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LGBTQ+ and Pro-Equality Candidates Dominated 2020 California Primary Elections
Two Latina Lesbian Senate Candidates Poised to Make History in November, Voters Reject Three Democrats’ Anti-LGBTQ+ Rhetoric
March 4, 2020 at 2:55 pm

In This Section


March 4, 2020

CONTACT: Samuel Garrett-Pate, Equality California
PHONE: (323) 848-9801/MOBILE: (973) 476-3770/EMAIL: press@eqca.org

LOS ANGELES — Across California on Tuesday, openly LGBTQ+ candidates and pro-equality allies running for office dominated in key races up and down the ballot. With the backing of Equality California, the nation’s largest statewide LGBTQ+ civil rights organization, San Diego mayoral candidate Asm. Todd Gloria emerged from his primary as the clear frontrunner, pro-equality ally Asm. Christy Smith (D-Santa Clarita) placed first in both her special election and primary election for the 25th Congressional District and state senate candidates Asm. Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton) and Abigail Medina (D-San Bernardino) both advanced to the November election. If elected, Eggman and Medina would make history as the first two LGBTQ+ women of color to serve in the California Senate. Both dual-endorsed candidates for California’s 53rd Congressional District Sara Jacobs and Georgette Gómez also advanced to the November election. Additional information about many of Equality California’s priority races is included below.

“Yesterday’s results clearly demonstrated that openly LGBTQ+ Californians and our allies are winning in every corner of the state with a broad, diverse base of support from voters,” said Equality California Executive Director Rick Chavez Zbur. “As importantly, voters overwhelmingly rejected candidates who engaged in anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and homophobic campaign tactics. Californians have had enough of the hate and division in Washington — they’re looking for leaders who will unite our communities and fight for our common values. Supporting LGBTQ+ civil rights and social justice is a winning strategy across California. And candidates who refuse to stand on the right side of history will soon find themselves standing alone.”

Notably, three Democratic candidates who had engaged in anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and campaign tactics suffered embarrassing defeats on Tuesday. After raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for his CA-25 bid, online talk show host Cenk Uygur barely received 5 percent of the vote in both the special election to serve the rest of U.S. Representative Katie Hill’s (D-Santa Clarita) first term and the 2020 primary election for the seat. Senate hopefuls Mani Grewal (D-Modesto) and Kris Goodfellow (D-Redlands) both fell short of advancing to the November election after engaging in anti-LGBTQ+ campaigns against Eggman and Medina.

Equality California ran a robust get-out-the-vote operation to boost priority state, local and federal candidates. Equality California Political Action Committee, the state PAC affiliated with the civil rights organization, ran independent expenditure campaigns — including combinations of direct mail, robocalls, peer-to-peer text messaging and digital advertising — in Senate Districts 5, 11, 21 and 23; Assembly Districts 78 and 42; and the San Diego Mayor’s race. Equality California staff and board members volunteered as canvassers supporting endorsed candidates in Congressional District 25 and Senate Districts 11, 15, 21, 23 and 37.

According to the first wave of NBC News’s exit polling on Tuesday, LGBTQ+ voters made up 11 percent of California’s primary electorate. This tracks with Equality California’s polling, which shows that LGBTQ+ Californians make up 12 percent of registered voters in the Golden State and reinforces the fact that the LGBTQ+ community is a critical, powerful voting bloc in California that should not be ignored or taken for granted.

Other openly LGBTQ+ candidates advancing to the November general election include Senate Pro Tem Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), Assemblymembers Evan Low (D-Campbell) and Sabrina Cervantes (D-Riverside), as well as senate candidate John Laird (D-Santa Cruz) and Assembly candidate Jackie Smith (D-Rocklin). Assembly candidates Scott Rhinehart (D-Mission Viejo) and Alex Lee (D-San Jose) are currently in second place in races that are too close to call. Senate candidate Joy Silver is currently in third place in the special election race for Senate District 28 — also too close to call — which will almost certainly go to a May 12 runoff.

