Ironicschmoozer’s Weblog

Two Local Political Campaigns: city and county (endorsment forums)

Monday night I went to a Stonewall Democratic Club forum for a city council primary campaign and a county board campaign, followed by some testimonials and a debate. I was struck how many folks were there–120 packed in a small meeting room in a hotel–how many non-LGBT politicians are members of the club, and how interesting it was. I hadn’t expected it to last over 3 hours, but it did.

The city council race includes a newly retired Japanese American police captain who’s been very supportive of and responsive to the LGBT community but who is soft spoken and a bit awkward, with none of that scary cop voice they use when they pull you over. He’s a native of Sacramento and his district, and his mom was interned in WWII. The other candidate is Ryan Chin, a Chinese American man in his 40s with a lot of business experience and even more volunteer experience, with two sons: age 18 months and age 21 years. In response to a question about his endorsement of the man who upset our incumbent mayor in 2008, he said he regrets the decision. I asked him about this gutsy statement in the hall way and was convinced by his reasons and struck by his feistiness. Chin got the more spirited testimonials and over 60% of the vote, including mine. They face an incumbent Republican man in the primary. I was quite torn about my endorsement vote, even though I don’t live in their district!

The county board election does include my neighborhood–much of the city, in fact. The first candidate was Phil Serna, a 40-something son of a late former Sacramento mayor, born in northern Guatemala when his parents were in the Peace Corps; his father was the first Latino mayor, a farm worker and activist. He came across as less smooth than his opponent but very conversant with the issues and clearly hard working. He’s taught geography and urban planning at the local CSUS campus (and in the public affairs center endowed in his father’s name). The other candidate is a 60-something African American man who held this seat in the past and then left to work for the Clinton administration and then as the human services cabinet member for Governor Davis (the one Schwarzenegger replaced in a recall election). He was eloquent and masterful and assertive in his devotion to principle and ability to achieve progressive ends. He had been mentored in politics as a young man by the late father of his opponent. I was nearly won over by him till the testimonials about the younger man’s hard work and involvement in the community; he also has been campaigning since last June, while the older man got into the race more recently. A young man in the Stonewall club emphasized that Serna had attended a Camp Courage training series with him, learning how to be a straight ally of LGBT folks. I had a side conversation with an elderly woman who had served on the county board with the older man; she allayed my concerns about a disagreement the men had over the tax base for affordable housing development and whether the younger man was beholden to housing developers. She also said the older man had left his earlier office because he is a policy wonk who often got frustrated and walked out of county board meetings if things weren’t going his way. The younger man got the endorsement (which requires at least 60% of the vote). His opponent must have expected this, as he was the only one of the four candidates who did not hang around for the results.
At a break I spoke to a woman who used to be our mayor and who was unseated after two terms in 2008. She explained to me that the city and county do not have term limits, unlike many other parts of California, including the state government. I told her we had met in 2008 when she attended a memorial service for a parishioner soon after I arrived here. She said, “I’ve been to that church for several events over the years. It’s a very interesting place…for a church.” Ha! She added that she did most of her worshiping and got most of her religious education attending services, bar mitvahs, first communions, etc., while in office.


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