

The catalyst for Rollins’s interest in counterintelligence and military service traces back to a pivotal moment during his junior year of high school. He recalled the profound impact the events of 9/11 had on his worldview. 

“My heightened interest came  when I was junior year in high school, and I went into my first class of the day which was Model UN. We watched on the West Coast as the North Tower collapsed. That had a profound impact on me seeing other Americans covered in ash, and being scared. I remember being scared.” 

It was around this time that Rollins toyed with the idea of following in the footsteps of his veteran grandparents and enlisting in the military. However, being closeted in a society where discriminatory laws like “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” prevailed added layers of complexity to his decision.

“Being closeted and watching the stories of Arabic linguist being discharged under don’t ask don’t tell at the time created very complicated and difficult emotion to experience as kid. You want to serve your country and you want to be part of a team, but you have your government telling you that there is something defective about you and that you pose a threat to national security. That is horrible. I don’t think any kid should grow up feeling that.”

He emphasizes the detrimental effects of discriminatory laws on individuals and society as a whole, advocating for equality and merit-based opportunities for all Americans.

“That experience did shape a lot of my outlook on antidiscrimination laws, and why quality and freedom for everybody makes the whole country stronger. You have to let people thrive based on merit, not based on what they look like or who they love.”

Reflecting on his delayed coming out, Rollins acknowledges the regret and internal conflict he grappled with for years. 

Courtesy of Will Rollins

“I regret not being able to accept myself sooner because it was so limiting you end up living your life for fear of what other people think rather than for yourself that has a major impact, not an individuals but our society collectively, and that’s part of the argument that I always try to make to voters.”

Advocacy for LGBTQ+ Rights and Economic Thriving

Rollins emphasized the critical need for advocacy and support for LGBTQ+ individuals, particularly in Riverside County.

“Growing up in the greater LA area where people assume that it is progressive, and they assume that everybody embraces LGBT rights and that they have for a long time. Unfortunately, that is just not the reality.” 

When the the Murrieta Valley Unified School District adopted neighboring Chino Valley Unified’s policy notifying parents of student gender identity, Rollins said that fighting for LGBTQ+ rights and protection in California is at the forefront of his concerns. 

“You hear people talking about LGBT kids as dangerous. There is a reversion to this 1950’s idea that being LGBT is contagious fueled by the rhetoric on the Right about grooming,” he said.

Rollins passionately articulated the importance of representation and empowerment for LGBTQ+ youth, stressing the message that there is nothing wrong with being true to oneself. “We need to punch back as LGBTQ+ elected officials; that is really important,” Rollins asserted. “You have to make kids know that there is nothing wrong with them and that they should be proud of who they are.”

Furthermore, Rollins condemned the far-right’s obsession with demonizing vulnerable populations, particularly through legislative measures targeting LGBTQ+ individuals. He criticized laws such as mandatory outing bills and teacher surveillance laws, which he believes undermine the principles of small government touted by traditional Republican values.

“The traditional John McCain, small government, and Dwight Eisenhower Republicans wouldn’t recognize the modern turn that the GOP has taken,” Rollins said. 

Highlighting  the detrimental impact of such policies, not only on the targeted individuals but also on the broader community and economy, Rollins cited the example of a gay pediatric surgeon in New Orleans who left the state due to discriminatory legislation targeting LGBTQ+ families. This departure not only affected the surgeon and his family, but also deprived the community of vital medical expertise, illustrating the far-reaching consequences of targeting LGBTQ+ individuals.

The example underscored the urgent need for advocacy to combat discrimination and promote inclusivity, emphasizing that the well-being and prosperity of the community are intertwined with the protection of LGBTQ+ rights. 

Struggles with Identity and Society’s Perceptions

Rollins shared the challenges he faced in coming to terms with his identity and the pervasive societal stereotypes that influenced his journey.

Rollins revealed that it wasn’t until his early twenties that he found the courage to come out, attributing his prolonged denial to growing up in a community where the existence of gay individuals was largely unseen or dismissed. 

