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SAN DIEGO -- Folks in the Castro in San Francisco are buzzing with the possibility of electing their first gay mayor.
Former San Francisco Supervisor Bevan Dufty is considered a top candidate and many voters in the city believe November will be an historic election.
Dufty served two terms as supervisor in District 8, the same seat held by LGBT hero Harvey Milk, long considered the “Mayor of Castro Street.” Milk and Mayor George Moscone were assassinated in November 1978.
“Had it not been for Dan White's assassination of our great leader,” Dufty recently told supporters, “Harvey Milk would have been our first gay mayor.”
Dufty recently received the key endorsement of Stuart Milk, out gay nephew of Harvey Milk. Many supporters believe Dufty's election as mayor would carry on the dream started by Milk.
It is that notion that Bevan's campaign carries over to San Diego when the candidate makes a June 5 fundraising stop hosted by the Victory Fund at the home of Susan Atkins, chair of the organization's board of directors. Other cities like Phoenix, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Houston and Washington, D.C., are also hosting similar fundraisers.
"Elections are about two things; good candidates and money. So, it is critical that out candidates have the resources to win, and it's equally important that wonderful cities like San Francisco get the most capable public servants available," Atkins said.
For Dufty, the memory of Harvey Milk is still alive.
“Harvey symbolized the freedom to live with authenticity to millions of LGBT women and men across the world,” Dufty said.
Stuart Milk explains why he is endorsing Dufty
"Putting Bevan Dufty in the Mayor’s Office reaches far beyond the shores of San Francisco. This reaches beyond California. This reaches across the nation. We have to put an openly LGBT person of Bevan's experience, caliber, activism and passion into office. He had Harvey's job and had big shoes to fill and did a great job. Now we need him as mayor," Stuart Milk said.
Dufty, who is iconic singer Billie Holliday’s godson, has a long history of activism. He has worked for heroes such as former Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm (the first black woman to serve in Congress), Congressmember Julian Dixon and legendary Mayor Willie Brown.
Dufty was a leader in establishing the first GLBT History Museum, providing supportive housing to LGBT youth and expanding services for those affected by crystal methamphetamine.
The father a 4-year-old, Dufty said he believes his election would send a strong message as the fight for LGBT equality is a defining issue for today's civil rights struggles.
"As San Francisco's mayor, I will stand up to anti-gay bullies whether they are in the halls of Congress or the halls of high school. We need strong LGBT elected officials on the front lines from local, state and federal office. I am ready to lead," Dufty said.
"Being the leader of a great city extends beyond San Francisco as I help set an agenda for urban America,” he said. “Vibrant, inclusive cities, more responsive to our needs, whether it is reducing new HIV infections, helping homeless LGBT youth or ensuring LGBT seniors don't have to go back into the closet if they require housing and care."
Atkins points out that the research shows that when gay candidates hold top offices, the LGBT community is served well.
"While we appreciate our gay friendly allies, we could not do it without our gay political leaders. The difference is extreme. It is why the election of Bevan Dufty is important,” Atkins said.
It is a sentiment echoed by San Diego City Councilmember Todd Gloria, who is openly gay.
"Other candidates may support us on issues like on HIV/AIDS services, same sex marriage, health care or anti-bullying, but when someone going to bat for my rights has experienced discrimination their leadership is powerful and fearless. Bevan is that kind of leader," said Gloria, who was elected to District 3 in 2008.
Victory Fund support was key in the election of Mayor Annise Parker in Houston, the nation’s fourth-largest city, and the organization recently endorsed Dufty.
"We don't just want ‘out’ mayors; we want outstanding ones,” Atkins said. "In a way, all gay people are San Franciscans, but San Diegans have a particular affinity for the City by the Bay, and it is fitting that we're beating the drum down here for San Francisco to have their first gay mayor. Who knows, maybe San Diego will have a gay mayor soon too."
"Bevan's success would be important politically, historically and culturally for the LGBT community. I think we can all appreciate the visibility this position provides and how it could help our community reach even loftier goals in the future," Gloria said.
“I know the way we make progress is to be a movement, and I intend to be a movement candidate,” Dufty said.
For more information, visit Dufty’s campaign website HERE.