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Topics In the News
Tale of Two California Gay Candidates Redux
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 11/14/12
Last updated on: 11/14/12
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Congressman-elect Mark Takano.

Two California gay candidates that I contrasted on October 30, 2012 met different fates in the election of November 6, 2012. Republican city councilman Carl DeMaio lost his bid to become the first openly gay Mayor of San Diego, while Japanese-American educator Mark Takano won his quest to become the first openly gay person of color to serve in Congress.

As I pointed out in the October 30, 2012 blog, Takano and DiMaio offer striking contrasts. Takano is a progressive Democrat who was supported by a broad coalition of diverse groups, while DeMaio is a conservative Republican who was endorsed by large donors to Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in California in 2008.

Takano, a member of the Riverside Community College Board of Trustees, coasted to victory over Riverside County Supervisor John Tavaglione on November 6. With the backing of African-Americans, Asians, Latinos, and Whites, Takano received 57% of the vote in his race to represent California's newly-created 41st Congressional District.

When Takano first ran for Congress, in 1992, he was outed, and his homosexuality was used to denigrate him. In contrast, in 2012, his homosexuality was regarded mostly as an interesting part of his background rather than a target for attacks, he told the Advocate. He added that the change is "a demonstration of how far our country has come in a short time."

If Takano's homosexuality was a non-issue in his campaign, in DeMaio's race it was a major factor, though not in a predictable way. DeMaio was not defeated because he was gay. Rather, he was defeated because he was considered to be less supportive of glbtq rights than his heterosexual opponent.

DeMaio's loss in his bid to become San Diego's first openly gay mayor is due largely to the opposition his candidacy received from the city's sizable glbtq population. Paradoxically, DeMaio's defeat is widely regarded as a significant victory for San Diego's gay community and a flexing of its political muscles.

DeMaio lost to Democratic Congressman Bob Filner by a 52% to 48% margin. As Lawrence Watts reports in PinkNews, the predominantly gay neighborhoods of Hillcrest, North Park, South Park, Mission Hills, University Heights, and Middletown voted overwhelmingly for Filner and almost certainly gave him the margin of victory in the Republican-leaning city.

Activist Linda Perine explained why the glbtq community voted so decisively against DeMaio: "Since the days of Harvey Milk, the LGBT community has been part of the populist movement to make the American Dream work for everybody. Carl DeMaio wasn't part of that movement; he was an anti-immigrant, anti-worker, defender of the 1% who never lifted a finger for women's rights. That's why the LGBT community rejected him so resoundingly."

Whereas Congressman Filner was a reliable ally of the glbtq community, receiving a 100% rating from the Human Rights Campaign and co-sponsoring both the Respect for Marriage Act and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, DeMaio downplayed his commitment to "social issues."

Moreover, DeMaio was supported by notable homophobes, including publisher and hotel owner Doug Manchester, one of the largest contributors to the campaign to enact Proposition 8.

As Perine told Watts, DeMaio's "failure to oppose Proposition 8 when he was running for City Council revealed his true values and priorities. Here we are more than four years later and gay Californians still can't marry the ones they love, all because of Proposition 8. The LGBT community doesn't forget that kind of stuff. Despite later laying claim to be San Diego's first openly gay elected council-member, he went AWOL when we needed everyone to pitch in."

She added, "Had DeMaio been elected Mayor of San Diego, it wouldn't have been a victory for the LGBT community it would have been a defeat."

As Watts concludes, DeMaio lost because gay voters punished him for his unwillingness to advocate for our rights. Instead, they supported an ally who has a proven track record of fighting for equality. "In this election Bob Filner was the LGBT candidate and his victory was a wider victory for the LGBT community as a whole."

Congressman-elect Takano is featured in the CNN report below on the historic number of Asian-Americans seeking office in 2012.

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