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Imperial Valley Press Endorses Ron Oden for State Assembly! May 30, 2006

Posted by ronodenmedia in Endorsements, In the Media.
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Oden endorsed in 80th Assembly District

In the 80th Assembly Dis­trict, incumbent Assem­blywoman Bonnie Garcia, R-Cathedral City, is run­ning unopposed in next week's primary election. The only question for Garcia is which of the two Democratic contenders, Steve Clute or Ron Oden, she will face in November.
Clute is a former assembly­man and has received the offi­cial backing of his party; Oden, the sitting mayor of Palm Springs, believes he is in a better position to challenge the incumbent in the fall based on his hands-on experi­ence at the municipal govern­ment level.
We think he has a point.
While Clute already knows the legislative ropes and his way around the state Capitol, institutional knowledge is less important to us than innova­tive thinking and bold initia­tive, both of which Oden seems to possess in abun­dance.
Not only that, but Oden is by far the more passionate and charismatic of the two candi­dates.
The problem for both men, at least where the Imperial Valley is concerned, is that neither has much name recognition out­side Riverside County.
Of the two, Clute is probably better known locally, mainly due to his pre­vious years in the Legislature, but Oden has been a frequent visitor of late and there seems to be a healthy buzz about his prospects among the party faithful we have consulted.
It is something of a depar­ture for us to make an en­dorsement in a contested pri­mary election, but we are making an exception in this race because we believe voters in this part of the 80th district would benefit from a vigorous campaign in the general elec­tion to come. It isn't that we think the incumbent has been giving short shrift to her Imperial Valley constituency, because she has never failed to respond when the need arose. Our main com­plaint with the level of representation that Garcia has provided to Imperial County residents is that it has been all too perfunctory.
Both Clute and Oden have seized on this perceived shortcoming on the part of the incumbent in their contest with each other. Either would be able to engage her on the range of issues that confront our combined desert region, starting with the Salton Sea and extending to trans-border energy generation in the Mex­icali Valley.
But Oden appears to us to be the more polished cam­paigner, and we were frankly impressed by his grasp of the issues during our single edito­rial board meeting with him earlier this month. Clute rep­resents the old way, which comes with certain advantages but also poses its own draw­backs.
Still, Ron Oden will be fac­ing a real test against this sea­soned political veteran — and the party apparatus that is lined up behind him. While we wonder if the Imperial and Coachella valleys are ready for the new politics Oden person-i­fies, we believe he offers a fresh perspective.
And he has earned our en­dorsement.


MegaScene Op Ed Ron Oden May 27, 2006

Posted by ronodenmedia in Endorsements, In the Media.
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Click here to read Page 6 of MegaScene


Posted by ronodenmedia in In the Media.
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March 19, 2006



In 1989, a car pulled to the side of the road on Highway 111 at the western edge of this desert city. A man bolted from the passenger door of the car and raced up the hillside toward towering spurs of San Jacinto Peak. Seconds later, the driver got out and gave chase.

Ron Oden says he still can’t explain the impulse that took hold of him that day as he and his brother, George, were driving into the desert city for a weekend visit. He just had to run. But it wasn’t simply an expenditure of energy; it was a kind of physical embrace.

He ran until he was exhausted. George was not happy when he finally caught up with him.

“He approached me and was using very strong language,” Oden says, with a chuckle. “I turned to him with tears streaming down my face and I said, `This is my home!'”

“I thought he was nuts,” George says. “It was all kind of surreal and strange. But the good Lord obviously had a plan for him and it has become increasingly clear over the years.”

After his epiphany, Ron moved to Palm Springs. He taught at the local colleges, became a community activist, discovered his homosexuality, was elected to the city council and, 2 1/2 years ago, became not only the first openly gay black mayor of Palm Springs, but the first such elected mayor of any large city in the country. Two weeks ago, he announced his candidacy for the California State Assembly.

