Gay CA Controller Candidate in Tight Race

by Matthew S. Bajko
Thursday Jun 5, 2014

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.

Republican Saratoga Councilman Chuck Page was holding on to second place with 27 percent, according to unofficial returns Wednesday. Democratic Cupertino Councilman Barry Chang was in third with 24 percent. If the outcome holds, then Low is expected to easily win in the heavily Democratic district this fall.

Gay Republican lawyer Brad Torgan received 26.4 percent of the vote in his primary race for the 50th Assembly District, which covers West Hollywood, Santa Monica, and Malibu. He is the sole candidate running against incumbent Assemblyman Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), who netted 73.6 percent of the vote Tuesday and is all but assured of winning re-election this fall.

California Army National Guard state surgeon Dr. Vito Imbasciani, a gay married father of two sons, placed poorly in his race for a state Senate seat in Los Angeles County. One of seven Democrats plus an independent running for the open 26th Senate District seat, Imbasciani netted just 4.4 percent of the vote Tuesday to land in sixth place based on the unofficial returns.

The trio of out incumbent legislators on the ballot Tuesday easily survived their primary races. Gay Assemblyman Rich Gordon (D-Menlo Park) netted 59.4 percent as he seeks re-election in the 24th Assembly District. His opponent this fall will be Republican Diane Gabl, who received 28.8 percent.

Lesbian Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) took first place in her primary race with 59.5 percent of the vote. Her opponent in November will be Republican Barbara Decker, who came in second with 28.3 percent.

Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton) also placed first in her primary race in the 13th Assembly District with 50.5 percent of the vote. Her opponent in the fall will be Republican Sol Jobrack, who came in second Tuesday with 31.4 percent.

(Her brother Michael Eggman survived his primary race Tuesday in California's 10th Congressional District and will try to defeat incumbent Republican Congressman Jeff Denham this fall.)

Both gay congressional candidates survived their open primary races Tuesday. The state's first out congressman, Mark Takano, placed first with 44.6 percent in his re-election race for the state's 41st Congressional District in Riverside County. His opponent in the fall will be Republican Steve Adams, who netted 37.4 percent of the vote Tuesday.

In San Diego gay former city councilman Carl DeMaio survived the primary to run against incumbent Democratic Congressman Scott Peters in the state's 52nd Congressional District. Peters came in first with 42.2 percent, while DeMaio bested two other Republican candidates with 35.9 percent of the vote.

"I didn't get too much sleep last night with our celebrations over our big victory, but I wanted to shoot you a quick email to say THANK YOU!" wrote DeMaio in an email sent to his supporters Wednesday morning.

As for two hotly contested Bay Area congressional races, both of the LGBT-friendly incumbents survived their primaries. South Bay Congressman Mike Honda (D-Campbell) placed first with 48.6 percent and will face fellow Democrat Ro Khanna, who netted 27.1 percent for second place, this fall.

In the East Bay Congressman Eric Swalwell (D-Dublin) beat back a challenge from state Senator Ellen Corbett (D-Hayward) to place first with 49.2 percent of the primary vote. Republican Hugh Bussell was holding on to a slight lead of 25.9 percent for second place, according to unofficial returns Wednesday, with Corbett in third with 24.9 percent.

Other statewide races

As for the other statewide races in the June 3 primary, at the top of the ticket Governor Jerry Brown captured 54.5 percent of the vote and will face-off against Republican former Bush administration official Neel Kashkari, who came in second with 19 percent of the vote, according to the unofficial returns Wednesday. Brown is expected to easily trounce Kashkari in November and sail to a historic fourth term as governor.

Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, San Francisco's former mayor, placed first in his race with 49.9 percent of the vote and will run against Republican Ron Nehring, a former chairman of the state GOP who captured second place with 23.2 percent of the vote.

State Senator Alex Padilla (D- Pacoima) placed first with 30.1 percent of the vote in the secretary of state race. He will run against Republican Pete Peterson, who came in second with 29.6 percent of the vote.

Outgoing Democratic state Controller John Chiang netted 55.1 percent in the race for state treasurer and will run this fall against Republican Greg Conlon, who netted 38.4 percent of the vote for second place in the primary.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris earned the top spot in her primary race with 53.1 percent of the vote. Coming in second was Republican Ronald Gold with 12.7 percent.

Democratic Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones secured 53.1 percent of the vote Tuesday as he seeks re-election. His opponent this fall will be Republican Ted Gaines, who netted 41.6 percent in the primary.

Incumbent Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson fell short of the majority vote needed to avoid a runoff this fall for the non-partisan position. He garnered 46.9 percent of the vote Tuesday and in November will likely face off against educator Marshall Tuck, who came in second with 28.6 percent.

In the race for the Board of Equalization District 2 race, the seat currently held by Yee, former San Francisco Democratic Assemblywoman Fiona Ma took first place with 82.46 percent of the vote. In a distant second was Republican James Theis with 16.8 percent.

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