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Coronavirus upends campaign season as D.C. primary nears

Gay candidate competing in hotly contested Ward 2 Council race

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DC election, gay news, Washington Blade
John Fanning and Patrick Kennedy have each been endorsed by prominent members of the LGBTQ community for the Ward 2 Council seat. (Photos courtesy of the campaigns)

Nearly all of the 25 candidates running in D.C.’s June 2 Democratic primary for five D.C. Council seats and three congressional seats have expressed strong support for LGBTQ rights, prompting activists to predict that LGBTQ voters will likely choose a candidate to vote for based on non-LGBTQ issues.

Early voting for the primary began on May 22 and was scheduled to continue each day except Memorial Day on May 25 at 20 voting centers located throughout the city from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. The 20 voting centers were scheduled to be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on June 2. The location of the voting centers can be found at dcboe.org.

Board of Elections officials have said the deadline for applying online or by phone for an absentee mail-in ballot was May 26.

Most political observers say the hotly contested Ward 2 D.C. Council race is the wildcard in a city primary election in which the incumbents usually win. With no incumbent in the Ward 2 race and in the midst of the coronavirus shutdowns making it impossible for candidates to hold in-person events or campaign outdoors, no one is predicting who the winner will be in that contest.

Similar to nearly all D.C. elections, the winners in the Democratic primary are usually the winners in the November general election in a city with the overwhelming majority of voters being registered Democrats.

Some — but by no means all — LGBTQ activists have joined gay Ward 2 D.C. Council candidate John Fanning in urging their fellow LGBTQ compatriots to vote for Fanning as a means of returning an out LGBTQ person to the ranks of the 13-member City Council.

The Council has not had an LGBTQ member since January 2015 after the late gay Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) lost his re-election race in 2014 and gay Council member David Catania (I-At-Large) gave up his seat in an unsuccessful run for mayor in 2014.

Fanning’s supporters argue that Fanning, 57, a longtime Logan Circle Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner and a Ward 2 community services representative for several D.C. mayors is highly qualified to serve on the Council.

Other LGBTQ activists, however, are supporting rival Ward 2 candidate Patrick Kennedy, 28, an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner in Foggy Bottom who has been endorsed by at least three other gay ANC members, a gay member of the D.C. State Board of Education, and by Casa Ruby founder and executive director Ruby Corado. Catania is also backing Kennedy.

Several of them have said Kennedy’s understanding and support for LGBTQ issues is exceptionally strong and while they too favor electing an LGBTQ person to the Council, at this particular time they say Kennedy is the best person for the job. Kennedy has also been endorsed by D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large).

Fanning supporters note that Fanning has been endorsed by former D.C. Council member Carol Schwartz, a longtime LGBTQ rights supporter, and by a number of prominent LGBT activists, including former Whitman-Walker Clinic Executive Director Cornelius Baker, former Whitman-Walker Board Chair Riley Temple, and longtime gay activists Paul Kuntzler, Jose Gutierrez, and Ernest Hopkins.

Fanning and Kennedy are among eight candidates competing in the Democratic primary for the Ward 2 Council seat that former D.C. Council member Jack Evans has held for 28 years. Evans resigned from the seat in January after all 12 of his Council colleagues said they planned to vote to expel Evans over allegations of ethics violations.

Evans has apologized for what he has called mistakes in judgment but insists he did not violate any laws. Citing his reputation as an expert in city financial and budget related matters, Evans has called on his former Ward 2 constituents – including LGBTQ constituents – to send him back to the Council to utilize his skills to help the city respond to the coronavirus crisis. LGBTQ activists, many of whom are not supporting Evans now, acknowledge that he has been among the Council’s strongest supporters on LGBTQ rights since he first won election to the Council.

The remaining candidates running in the Democratic primary for the Ward 2 seat have also expressed strong support for LGBTQ rights. They include Burleith ANC member Kishan Putta, 46; former Obama administration official Jordan Grossman, 34; Marine Corps veteran and Microsoft employee Daniel Hernandez, 32; former Assistant D.C. Attorney General Brooke Pinto, 27; and Kaiser Permanente business development executive Yilin Zhang, 32.