Once a Seventh-day Adventist minister, Oden, 55, starts his day with a shot of caffeine – a white chocolate mocha – and has no qualms about ordering steak for dinner.

He was married for 12 years. Until last summer, his two daughters and his ex-wife lived in New Orleans. When Hurricane Katrina destroyed their homes, Oden took them in. Since then, his oldest daughter and her husband have found a place in Upland. His 17-year-old daughter, who is expecting a child in May, and his ex-wife, continue to live in his home. Each morning, he drives his daughter to high school. Then he gets to begin his own day as the city’s mayor.

“This is a part-time job,” he says with a sly grin. “Ha!”

9 A.M.

Oden is passing through the city offices with a box of doughnuts, offering employees a morning sugar rush.

He snags one for himself before retiring to his office for a weekly meeting with City Manager David Ready. On the table this morning are such topics as the city budget, public hearings on the Tahquitz Plaza retail center, a three-year capital improvement project and the city’s multispecies plan.

The 20-minute meeting is intense. Afterward, Oden’s assistant, Martha Edgmon, briefs him on his schedule for the day.

It’s the first of many times Oden will check with her. He admits to having an attention-deficit problem. Despite keeping several full-page pads in his car swirled with large hand-scrawled notes as well as a Blackberry, Oden simply can’t keep up with his calendar. During his day he will rely on Edgmon to remind him, sometimes, several times, on upcoming appointments.

“I show up,” he says. “Martha points me in the right direction and pushes me.”

10 A.M.

After a quick stop at Koffi, a coffee shop on Palm Springs’ main drag where everyone, including the customers, seem to know Oden, and vice versa, the mayor snags his custom coffee and arrives at the entrance to O’Donnell Golf Club.

A local television crew is waiting to interview him on perhaps his most controversial proposition since taking office in 2003. In his State of the City address in February, Oden suggested it was time to turn the once-restricted club over to the city for all of its residents to enjoy. The city already owns the property, but the club has a 99-year lease that doesn’t run out until 2043.

It’s not right, he says, for the club’s 200 members to enjoy privileges on city-owned land while Palm Springs’ other 45,000 residents don’t have access to it

“I’m just asking them to do the right thing,” Oden says.

In doing so, he has touched a big nerve.

City Councilman Chris Mills says he and Oden vote the same way on city issues more than 90 percent of the time. But the O’Donnell Golf Club is an exception.

“We definitely don’t see eye to eye on that,” Mills says. “I should mention I’m a member of the club.”

A five-year veteran of the council, Mills says working with Oden is never dull.

“He’s an extremely passionate guy,” he says. “He’s emotional and very excitable and certainly has a high energy level for everything he feels strongly about. When he speaks, he certainly gets you enthused with his passion and I think that rubs off on the citizenry.”

Mills says Oden has also brought additional attention to the city.

“Palm Springs is a worldwide-known name anyway,” he says. “But the fact that Ron is the first elected black/gay mayor, I certainly know he has brought an exposure to Palm Springs in a light that we haven’t had before and that’s been positive.”

Even with that attention, Oden says his appearance sometimes startles people.

“They introduce the mayor of Palm Springs,” he says. “I’ll start walking up and they’re still looking around for the mayor. I get up to the podium and they’re still looking around. People will say, `I didn’t know they had any black people in Palm Springs.'”

If he hasn’t grabbed the attention of the room by his entrance, once he begins to speak he’s in command. His delivery has a familiarity to it, almost like listening to Bill Cosby if the comedian were hopped up on caffeine.

“He’s a showman,” says fellow Councilman Mike McCulloch. “He brings a certain element to events that everyone enjoys. When I was mayor pro-tem a year ago, I would fill in for Ron. I would do my Ron Oden impersonation. I throw my arms around and I say `Welcome to Palm Springs!’ and just sort of be flamboyant. He has a certain pizazz that he brings to the office.”

1 P.M.

Oden has just finished an hour-long lunch meeting with Doug Sanders. The former pro-golfer is pitching the idea of a massive charity golf tournament.

