In California Primaries, LGBT Friends and Foes Advance; Now We Must Prepare for November

06/09/2010 03:08 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

It's time to make more history in California.

We are on the verge of electing the first transgender trial court judge. Victoria Kolakowski, candidate for Superior Court Judge in Alameda County, led her primary with 45 percent of the vote. She'll face the second highest vote-getter, Deputy District Attorney John Creighton, in a runoff this November. What's more, three openly gay and lesbian candidates for the legislature -- Toni Atkins (Assembly District 76), Rich Gordon (Assembly District 21) and Ricardo Lara (Assembly District 50) -- won their primaries and are now the clear favorites to win seats in the California Legislature in this year's general elections. If they prevail in November, the LGBT Legislative Caucus will be at seven, the largest number of LGBT legislators in the history of our nation. Out lesbian Linda Colfax won a seat on the bench of the Superior Court of San Francisco with 52.61% of the vote, while out gay Latino Michael Nava earned the most votes in his race and will advance to a runoff in November. And openly gay married father of twins Steve Pougnet, Mayor of Palm Springs, prevailed in his primary to represent the 45th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. Incredible allies like Mary Salas in Assembly District 40 and Equality California Institute Board Member Betsy Butler in Assembly District 53 faced incredibly tough opponents, but both ran the strong campaigns they needed to take their primaries.

A total of 28 Equality California-endorsed candidates sailed to victories in their primaries, including not only LGBT candidates but also a number of staunch allies, for offices from the local to the federal level. These candidates gain EQCA's endorsement only by being 100 percent for full lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality, including marriage equality and insurance coverage for transition-related care for transgender people.

We've been hard at work this election, helping candidates with their campaigns and turning out voters for these important races. Our staff and volunteers made tens of thousands of calls and volunteered hundreds of hours. We sent over 140,000 pieces of mail encouraging people to vote for 100 percent pro-equality candidates, and our Political Action Committee and its many donors gave generously to help them sail to victory.

But we can't stop now. We'll only make more history in our state if we keep working hard between now and November to elect every 100 percent pro-equality candidate we can at every level of government.

There are also threats we must reckon with.

In the 5th Assembly District in Sacramento, one of the leaders who helped to put Proposition 8 on the ballot -- Andrew Pugno -- won the Republican primary. Allowing Pugno into the halls of Sacramento would be a disaster. His previous work to take away the rights of LGBT people suggests he would be the most stridently anti-LGBT person to hold a seat in the legislature. We can't let that happen. We must all focus on combating the lies that we know his campaign will tell about LGBT people and making sure voters in his district hear the truth about our lives. We can't allow his hatred to even come close to having an influence on California's laws.

Meg Whitman, who insists that civil unions are recognition enough for the relationships of same-sex couples, succeeded in buying her way to a win in the Republican primary for Governor, contributing $60 million to her own campaign -- far more than she has been able to fundraise though she has been touring every corner of the state to drum up donations. We have to keep her from buying the Governor's office, too. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has refused to defend Prop. 8 in court. Whitman, on the other hand, would likely defend it, using the state's limited resources to support the notion that the majority can take away the rights of a minority.

As I noted earlier this week, electing 100 percent pro-equality candidates to office is the first step towards full and complete equality. But these candidates need our help. Their opponents are strong, and we know that they will try to stir up fear and hatred to get a part of their base to show up and vote. We have to counter them at every turn. Please, join me in making calls, reaching out to voters and doing the hard work we must do in order to make history this November.