Gay CA Controller Candidate in Tight Race
A gay candidate for California controller was holding on to a tentative lead for second place, according to unofficial returns Wednesday morning.
With provisional and mail-in ballots still to be counted, gay Assemblyman John A. Perez (D-Los Angeles) had a slight lead against two other challengers seeking to advance to the November election. As expected, Republican Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin placed first with 24.4 percent, or 719,046 votes, in Tuesday’s primary where the top two vote-getters regardless of party affiliation will face off in the general election this fall.
Perez, who launched a television ad blitz in the final weeks leading up to the June 3 primary, had 21.7 percent, or 638,545 votes, according to unofficial returns Wednesday. Elections officials noted that the tally was based on partial reporting from precincts throughout the state.
Less than 2,500 votes behind Perez was Republican candidate David Evans, a certified public accountant, who was holding at third place with 21.6 percent for a total of 636,109 votes.
Controller candidate Betty Yee, third from left, watched election returns at a San Francisco restaurant with former state Senator Carole Migden, left, Oakland Port Commissioner Michael Colbruno, and campaign worker Angelica Tellechea, right. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland
Close behind in fourth place was Betty Yee, a Democrat who represents the Bay Area and northern California on the state Board of Equalization. She had 21.5 percent or 632,902 votes as of Wednesday morning.
"This morning, I reflect on a life lesson my parents taught me through their actions: to never give up. I never will," Yee told supporters in an email Wednesday morning, adding that, due to thousands of ballots yet to be tallied, "the count continues ... the fight continues."
The controller’s race had been one of the more high-profile contests voters weighed in on Tuesday. Having recently stepped down from the powerful Assembly speaker post, Perez is seeking to become the first out candidate to win a statewide seat and only the second known LGBT person to hold one of the state’s eight constitutional offices.
The first is believed to be Tony Miller, a gay man and Democratic lawyer, who in 1994 was appointed secretary of state after March Fong Eu resigned to be an ambassador in the Clinton administration. Miller lost his bid for a full term, and in 1998, he again came up short in his bid for lieutenant governor.
Gay Assembly candidate David Campos, left, celebrates the close primary election results with supporters at Virgil’s Sea Room. Photo: Rick Gerharter
Another high profile race with an out candidate was the match-up between gay San Francisco Supervisor David Campos and his board colleague, David Chiu, a straight ally who has attracted considerable support from within the LGBT community. The two are running to succeed gay Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), who is termed out this fall and has endorsed Campos to be his successor.
Despite the presence of Republican David Carlos Salaverry on the June primary ballot, the main question with Tuesday’s vote count was if Campos could bring out a sizable number of his supporters to the polls to demonstrate he would be a formidable challenger against the better funded Chiu come November.
And on that score Campos and his progressive supporters can claim victory. While Chiu took top honors with 48.28 percent of the vote, or 26,217 of ballots cast, Campos came in a close second with 43 percent of the vote, or 23,367 of ballots cast, according to unofficial returns Wednesday.
"I think this shows we are going to win in November and it shows that Chiu is in trouble," said Campos in a phone interview Wednesday. "The fact they outspent us 2-to-1 and ran a negative campaign against us with a moderate electorate and a very low turnout and we are within single digits, five points away and closing in, tells you we are going to win."
Chiu did not respond to a request for comment by press time Wednesday.
The difference of less than 3,000 votes between the candidates will help Campos make his case to donors that he can mount a credible challenge to the more moderate Chiu. But it also means that the downtown interests backing Chiu are sure to redouble their negative attacks against Campos leading into the fall campaign.
Assembly candidate David Chiu and his wife, Candace Chen, arrived at Lefty O’Doul’s and were greeted by applause from supporters on Election Night. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland
Already the two sides have accused each other of being in the pocket of special interests. And Chiu’s camp has been attacking Campos for his vote not to remove Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi from office despite his guilty plea on domestic violence charges stemming from an incident involving his wife in 2011.
It does not appear, based on Tuesday’s vote totals, that the Mirkarimi issue was detrimental to Campos.
"I think the public showed they are a lot smarter than these billionaires thought because they did not buy the attacks and they saw them for what they were," said Campos. "The attacks were a pretext, a cover for the real concern that they don’t like the fact I am trying to hold big companies accountable."
But with a paltry 22 percent voter turnout this week, the candidates will likely be trying to reach a different electorate this fall.
Out candidates advance
Three other legislative races involving out non-incumbent candidates were on the ballot Tuesday. Gay Democratic Campbell City Councilman Evan Low took first place with nearly 40 percent of the vote in his four-person primary race in the 28th Assembly District. The seat covers portions of west San Jose and several Peninsula cities; Low’s boss, Assemblyman Paul Fong (D-Cupertino), currently holds the seat but is termed out this fall.