Because I believe that John Perez’ sexual orientation is playing a role in the ongoing fight over who becomes the next Speaker of the Assembly here in California between the aforementioned Perez and Kevin De Leon. As I’m sure we’re all aware, the election of John Perez to the post would make him California’s first ever openly gay Speaker. And based on the words coming out of Karen Bass’ mouth, it sounds like it should be a done deal, given the fact that the choice of the majority caucus is usually confirmed without issue and Perez supposedly is the choice of the Democratic majority:
Bass said she had not spoken to de León about her decision to endorse Pérez. She said she wanted to be “very respectful and give him some space.”
“At the end of the day, democracy prevails,” she said, contending that she was the 29th vote in favor of Pérez, which is more than the traditional 26 votes needed to push a nomination forward.
So, why is there still an issue? Because Asm. Kevin De Leon is still fighting, despite a lackluster showing from the Latino Caucus of the Democratic majority, which endorsed him in underwhelming fashion:
On Wednesday morning, de León met with a group of supporters within the Assembly’s 17-member Latino caucus at the Sheraton Hotel.
Ten members of the caucus attended the meeting, with seven present pledging their support for de León as speaker. Pérez is also a member of the Latino caucus, but he was not present.
Color me unimpressed, of course, when you claim an endorsement with less than 44% of the vote among voters who aren’t your opponent. So all in all, it would seem that De Leon’s position isn’t all that strong. But now I’d like you to consider the words of another De Leon supporter: Assemblymember and current candidate for Attorney General Pedro Nava:
“I do think that’s what really matters and what people should focus on was the number of votes for speaker is not 27 or 29, it’s 41,” said de León supporter Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara.
“I think that we have a large number of very independent-thinking people who are not going to be stampeded into making a decision,” Nava said.
Remember what I said about the choice of the majority party usually getting confirmed as Speaker without much hassle. Well, 41 is, of course, the number of votes required to win confirmation as Speaker by full vote of the Assembly. What Asm. Nava’s words quite clearly suggest is that De Leon’s supporters are contemplating going outside the Democratic Caucus to secure some Republican votes in order to defeat Perez, who would be the choice of the majority of Democrats. If that’s not what Asm. Nava meant, I highly encourage him to clarify, because that’s the only logical interpretation of his statement.
And if that is the case, why would the Republicans agree to support De Leon against Perez? They’re both Latino labor leaders from the Los Angeles area–except one of them is gay, and one of them isn’t. And given the fact that many Republicans still see being gay as some sort of terminal character flaw that leaves one unfit for any public or private responsibility, it would be no surprise if that were reason enough for at least some Republicans to join the De Leon faction to support him against the wishes of the Democratic majority.
And then, of course, we return to the plight of Senator Gil Cedillo, who obviously has reasons to support De Leon over Perez because, as I’ve written earlier, the good Senator so desperately needs to serve in the Assembly for his last two remaining years of eligibility that he is willing to challenge Asm. Perez in the Democratic Primary, even if Perez is elected as Speaker. Obviously, Cedillo has every incentive to promote De Leon’s bid, because trying to unseat a sitting Speaker in your own Party’s primary undoubtedly won’t win you a lot of friends. Of course, there is no word on what Senator Cedillo will do if he either a) loses to Perez, or b) wins and serves his two years. Given his unbridled desire to hold another political office and his lack of ability to do so in either circumstance, I hope he will determine that his life still has value.
But humor aside. How likely is it that Cedillo will able to win a traditional campaign against Perez, regardless of whether the latter is the Speaker? Cedillo won’t get the endorsement of the Democratic Party because Perez is the incumbent and he only needs 50% of the delegates. And I really doubt anyone will give a boatload of money to someone who can only serve in the Assembly for one term and then has to leave town with little hope of promotion to a higher office.
And given the fact that they’re both strong leaders in the Latino community, the only way I see Cedillo being able to have any chance whatsoever is to make Perez’ sexual orientation an issue, most likely in a fashion that is slightly less than above board. And given the fact that Cedillo’s previous campaign was more than up to the task of using character assassination in his failed run for Congress, I have no doubt that his next team would be willing to use the same sort of scorched earth approach.
So what’s the bottom line? I call on Asm. De Leon and Senator Cedillo not to make this an issue, either in the campaign for Assembly Speaker or in Cedillo’s quixotic primary challenge. California Democrats support full and total equality and acceptance of the LGBT community, and it would be a shame if one of our own used the issue for personal gain among a far less tolerant group of people–such as, for instance, the California Republican Party.