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Barbs Traded by Candidates in Sacramento Council Race

by Dan Aiello
Sunday May 6, 2012
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Two gay candidates running for a Sacramento City Council seat are trading barbs on the campaign trail ahead of the June vote.

Some campaign literature for the two men, Steve Hansen and Terry Schanz, also doesn’t directly mention that they are gay.

The District 4 race pits Hansen, 32, a senior regional manager at Genentech, against Terry Schanz, 33, a staffer for Assemblyman Isadore Hill (D-Compton). There are six other candidates in the race for the open seat.

Home to the state Capitol and Old Sacramento, District 4 includes midtown with a concentration of LGBT clubs, businesses, and residents that earned the area the designation, "Lavender Heights" in the late 1960s.

Hansen and Schanz are attempting to fulfill what one longtime LGBT activist called, "a long-awaited dream," representing the city in District 4.

But at a recent debate, neither Schanz nor Hansen described themselves directly as gay on their fliers. Schanz, who is partnered, does not appear with him on his flier, but he does appear with two young children who are not his. Hansen, who is single, also has a picture of a child on his flier, but it is an image of Hansen as a young boy sitting with his grandparents. (Schanz’s online bio does mention his partner, Guy Strahi.)

There have also been undertones of carpetbagging; Schanz is a fourth generation, native son of the district, while Hansen recently moved in.

"I love my neighborhood, I love all the parts of the district," Hansen told the Bay Area Reporter. "I don’t think voters should choose only candidates who are the product of a certain lineage."

Schanz says he believes being a native son is important.

"I cannot go five houses without running into a former teacher of mine or someone who knew me or my father or uncle growing up," he said. "You cannot buy or manufacture that kind of knowledge of a district."

Schanz doesn’t call Hansen a carpetbagger, but comes close. "You heard him say at the debate you attended Wednesday that he recently moved from Oak Park," he said.

Hansen lives in Alkali Flat.

Last Sunday, the Sacramento Bee endorsed one of the straight candidates, Phyllis Newton. The newspaper did reference Hansen and described him as one of the top three contenders.

"While we didn’t get the Bee , they spoke highly of our campaign and said we would serve worthily. ... Thanks to all of you who helped us get this far," Hansen said to his supporters on his Facebook page.

In fact, the Bee said, "any of the top three - Joe Yee, Steve Hansen, or Phyllis Newton - would be worthy additions to the council."

Schanz’s campaign emailed a statement saying the candidate is focusing on meeting voters.

"Terry is proud of all his endorsements. He’s endorsed by women’s groups, Latino groups, young voters, labor unions," said spokesman Adam Horn. "We’re running a grassroots campaign that focuses on connecting directly with voters."

Finances

Hansen has reported raising $115,000 since he began his campaign last year; a large number of contributors come from outside the district and many contributions are linked directly to Genentech executives.

Former Assemblyman Dennis Mangers, a Hansen supporter, attributes his donors to "a company that wants to see its employees do their civic duty" and to support from the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, which endorsed Hansen.

"I’d be surprised if a large number of those donors weren’t LGBT supporters from around the country," said Mangers.

Hansen recently raised more than $10,000 at a TransAmerica building fundraiser in San Francisco, where, as the B.A.R. noted, he said he would donate his council salary to charity if elected.

"When you have an opponent loan her campaign $50,000, it’s pretty daunting," Hansen told the B.A.R. , referring to opponent Newton’s recent campaign report. "For someone with an underwater mortgage and student loans to pay, I appreciate all my donors."

Hansen believes he will need $150,000 for the primary and the same amount for the general election should he make the runoff.

Schanz, who entered the race in January, has raised just $16,329.

"Most of my campaign fundraising has been through voter outreach within the district," Schanz told the B.A.R. , claiming his financial backing is "largely local."

Schanz, who worked in South Africa as a community builder before returning to Sacramento, told the debate audience that the key to his tenure on the council will be "honoring and respecting the historic neighborhoods of this fine city." Schanz spoke extensively of the need to improve the schools he once attended, and his campaign fliers show the candidate with two small children who Schanz described as "the children of friends."

The Sacramento Stonewall Democrats endorsed Hansen, while Schanz has the endorsement of the Sacramento County Young Democrats and organized labor.

"Good man," Bill Camp, executive secretary of the Sacramento Central Labor Council (AFL-CIO) told the B.A.R. , referring to Schanz.

Camp believes Schanz can make the runoff if he wants to, despite the fundraising deficit.

"It’s about walking the precincts and Terry says he’s doing it," Camp said. "If you can walk all the precincts three times, you can win District 4."

The issue of homophobia in the Boy Scouts has also come up.

Hansen, who has a military background, including the JROTC in high school, declined to commit to denying city resources to organizations like the Boy Scouts of America that discriminate against LGBT citizens. He also said that he would never give preferential treatment to groups that discriminate.

"But that we are required by the First Amendment to allow access to city facilities on a viewpoint-neutral basis," he said. "To do otherwise would allow government to choose the speech it likes and punish that which it doesn’t like. That being said, I am not shy about my advocacy for fundamental rights and the need to free our society of invidious discrimination."

Schanz did not return calls regarding the same question.

Schanz and Hansen are not the first out gay candidates for council, but according to Mangers they are the first "serious" contenders.

"My goal is to keep the community together," said Hansen of the potential rift two gay candidates running against each other might pose. "Sacramento is finally electing its first openly gay person, but to be the best councilmember is paramount - to understand the issues in the most complete way. I hold myself to a terribly high standard."

But it was one of the straight candidate, Yee, who serves on the Planning Commission, who secured the coveted endorsement of former Mayor Anne Rudin, a trusted and respected LGBT ally.

While Rudin endorsed Yee, she had only good things to say about both Hansen and Schanz.

"Frankly, I think they’re all excellent candidates," she said. "Steve impressed me when he was on the redistricting board. And Terry I met at Cal Middle School and he seemed to me to be very bright."

In addition to Hansen, Schanz, Yee, and Newton, the other candidates on the ballot are: estate planning attorney David Turturici, DUI lawyer Michael Rehm, information technology analyst Neil Davidson, class=st> and Kyle Ellsworth. If no one wins a majority of the vote in June there will be a runoff election between the top two finishers in November.

Copyright Bay Area Reporter. For more articles from San Francisco's largest GLBT newspaper, visit www.ebar.com

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