Pinto has been endorsed by the Washington Post and by current D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine. Grossman received endorsements from the Metro Washington Council of the AFL-CIO, the Washington Teachers Union, and D.C. Council member Elissa Silverman (I-At-Large). Putta has been endorsed by former U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy.

Evans has been endorsed by D.C. nightlife advocate and Washington Blade columnist Mark Lee. Also backing Evans are longtime LGBTQ rights advocates John Ralls and Michael Ramirez. Ralls is a former chief of staff at Evans’s Council office.

All of the candidates except Evans and Hernandez are also running in a June 16 special election to fill the Ward 2 D.C. Council seat that became vacant when Evans resigned in January. The winner of the special election will hold the seat until Evans’s term would have ended on Jan. 1, 2021.

Also running in the special election is Republican Ward 2 Council candidate Katherine Venice, who is running unopposed in the Republican primary also scheduled for June 2. Venice has alienated many of the city’s GOP activists by denouncing President Donald Trump and pledging to work hard for his defeat in the November presidential election.

Venice received a +8 rating on LGBTQ issues from the D.C. Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, which praised her responses to its candidate questionnaire as being highly supportive and insightful on LGBTQ matters. She told the Washington Blade she would not accept an endorsement from the D.C. Log Cabin Republicans, the local LGBTQ GOP group, because Log Cabin has endorsed Trump’s re-election.

Three longtime LGBTQ rights supporters — D.C. Congressional Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), D.C. Council member Robert White (D-At-Large), and D.C. Shadow U.S. Sen. Paul Strauss (D) — are running unopposed in the Democratic primary. Also running unopposed is political newcomer Oye Owolewa (D), who’s running for the shadow U.S. House seat. All four have been endorsed by the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s largest local GLBTQ political group.

The Stein Club did not make an endorsement in the Ward 2 Council race as well as in the Council races in Wards 4 and 8. None of the multiple candidates running for the three seats, including incumbents Brandon Todd (D-Ward 4) and Tryon White (D-Ward 8), received a required 60 percent of the vote by Stein Club members needed for an endorsement.

In the Ward 4 race, Todd, a longtime supporter of LGBTQ rights who has been endorsed by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, is being challenged in the primary by community activists Janeese Lewis George and Marlena Edwards. George, who identifies herself as a democratic socialist, is appealing to the ward’s liberal-progressive voters who George says agree with her assertion that Todd is a captive of business interests at the expense of working class residents.

Todd supporters say George’s far-left positions put her at odds with the majority of Ward 4 residents who recognize Todd’s role as a political moderate who is credited with providing excellent constituent services and with helping to boost the economic development in Ward 4.

George received a + 6.5 rating on LGBTQ issues by the D.C. Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance compared to Todd, who received a +6 rating. Edwards received a +4.5 GLAA rating. GLAA rates candidates on a scale of +10, the highest possible rating, to -10, the lowest possible score indicating an anti-LGBTQ record or current positions.

Similar to other otherwise LGBT supportive candidates, GLAA said Todd and Edwards lost points for opposing decriminalization of sex work, a position that GLAA and other local LGBTQ organizations support.

Gay candidate wins key endorsements in Ward 7

In the Ward 7 D.C. Council race, incumbent Council member and former D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, a longtime LGBTQ rights supporter who received the Stein Club’s endorsement, is being challenged by five fellow Democrats. Among them is gay Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner and community activist Anthony Lorenzo Green.

The others running against Gray in the primary include attorney and community activist Veda Rasheed; Army veteran and Fannie Mae manager Kelvin Brown; Ward 7 businesswoman Rebecca Morris; and community activist James Leroy Jennings.

GLAA assigned Gray a rating of +8, saying Gray has an excellent record on LGBTQ issues but lost points for his opposition to decriminalization of sex work. Green, who also has a record of support on LGBTQ issues, received a +4 rating after failing to return the GLAA questionnaire, according to a GLAA statement accompanying its ratings. GLAA says it has a policy of assigning a rating of “0” to candidates who don’t return the questionnaire if their record and positions on LGBTQ issues are unknown.

