Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani is gay, according to comments she made Tuesday during an interview with The Record of Stockton.
Galgiani, 47, said she hopes her admission will send a positive message to youngsters, especially those struggling to come to terms with their sexual identity. "It sickens me that young people would think about taking their lives because of who they are," she told The Record. The Livingston Democrat also said during the interview it wasn't until well into adulthood, after she was elected to represent the 17th Assembly District in 2006, that she knew her sexual identity.
Robin Adam, Galgiani's spokesman, said the assemblywoman was meeting with The Record to discuss high-speed rail, when reporter Dana Nichols inquired about her sexuality. Adam said the same reporter had asked the question before, but this time Galgiani chose to address it. "She was prepared to deal with it and responded honestly," Adam said.
The lingering question about Galgiani is how the announcement will affect her political ambitions. Galgiani, who is being termed out of her Assembly seat, announced plans in August to run for the 5th state Senate District. The Sacramento Bee reports her opponents in the 5th Senate District race are expected to include Assemblyman Bill Berryhill, R-Ceres, and San Joaquin County Supervisor Leroy Ornellas, R-Tracy.
Although the majority of voters in Merced County are registered Democrats, when it comes to social issues, many residents express conservative leanings. In 2008, 71 percent of Merced County voters supported Proposition 8, the ban on gay marriage, while only 29 percent voted no.
However, the recent redistricting of California's political boundaries means that, if elected, Galgiani would represent much of San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties in the state Senate. Not Merced.
That's part of why Mary Ward, a Merced political consultant who has worked with Galgiani, said the sexual orientation disclosure won't change a thing about her chances for election.
"The district is a very urban area. I think it has more liberal social views in San Joaquin County than it does farther south," Ward said. "I really don't see how it would affect her campaign. It certainly doesn't change who she is or her voting record or how she conducts her campaigns. I don't think revealing your sexual orientation changes who you are."
UC Merced political science Professor Thomas Hansford agrees. He said there have been studies suggesting a candidate's sexuality has virtually no effect on the outcome of state legislative elections. Still, that may not apply in geographical areas that are more conservative, particularly if candidates feel that revealing their sexuality will be a political liability.
"From a political science point of view, it will be interesting to see how someone like her will do, given that she's not in an overwhelmingly socially liberal area," Hansford said. "It probably might hurt her with some voters, but I don't there will be a large negative effect."
Plenty of people in Galgiani's inner circle knew she was gay, Ward said.
Galgiani's announcement was news to Jack Mobley, her Republican opponent in two Assembly races.
"In this environment, it will be an issue for some people and not as much for others," he said. "But we ought to look at the legislation they pass. That's how politicians ought to be judged."
Members of the Merced gay community applauded Galgiani's coming out. Eileen Vidales, former president of Merced Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, said the admission will definitely be a boon to Merced's small but growing gay rights movement. "That's amazing. I am taking my hat off to her," said Vidales, 39. "She is letting the world know, 'This is me, it's part of who I am.' "
Vidales, who came out as gay nine years ago, said she can relate with how Galgiani came to the realization of her sexuality well into adulthood. "It's a process. People that fall into the LGBT category, it's a lifelong process coming out," Vidales said.
Galgiani couldn't be reached by the Sun-Star for comment Tuesday.
Her announcement brings the number of openly gay state lawmakers to eight. Her addition would make the Legislature's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Caucus, formed in 2002, the country's largest caucus recognizing openly gay legislators in the country, according to the gay rights advocacy group Equality California.
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