All posts by Luis Lopez

The One for the Job: An LGBT Assembly Candidate Embodies Hopes of Progressives

I was honored to receive the endorsement of Assemblymember Rich Gordon and long-time gay rights activist Wallace Albertson.  Their statement is as follows:


When the smoke cleared in June from our state’s first “open” primary, one thing was plain. The LGBT and progressive movements in our state face new challenges to electing candidates who will be long-term leaders for our policy goals.

The new primary system, winnowing the field of candidates for a contested seat to just two, regardless of party, may actually increase, not decrease, the cost of campaigning in our state. This isn’t the only concern for progressives and LGBT activists, whose considerable resources often cannot match those of moderate to conservative business interests in state campaigns. Voters’ approval of Prop 28 modifying term limits to allow 12 years’ service in one chamber may slow the churn of new lawmakers through the legislature and limit the openings for progressive and LGBT candidates. This puts a premium on opportunities to send one of our own to Sacramento.

And it makes the campaign of Luis Lopez, an openly LGBT Latino running for the Assembly from Eastside Los Angeles, all the more significant. Running in the 51st District, spanning the neighborhoods of El Sereno, Eagle Rock, Lincoln Heights, and Silver Lake, Luis is the only new LGBT candidate from L.A. or the Southland to advance to the general election–of the six who initially ran. LGBT people and progressives throughout the region have a stake in helping to ensure he wins on November 6.

In particular, Westside Angelenos need to recognize the importance of LGBT power on the Eastside. The outcome of Prop 8 four years ago, which very narrowly passed in liberal L.A. County on its way to statewide approval, should be a lesson. The road to winning any lasting victories for human rights, especially on statewide ballot measures, goes through L.A.’s Latino electorate.

Luis’s district includes East L.A. and is a cornerstone of the city’s Latino voting base. In 2006 he actually co-founded the statewide organization devoted to mobilizing LGBT Latinos. In 2008, he helped open the No on 8 field office in L.A. for reaching out to Latino voters. Guided and tested by these battles, he is set to lead the drive for equal-rights legislation in Sacramento.

Proven leadership on LGBT rights is only the start of what sets Luis apart. When we talk about progressive candidates who know and truly represent their districts and are more focused on service and results than politics and personal advancement, Luis is exactly what we mean. A native of his district, Luis has worked for a decade in nonprofit healthcare, jumpstarting the Latino Coalition Against AIDS and pushing for inclusive health reform and single payer legislation. Luis’s roots and wide-ranging relationships throughout his district have translated into a huge base of individual donors, accounting for more than 90 percent of his fund-raising dollars. This makes him a progressive advocate impressively independent from the special interests who pull the strings on most candidates.

Campaign price tags are going up, with candidates facing pressure to frontload their money in primaries that are prequels to the general election. In this year’s primary, some races exceeded $2 million and even $3 million, with a few candidates who surpassed $800,000 in fund-raising not even placing in the top two. Again, this dynamic does not bode well for LGBT people or progressives, or candidates like Luis who are both. But yet again, it makes his advance and the promise of his campaign all the more important to both movements.

One side effect of the passage of Prop 28 is reduced vacancies. Breakthroughs for LGBT candidates for the legislature may be fewer and farther between in coming years. With 8 members, California’s caucus of openly LGBT lawmakers is among the largest in the country. But one LGBT lawmaker, Sen. Christine Kehoe, retires this year. And two more, John Perez and Tom Ammiano will be nudged out by term limits in 2014. The caucus could be nearly cut in half.

The class of 2012 is the first to enjoy the chance to stay in one chamber for 12 years. Luis, if victorious, would have the potential to serve for six terms. This equips him to hold leadership roles in the Assembly. Considering his background in presiding over municipal commissions, his adeptness at coalition-building, and his non-reliance on special interest sponsors, Luis is likely to emerge as a respected dealmaker. He also has shown his chops as a mentor and organizer. In him, Angelenos will have a steady, progressive champion in state policy leadership for many years to come. We just need to ensure he gets there.

In this post-Citizens United landscape, special interest dollars loom even larger in state political campaigns, with added temptation for sponsored candidates to move into districts where they don’t have deep roots, much less a readiness to take courageous stands that might miff their funders.

In such a landscape, Luis Lopez represents great promise. A proven grassroots leader and the only new LGBT candidate for the legislature from Southern California to make it to the general election, he needs the help of all LGBT and progressive supporters to ensure he wins on November 6. If we succeed, he will exert the force for change in Sacramento that we so manifestly need and that’s he’s so ready to be.