Key Races in which Equality California engaged:

  • San Diego Mayor: Assemblymember Todd Gloria is the clear frontrunner in his race to make history as the first LGBTQ+ San Diegan to be elected mayor of California’s second-largest city. Equality California was an early endorser of Gloria’s mayoral bid and has supported the Legislative LGBTQ Caucus Vice Chair throughout his career, including in his previous campaigns for San Diego City Council and California Assembly.
  • Congressional District 25: Christy Smith (D-Santa Clarita) emerged victorious in both the special election to serve the rest of U.S. Representative Katie Hill’s term and the 2020 primary election and will likely face off against Republican Mike Garcia in both contests. Anti-LGBTQ+ candidates Cenk Uygur and former U.S. Representative Steve Knight — whom Hill defeated in 2018 with Equality California’s help — were rejected by voters.
  • Congressional District 50: Ammar Campa-Najjar (D-Jamul) placed first in the primary election to replace disgraced former U.S. Representative Duncan Hunter. It appears he will face Republican former U.S. Representative Darrell Issa, who has a long history of corruption scandals of his own and was recently slammed by the San Diego Union-Tribune for running an anti-LGBTQ+ ad targeting openly gay Republican Carl DeMaio in the primary.
  • Congressional District 53: After Equality California dual-endorsed nonprofit leader Sara Jacobs (D-San Diego) and openly LGBTQ+ San Diego City Council President Georgette Gómez, the two candidates will advance to the November runoff, ensuring that the district will continue to be represented by a pro-equality champion after U.S. Representative Susan Davis (D-San Diego) retires.
  • Senate District 5: Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton) emerged victorious, while anti-LGBTQ+ Democrat Mani Grewal placed a distant third, despite significant last-minute outside spending on his behalf. Last August, Equality California criticized Grewal for an anti-LGBTQ+ ad attacking bipartisan legislation sponsored by Equality California and law enforcement officials, costing Grewal the support of two lawmakers and the Legislative API Caucus. Equality California also ran an independent expenditure campaign on Eggman’s behalf, including direct mail, paid phone calls, text messages and targeted digital ads.
  • Senate District 11: Legislative LGBTQ Caucus Chair Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) bested his Democratic primary challenger by more than 20 points, winning nearly 55% of the vote. Equality California ran a $2+ million independent expenditure supporting Wiener in 2016 and considers his reelection to be a top priority in 2020.
  • Senate District 23: Abigail Medina (D-Highland), who is openly lesbian, advanced to the November election and is currently in first place in this key pickup opportunity for Senate Democrats. Last week, Equality California condemned her Democratic opponent Kris Goodfellow for running a smear campaign attacking Medina’s sexual orientation and ethnicity. Goodfellow is currently in fourth place and will not advance to the November ballot. Equality California also ran an independent expenditure campaign on Medina’s behalf, including direct mail, paid phone calls, text messages and targeted digital ads.
  • Assembly District 42: After leaving the Republican Party last year, incumbent Asm. Chad Mayes (I-Yucca Valley) — who scored a 100% on Equality California’s legislative scorecard last year — is currently in first place and has almost certainly secured a spot on the November ballot in his re-election race. If he wins in November, Mayes would be the first independent candidate to win a race for state office in over 25 years. Equality California ran an independent expenditure campaign on Mayes’ behalf, including direct mail, paid phone calls, text messages and targeted digital ads.

To see a full list of Equality California’s endorsed candidates, visit eqca.org/elections. 


Equality California is the nation’s largest statewide LGBTQ civil rights organization. We bring the voices of LGBTQ people and allies to institutions of power in California and across the United States, striving to create a world that is healthy, just, and fully equal for all LGBTQ people. We advance civil rights and social justice by inspiring, advocating and mobilizing through an inclusive movement that works tirelessly on behalf of those we serve. www.eqca.org

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