For that reason, GLAA assigned a “0” rating to Ward 7 candidates Rasheed, Morris, Jennings, and Brown after each of them failed to return the questionnaire and their record on LGBTQ issues was unknown to GLAA.

Green, Brown, and Rasheed joined Gray in participating in a May 11 online candidate forum organized by the Stein Club, and each of them expressed support for LGBTQ issues at the forum. Morris and Jennings did not participate in the forum.

Most political observers believe Gray is the strong favorite to win re-election in the June 2 primary. But some of the same observers say Green has made a strong showing in both his campaign fundraising and by a few significant endorsements he has received, including from the D.C. local chapter of the AFL-CIO, the Washington Teachers Union and the progressive group D.C. for Democracy.

In addition to the Stein Club endorsement, Gray has been endorsed by the Washington Post, the Sierra Club, and the local group Greater Greater Washington.

In the Ward 8 D.C. Council race, incumbent Council member Trayon White (D), who has a record of support for LGBTQ rights, is considered the favorite to win re-election. He is being challenged in the Democratic primary by three opponents, each of whom has expressed support for LGBTQ rights.

The challengers include Ward 8 attorney and community activist Yaida Ford, who received a +7 rating from GLAA compared to a +4.5 rating that GLAA gave to White. Also receiving a +4.5 GLAA rating is Ward 8 candidate Mike Austin. The remaining candidate, Stuart Anderson, received a +3 GLAA rating. Although each of the Ward 8 candidates, including White, expressed support for LGBTQ issues at the Stein Club’s May 11 virtual candidate forum, GLAA says in its ratings statement that all of the candidates except Ford did not provide sufficient substance to their answers to the 10 questions on the GLAA candidate questionnaire.

GLAA said Anderson lost points for expressing opposition on the questionnaire to a pending D.C. Council bill calling for outlawing the so-called LGBTQ panic defense in criminal trials. Attorneys have used the panic defense to excuse anti-LGBT violence on grounds that a perpetrator lost control of his or her emotions after learning the person they attacked was gay or transgender.

“Democratic candidate Yaida Ford agrees with GLAA on all issues and shows good substance in her questionnaire responses,” GLAA says in a statement accompanying its ratings. “She was legislative counsel for the Committee on Human Services under [former DC Council member] Jim Graham, and was his liaison to the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club,” GLAA says in its statement, which adds that Ford represents LGBTQ people in her law practice.

White, meanwhile, has been endorsed by the Washington Teachers Union, the Metropolitan Washington AFL-CIO, the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), the Sierra Club, and Jews for Justice.

Several independent candidates are running for some of the D.C. Council seats at play in the June 2 primary, but they will not be on the ballot until the November election. The Blade will be reporting on their campaigns in the coming weeks.

‘Presidential Preference’ receives little attention

With the distraction of the coronavirus epidemic and the presumptive nomination of former Vice President Joe Biden as the Democratic candidate for president, D.C.’s Presidential Preference Primary, also set for June 2, has received little attention in the media.

But when D.C. voters go to the polls or receive their mail-in ballots they will discover that Biden and three other Democratic presidential candidates who dropped out of the race and announced their support for Biden earlier this year are on the D.C. ballot. The others on the ballot are U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii).

The D.C. Board of Elections has said the decision by the three to drop out of the presidential race came too late to change the ballots, which were already prepared.

The name Donald J. Trump will be on the D.C. ballot for Republican voters in the June 2 Presidential Preference Primary.

Other Republican candidates along with D.C.’s Statehood Green Party and Libertarian Party candidates will be on the June 2 primary ballot. Following is a list of those candidates along with the GLAA rating they received:

At-Large D.C. Council:

Marya Pickering (R), GLAA rating, -3

Ann C. Wilcox (Statehood Green), GLAA rating +0.5

Joe Bishop-Henchman (Libertarian), GLAA rating 0.