“Everybody always has the best program possible for the city,” Oden says as he drives to his next appointment. “I try to cut through to the chase. `What is it you want from me? How can I help?'”

Speeding along Ramon Road, he checks his notes and makes an entry in his Blackberry. He is on his way to the taping of the local television show “922You,” where he will be given a few minutes to talk about his city.

On the set, co-host David Ryan laughs about what he is about to do.

“This is like lighting a firecracker and throwing in the air,” he says, “Ron Oden promoting Palm Springs.”

2:30 P.M.

Tamarisk trees and desert scrub fly by as Oden takes the freeway back to his office and talks about his unique status.

“I don’t feel like a trailblazer,” he says. “I didn’t set out to make any inroads. What I do is not about my sexual orientation, nor is it about my race. I’m not limited to those facets of my life, but I carry those facets into all aspects of my life. I’m sensitive and aware of the needs of lots of groups of people.”

As if on cue, his phone rings with a call from Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California, a gay rights group. Kors is in Florida and is updating Oden on some issues. He says, like it or not, Oden’s mayorship is groundbreaking.

“I think the impact is enormous,” Kors says. “I am at a conference in Miami and his name comes up a lot. He’s been able to build bridges to other communities. He’s really changed the dynamic.”

Thoughts about that kind of impact don’t take up much of his time, Oden says. But there are personal moments that have affected him.

Shortly after his election, he says, he was at a public event for young people when a woman came up and gave him a hug.

“She pointed across the room and said, `That’s my son.'” he says, recalling a biracial young man of about 12. “She said, `He’s gay. He doesn’t know it yet. But in the next few years, as he is struggling, I will be able to point to you and say to him, “You can make it, because Ron Oden made it.”‘

“There are levels (at which) you affect people that you never anticipate,” he adds. “It certainly is heartwarming, but there are moments when you feel a weight of responsibility that you never signed up for.”

4:30 P.M.

Oden has entered the Palm Springs Follies from the backstage area, negotiating a narrow arched corridor in the historic theater. He’s here to deliver a proclamation on the 15th anniversary of the Vaudeville-style show. First, however, after taking the stage amid a presidential fanfare, he must endure a little ribbing by master of ceremonies Riff Markowitz.

“Can I see your legs?” Markowitz teases. “When the mayor came on I couldn’t decide whether to play `Hail to the Chief’ or `God Save the Queen.'”

Oden laughs along with the audience, delivers his proclamation and then poses for photographs with the show’s principals and other dignitaries. Outside the theater, while he schmoozes with the public, Greg Purdy, the publicist for the Follies, makes a call for the mayor. It’s to Edgmon.

“Where’s Ron’s next stop?”

6 P.M.

As it turns out, there’s enough of a break in Oden’s schedule to allow him to enjoy dinner. Over a rib-eye steak, he talks about growing up in the San Fernando Valley while feeling the strong influence of his extended family in Alabama. He spent summers on his grandfather’s farm there and vividly remembers hiding with the family under the kitchen table when the Ku Klux Klan was in the neighborhood. He was 5.

“That was the first time in my life I realized that there were people that wanted to hurt other people for something they had no control over. I realized then that there were two Americas. And my parents taught us how to live in both, while they were hoping for one.”

His family, he says, continues to be a source of strength. They have supported him through his gradual awakening to his homosexuality that took place after he moved to Palm Springs. Currently, he says, he is not in a relationship.

“It’s me that they love,” he says. “It’s so empowering to have that unconditional acceptance. Whether people like me or not doesn’t matter. The decisions I make, I make because I believe they’re the right decisions for the city and its future.”

7:30 P.M.

The day isn’t over. Oden still has to visit the Convention Center to give a welcome to a teachers convention, followed by a presentation at a fundraising dinner. He won’t reach home before 9 p.m.

If he is fatigued, there is little sign of it. His desire to touch people’s lives, he says, energizes him. He attributes that, in part, to his grandfather’s influence.