Rich Gordon, Assemblymember for the 21st District representing parts of San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties, chairs the LGBT Caucus of the California legislature. Wallace Albertson of West Hollywood is a former Democratic National Committee member and, as a lifelong LGBT ally, a founding member of the Gay Caucus of the California Democratic Council.

People, Not SuperPACs, Should Decide Our Elections

Maybe it’s our winter sunshine while snow falls elsewhere-or how we embrace innovation and welcome eccentrics rejected in other places. Some Californians presume our state a haven from the nastiest aspects of American life. But we are not.

Now the fallout from a dangerous U.S. Supreme Court ruling is hitting our political landscape. Stopping the corrupting effects of the 2010 Citizens United decision is a serious and important challenge. The ruling has already prompted the rollback of some hard-won checks on special interests’ domination of elections in California. It further tilts the playing field against the election of community-based leaders and in favor of candidates bankrolled by special interests and beholden to their big-money marketing blitzes.

Citizens United threatens governance of, by, and for the people. It’s no coincidence that the first national election under this ruling was the first in 40 years in which the ranks of women state legislators actually shrank, significantly. California’s progress on diversity and openness in public service and our hopes of fixing revenue collection and preserving schools and vital services hang in the balance as long as Citizens United remains the law of the land. Because it hinders our capacity to elect leaders who truly reflect and will stay accountable to our communities, Californians should demand its reversal.

It was just over two years ago that a narrow 5-to-4 majority on the high court announced the sweeping decision in the case of Citizens United. The ruling bulldozed more than a century of curbs on corporate spending in elections, including California’s limits at the local, school board, and county level. This is not about a cash-filled brief case. We’re talking dump trucks. The ruling paved the way for millions of dollars in unlimited independent expenditures by businesses and political action committees on steroids called super PACs. The reasoning? That any barriers unfairly burden the free expression of companies.

Corporations as people, with spending called free speech? For Californians, the ruling worsens an election forecast already filled with mailers praising or deploring candidates, sent by outside interests disguised in pious names. Voters who scratch their heads trying to detect the origins of these postcards or glossy hit pieces that clog their mailboxes should get ready to rub their scalps raw, thanks to Citizens United.

Sharp criticism of the ruling has united a bipartisan coalition that ranges from Occupy Wall Street to President Obama to Reagan appointee to the Supreme Court and former justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

Alarm bells that O’Connor has sounded about corporate money swaying races for judge and state supreme courts have motivated some Republicans to join in the reform push.

Right here in Los Angeles, the city council unanimously passed a resolution condemning the ruling. The Montana state supreme court showed courage in defying Citizens United and defending the state’s barriers to corporate electioneering. Lawmakers in both New Mexico and Hawaii passed similar resolutions, as have scores of cities, towns, and town meetings in states such as Vermont.

This push is too important to allow anti-labor activists to misdirect its passion. Some extremists in California have used the ruling, which unleashed union spending along with corporations’, as an excuse to launch a ballot measure meddling in how unions collect members’ dues and make their voices heard. With stats from 2010 showing that overall election spending by corporations outpaced unions’ by more than 4 to 1, and worse in many states, lashing out at labor is the wrong approach.

What’s needed is a full-scale challenge to the ruling, from state lawmakers, members of Congress, stockholders, and voters.

First, California lawmakers should join colleagues in other states by showing their resolve to undo the ruling and stand behind our local standards. California’s delegates in Congress should push for a constitutional amendment to reverse the ruling and allow states to set their own limits on special interests’ spending. Stockholders should tell corporations in which they’re invested that campaigning is best left to candidates and elections, to the electorate. Americans should stand behind the President who opposes the ruling, and whose appointee on the Supreme Court dissented from it. And California voters should turn a careful eye on candidates fueled by outside interests and turn back their efforts to dominate elections. Students, seniors, public servants, small businesspeople, and struggling middle class families are depending on someone to stand up for fairness and fight for them, not bend to the special interests. I know whose side I’m on.

Luis Lopez is a Democratic candidate for Assembly in the 51st District. The district covers East L.A., where Lopez was born and works as a nonprofit healthcare director, and Northeast Los Angeles, where he has lived and served for a decade as neighborhood council member and planning commissioner.  For more information, please go to