Ward 2 D.C. Council:

Katherine Venice (R), GLAA rating, +8

Ward 4 D.C. Council:

Perry Redd (Statehood Green), GLAA rating 0

Ward 8 D.C. Council:

Nate Derenge (R), GLAA rating -2

Delegate to U.S. House:

Natale Lino Stracuzzi (Statehood Green), no GLAA rating

Ford Fischer (Libertarian)

U.S. Shadow Senator:

Eleanor Ory (Statehood Green), no GLAA rating;

U.S. Shadow Representative:

Joyce (Chestnut) Robinson-Paul (Statehood-Green), no GLAA rating

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Biden names civil rights veteran to U.S. Education Dept.

Catherine Lhamon’s portfolio will include LGBTQ rights, sexual misconduct, racial discrimination

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Nominee for Assistant Secretary of the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education Catherine Lhamon. (Photo public domain))

The White House announced Thursday that President Joe Biden has nominated Catherine Lhamon to serve as the Assistant Secretary of the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education.

Lhamon currently serves as a Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Director of the Domestic Policy Council for Racial Justice and Equity at the White House, where she manages the President’s equity policy portfolio. She is a former attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, (ACLU) and served as chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights from 2017 to 2021.

She has also served as Legal Affairs Secretary to California Governor Gavin Newsom.

Her portfolio at Education, where she previously served in the same position under former President Barack Obama, will include LGBTQ rights, sexual misconduct and racial discrimination in the nation’s K-12 schools, universities and colleges. Lhamon was Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the Department of Education, to which President Obama nominated her and the Senate confirmed her in 2013.

“I am thrilled that President Biden is nominating Catherine Lhamon to serve as Assistant Secretary of the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education. Catherine has devoted her career to ensuring equity is at the core of all her work,” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a statement released by his office Thursday.

“She has a strong record of fighting for communities of color and underserved communities, whether as the current Deputy Director of the Domestic Policy Council, the former chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, or as a civil rights educator at Georgetown University. We are thrilled to have Catherine serving as Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights and know she will continue to fight for fairness, equity, and justice for all of America’s students.”

Lhamon has also litigated civil rights cases at National Center for Youth Law, Public Counsel Law Center, and the ACLU Foundation of Southern California.  Lhamon taught federal civil rights appeals at Georgetown University Law Center in the Appellate Litigation Program and clerked for the Honorable William A. Norris on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

“Catherine Lhamon is the right choice to lead the Department of Education’s civil rights division at such a critical time for the country and the agency. There is much work to do in order to roll back the harmful policies and legacies of Betsy DeVos, from her attacks on transgender students to her unconscionable revocation of discriminatory discipline guidance and rewrite of Title IX rules,” Adele Kimmel, Director of the Students’ Civil Rights Project at Public Justice told the Blade in an email.

“During her previous tenure in the same job, Catherine embraced equality, enforced Title IX and ensured students had an ally inside the federal government. She will do so again, and the Senate should move to quickly confirm her so she can begin the work of restoring the Department’s commitment to protecting the civil rights and dignity of students and implementing the Biden Administration’s pledge to undo the damage that DeVos has done,” Kimmel added.

Born in Virginia and raised in California, Lhamon graduated from Amherst College and Yale Law School. Lhamon and her husband and two daughters are transitioning between California and Maryland.

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IDAHOBiT events to promote intersectionality, resilience, allyship

HRC president to participate in virtual panel in Canada

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(Photo courtesy of the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia committee)

 

Intersectionality, resilience and allyship are among the themes that this year’s International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia events will highlight.

Dignity Network Canada and the Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention on May 17 will hold a virtual panel that will feature Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David, Canadian Center for Gender and Sexual Diversity Executive Director Debbie Owusu-Akyeeah, Kaleidoscope Trust Executive Director Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, COC Nederland Executive Director Marie Ricardo and Rainbow Railroad Executive Director Kimahli Powell. The British High Commission and the Dutch Embassy in Canada have co-sponsored the event.

