Stonewall Dems Endorse Pan in Contest Against PugnoDr. Richard Pan

By Dan Aiello

With 43 percent of the vote, self-described Proposition 8 author, Andrew Pugno, has won the Republican primary and will face off against Democrat Dr. Richard Pan for California's 5th Assembly District in what both sides anticipate will be a tough race for the open seat of this once solidly Republican district east of Sacramento.

Pugno won the race after raising more than $350,000 dollars using the Protectmarriage.com's Yes on Prop 8 contributors list shortly after the anti-marriage equality initiative passed.

Sacramento's Stonewall Democratic Club responded with the launch of the website, StopAndrewPugno.com, and is calling on the LGBT community to help stop Pugno's political aspirations in their tracks.

"We're certainly not excited to see Pugno on the ballot but it was completely expected," said Stonewall's president, Chris Moore, the creator of the StopAndrewPugno.com website. Moore is also the new Deputy Director of Political Affairs for Equality California.

"It's going to be a difficult race no matter who you are, because the registration in the district is neck and neck," Moore told Outword. "It's been trending democratic and it's at a tipping point." One of the encouraging signs for the Democrats came in 2008 when Barack Obama won the traditionally Republican district.

Assembly District 5 is currently represented by Republican Roger Niello, who will leave office as a result of term limits. AD5 encompasses the suburban Sacramento communities of Carmichael, Citrus Heights, Granite Bay, Fair Oaks and Folsom.

Democrats nominated Dr. Richard Pan, a pediatrician at UC Davis Children's Hospital, to win back the district. Pan won with about 44 percent of the vote, defeating Sheila Kuehl protégé and San Juan school board member Larry Miles and lobbyist Matt Gray.

The general election in November is expected to draw major campaign contributions and interest from both progressives and conservatives, as Democrats attempt to pick up the seat for the first time since 1978.

The Republican registration advantage in AD5 has fallen to an insignificant level in the last four years. According to the Sacramento Bee, Democrats are hoping to capitalize on the national interest in the overlapping 3rd Congressional District race and have already spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to back Pan, who was one of four candidates backed by Speaker Perez in the primary.

Pugno, who already has tapped into the Proposition 8 supporter base to finance his run, has a large campaign war chest, including a $100,000 loan he gave the campaign.

"With such a polarizing figure as Pugno who knows who will be showing up," to volunteer and contribute, Moore said. "Every day that passes is another day that we need to be working to make sure he's not elected here [in the Sacramento area], and it takes money to do that."

Stonewall was unable to reach a 60 percent consensus on any candidate before the primary, but last weekend endorsed Pan, who Moore says, "is 100 percent" on LGBT issues. "He has a rich history of working with the LGBT community and has been a big supporter," said Moore.

Asked if Stonewall would counter Pugno's use of the Yes on Prop 8 list with a fundraising effort to the No on Prop 8 list, Moore said, "I think that will be part of the overall effort Stonewall is doing to reach out to coalition partners."
 Moore also noted that Pugno had moved into the district only shortly before registering, making both Pugno and his campaign contributions, "carpetbaggers" to AD5.

GOP operatives note that voters in AD5 passed Prop 8 by a near 10-point margin, contending Pugno's involvement with the issue will help him win the district in November.

Dan Aiello is a Sacramento freelance writer whose work often appears in the B.A.R. and the California Progress Report, where this article originally appeared. He can be reached here.

 

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