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One of the most contested races this election season will determine who will succeed Tom Ammiano in the California State Assembly, District 17. The district is an important one, encompassing close to 60% of the City and County of San Francisco’s eastern region, including its central financial and governmental core.

All eyes are on two key candidates: David Campos, who is openly gay, and David Chiu. In addition to the shared first name, both are Harvard law graduates who were born just five months apart from each other. They are both Democrats and San Francisco Supervisors, with Chiu serving as President of the SF County Supervisors. Both also have international ties, with Chiu born to Taiwanese immigrant parents and Campos born in Guatemala.

Major differences, nevertheless, distinguish the two candidates at this point. According to data released by the California secretary of state’s office, Chiu raised $448,206 as of the end of last year, while Campos raised less than half of that over the same period of time. About $60,000 of the difference comes from Chiu earning more from real estate interests, although both men claim to have strong grassroots campaigns. Campos calls his campaign “A Tale of Two Cities,” referring to the divide between rich and poor in District 17 and San Francisco as a whole. Chiu counters that he has also been an advocate for renters and has supporters from an array of backgrounds.

Followers of politics in this city are passionate about their candidate of choice, having noted differences in the way that the two men approach their work and what values might fuel those differences, however nuanced. For those of you who are still undecided, we present both candidates to you in their own words that are directed to Bay Times readers.

Statewide Direct Primary Elections tend to draw a low percentage of voters, even though the races, such as those for State Assembly, are important ones. Please be sure to make your voice heard by voting on June 3. For more information about this, and other future local elections, please visit: http://www.sfgov2.org/index.aspx?page=830

David Campos

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Last summer, the Supreme Court rejected the Prop 8 case and returned the freedom to marry to California. At the same time, the Court ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was unconstitutional. These are major victories for LGBT rights. San Franciscans have led the nation in the civil rights movement of our time, and we should be proud of our achievements. But there is so much left to do in order to create full equality for the LGBT community.

Nationally, we must pass The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would prohibit discrimination in hiring and employment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity by employers with at least 15 employees. At the state level, it is vital to implement and enforce AB 1266, passed by Assemblymember Ammiano, which addresses the exclusion of transgender students from classes and activities, and clarifies existing anti-discrimination law to provide clear protections to transgender students. We must also push for new protection against bullying in schools, and work to defeat discrimination in jobs, housing and health care against our trans brothers and sisters. It would be a great honor to have your support for my candidacy for State Assembly and work side-by-side with you to accomplish these goals.

While progress on civil rights can only be made when we all work together, I believe it is important that we elect authentic LGBT voices to the State Assembly. Our Assembly District has a long tradition of electing LGBT representatives – since 1996, we have been represented by Carole Migden, Mark Leno and Tom Ammiano.

It makes sense, because our Assembly District has the highest proportion of LGBT voters of any district in California. This is more important today than ever, because LGBT representation in Sacramento is being threatened by term limits. As LGBT Caucus Chair Rich Gordon has said, the LGBT Caucus in the State Legislature is in jeopardy of shrinking by 25%. Already, the LGBT Caucus is smaller than the Women’s, Black, API and Latino Caucuses. With both Speaker Perez and Tom Ammiano termed out, it could shrink to just six members – a bare 5% of the state. Why is that important? Consider this: in the past decade, Equality California has tracked legislation of critical interest to the LGBT community. Of the 114 bills it tracked, over 55% were authored and sponsored by members of the LGBT Caucus. Its strength is vital to our community.

There’s another reason. As a wonderful straight ally, Assemblymember Mark Stone, told me, there is simply no substitute for the authentic representation of the LGBT community in Sacramento. It is vitally important that straight legislators from every corner of California work side by side with their gay colleagues, not just on LGBT issues, but on all issues.