“We hope that this will be a really interesting and important conversation on intersectionality and transnational solidarity — and what it means for these leaders and their organizations during these times,” reads a description of the event.

The U.N. LGBTI Core Group on May 17 will host a virtual IDAHOBiT event that will focus on ways to develop an “inclusive and diverse post-pandemic world.” The World Bank Group, the International Monetary Fund, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Inter-American and Asian Development Banks host a similar IDAHOBiT commemoration.

“In order to heal from the economic, social, and public health dire impact the pandemic has had and still has, every plan of recovery must take into account a human-rights based, intersectional and gender responsive approach that addresses the specific needs of LGBTI persons in order not to leave them further behind,” reads a description of the U.N. LGBTI Core Group event.

Several Russian LGBTQ rights groups on May 17 will hold a “Vaccine for Acceptance” event that seeks to bolster allyship in the country.

Retired South Africa Constitutional Court Justice Edwin Cameron on May 16 will moderate a virtual panel that will focus on religion and anti-LGBTQ violence.

Workplace Pride and the Dutch Embassy in Budapest on May 17 will host a symposium on LGBTQ-inclusive workplaces in Hungary. M.V. Lee Badgett, an economics professor at the University of Massachusetts, on the same day will participate in a webinar the U.S. Embassy in Singapore is hosting with Oogachaga, a local LGBTQ advocacy group.

Haver Srbija, a Serbian NGO, on May 15-16 will hold Falafel, a film festival that seeks to build “bridges and promotes Israeli, Jewish and LGBTQI culture and communities” and highlight “various social issues in the context of the fight against prejudice, discrimination, anti-Semitism, homophobia and xenophobia and encourages the audience to develop critical thinking on the issue of these topics.” Proud Lebanon is slated to hold a series of six webinars between May 17-22 that will focus on feminism, LGBTQ rights and other topics.

The National Center for Sexual Education in Cuba will hold a series of virtual forums and other events through the month to commemorate IDAHOBiT.

CENESEX Director Mariela Castro, whose father is former Cuban President Raúl Castro, during a May 4 press conference in Havana said the IDAHOBiT events are part of the process of amending the country’s family code to make it more equitable for LGBTQ Cubans. Mariela Castro said a bill to amend it will be introduced in the Cuban Parliament in July.

“I was able to appreciate that the majority of the population … is in favor of recognizing the rights of LGBTI+ people and especially the rights in the family sphere that include the possibility, the option, of marriage,” said Mariela Castro during the press conference, according to Tremenda Nota, the Washington Blade’s media partner in Cuba.

IDAHOBiT commemorates the World Health Organization’s 1990 decision to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder.

This year’s events will take place against the backdrop of a pandemic that continues to exacerbate existing inequalities for LGBTQ people and other vulnerable groups around the world.

Consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized in dozens of countries. Violence based on gender identity and sexual orientation remains rampant in the U.S. and throughout the world.

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Mixed reviews from transgender Republicans on Caitlyn Jenner’s run

Remarks on kids in sport a sore point among LGBTQ advocacy groups

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Caitlyn Jenner was quickly repudiated by LGBTQ advocates after she entered California’s recall election as a gubernatorial candidate — and her fellow transgender Republicans are mixed over whether or not to back her up.

Transgender Republicans are few in number, but some are in high-profile positions and have been working with their party to change its approach and drop its attacks on transgender people, whether it be in the military, public bathrooms, or school sports.

Jordan Evans, a Charlton, Mass.-based transgender Republican who unsuccessfully last year ran to become a Massachusetts Republican State Committee Woman, told the Washington Blade she had high hopes for Jenner as a fellow transgender candidate, but they were quickly dashed after her campaign launched.

“My feelings changed quickly after Caitlyn made it clear that she was less interested in using this opportunity to present the Republican Party and conservative movements with an accessible and high-profile introduction to the trans community and simply wanted to be a trans woman who espoused the same destructive approaches that we just so happen to be seeing all over the country,” Evans said.

