Political Notebook: Gay Green embraces his silver screen namesakeBay Area Reporter
September 14, 2006
Oakland resident Forrest Hill, the Green Party candidate for California secretary of state, is leaning on the famous movie character with the same first name in his bid for the statewide office. The 49-year-old gay political hopeful is betting he can connect with voters by embracing his inner Forrest Gump.
In the 1994 Academy Award-winning film starring Tom Hanks as Forrest, the not-so-intelligent Gump embarks on a nonstop run across America and inspires a pack of devotees to run behind him. The presumably smarter Hill, who earned a doctorate in biological oceanography from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute on Cape Cod, uses the running motif in a political commercial he posted on YouTube, the video sharing Web site, and on his campaign site at www.voteforrest.org.
"It takes the concept of ’run, Forrest, run’ from the movie. It is kind of funny," said Hill, a financial adviser with Progressive Asset Management, a socially responsible investment firm, who met his partner, attorney Steve Jimenez, four years ago. "The ad says Forrest won’t stop running until we have free and fair elections."
The ad, which can be seen at www.youtube.com/watch?v=PjaZJFuCO3M, features shots of Hill running up San Francisco’s Twin Peaks, by Oakland’s Lake Merritt, along the Altamont Pass, and through downtown Sacramento. Unlike the movie character, though, Hill isn’t trailed by anyone.
It is a visual reminder of how hard its for a third party candidate to gain traction in a system that favors the major party candidates: Bruce McPherson, a Republican appointed to the post by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger after Kevin Shelley, a Democrat from San Francisco, resigned amid a fundraising scandal and questions over his treatment of staffers and use of federal election money; and state Senator Debra Bowen (D-Redondo Beach). Hill’s main platform is advocating for the state to adopt ranked choice voting in statewide elections, thus allowing third party candidates a better shot at being elected.
"We are the only country that has a voting system where if you vote for someone you like, you may end up helping someone you can’t stand win," said Hill, alluding to the outcome of the 2000 presidential election, where many Democrats argued that those who had voted for Green Party candidate Ralph Nader in effect gave the election to Republican George Bush.
Hill, Nader’s California campaign coordinator in 2004, added that, "We should allow people to feel free to vote for who they really want to and not have to vote for the lesser of the two evils. In a democracy there should be no such thing as throwing your vote away."
Hill’s friends with the Green Party and in the LGBT community are hosting a fundraiser for him next week to raise enough money so he can air his ad on television. He already has raised about $30,000 and estimated he needs $100,000 or more to place the ad in the state’s major media markets. By the end of the month he is hopeful the ad will have aired at least in the Bay Area during Comedy Central’s The Daily Show and The Colbert Report . By getting the ads placed on television, Hill said he hopes to generate more mainstream coverage of his campaign.
"As a third party candidate it is very difficult to get coverage. I am hoping that with the ads, they are kind of cute, it will give me enough name recognition," said Hill, who added that getting attention is even more difficult in a race like his where some voters he meets thinks he is running against national Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice . "I am running as hard as I can. I am serious about my campaign. I am serious about raising money and getting the ads on TV."
The fundraiser for Hill begins at 6 p.m. on Monday, September 18 in the fourth floor community room at the Beacon, 260 King Street in San Francisco. Hosts include Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi , former Supervisor Matt Gonzalez , and gay attorney Phil Walker .
His restraining orders having expired last month, AIDS gadfly and political bloggerMichael Petrelis made his debut before the city’s Health Commission at its meeting Tuesday and plans to attend today’s (Thursday, September 14) meeting of the HIV Prevention Planning Council. His latest beefs with the city’s health bureaucracy include wanting to see the commission’s meetings broadcast on the city’s cable television channel and complaints about a lack of transparency with the health department’s community advisory boards.
He did attend several meetings of the Ryan White CARE Council over the last year without incident, due to the fact none of the people with restraining orders against him were present. With his return, Petrelis pledged this week to remain civil in his discourse.
"I don’t look good in jailhouse orange," quipped Petrelis, who has AIDS and added "all that awfulness led to a decline in my health. I learned from my mistakes, I apologized and I believe I moved on."
Petrelis’s troubles date back to 2001 when police arrested him and the late AIDS activist David Pasquarelli on charges of harassment, stalking, and making criminal threats against public health officials, AIDS researchers, and newspaper reporters. In February 2002 a judge released the two men on a combined $220,000 bond and forbade them from going within 150 yards of the AIDS Health Project. Then that May another judge dismissed the charges against the two, but the district attorney re-filed the charges.
