Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 11 / 15 March 2018

Online Extra: Political Notes: Lesbian ex-Bay Area councilwoman seeks Oregon congressional seat


Jamie McLeod-Skinner. Photo: Jan Blackman Raether
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A lesbian former Bay Area councilwoman is running for Congress in rural Oregon against a longtime Republican incumbent who plans to seek re-election next year.

Jamie McLeod-Skinner, 50, the first lesbian elected to the Santa Clara City Council, on which she served eight years beginning in December 2004, is seeking the Beaver State's expansive 2nd Congressional District seat. Covering Oregon's eastern inland areas, the district hugs the border with California and includes the theater town of Ashland, the city of Bend, and La Grande outside of the Umatilla National Forest.

Congressman Greg Walden (R-Hood River), 60, has held the seat since 1999 and will be seeking a 10th two-year term in 2018. Seven Democratic candidates have pulled papers to compete in the May primary to be their party's candidate in next fall's general election.

"Government needs to know when to help, and when to get out of the way. Our region needs an active champion for rural communities and progressive solutions," stated McLeod-Skinner in a July news release announcing her campaign. "While the incumbent is undermining our access to health care and failing to support local solutions, the race isn't about him. It's about honoring the sacrifices Oregonians make for their families and our country."

McLeod-Skinner, who splits her time between Redmond and Ashland, was born in Wisconsin then moved to southern Oregon, where her mother was a schoolteacher. Her wife, Cass Skinner, comes from a multi-generational ranching family in eastern Oregon's Jordan Valley. The couple married in May and is raising Skinner's four children ranging in age from 12 to 21.

A graduate of Cornell University, McLeod-Skinner in the late 1990s worked for the International Rescue Committee in Bosnia and Herzegovina and then in Kosovo. The agency in 1998 sent her to work in its San Jose office.

In 2002 McLeod-Skinner landed a job with the city of Sunnyvale and six years later was hired by the Santa Clara Valley Water District as an environmental planner. Last month, residents on the Peninsula held a fundraiser for her congressional campaign.

In 2013 McLeod-Skinner enrolled in law school at the University of Oregon, graduating in 2016. And last November she was hired as the city manager of Phoenix, Oregon but was fired in March after a local election brought new leadership to the town's City Council.

Since announcing her congressional bid over the summer, McLeod-Skinner has been meeting with residents throughout the district. Despite its being GOP-held, McLeod-Skinner believes voters will be receptive to her message due to her familial ties to the region.

"This is a very red district, but I think it's more of a purple district. Some of the angriest people I've met so far are people who are angry at Walden, and they are Republicans," she told a local news outlet in a recent interview.

To learn more about her campaign, visit


HRC backs bisexual candidates in the West

National LGBT advocacy group the Human Rights Campaign has endorsed two bisexual Democratic women running for office in the West.

Last Wednesday HRC threw its support behind Oregon Governor Kate Brown's 2018 re-election bid. Formerly the secretary of state, she succeeded former Governor John Kitzhaber following his resignation in 2015; last year Brown won a special election to serve out the remainder of his term.

The first known LGBT person to serve as and be elected governor in the country, Brown, 57, is now running for a full four-year term. The Oregon governor is the first gubernatorial candidate to receive HRC's endorsement this election cycle.

Neither gay Congressman Jared Polis, the wealthy Democrat seeking to become Colorado's first out governor, nor gay Maryland state Senator Rich Madeleno, who is running to be the Mid-Atlantic state's first LGBT governor, has received HRC's support for their bids. Nor has gay Dallas leather bar owner Jeffrey Payne, who on Saturday (October 7) officially kicked off his bid to be the Democratic candidate for Texas governor next year.

In California, it is unclear if HRC would endorse transgender nurse Veronika Fimbres, a San Francisco resident who pulled papers last week to run for governor as a Green Party candidate. Nor is it certain the political group will back Connecticut transgender businesswoman Jacey Wyatt, who announced in May she would run as a Democrat for governor in 2018, as the incumbent, Governor Dan Malloy, decided not to seek a third term.

Lesbian New Jersey gubernatorial candidate Gina Genovese , a tennis coach and the former mayor of Long Hill Township, also has yet to receive HRC's endorsement. She is running as an independent to succeed Republican Governor Chris Christie , who is term limited from running again in 2018.

In a statement, HRC President Chad Griffin called Oregon's governor "a champion of equality who has fought for the LGBTQ community throughout her career, helping to improve the lives of countless people. As the nation's first openly bisexual governor, Kate Brown has worked tirelessly to make the principles of fairness and equality a priority for Oregon."

According to the group, there are an estimated 158,000 eligible LGBTQ voters in Oregon. Due to Brown's leadership, the state banned "conversion therapy" practices claiming to turn LGBTQ young people straight and extended critical protections for transgender students in public schools.

"I've been fighting for LGBTQ equality my entire career and am proud of our record of leadership," stated Brown. "I want to make Oregon an even better place to live, work and raise a family – no matter who you are, how you identify or who you love."

Her endorsement followed HRC's backing in late September of bisexual Arizona Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema's bid for one of her state's U.S. Senate seats. Republican Senator Jeff Flake is seen as particularly vulnerable, as he published a book this summer critical of President Donald Trump and is expected to face a strong primary challenge from a more conservative GOP candidate.

Sinema, 41, became the first bisexual member of the U.S. House when she won election in 2012 to her Tucson-area seat. She would be the first openly bisexual person elected to the U.S. Senate and only the second out LGBT person to serve in the chamber. Lesbian Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin) was the first and is seeking re-election to her seat next year.

"Kyrsten Sinema is a fighter and a trailblazer who has spent her career advancing the rights of the LGBTQ community," stated HRC's Griffin. "As a highly effective legislator, Kyrsten has proven herself to be a relentless champion for equality. We are proud to endorse her candidacy for the U.S. Senate."

A moderate Democrat, Sinema has earned perfect scores on HRC's Congressional Scorecards for each session of Congress since she was elected. In a statement, Sinema said she was "honored" to have HRC's support in the race.

"HRC has worked tirelessly to ensure all Arizona families can love and take care of each other. We won't stop fighting until every Arizonan has his or her shot at the American dream," stated Sinema, a co-chair of the House's Equality Caucus and a co-sponsor of the Equality Act, which would ban discrimination based on a person's sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing, public accommodations, and a host of federal services.

The endorsements of the two candidates are part of the national group's HRC Rising campaign to elect LGBT people to office across the country and enact LGBT legislation at the local, state, and federal level.


Keep abreast of the latest LGBT political news by following the Political Notebook on Twitter @

Got a tip on LGBT politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 829-8836 or e-mail

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