Evans said the high hopes she had were based on the transgender advocacy she said Jenner was doing behind the scenes and the potential for two prominent LGBTQ Republicans to run for governor in California. After all, Jenner may soon be joined in the race by Richard Grenell, who was U.S. ambassador to Germany and acting director of national intelligence before becoming the face of LGBTQ outreach for Trump’s failed re-election.

But Jenner’s approach to the gubernatorial recall in California, Evans said, is “putting trans youth at risk for a campaign that isn’t even transformative for Republicans during this volatile time.”

“Even her current messaging is superficial and does nothing to help dispel claims that she’s unqualified,” Evans said. “The only positive thing that I’ve seen come from this is conservative mainstream media using her correct pronouns, but that is not worth the damage that she’s inflicting.”

Much of the disappointment over Jenner’s campaign is the result of her essentially throwing transgender kids under the bus as part of her campaign at a time when state legislatures are advancing legislation against them, including the bills that would essentially bar transgender girls from participating in school sports.

Jenner, declining to push back on these measures and assert transgender kids have a place in sports, instead essentially endorsed the bills shortly after she announced her candidacy.

“If you’re born as a biological boy, you shouldn’t be allowed to compete in girls’ sports,” Jenner told TMZ, which asked her about the hot-button issue during a Sunday morning coffee run.

Jenner dug deeper into MAGA-world at the expense of solidarity with the transgender community. Last week, Jenner retweeted Jenna Ellis, who has a notoriously anti-LGBTQ background and was criticized just last year for refusing to use the personal pronouns of Rachel Levine, who’s now assistant secretary of health and the first openly transgender presidential appointee to win Senate confirmation.

Jennifer Williams, a New Jersey-based transgender Republican who unsuccessfully ran for a seat in the New Jersey General Assembly last year, said via email Jenner “did much good for several years by educating millions of people around the world about transgender folks,” but won’t countenance the candidate’s remarks on transgender kids in sports.

“In regard to her current run for California governor, her recent comments regarding transgender youth playing sports are confusing,” Williams said. “Just last year, she said that she supported transgender female athletes. Caitlyn should consult with tennis great Billie Jean King, soccer star Megan Rapinoe or WNBA legend Candace Parker on the subject of transgender athletes in women’s sports, as they are very well versed on the matter.”

At a time when state legislatures are pushing through legislation targeting transgender youth, restricting their access to sports and transition-related care, Jenner’s refusal to repudiate those measures has become a focal point for opposition to her candidacy from LGBTQ advocacy groups, who say she’s “out of touch” (although none were supporting her even before she made those comments).

The LGBTQ Victory Fund, which supports LGBTQ political candidates and public officials, has signaled it wants nothing to do with Jenner.

Sean Meloy, vice president of political programs for LGBTQ Victory Fund, said Jenner hasn’t applied for an endorsement from the Victory Fund “and she shouldn’t bother to.”

“Her opposition to full trans inclusion – particularly for trans kids in sports – makes her ineligible for the endorsement,” Meloy said. “There are many great trans candidates running this cycle who are champions for equality.”

To be sure, Jenner used her celebrity status as a former reality TV star and Olympic champion on behalf of transgender lobbyists, urging donations to groups like the National Center for Transgender Equality and going to Capitol Hill to lobby Republicans on transgender issues. Jenner has also given money for transgender kids to attend college, giving transgender advocate Blossom Brown a check for $20,000 on “The Ellen Show” in 2015.

Blaire White, a transgender conservative and YouTube personality, drew on these examples of Jenner helping transgender youth in a video earlier this month and said the two once had dinner together, but wasn’t yet ready to make a endorsement.

“I will say that until she lays out all of her policy positions and until she’s more on record in long form really talking about what she wants to do for the state of California, I can’t say for sure I would vote for her and would not vote for her,” White concluded in the video. “What I can say is: I’m interested. And also, being under Gavin Newson’s governorship, I would literally vote for a triple-amputee frog over Gavin Newsom, so she already has that going for her.”