“He died officially at 103, but by family accounts, he was at least 107,” Oden says of the farmer who was also a minister. “He always said, `As long as you have the gift of life, make the world a better place.'”


Caption: RODRIGO PEÑA/THE PRESS-ENTERPRISE / (1) Mayor Ron Oden is Palm Springs’ first black and openly gay mayor. He recently announced he is running for the 80th District of the California State Assembly. (2) Oden gets a quick touchup before a TV appearance. (3) “This is my home!” MAYOR RON ODEN, DESCRIBING HIS REACTION THE FIRST TIME HE DROVE THROUGH PALM SPRINGS IN 1989 (4) Mayor Ron Oden talks to the California Association for the Gifted at the Palm Springs Convention Center. It was just one of several stops in Oden’s 12-hour day that also included TV interviews and meetings. (5) Oden credits executive secretary Martha Edgmon with keeping him on time to his appointments. (6) Oden talks to KMIR 6 television reporter Gloria Margarita. (7) Oden laughs as Riff Markowitz pokes fun at him during an appearance at the Palm Springs Follies.


Section: YOUR LIFE
Page#: E01

Ron Oden…Un-Censored and Un-Edited – Video Blogs May 25, 2006

Posted by ronodenmedia in Press Releases.

May 18, 2006

Ron Oden, Mayor of Palm Springs and Candidate for the State Assembly, 80th District, is bringing his story and message to a computer screen near you!

As part of his campaign, Ron Oden has been in front of the camera over the last few weeks recording his new “Video Blogs” …a candid question and answer styled (5-7 minute) videotaped forum that is now appearing on his website: www.OdenForAssembly.com

The “Video Blog”, one of the newest forms of internet communication, will provide uncensored and unedited answers to many of the questions people have about the man and the politician. Topics range from the personal (Ron as a boy, his hobbies, his family) to the political (the best/worst of the 80th assembly district, Ron as Mayor) and from the controversial (O’Donnell Golf Course and Wal-Mart) to the rumors…well, you’ll have to visit the site to learn about those!

Currently, two of the ten Video Blogs appear on his website, with a new one being released everyday. Are there more Video Blogs down the campaign trail? You bet! According to Mayor Oden, “As long as the people have questions, I’ll give them answers!”


For comments or additional information,
please contact Jeff Shotwell, Imagine It! Media


Posted by ronodenmedia in In the Media.
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California Political Desk

The California Political Desk provides information, news releases, and announcements obtained from communication and public relations offices throughout the state.

California Political Desk
May 12, 2006

LOS ANGELES – Recognizing Controller Steve Westly’s longstanding commitment to LGBT rights, the Capital Political Action Committee (CAPPAC), a leading Sacramento-area LGBT political action committee, has endorsed Steve Westly for Governor in 2006.

According to CAPPAC’s website, “CAPPAC is a non-partisan, political action committee formed to promote the civil rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people with a focus on the capital region and races of state-wide and national importance to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. CAPPAC’s mission is to provide a voice for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community in the political process.”

“The Capital Area Political Action Committee (CAPPAC) is pleased to endorse your candidacy in the Democratic Primary for Governor,” said Rebecca Darling, a representative of CAPPAC, in a recent letter to Westly. “We appreciate your support for equality of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and look forward to working with you to guarantee these rights for all Californians.”

“I am proud to have stood with the LGBT community for more than 25 years,” said Controller Westly. “I am committed to ensuring true equality for every Californian, and I will carry this commitment with me to the Governor’s office.

