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Bay Area gays knock on Napa doors for candidate

Bay Area gays knock on Napa doors for candidate

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Chris Edwards knows what it's like to be in the minority. He's the Napa City Council's only openly gay candidate.

"A lot of candidates consider it a handicap, I say it's an advantage," Edwards said. "I have a unique perspective on diversity."

On Saturday morning, Edwards used his connections in gay and lesbian communities from throughout the Bay Area and Sacramento to help get out the vote in Napa. Members of the Silicon Valley Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Democrat Club came to town from miles away to help drum up some Edwards votes for the March 8 election.

"The goal is to reach as many people as we can here," he said.

Edwards and his supporters hit the phones and the streets. They called and visited Napa homes, handed out campaign literature and talked with residents. Most of Edwards' volunteers, including Ann Begay, 36, were from out of town.

"I think it's important because it's Napa's first chance to elect a gay official," Begay said. "Any time you get a chance to diversify your views, you're stronger. No matter how far we have to travel, we would (do so to help Edwards)."

Kim Singh, executive director of Asian American Public Policy Institute in Los Altos, said he has been backing gay and lesbian politicians for years, and up until a few days ago didn't know Edwards or what he was running for. At first, he was reluctant to travel to Napa to help a stranger.

"I don't support any candidate just because he is a gay person," Singh said.

Singh said he studied Edward's views on issues, including how Edwards would support funding for AIDS research and treatment, and decided to make the trip to Napa.

Vintage High School students also campaigned for Edwards.

"We need a change and Napa isn't really open to new people," said Amber Black, 17, member of Vintage's Gay/Straight Alliance Club.

Black said she was nervous about going up to people's homes, but felt strong enough about Edwards to brave her fears.

"He actually came out (to the school) and was talking to the kids (in the club), it meant a lot to us," she said.

Most residents gave Edwards and his supporters a polite reception, opening their doors long enough to listen to a quick introduction and take in some campaign literature.

Jim and Kathy, a couple who declined to give their last names, said Edwards was the only candidate to visit their Brown Street home. The visit, however, didn't sway their vote one way or the other, they said.

"I haven't made up my mind," Kathy said, adding that she will choose who she votes for based on integrity.

Is Napa ready for a gay city councilman? Jim and Kathy said they didn't think sexual orientation is an issue.

"Our Christian belief (is that) God loves everybody," Jim said.

"We have a real good friend who is gay," Kathy added.

Not everyone was excited to see campaigners at their doors on a chilly Saturday morning.

One woman, attempting to keep her children from running out the front door, told Edwards that she didn't want to buy anything. Edwards explained who he was and handed her some campaign literature. She took it, thanked him and shut her door.

Another woman said she wasn't into politics and doesn't know enough about the issues or the candidates. She said if she were into politics, Edwards' visit would have been welcomed.

Edwards and his volunteers have been visiting Napa homes for about three months. Throughout those months, Edwards said, most people have been respectful of his campaign and lifestyle.

"I have been open about my lifestyle choices since the day I moved to Napa six years ago," Edwards said. "I think Napa is more cosmopolitan than people give it credit for."

Edwards said most people he speaks with aren't concerned about his sexual orientation; they are concerned with streets and public safety. If elected, Edwards said he will focus on making sure those needs are taken care of.

"There is a place at the table for everyone," he said.

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