All posts by EqualityCalifornia

Electing Equality: Voters Chose LGBT and Pro-LGBT Candidates at the Polls

(A hearty welcome to EQCA – promoted by Brian Leubitz)

By Chris Moore, Deputy Director of Political Affairs, Equality California

Last night’s elections were invigorating! The outcomes are generally very favorable for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Californians and could prove to be history making. There are, however, some dangerous candidates on the horizon that will require our community to be energized and cohesive in order to beat them.

Nearly every single EQCA endorsed candidate won their primary yesterday, and we were hard at work helping to make that happen. Our Political Action Committee and its many donors directly contributed to candidates’ campaigns. Our volunteers and staff made over 20,000 phone calls to urge support of our candidates and to get out the vote. We sent over 140,000 pieces of mail to every corner of the state. And to ensure that our candidates succeeded, we closed our offices yesterday and our 44 staff spent the day working on the most critical campaigns.  

Key Wins for Equality

One key win from yesterday may prove to be history making — Victoria Kolakowski, candidate for the Alameda County Superior Court, took the greatest number of votes in her race, with 45 percent, and when she is elected in November will be the first transgender trial court judge elected in our nation’s history! Equality California contributed to her campaign, helped recruit and spread the word on her campaign through social networking and email, made over 10,000 phone calls to voters in the district, and sent a mail piece to the district.

We can also expect to see the size of our state’s LGBT Legislative Caucus increase from four to seven — making California’s LGBT Caucus the largest in the nation to date. Three openly gay and lesbian candidates for the Assembly won their primaries and are gearing up for November: Toni Atkins (76 – San Diego), Rich Gordon (21 – San Mateo) and Ricardo Lara (50 – Los Angeles). All have exemplary records in both government and LGBT advocacy work.  

Right now our state’s judiciary is drastically lacking LGBT representation. EQCA is  committed to changing this and accordingly backed the following successful candidates. Linda Colfax, an out lesbian, won her race for Superior Court Judge in San Francisco with 52.61% of the vote. Because she won a majority of votes, she is now elected to the seat and will not face a runoff. Michael Nava, also a candidate for Superior Court Judge in San Francisco, gained 45.52% of the vote. He will face a run off in November against the second highest vote-getter but is well positioned to win it.

And at the federal level, Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet won the Democratic primary to for the 45th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. If he unseats incumbent Mary Bono Mack in November he will be the first legally married gay father in Congress.

In two of the closest races yesterday our unwavering straight allies, Betsy Butler and Mary Salas, succeeded! Betsy Butler has been a staunch advocate for the LGBT community for decades and yesterday overcame hundreds of thousands of dollars in attack ads and won her primary in the 53rd Assembly District. Mary Salas has not wavered in her dedication to full and complete equality for the LGBT community. Yesterday she won her primary for Senate District 40 (San Diego) over Juan Vargas, a Democrat who opposes marriage equality. Expect to see both Salas and Butler run strong campaigns between now and November.

Proposition 8 Supporters Also Making Gains

Not all the news was good news. Our opposition also made some alarming gains.

Andrew Pugno, co-author of Proposition 8 and attorney for the Yes on 8 campaign, won the Republican primary for Assembly District 5 (Sacramento area). Pugno was one of the architects of Prop. 8 and its predecessor Proposition 22 in the year 2000. He continues to serve as chief counsel for and is currently defending Prop. 8 in federal court. His career has been largely devoted to denying rights to LGBT Californians, and EQCA will do everything in its power to stop him.

Meg Whitman won the Republican primary for Governor. She essentially bought her way into the race in November using $60 million of her own cash. She supports a constitutional ban on marriage equality and indicated so when she helped fund Prop. 8. If elected, she appears likely to help defend Prop. 8 in court — something that even Gov. Schwarzenegger has refused to do. EQCA has endorsed Jerry Brown’s run against her.

What’s next? EQCA staff and volunteers will keep up this work through November to see these pro-equality candidates and others get elected. Please join us! Even something as simple as making 15 to 20 phone calls from home makes a big difference. Sign up to volunteer with EQCA at, or contact me at chris dot moore at eqca dot org.

Learn more about these 100 percent pro-equality candidates and others at