Takano stumps for cash in SF

Congressman Mark Takano. Photo: Khaled Sayed
Congressman Mark Takano. Photo: Khaled Sayed

Once again demonstrating that San Francisco is fertile ground for

campaign cash, gay Congressman Mark Takano (D-Riverside) came to

the Bay Area for a recent re-election fundraiser.

More than 50 people turned out for the event at Pisco Latin

Lounge/Destino on Market Street.

Takano, 53, was a public school teacher for 23 years before he was

elected to the House of Representatives from California’s 41st

Congressional District in 2012. Although he is a member of the

Democratic Party now, in college he was a member of the Republican


He is the first out gay person elected to Congress from California and

the first gay person of color in Congress. There are six gay or bisexual

people serving in the 113th Congress.

Takano can’t predict the outcome of the November midterm elections,

or whether the Democrats will be able to regain the control of the

House, but he remains optimistic.

“It could go either way; the Benghazi hearings could be a complete

disaster for the Republicans or they could do a lot of damage,” he said,

referring to the House Republicans’ recent decision to form a select

committee on the 2012 terrorist attack in Libya that killed several

people, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

“Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe there’s any substance to the

Republicans’ efforts to stage these Benghazi hearings,” he added. “But I

don’t underestimate their ability to muddy the waters. Even if we don’t

take back the House, I think gaining a few seats, depending on which

seats they are, changes the psychology of the House.”

Dr. Grant Colfax, a former top San Francisco health department official

who later joined the Obama administration as director of the White

House Office of National AIDS policy, was one of those who attended

the Takano campaign event. Currently Colfax works for PATH, an

international nonprofit, leading its HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis program.

“Historically, it is a big challenge to gain seats in the midterm election,”

Colfax said. “It is more about holding onto seats instead of gaining seats

in the midterm. But I believe that we have to fight every step of the way

and support the party and the cause, and Mark is part of that effort.

Mark is very progressive and he stands up for all that I believe in. He

stands up for health care, he stands up for LGBT rights, and he stands

up for veterans.”

One of the LGBT rights that Takano supports is the long-stalled Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a bill that prohibits

employers from discriminating based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The Senate passed ENDA last year with strong

Democratic support. However, Takano believes that getting the House to pass this bill before this current session of Congress

ends in December depends on whether Democrats gain or lose seats in the House.

“It’s very important for people to get out and do fundraisers and encourage people to vote. John Boehner could decide to allow a

number of things to come to the floor if it is his last session as speaker of the House before January,” Takano said, referring to the

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Republican Ohio congressman.

Maurice Kelly, a marketing and sales professional, believes that both parties need to reach across the aisle and get things done in


“Personally, I would like to see more civility and a lot more attempts to reach out,” Kelly said. “I’m biased. I really think most of

the stonewalling comes from the Republican side. They are the ones who are most entrenched that they can’t be budged. I would

hope that they would have a change of heart at some point. Nothing is getting done. The American people are seriously suffering

from the political game [Republicans] are playing and it needs to stop.”

Riverside County used to be solid Republican before it turned more Democratic, and Takano has no serious opponent in his

district yet.

“We live in an era when a Super PAC could materialize in an instant,” Takano said, referring to the independent expenditure

groups that raise millions of dollars. “I have a district that could be put into play. Riverside County is a new district that

Democrats have claimed, and it has been blue for more than 20 years, but those changes are somewhat blunted by the low turnout

effect. Any Republican candidate could be turned into a serious opponent.”

In Takano’s first term the House has passed two veterans’ bills that he authored, the VetSuccess Enhancement Act (H.R. 844) and

the Work Study for Student Veterans Act (H.R. 1453). Both are related to access to training and the renewal of the work-study

program for veterans, and they both passed unanimously.

“We’re waiting to see if the Senate will act. There’s a chance that my bills will be signed into law. I am also authoring two other

bills related to veterans issues,” he said.

When it comes to sports Takano was one of many people to publicly congratulate Michael Sam, the first openly gay NFL player

who was drafted last weekend by the St. Louis Rams.

“I congratulated Michael Sam on my official Facebook page for his accomplishment with the St. Louis Rams, and that post had

more than 50,000 views within two hours, and so far about 250,000 have viewed it,” he said. “It’s another positive sign that our

country is changing.”



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