“The image that I had from society and from my peers was that gay people were jokes; we were the comic relief,” Rollins lamented.

Despite growing up in a progressive family, Rollins recalled the impact of societal attitudes, particularly within sports culture, on his perception of masculinity and sexuality.

“I didn’t think I could be good at sports and be gay,” Rollins admitted. “That was the rhetoric perpetuated by the coaches.” 

Rollins described the prevalence of derogatory language and stereotypes, perpetuated by peers and coaches alike, which led him to internalize feelings of inadequacy and denial about his own identity.

“When you are a young man and about to get in a fight, what are the first words that come out of your opponent’s mouth? They call you a faggot to demoralize you and emasculate you, regardless of your actual orientation.”

Rollins highlighted the profound effect of societal demonization of gay individuals, emphasizing the difficulty for young people to navigate their identity without visible role models or support systems. 

“You get into a position where you start denying who you are to yourself because you think that it makes you less than.”

Rollins said it took him many years to realize that the issue lay not with himself, but with a society that perpetuated harmful stereotypes and discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community – stereotypes he hopes to help eradicate if he is elected to office. 

Priorities for Congressional Term

Rollins laid out his key priorities should he be elected, ranging from civil rights to economic revitalization.

Courtesy of Will Rollins

Rollins, who played a role as a Assistant U.S. Attorney in tracking down individuals involved in the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol, expressed his frustration with incumbent Congressman Calvert’s actions, particularly regarding the certification of the election results and his stance on LGBTQ+ rights. Rollins cited Calvert’s voting record of homophobia as motivating factors for his decision to run for office.

“You shouldn’t be fired from your job or kicked out of your home just for being gay that is still a possibility in America.”

Among Rollins’s top priorities is the protection of voting rights, emphasizing the importance of ensuring equal access to the ballot box for all Americans. He also stressed the urgency of passing the Equality Act to combat discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, highlighting the need for comprehensive federal protections.

Addressing local concerns, Rollins emphasized the need for improved infrastructure in Riverside County, particularly to alleviate traffic congestion. 

“Traffic sucks whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat,” Rollins said. “I think we can all agree on that.”

He also criticized corporate greed, which he believes is driving up prices and exacerbating financial strain on middle-class families.

“Corporate greed right now is driving up prices for average working families in so many different contacts, whether it’s baby formula or milk, whether it’s your groceries or your gas. A lot of this is driven by massive concentration of wealth by corporations and individuals who pay for less in taxes than nurses, cops, and firefighters. This is a fundamental issue that Washington has let go for way too long.”

Rollins highlighted Palm Springs as an example of effective governance, praising the city’s inclusive policies and economic growth. He emphasized the importance of visible representation for the LGBTQ+ community and underscored the economic benefits of creating welcoming and inclusive communities.

Additionally, Rollins pledged to prioritize women’s rights, including the codification of Roe v. Wade into federal law, in response to concerns about reproductive rights and access to healthcare.

“Women’s rights right now are at the forefront of my priorities,” Rollins told The Blade. 

As Rollins continues his campaign, his platform reflects a commitment to social justice, economic prosperity, and inclusive governance, with a focus on addressing the pressing needs of Riverside County residents. If elected, Rollins aims to bring his experience and values to Congress, advocating for meaningful change and progress on behalf of his constituents.

Closing Thoughts

Rollins gave the following message for young queer leaders of tomorrow.
“The American dream is a possibility for you too. We are going to work hard every single day to make sure it becomes a reality. I hate to use the cliché, It gets better, but it really does and once you find your family, the possibilities are endless. I know it can be really dark sometimes. I’ve been there myself. But we are resilient and your resilience will pay in the long run too. I think that 2024 is going to send a lot of people who believe in our freedom of equality into Congress and so stay optimistic and thank you for hanging in there.”