In July 2003 the two men agreed to plead no contest to misdemeanor charges and were placed on three year’s probation. The judge also slapped the men with restraining orders, restricting them from having contact with reporters from the San Francisco Chronicle and health officials, including University of California, San Francisco spokesman Jeff Sheehy, also Mayor Gavin Newsom ’s AIDS czar; and San Francisco STD prevention chief Dr.Jeffrey Klausner.
His legal hassles, however, didn’t silence Petrelis. He started his own blog in 2002 and has used the online platform to continue to question the actions taken by the city’s AIDS establishment and health officials, as well as shine a spotlight on media moguls and reporters’ donations to political candidates. Just this week his posting on Disney chairmanRobert Iger’s political donations made headlines.
According to Petrelis, not only did the commission members welcome him back, but President Lee Ann Monfredini moved up public comment so he didn’t have to stay to the end of the meeting.
"Lee Ann said ’Well, Mr. Petrelis, welcome back.’ I made my pitch for the meetings to be broadcast on TV and I left," he said. "I think it was good. We were all mature adults."
Openly gay Assemblymen Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and John Laird (D-Santa Cruz) are set to play powerful roles during the 2007-2008 legislative session. Assembly SpeakerFabian Nunez (D-Los Angeles) named Leno and Laird chairs of the appropriations and budget committees, respectively, giving the first gay men elected to the state legislature immense control over what bills and issues become priorities next year.
Nearly all the bills legislators introduce must pass out of the appropriations committee, giving Leno a large cudgel to swing over his fellow lawmakers. It virtually assures he will have an easier time passing his pro-gay marriage bill next session, which he barely muscled through on a second vote last year and will reintroduce on December 4 this year no matter who wins the governorship.
"I think it is good news for San Francisco and good news for the core values that we hold dear," said Leno, only the second LGBT legislator to serve in the post â€“ state SenatorCarole Migden (D-San Francisco/Marin) served as chair when she held Leno’s seat in the 1990s. "I’ll have a lot of legislators knocking on my door."
In the Senate, Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata (D-Oakland) selected out lesbian Senator Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego) to chair the Senate Energy Utilities and Communications Committee next session. The committee’s jurisdiction includes bills relating to utilities, energy companies, alternative energy development, and conservation and communications development and technology.
"Our state must continue to lead in demand-reduction through conservation, the development of alternative energy, and protection of consumers. I am looking forward to my new responsibilities," said Kehoe in a statement.
At the city level, Mayor Newsom swore in a gay man this week to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority-Citizens’ Advisory Council. Jamison Wieser , 30, presently works as an interaction designer with Six Apart in San Francisco, and formerly held positions with AOL and Tech TV. A bicyclist, the Castro resident has participated in several AIDS LifeCycle events.
Forums and events
A coalition of local nonprofits has announced it will co-host "quality of life" forums in four of the supervisor races over the next three weeks. Moderated by Jaime Rossi withwww.SFUsualSuspects.com, the forums will present the candidates with eight questions picked by the groups as well as from the audience. The forum in District 10, where incumbent Sophie Maxwell faces six challengers, is presented by the Friends of the Urban Forest and takes place from 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, October 5 at the Southeast Community Facility, 1800 Oakdale Avenue.
In District 6, where incumbent Chris Daly is squaring off against seven challengers, the Neighborhood Parks Council is hosting the forum from 6 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, September 19 at the SoMa Eugene Friend Recreation Center, 270 6th Street.
Plan C will host the forum in District 8, where incumbent Bevan Dufty is running against attorney Alix Rosenthal â€“ who officially kicks-off her campaign at 10 a.m. Saturday, September 16 in Dolores Park at the corner of Dolores and 18th streets â€“ and escort and erotic dancer Starchild, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on Monday, September 25 at the Mission Dolores school auditorium at 3371 16th Street.
And in District 4, where six candidates are running for the seat being vacated by Fiona Ma, who is expected to easily win election to the state Assembly, the Sunset District Neighborhood Coalition is sponsoring a forum from 6 to 8 p.m. on Monday, October 2 at the Sunset Recreation Center, 2201 Lawton Street.
Supervisor Tom Ammiano is pitching in with other comedians to raise money for the campaign to defeat state Proposition 85, which would restrict minors’ access to abortion services. Ammiano will be joined by fellow comedian Betsy Salkind, a former writer for the Roseanne television show, and Aundre’ the Wonder Woman. The event is called "One Night Stand" and will raise money for the Planned Parenthood Golden Gate Action Fund and the Campaign for Real Teen Safety-No on 85. It starts at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, September 19 at Cobb’s Comedy Club, 915 Columbus Avenue . Tickets, which cost $50 and include one drink ticket, can be bought at www.ppggaf.org.
See this article in the Bay Area Reporter