It’s a first! A gay Republican and a lesbian Democrat will run against each other
Published Thursday, 17-Jun-2010 in issue 1173
At last it’s happened and it is a first in California history. A lesbian Democrat and a gay Republican are running against each other in the November 2nd General Election for State Assembly of California, District 76.
Toni Atkins (D) first entered politics in San Diego when she was elected to the City Council in November 2000. Toni is widely viewed as a leader in the fight for affordable housing crime reduction, senior services and as the Councilmember representing the largest concentration of GLBT residents in the City. The issues and concerns of the GLBT community have been a high priority for her. It goes without saying she is a friend to our community and has been someone we have all come to count on as a leader. Toni is popular and endorsed by many organizations and elected officials throughout the state including Senators and California Assembly Members. She acknowledges that support stating: “Throughout this campaign, one of the things that has touched me the most has been the incredible show of support you have given me. And your enthusiastic commitment to stand with me and fight for the issues that we all care about has truly been inspirational.”
We also have a strong leader in Ralph Denney(R) who has been a member of the Log Cabin Republicans of San Diego for almost a decade. Denney’s passion is education and he campaigns tirelessly supporting the public school system. He describes himself as a family man who happens to be gay, but more importantly a moral Christian Republican. For some of us this last description seems something that we would not pair up with a gay politician or leader. It is not so much the family man part who happens to be gay that is the issue; it is the “moral Christian Republican” who is gay that is the anomaly. Denney is preparing for a fight and has strong views on his opponent. He quotes on his website: “And I pledge to you here and now, with your continued help and support - I will work harder, I will dedicate almost every waking moment to ensure that Ms. Toni Atkins will never see the inside of the Capitol Building without a guest pass... with your help... All of you expect nothing less from me, and my four grandkids are counting on me to get the job done…”
However we as GLBT people have an opportunity to focus solely on what these candidates represent, not whether they are gay or not. We have to say this is progress like California has just not seen before and even better it is in our own backyard, in San Diego. Our support and votes will be based on the candidate’s merits not on whom they sleep with or who we sleep with. It will be less about if they are gay or gay friendly and about where they stand on the important issues facing this state: jobs, taxes, gang violence, education, public safety and a host of other important issues affecting each and everyone of us. Yet another thing to consider is that because they are both part of the community and feel no pressure at being outed or loosing votes over being gay, will they focus more on the issues at hand? Will this influence heterosexuals to change the way they campaign about a GLBT candidate in other races and states?
We think what is most important about this race is simply this, look how far we have come. Who would have thought that we would be contemplating, should I vote for a gay Republican or a lesbian Democrat? That in itself is what we as a community have worked to accomplish, and have. That is what the leaders in our community wake up and work towards every day. Democrat or Republican, there is something to be said for that and this race. This is a time to be proud of what we have accomplished as a community.
Equality California had this to say. “Equality California is proud to have endorsed Toni Atkins for Assembly. We are thrilled that an out gay man won the Republican Primary and that both parties nominated only LGBT candidates. We interviewed both candidates and appreciate their support for equality. Our PAC selected Toni as she has a proven record as an elected official and has a long history of working with Equality California to advance the rights of LGBT people. She is the only candidate in the race who has that history and who scored 100% on our candidate questionnaire. She is also the most viable candidate in the race due to the registration edge for Democrats. With the current two openly gay members of the Assembly and two more who won their primary that are expected to easily win in November, we will have four openly gay men and look forward to having an open lesbian join them, when Toni is elected.”
Now that’s progress!

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