In San Francisco, I have worked with many of you to accomplish goals for our community. Together, we are working to create the first-ever LGBT homeless shelter, and we have created an LGBT Senior Task Force, helped keep the LGBT Center financially afloat and open, fought to protect HIV and AIDS funding, and worked to restore funding for community organizations such as LYRIC, Ella, Aguilas, Trans Latinas, and Community United Against Violence.

I am proud to be endorsed by Equality California, the LGBT Legislative Caucus, Speaker Toni Atkins, LGBT Caucus Chair Rich Gordon and Assemblymember Tom Ammiano. I would be honored to have your vote.

For more information, please visit www.davidcampossf.com/.

 David Chiu

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When I came to City Hall in 2008, at a time when it was not as functional as it could be, I committed to change the tone of local government by bringing people together to solve problems. Since then, by focusing on what’s best for San Franciscans, we have built consensus to create jobs, build housing, balance our city budgets, and improve our city for families.

After three terms as President of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, I am running for the California State Assembly, with the same heartfelt commitment to delivering results for all San Franciscans, particularly for our LGBT community. For decades, San Francisco has been at the forefront of the fight for our diverse LGBT residents and against discrimination based on sexual orientation, and our next Assemblymember needs to continue to be a leading, effective champion for the LGBT community. While I will never know what it is like to live life as a gay person, I have fought, and will continue to fight, for LGBT equality.

After law school, I worked as Democratic Counsel to the U.S. Senate Constitution Subcommittee for a true champion for justice, Senator Paul Simon. When the so-called Defense of Marriage Act came to Congress in 1996, Senator Simon was one of the few Senators who stood up against DOMA, and he and I worked with the opposition every step of the way. I will never forget sitting in the Senate chamber on the dark day that 85 US Senators voted in favor of ugly bigotry. That unsuccessful fight reaffirmed my personal commitment to LGBT equality, and was one of the reasons I moved to San Francisco, to be part of a city that shares our progressive values of tolerance, inclusion and diversity.

In San Francisco over the past 18 years, in addition to working as a civil rights attorney, I was one of the founding members of API Equality, which has fought for marriage equality within the Asian Pacific Islander community, served as president of the first Asian American bar association in the country to support marriage equality, and joined picket lines to protest discrimination at Badlands. In 2005, I worked alongside San Francisco LGBT leaders on a successful effort to adopt marriage equality in the official platform of the California Democratic Party. I ran a technology company whose San Francisco office was 40% LGBT, and whose clients included the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, the Human Rights Campaign, and the International AIDS Trust.

As Supervisor, during difficult budget times, I have supported local funding to backfill devastating federal cuts to HIV/AIDS programs and shoring up the finances of the LGBT Community Center. I have delivered funding for vulnerable LGBT students at nonprofits like LYRIC, and passed resolutions supporting the reunification of LGBT immigrant families. I have appointed and supported stellar LGBT city commissioners, and was one of the first straight allies to speak out against Russian LGBT policies and support divestment. I will continue to use my voice to advocate for equality and justice.

LGBT issues are much more than marriage equality, or even civil rights. LGBT issues are San Francisco issues: LGBT tenants in the Tenderloin concerned about next month’s rent; LGBT small business owners in the Castro trying to grow businesses in the city we love; LGBT families in Bernal Heights who want quality public schools for our kids; LGBT residents who want our tax dollars spent smartly and our government managed well.

In my favorite book about San Francisco politics, Randy Shilts’ biography of Harvey Milk described a visionary leader who understood that the success of this civil rights movement, like those that came before it, would depend on the ability to build coalitions and fight for hearts and minds — one at a time, if necessary — until justice is done. Like other elected officials who have taken Harvey Milk’s lessons to heart, I’ve strived to do that hard work every day, and am committed to bringing this same passion to Sacramento.

I hope that you will join the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club, the Gay Asian Pacific Alliance, Supervisor Scott Wiener, former Treasurer Susan Leal, Attorney General Kamala Harris, Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, and many others in supporting our campaign. Please visit our campaign headquarters in the Castro or our website at VoteDavidChiu.com.