Fight Club

Even for people who find local politics as dull as oral sex with a dental dam, the looming state Senate fight between Mark Leno and incumbent Carole Migden features some compelling story lines. First, there's the betrayal: Leno considered Migden a mentor and then she stabbed him in the back when he ran for Assembly and she backed his opponent in 2002 (Leno won). Then there's the fact that a gay man will be squaring off against a lesbian, an inconvenient truth that progressives fear will divide the gay community.

But early signs don't point to a divided community as much as they point to a community uniting behind Leno, the patron saint of gay marriage in the state legislature. Look at the leanings of the two major gay Democratic clubs in town. The Alice B. Toklas Democratic Club is practically a Leno propaganda organ, regularly giving the assemblyman space to write articles for its monthly newsletter. The Harvey Milk Democratic Club is arguably more of a wild card, but several members were at Leno's campaign kickoff at Yerba Buena Gardens last week.

Paul Hogarth, a member of the Milk club and an affordable housing advocate, says he backed Leno's rival five years ago. But Leno has since become the go-to guy in Sacramento for progressive causes, he says. At the same time, Migden has become remote and ineffective. “Mark Leno has gained my respect in the same time Carole Migden has lost it,” Hogarth said at Leno's campaign photo-op.

Leno, who is being forced out of his job next year because of term limits, promises to run a positive campaign. But he took a veiled swipe at Migden at the Yerba Buena event, saying he will be bringing people together and not “tearing them down” or “belittling them.” That sure sounded like a dig at Migden and her rep for being an abusive jerk. Migden, meanwhile, was quoted by the Fog City Journal back in December dissing Leno, saying, “He's a little nutty … and he's out of a job. What else is he going to do?”

“Everyone's gut tells them it's going to be a bloodbath,” says one lefty political adviser of the Leno-versus-Migden matchup. Supervisor Aaron Peskin echoed that sentiment, telling the Milk club at its last regular meeting, “It's a disaster waiting to happen.”

Peskin, however, said after the meeting he just might join the disaster himself and run for Migden's seat, too. “There's a part of me that says, “A pox on both your houses,'” Peskin explained.

Oh, yeah — and Peskin's also being termed out of a job next year.

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