For the LGBTQ Community, Even Small Races Can Have Big Impact

by Kelsy Chauvin

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Sunday October 18, 2020

San Diego city councilmember Georgette Gómez.
San Diego city councilmember Georgette Gómez.  

Politics begin at the local level, where community organizers and volunteers are part of the foundation from which future state and national candidates sprout. From neighborhood and municipal roots grow seasoned senior leaders who carry with them their constituents' concerns.

Take San Diego, for example. It's America's eighth-largest city, home to a growing, diverse population and a strong economy. The city has seen formidable LGBTQ politicians emerge year after year since its first openly gay candidate took the City Council District 3 seat in 1993.

An LGBTQ official has occupied the seat since that time, demonstrating how qualified local-community leaders continue to fill the progressive pipeline for future state and national campaigns.

San Diego saw former council member and out lesbian Toni Atkins graduate to State Assembly in 2010, on her way to her current role as President of the California Senate since 2018. Former council member, current State Assemblymember and out gay man Todd Gloria is poised to become San Diego's next Mayor. Openly gay man Chris Ward is likely to progress from the District 3 seat to the State Assembly this year, in a runoff with queer candidate Sarah Davis. Two out LGBTQ candidates, Stephen Whitburn and Toni Duran, will face off for that District 3 vacancy in November.

Georgette Gómez (right)  

Meanwhile, San Diego District 9 City Councilmember Georgette Gómez is campaigning to beat Democrat Sara Jacobs in a November runoff election for the U.S. House of Representatives. If she wins, Gomez will make history as the first queer Latina in Congress.

"And I will carry the community with me," says Gómez. "I'm inspired by the number of diverse, progressive candidates like myself who are running all across the country. It sends a powerful message, and it reflects the fact that the American people are looking for bold, progressive change."

Gomez served on the San Diego City Council since 2016, and was unanimously appointed Council President in 2018. She's keenly aware of LGBTQ issues, stating, "As a queer Latina, I understand how a wide range of issues disproportionately affects LGBTQ+ people. Getting the (federal) Equality Act across the finish line is very important, but we also need to go beyond that."

Gómez cites income inequality, affordable housing, discrimination in healthcare, and worker protections as some of the most pressing issues she'll fight for, along with helping working families survive the coronavirus pandemic. But she's also proud to serve as a bold advocate for the queer community.

"I'm one of a number of LGBTQ+ people running for Congress and other elected offices," says Gómez. "I'm happy that we are running to increase representation at every level. Representation matters, because if you are not in the room where decisions are being made, then your community's needs are not being advocated for."

San Diego is just one example of how a legacy of local LGBTQ leaders can feed the national pipeline with experienced elected officials.

Kelsy Chauvin is a writer, photographer and marketing consultant based in Brooklyn, New York. She specializes in travel, feature journalism, art, theater, architecture, construction and LGBTQ interests. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter at @kelsycc.

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