Two of the top Republican candidates for mayor of San Diego are openly gay and voters have barely registered it. According to the Associated Press, the issue just doesn’t come up at campaign appearances or in local news coverage. That’s because lesbian district attorney Bonnie Dumanis and gay city council member Carl DeMaio haven’t made their marks as LGBT activists, which, say political watchers, may help explain why their sexual orientation has been a non-issue even among social conservatives. Neither makes a secret of being gay, but, as AP’s Elliot Spagat points out, they don't draw attention to it, either.
San Diego, America's eighth-largest city, has had a Republican mayor for almost two decades, which means both Dumanis and DeMaio are on the right side of the political divide. That could make for an interesting LGBT political victory, although there are only about 20 openly gay Republican elected officials nationwide, according to the Victory Fund. If either of these candidates win, San Diego would be the the nation's largest city to ever choose an openly gay GOP leader, say Donald Haider-Markel, author of Out and Running: Gay and Lesbian Candidates, Elections, and Policy Representation. What remains to be seen, he says, is whether the Republican party will endorse either candidate — financial backing and party support have been difficult for gay Republican candidates in the past.
When San Diego mayor Jerry Sanders, a
Republican, announced in 2007 that he believed gays should have rights
to marry, saying his lesbian daughter and members of his staff deserved
no less, he caused an uproar among Republicans who threatened to take
away his endorsement. About one-third of San Diego County's Republican
Party central committee voted to yank its backing of Sanders, Chairman
Tony Krvaric told AP, but Sanders kept the endorsement and went
on to win election.
Now that Sanders is leaving office (forced out by
term limits, rather than lack of voter support), all eyes are on
Dumanis, the 59-year-old DA backed by Sanders and a bevy of cops in
part because of her law enforcement background, and DeMaio, a
36-year-old former businessman who is a man of the people, almost solely
focused on improving city finances.
voters in San Diego are finding themselves with an odd mix of options —
a gay man, a lesbian, or Democrat Bob Filner, a straight congressman
who has made marks as an LGBT activist. Filner served on the LGBT
Equality Caucus in the 112th Congress and has supported marriage
equality, fought against Pro. 8, and called for an end to LGBT
discrimination in schools and the workplace.