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California Politics

San Diego’s gay Mayor Todd Gloria headed for reelection

Gloria will face off in November against the second highest vote-getter, police officer Larry Turner, who had 24.3%

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Mayor Todd Gloria during the outreach initiative for storm-impacted residents in the February storms aftermath. (Photo Credit: City of San Diego)

SAN DIEGO, Calif. – San Diego’s openly gay Mayor Todd Gloria led a field of five candidates for the office he currently occupies with a margin of 50.88% of the vote according to results published Wednesday by the County of San Diego’s elections office

In a statement released by Gloria’s campaign as the vote tallying continues, the mayor said: “When we launched this campaign a year ago, the goal was clear: to finish the vision. Tonight, San Diego has spoken loud and clear—they’re rooting for us to keep up the fight in the general election, to keep pushing for that vision.”

First elected to the office in November of 2020, then California Assemblymember became the City of San Diego’s first openly LGBTQ person and first person of color elected mayor. In January of 2023, Gloria became a recipient of the Latino Leaders Network’s Antonio Villaraigosa Leadership Award, during his acceptance speech the mayor noted his identity as an openly gay man with Puerto Rican, Filipino, Native American, and Dutch heritage who learned from his parents – who worked as a gardener and hotel maid – that one should “leave things better than you found them.”

Bay Area Reporter journalist Lisa Keen reported Gloria will face off in November against the second highest vote-getter, police officer Larry Turner, who had 24.3%, according to unofficial results. Although the city race is nonpartisan, Gloria is a Democrat and Turner is an independent. The big issue in the campaign has been what to do with the city’s large population living on the streets.

A supporter of Gloria’s reelection campaign filed a lawsuit challenging Turner’s residency requirement to run for office. The judge overseeing the case had put off a decision until after the primary.

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California Politics

Calif. Senate race polling: Statistical tie between Schiff & Garvey

According to the Berkeley IGS poll, the Golden State is seeing lower turnout before Super Tuesday & predominantly older voters casting ballots

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Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES – The race to for California’s second Senate seat has narrowed into a Super Tuesday statistical tie between Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff & Republican candidate former LA Dodger Steve Garvey.

The race is to fill the seat of the late San Francisco Democrat, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, currently being filled by Governor Gavin Newsom’s appointee Sen. Laphonza Butler, who indicated she had no desire in seeking a full term.

Polling released over this past weekend by the pollsters at the Institute of Governmental Studies (IGS) at the University of California, Berkeley found Garvey with 27 percent support and Schiff at 25 percent.

The other Democratic candidates, both incumbent members of California’s U.S. House delegation, Rep. Katie Porter (Orange County ) came in with 19 percent, while Rep. Barbara Lee (Oakland-Alameda) trailed with just 8 percent of voters surveyed.

According to the Berkeley IGS poll, the Golden State is seeing lower turnout before Super Tuesday with the polling data showing that it is predominantly older Californians casting ballots at this point.

The Berkeley IGS poll found nearly two-thirds of the likely electorate were 50 or older, tripling the number of voters under 40.

“Garvey is the chief beneficiary in a low turnout election scenario, as he holds a huge advantage over the field among fellow Republicans and both he and Schiff are the two most preferred candidates among older voters, whites, and homeowners,” the press release from The Berkeley IGS poll reads.

The poll was conducted Feb. 22-27 among 6,536 California registered voters, of which 3,304 had already voted or were likely to vote. The estimated sampling error is approximately plus or minus 2 percentage points.

KABC 7 reported Rep. Schiff told a crowd at a meet-and-greet in Orange on Saturday that getting out the vote is more important than ever.

“People are looking for someone in the Senate that can lead in the really big fights, that will defend our democracy but also who knows how to get things done and knows how to deliver on affordable housing, on affordable childcare, who has a record of bringing back resources to the Golden State,” Schiff said.

According to KABC 7 Rep. Porter took her 18-year-old son to vote for the first time in Irvine. The U.S. Senate candidate also cast her ballot in the early voting process. She said the low voter turnout makes it hard to believe the polling numbers.

“If they want to see Washington change, then they need to send people to Washington to do things differently. I’m the only Democratic elected official running in this race who’s never taken corporate pact money. That makes me different. My vote is not for sale,” said Porter.

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