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Chris Ward: Pledging to continue a legacy of LGBT leadership in District 3

(Editor's note: Chris Ward is a candidate for San Diego City Council in District 3. He and his partner, Thom Harpole, are homeowners in University Heights and are new parents to a baby daughter. He wrote this for SDGLN.)

With 2016 approaching, one of the realities we face is that our dynamic City Councilmember Todd Gloria is unable to run again for the position due to term limits. As a gay man living in District Three, I always felt a sense of pride knowing that my representative -- from Christine Kehoe, Toni Atkins and now Todd Gloria -- was a prominent and effective LGBT leader in our city. With the next departure, it begs the question: Can Todd Gloria’s successor continue to come from the San Diego LGBT community?

I am excited to run to do my best to fill these big shoes because I have a passion for serving the community at large. But I am humbled in the early endorsement of trusted LGBT leaders and former District Three Councilmembers: California Assembly Speaker Atkins and former Senator Kehoe. Their strong support validates the work I have done to make our community thrive, and affirms my readiness to sustain the level of service District Three constituents expect.

Even Councilmember Gloria notes often at LGBT events: It was the trailblazing, courageous efforts of those who ran before him that helped pave the way for him to be successful. Over time, District Three has become so synonymous with the LGBT community that we feel proud, and perhaps comfortable, that one of our own is ready at all times to represent our interests. History also shows us what happens in politics when people get too comfortable.

When I arrived in San Diego nearly two decades ago, I got involved in my community as a way to meet people like me, and do some good work in the process. I volunteered to help facilitate youth activities at The Center and knew it was important to register voters in our community because that year we had Proposition 22 (the Knight Initiative), and were helping to elect Atkins to represent us on City Council.

The San Diego Democratic Club (now Democrats for Equality) was growing and I served as one of their officers for many years to be a part of their work helping LGBT candidates and allies succeed. We were winning, and we had our own Councilmember to be a leader in the efforts and a rallying person to celebrate those victories.

From this early experience I found myself wanting to become even more engaged. Today I’m proud to be a board member of The Center and the San Diego Human Dignity Foundation, among other roles. We are sustaining the social services still critically needed in our community, like housing homeless youth, promoting equality for our transgender brothers and sisters, helping to shine a light on the unique needs of persons of color, and endowing our future to continue supporting the HIV/AIDS services and needs of a growing LGBT senior community. The hard work these positions require are delivering huge rewards, and it has been exciting to be a part of these efforts.

It was recently that I was approached to consider connecting the dots and taking my love for public service to the City Council, to follow Todd Gloria. Much like he became passionate for our neighborhoods and learn constituent service as Congresswoman Davis’s District Director, I have the distinction of serving as state Senator Marty Block’s Chief of Staff and have personally been engaged to help connect our citizens with the public programs, services, and information they need to solve their problems. This legislative and community experience, coupled with my understanding of land use and environmental law through my background in the private sector, gave many the idea that I would be an ideal fit for the role. And so I decided to take the plunge and campaign to be the next LGBT leader in this line of succession.

I am honored to have the early endorsement of hundreds of LGBT individuals and our allies, who know that having a seat at the table matters. Their support is founded in someone committed to protecting our neighborhoods, capable of serving all in the neighborhood, and willing to promote our shared values.

But I also know that elections are won by the support of voters, earned one conversation at a time. As the only declared LGBT candidate, I’m excited to roll up my sleeves and talk to everyone about not just my candidacy, but about all the things San Diego can become in the next decade. My campaign will earn the confidence of the district’s electorate that I am the right person, at the right time, for the right job. And as your council representative, I will look forward to mentoring and developing the next generation of LGBT leadership as they too will seek opportunities to rise and serve the public. I encourage you to visit my website to learn more, and welcome your feedback at www.voteforward.com.

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SDGLN's policy is to limit candidates to two columns per month during the campaign season.