Political Notebook: Lesbian seeks San Mateo harbor seat
by Matthew S. Bajko
With little name recognition and a shorter than normal campaign period, Moss Beach resident Sabrina Brennan nonetheless garnered more than 61,000 votes in her 2010 race for a seat on the San Mateo County Harbor District board.
An out lesbian who owns her own digital graphics company, Brennan fell short by less than 10,000 votes in her bid for one of two seats on the oversight body. The election did see another out candidate, Robert Bernardo , come in first place.
Next fall three of the commission's seats will be up for grabs, and Brennan is already laying the groundwork for another campaign.
"Both Robert and I filed on the same day; that left me with little more than two months to campaign," said Brennan. "That was an interesting experience and not one I would want to repeat. I learned from experience it really does make sense to start campaigning earlier. Really, the earlier the better."
The harbor commission oversees two marinas. The bayside Oyster Point Harbor is the site of a new ferry terminal connecting the Peninsula to Oakland and eventually San Francisco. It is set to open in 2012.
The other is Pillar Point Harbor north of Half Moon Bay, which has a beach frequented by surfers and a pier jutting out into the Pacific Ocean where fishermen sell their catch right off their boats. It is a five-minute bike ride from Brennan's home.
She said the same issues that led her to jump into last year's race are driving her ambition to once again seek a harbor commission seat. Her concerns run the gamut from water and beach pollution to how the district spends its funds and maintains its waterfront properties.
"I want to make it clear to people it is important the voice of the people influences the decisions the harbor district is making. The community has concerns about it," said Brennan, who lives one block from the ocean. "It hasn't been working as well as it could. Definitely, there is room for improvement there."
Over the last year Brennan, 42, never completely ended her campaign. She has kept her website, http://www.sabrinabrennan.com, live with occasional updates. And she officially announced her 2012 bid on the site Monday, December 5. (A list of endorsements on the homepage is from her 2010 campaign, though Brennan expects those listed will also back her new bid.)
Shortly after last year's election, Brennan attended a conference in San Francisco hosted by the New Organizing Institute, where she heard Jane Kim talk about her successful race for supervisor in the city's District 6, which covers the Tenderloin and South of Market neighborhoods.
"It was inspiring. She talked about how challenging it was for her and how much energy she put in to her campaign," recalled Brennan, who married Aimee Luthringer in 2007 on Vancouver Island in Tofino, British Columbia. "She was encouraging and said I should do it again."
This past summer she took part in a training for LGBT candidates the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund hosted in Chicago. She is now in the process of filing out her application to seek the group's endorsement, which would allow her to tap into its national fundraising network.
She is also seeking more media attention this time outside of San Mateo County. During her first race she did not contact the Bay Area Reporter until after the election.
Asked why people outside the harbor district, and thus can't vote in the election, should care about who wins, Brennan said many people in the Bay Area use its facilities and thus have a stake in the race's outcome.
"There is a very high chance you have used a facility before, even if you just come down to the harbor to buy crab off a boat or fish direct from a fisherman," she said.
This month she was the featured candidate on a press release sent to Bay Area reporters by a group calling itself 2,012 by 2012, a nonpartisan effort to recruit progressive candidates for local office. The Candidate Project, a program of the New Organizing Institute, is overseeing the initiative in collaboration with a host of left-leaning organizations, such as Progressive Majority, Democracy for America, Emerge America, and the Women's Campaign Fund.
The campaign has already exceeded its original goal and has now convinced 5,300 progressive candidates to run in races across the country in 2012. The press release noted that Brennan is the first out woman to run for countywide office in San Mateo.
"It is all about getting progressive candidates the tools they need and the resources they need so they can compete," she said. "People have felt the Tea Party has been really successful in getting candidates into local offices, and so I think there has been a feeling from progressives what are we doing? We need to feel like we are supporting our candidates too."
Political Notes, the notebook's online companion, is on hiatus due to the holidays. It will return Monday, January 9.
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Got a tip on LGBT politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 861-5019 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.