Fremont Mayor Lily Mei joined next year’s highly-anticipated state Senate race on Tuesday. Her announcement came on the first day of Pride Month. But Mei’s ugly history when it comes to the LGBTQIA community is leading Alameda County Democratic Party activists to urge its members not to support candidates who have discriminated against the LGBTQIA group.
An emergency resolution was approved by the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee on Wednesday night affirming the local party’s support for the LGBTIA+ community. It recommends that Democrats not support any candidate for elected office “who has a history of opposing LGBTIA+ rights or who will not make a firm commitment to support LGBTIA+ rights in their intended office.”
A more stringent resolution was initially proposed that would have banned candidates who did not support the LGBTIA+ community from participating in the Alameda County Democratic Party’s endorsement process next year. In addition, chartered Democratic clubs in Alameda County would have also been asked to make similar changes to their bylaws.
The late-arriving resolution, however, could not be heard on Wednesday night due to noticing requirements, and was pared down. The local party may revisit the resolution and make further changes when they return from a summer recess in August, several committee members said.
The emergency resolution makes no reference to Mei, but several committee members made it clear, it was intended to rebuke the Fremont mayor.
“I only bring this up as an emergency matter because literally yesterday Lily Mei announced that she is running for [the 10th State Senate District],” said Lance Kwan, a member of the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee, and Ohlone Community College trustee.
“If there was ever a time to declare an emergency resolution to showcase the true solidarity of Democrats within the LGBTQIA community space it would be the day after she literally announced that she is going running for a state senate seat,” Kwan added.
“Lily Mei’s past actions have been shameful and her actions do not lead me to believe a good nor qualified state senator,” said Annie Koruga, also a central committee member.
Anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment by candidates and elected officials is very rare in East Bay politics. But Mei’s record is littered with slights toward the LGBTQIA+ community.
Mei began her political career in 2009 as a Fremont school boardmember. Under her leadership, she rejected a proposal for the Fremont Unified School District to recognize a day in honor of Harvey Milk, the civil rights leader and hero of the LGBTQIA+ community.
In 2011, Mei voted to ban “Angels in America” from Fremont classrooms. The play, hailed as one of the greatest pieces of late 20th Century American literature, examines the AIDS epidemic and homosexuality in the 1980s. Mei opposed the play because it harshly criticized Mormons, the San Jose Mercury News reported at the time. Mei also banned other acclaimed pieces of literature as a Fremont school boardmember.
However, Mei’s history of banning books in Fremont schools was only lightly broached by opponents during her successful runs for the Fremont City Council and mayor. Distaste for her actions, however, have lingered in Fremont and within the local party.
Mei’s support for a number of Southern Alameda County conservatives, including Steve Cho and Fremont Councilmember Yang Shao, also rankled local Democrats. Shao, a Christian conservative, campaigned against same-sex marriage and once labeled Martin Luther King, Jr. as a philanderer. Both are listed as supporters for her nascent state senate campaign. Progressive South Bay Rep. Ro Khanna also endorses Mei.
Her campaign website, unveiled on Tuesday, declares Mei’s supports the LGBT community.
Mei’s decision to join the Democratic Party in 2019 did little to quell skepticism among local party officials that her political ideology was not lined squarely with liberal doctrine.
Wednesday night’s move by the party echoes a similar resolution approved last year that excludes candidates from the Alameda County Democratic Party’s endorsement process in the event they had received campaign contributions from police unions within the last two years. If so, candidates were encouraged to donate the contributions to charity.
But its true aim was to undermine the political reach of Alameda County Sheriff Gregory Ahern, who is widely disliked by the Democrats, and especially progressives, in the East Bay. The resolution essentially worked, slamming shut the spigot of police union money in local races during the last election cycle.