Leno vs. Migden: A meditation

Pub date October 29, 2007
WriterTim Redmond
SectionPolitics Blog

By Tim Redmond

The Harvey Milk LGBT Club is all tied in knots over this race. A lot of progressives are arguing that it’s split the community. A lot of people don’t even know how to approach it – two queer community leaders with progressive politics are fighting it out, and in the end, we all have to pick sides (or at least vote for one of them and not the other).

It’s tough: Both have been right sometimes and wrong sometimes. Leno used to be more associated with the moderate side of queer politics, and Migden with the more progressive side, but that’s not entirely accurate today: Leno has moved to the left (in part, no doubt, because that’s easier to do in Sacramento) and has become one of the most accessible, hard-working politicians in town. He’s proven himself trustworthy (although his political consulting firm, BMWL, is involved in some of the worst and sleaziest pro-downtown stuff in the city.

Migden, meanwhile, endorsed the more conservative Steve Westly over the more liberal Phil Angelides for governor. She’s done a few truly embarrassing things, like promoting for state school board a downtown Republican who wants to privatize public schools.
A lot of people say there’s no ideological difference between the two today, that the race is all about style (Migden brash, confrontive, an insider deal-making pol; Leno friendly, conciliatory, able to work well with others). Some say the criticisms of Migden’s style are sexist.

Over the next few months, as this gets more and more competitive and (I fear) ugly, there will be lots of trash talked about both of them. The two candidates will talk about history, records, and (maybe) positions on the few issues on which they don’t agree. They’ll both argue – and they can both make a case – that they will be more effective in Sacramento, better advocates for progressive causes and the city’s needs.

I’d like to offer a different lens.