South Bay groups lobby governor on Harris Senate replacement
Gov. Gavin Newsom canceled the state's stay-at-home orders Monday. Photo courtesy of the California governor's office.

The South Bay’s Latino community as well as LGBTQ+ organizations have their eye on the Senate seat vacated by Kamala Harris — and are making sure Gov. Gavin Newsom hears them.

When President-elect Joe Biden chose Harris as his running mate on Aug. 11, the Latino Community Foundation took notice. It knew if the Biden-Harris ticket won, it would open a Senate seat in California.

The foundation sent a letter and petition with 500 signatures to Newsom at the time, and updated it following the election to garner additional support.

On Nov. 9, the Bay Area Municipal Elections Committee (BAYMEC), Silicon Valley Stonewall Democrats (SVSD) and other local LGBTQ+ leaders issued a statement urging the governor to appoint Assemblymember Evan Low, who represents Silicon Valley and Assembly District 28.

San Jose City Councilmembers Sergio Jimenez and Magdalena Carrasco backed the petition by the Latino Community Foundation. Carrasco featured the information on her official Facebook page.

“One of the reasons I signed the petition and am doing everything I can to advocate for a Latino or Latina state senator is, in our 170-year history as the state of California, since 1850, we haven’t had one,” said Jimenez. “And given all the contributions Latinos have made to the state — we’re 40% of the population and contribute close to $54 billion to the state economy — I think it’s due time we get a seat at the table.”

Christian Arana, policy director of the Latino Community Foundation, said with COVID-19 and the economy continuing to be top issues for the Latino community, it needs a representative to take those fights to Washington, D.C., and work with the incoming administration to create solutions for Latinos across the state.

According to the Latino Community Foundation, Latinos are the second largest voting bloc across the state with 7.9 million eligible voters.

The foundation said in the petition Latinos can no longer allow their voices to go missing and urged the governor “to do what’s right” by acknowledging their contributions and “rightful seat” on a national platform.

“We can’t just sit back and not demand to be acknowledged for our contributions,” Carrasco said. “Representation is everything.”

Members of the LGBTQ+ community also pointed to their contributions in California, noting a long history of activism that led to creating a culture of acceptance and equality.

“California is known around the world for our vibrant LGBTQ+ culture,” SVSD Co-President Ray Mueller said. “Having an LGBTQ+ person in the U.S. Senate celebrates that rich and unique history of our state, and Evan is the perfect person to bring that to Washington.”

Blanca Alvarado, the first Latina elected to the San Jose City Council and Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, said the governor should be petitioned “with as much intensity as we can” to acknowledge the force of Latinos in California.

“It’s all about equality,” Alvarado said. “This country is supposed to be based on equality for all. There is absolutely no reason constitutionally or morally why we shouldn’t have fair representation of all groups, and that includes Latinos.”

Making history also was not lost on the LGBTQ+ groups. Low, they pointed out, would be the third Asian American and first LGBTQ+ person to hold the Senate seat in California.

Contact Lorraine Gabbert at [email protected]

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