By Nicole Murray Ramirez
There are now four openly LGBT candidates for the District 3 City Council seat being vacated by current City Council member Chris Ward. Ward is currently on his way to being elected to the state Assembly seat being vacated by Assembly member Todd Gloria, who is the clear front runner to be our next mayor. In my opinion, there are three candidates who are front runners to come out of the March 2020 primary election, with the top two facing off at the November general election. Stephen Whitburn, Toni Duran and Chris Olson have the most support and most solid campaigns.
Whitburn probably has the best name identification having been the Democratic candidate to run against former Republican County Supervisor Ron Roberts. Whitburn won every precinct in the 3rd district. Whitburn has a very impressive list of endorsements: State Assembly member Lorena Gonzalez; former state Senators Dede Alpert and Marty Block; former City Council members John Hartley and Donna Fry; and community leaders Bruce Abrams, Larry Baza, Ebony Burnett Mullins, Bob Lehman, Elaine Graybill, Gil Cabrera, Rev. Dan Koeshall, BigMike Phillips, Eddie Reynoso, Ryan Bedrosian, Sherman Mendoza, Nick Moede, Jeff Jackson, Joe Letzkus and many others. Whitburn has worked at the American Red Cross and now is with the American Cancer Society. Many of us were glad to hear that San Diego Pride did the right thing and settled with Whitburn, who was one of Pride’s most popular executive directors and wrongfully dismissed by an incompetent and out-of-touch board of directors whose then-members are thankfully gone. Most political pundits feel Whitburn will definitely make the run-off and the question is who he will be running against.
Most people believe that Toni Duran will be that person. Duran works for popular state Senator Toni Atkins, who has endorsed her — even though the last candidate Atkins endorsed was Craig Roberts, who lost the Democratic Party chairmanship to Will Rodriguez Kennedy. Duran is indeed a popular personality having won “Woman of the Year” twice at the annual Nicky Awards. She has also been endorsed by former Senator Chris Kehoe and Congressmember Scott Peters. If Duran gets elected, she would be the third lesbian to be on the current City Council. About a year ago, I asked Duran if she would want to run for City Council and she told me absolutely not. When I asked her what changed her mind, she said that many community people asked her to run. Duran’s recent campaign kick-off drew a good crowd and I believe Atkins’ endorsement, and being the sole woman running against three gay men, will play a big factor in this race.
The dark horse in this race is Chris Olson and he is a very strong long shot that other candidates better keep their eyes on. For five years, Olson has been the very smart policy analyst for the city’s Office of the Independent Budget Analyst and thus, a very qualified candidate. He hired one of San Diego’s top political consultants, the one-and-only Tom Shepard, who has advised countless winning candidates. Another thing going for Olson is that he is a really nice guy. The big problem for Olson is that he is not well known in the LGBT community but is doing his best to make up for it. He was happily married and devoted to his husband who sadly died of a heart attack not long ago. Now Olson wants to serve the citizens of District 3. By the way, I love his yard signs best of all the candidates — hot pink.
Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast
In the tradition of the annual Martin Luther King All People’s Breakfast and the Cesar Chavez Breakfast, 11 years ago I founded the Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast with San Francisco, Palm Springs, Florida, etc. following San Diego and establishing breakfasts and dinners celebrating Harvey’s birthday. Eleven years ago, I approached Dr. Delores Jacobs and State Commissioner Robert Gleason of the LGBT Center and the rest is history, as now over 1,000 people attend, and it’s always sold out so get your tickets today. It’s Friday, May 17, at 7 a.m.
— Nicole Murray Ramirez has been writing a column since 1973. He has been a Latino/gay activist for almost half a century and has advised and served the last seven mayors of San Diego. Named the ‘Honorary Mayor of Hillcrest’ by a city proclamation, he has received many media awards including from the prestigious San Diego Press Club. Reach Nicole at Nicolemrsd1@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @Nmrsd2.
Editor’s Note: The opinions written in this column are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the opinions of the staff and/or publisher of Gay San Diego and/or its parent company, San Diego Community News Network (SDCNN). The newspaper and its staff should be held harmless of liability or damages.