Mark Takano on running for office as a gay Asian man in the 1990s
I WANNA. Take you back to when you first started running for office in the nineties. It was a time where your opponents would us open appeals to homophobia and smears against you, but then when you ran in twenty twelve, you one by quite a large margin, nearly twenty points What changed in the country in Riverside County, and for you personally in that time by nineteen, ninety four. I was taken very very seriously. I wasn't taken so seriously in Nineteen ninety-two. In addition, the incumbent, who just been elected in nineteen, ninety, two had gotten involved in a scandal. The sex scandal and in nineteen, ninety, four I would sweep the primary in June of that year. I'd raise more money actually than the incumbent at that point that that which reduce my of like. How grave it seems for the incumbent. The Republicans obviously were concerned. They used everything in their arsenal that they could including an accusation that I was gay it. It first surfaced with a very right wing senator state. Senator Than Right Haynes. He was at A. An event that had a bunch of religious leaders pastors in. He said to that group. I don't know about you, but I don't WanNa. Homosexual represented us in Washington DC. Mark Takano nutzoid. Liberal homosexual you know that became a little bit of an inside joke, and it never heard that insult before. A small small weekly paper. Picked up the story and that weekly article made its way back to Washington. DC and you can just imagine all the fax machines sort of. The Republican. National Congressional Campaign, committee the RNC was poly spread that that that story all all the way through the. There's venues in DC. Meanwhile the local daily press enterprise was now in a place where. They had to do a story. A state senator had had accused the congressional candidate who the nominee of being gay and the next. Sort of part of the story was to ask the question. Is it true? And so I actually knew the reporter. If you remember named Joan Radovich, I could tell she was not very comfortable. Asking the question is on the job. And you know, I did not answer straightforwardly. I was elliptical and Oblique and I said well. You know this is just my opponents way of of trying to evade the fact that he was on a car with a prostitute and tried to escape from the police. I didn't deny that I was gay I just didn't CEO yes, I am. As it turned out. That was only the beginning. Barney Frank. You know who reviewed this. The you know the situation with as well you know. The press is still looking at this from the point of view that that you've been accused of something shameful and that you've been smeared and that it's somehow. A bad thing to be a gay person. And we didn't really WANNA test being out and proud in that campaign and nightside before. That's wild. Because like you cannot, you cannot imagine the same kind of thing flying in today's climate which is i. think a great thing that shows how how far I think. Many Americans have gone that that I would hope that such a thing would not fly in the way that it was able to back then, but for you in that moment like you're young. Young in your career. How did your you know your very personal experience of deciding whether or not to come out and be out? Coincide with the unfolding of your of your political career like? Did you expect something like that to happen I did I did prepare myself that it could happen I consulted with my family, my mother and father, and I said you know. My mother was still hoping that it wasn't true that I was gay and said I. Don't think it's going to change and I want you and dad that now that this could become an issue and I don't want to go forward with running for office unless. You're okay with that possibility of happening so I had this little conversation with them they they both felt that I should go ahead and run. For whatever reason that was sort of an important thing for me to get out of the way. Wow, so just to make sure I have the story clear like where you publicly out at the time, and if not where you outed by your opponent at the time I would say I wasn't dating one. I wasn't in a relationship and I was kind of just. You know this young bachelor. In one, thousand, nine, hundred was never questioned because I was never i. think taken seriously as a candidate. In so nobody had to kind of try to shine a light on what was what was my Merrill existence in? I would say I was pretty discrete person, but I was. It wasn't a subject that my mother and father talked about a lot, but I did tell them early on that I thought it was gay, and they kind of had the attitude of well. You know, don't decide that yet.