Jenner’s campaign couldn’t be reached for comment for this article on the repudiation of her campaign from LGBTQ advocacy groups.

Gina Roberts, who’s the first transgender Republican elected to public office in California and a member of the San Diego GOP Central Committee, said she’s neutral for the time being as an elected Republican Party leader, but nonetheless had good things to say about Jenner’s candidacy.

“I think it’s awesome,” Roberts said. “It’s kind of indicative of how cool the Republican Party in California is because nobody really cares or it makes any difference. I mean, I was the first elected GOP transgender person in California and I think we’re ready for No. 2.”

Asked whether Jenner’s comments about allowing transgender kids in sports was troubling, Roberts said that wasn’t the case because she has her own reservations.

“I have pretty much the same opinion because … there’s so many nuances in that,” Roberts said. “If somebody transitions after they’ve gone through puberty, there is a big difference, especially in high school. If they transition beforehand, it’s not a big deal.”

A gun enthusiast and supporter of gun owner’s rights, Roberts said she competes in women’s events in shooting sports, but there’s a difference because she doesn’t “really have any advantages all those young, small ladies can pull a lot faster than I do and shoot faster than I do.”

Roberts concluded she’ll personally make a decision about whom she’ll support in the California recall election after Grenell announces whether or not he’ll enter the race, but can’t say anything until the San Diego GOP Central Committee issues an endorsement.

“He’s a good friend of mine, too,” Roberts said. “I know both of them. I think they’d both be certainly better than Gavin Newsom, I have to stay neutral until the county party decides who they’re going to endorse. I will support somebody or another in the endorsement process, but I can’t publicly announce it.”

Although LGBTQ groups want nothing to do with her campaign, Jenner’s approach has garnered the attention of prominent conservatives, who are taking her seriously as a candidate. One of Jenner’s first interviews was on Fox News’ Sean Hannity, a Trump ally with considerable sway among his viewers. Hannity was able to find common ground with Jenner, including agreement on seeing California wildfires as a problem with forest management as opposed to climate change.

Kayleigh McEnany, who served as White House press secretary in Trump’s final year in the White House and defended in the media his efforts to challenge his 2020 election loss in court, signaled her openness to Jenner’s candidacy after the Hannity interview.

“I really enjoyed watching @Caitlyn_Jenner’s interview with @seanhannity,” McEnany tweeted. “I found Caitlyn to be well-informed, sincere, and laser-focused on undoing the socialist, radical, a-scientific policies of Biden & the left. Very good.”

In theory, that support combined with Jenner’s visibility might be enough to propel Jenner to victory. In the recall election, California will answer two questions, whether California Gov. Gavin Newsom should be recalled, and if so, which candidate should replace him. The contender with the plurality of votes would win the election, even if that’s less than a majority vote, and become the next governor. There isn’t a run-off if no candidate fails to obtain a majority.

With Jenner’s name recognition as a celebrity, that achievement could be in her reach. After all, Arnold Schwarzenegger won the 2004 recall election in California as a Republican based on his celebrity status, and ended up becoming a popular governor.

But the modest inroads Jenner has made with the acceptance of conservatives and potential to win isn’t enough for other transgender Republicans.

Evans, for example, said Jenner’s candidacy is not only a disappointment, but threatening the potential candidacies of transgender hopefuls in the future.

“It’s difficult to be in electoral politics, and that’s even more true when you’re a member of a marginalized community,” Evans said. “Caitlyn’s behavior is making it even more challenging for the trans community to be visible in a field where we desperately need to be seen. She’s casting a tall shadow on our ability to have a voice and is giving credibility to lawmakers and local leaders simply unwilling to view us with decency and respect.”

Williams said Jenner should avoid talking about transgender issues over the course of her gubernatorial run “and instead focus on the hard, critical policy issues facing California.”

“It is a state in crisis and she has to run a very serious campaign and not rely on her celebrity or LGBTQ status to win over voters’ hearts and minds — just like all other LGBTQ candidates around the country need to do when they run for public office,” Williams said.

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