Steve Westly – whose campaign is co-chaired by openly gay State Senator Carole Migden – has also won endorsements from many other LGBT leaders and organizations including Orange County’s Eleanor Roosevelt Stonewall Democrats; Los Angeles’ Stonewall Democrats; Sacramento’s Stonewall Democrats; Bay Area Municipal Elections Committee (BAYMEC); Equality California; Lorri Jean, CEO of the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center; San Francisco Supervisor Bevan Dufty; San Mateo County Supervisor Richard Gordon; Palm Springs Mayor Ron Oden; Chula Vista Mayor Stephen Padilla; Cathedral City Mayor Pro Tem Greg Pettis; West Hollywood City Councilmember Jeffrey Prang; San Jose City Councilmember Ken Yeager; Marriage Equality California founder L.J. Carusone; Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center Board of Directors Co-Chair Dean Hansell; former E*Trade President and COO Kathy Levinson; Human Rights Campaign Board of Governors Co-Chair Alan Uphold; and GLSEN Board Member Yashar Hedayat.


Garcia: It wasn’t a D.C. party May 25, 2006

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Cindy Uken
The Desert Sun
May 12, 2006

Republican Assemblywoman Bonnie Garcia chose “a party” over “public service” when she attended a Cinco de Mayo celebration at the White House instead of staying in Sacramento to vote on a historical $37 billion bond package, her two Democratic challengers say.

It was not a party, Garcia said, explaining that she traveled to Washington, D.C., for a three-day policy summit during which she met with President Bush on immigration.

Garcia, of Cathedral City, said she also met with congressional leaders, lobbyists and cabinet members who are involved in immigration reform.

The trip was planned six weeks ago, she said. When she left May 3, there was “absolutely no indication” the bond issue would come up for a vote on May 5 during her absence. When she learned there was, she told her staff she would fly back if needed, she said. But by Thursday night it was clear the governor had the votes he needed to get the bond package passed so she stayed in Washington.

“I make absolutely no apologies for what I did because I know who I am and I know what I stand for,” Garcia said. “I had an opportunity to speak to the leader of the free world on something that impacts 12 million people.”

Ron Oden, mayor of Palm Springs, and Steve Clute, a former legislator from Palm Desert, aren’t buying it.

“If you’re summoned to the White House, that’s an honor and it would be hard to pass up,” said Oden. “But this vote was the highest bond vote in the history of our state with money that directly impacts people in the 80th Assembly District. I would have been in the Assembly.”

“Yeah, sure,” Garcia shot back after hearing what Oden said.

Oden and Clute face each other in the June 6 primary; the winner will challenge Garcia, a two-term incumbent, in November.

Clute said the opportunity to vote on a $37.2 billion bond package that so significantly impacts local government – and will create many high-paying jobs, especially the 80th Assembly District, comes along only once in a lawmaker’s lifetime.

Given the same circumstances, Clute said he would have canceled the trip to the White House.

“If you want to have substantive input on immigration you really should be heard in testimony in a congressional hearing,” Clute said. “If another face-to-face meeting with an extremely unpopular president is worth sacrificing four of the biggest votes of any legislator’s life, that’s her way. It would not be my way.”

Critics say Garcia’s absence on the critical vote gives her an excuse to tell voters she didn’t support the bond package that will take a toll on taxpayers’ wallets if it’s approved.

Garcia said she fully supports the bond package, one of a few Republicans who support the entire package. “I believe this governor is doing the right thing.”

Preschool initiative nets endorsements May 25, 2006

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Juliet Williams
The Associated Press
May 22, 2006

SACRAMENTO – As the airwaves heat up with advertisements for a statewide ballot initiative to provide preschool for all California kids, some local officials will get into the act today.

Palm Springs Mayor Ron Oden will join local law enforcement leaders and educators in Indio this afternoon to endorse Prop. 82, the Preschool for All initiative.

The initiative, which will appear on the June 6 ballot, would provide for statewide preschool through a 1.5 percent tax on people with incomes of $400,000 or more for individual and $800,000 or more for couples.

Law enforcement leaders scheduled to be in attendance, include the Indio, Desert Hot Springs and Cathedral City police chiefs.

They’ll release a county-level report, “Preventing Crime with Proposition 82: How Preschool for All will cut crime, improve educational outcomes and save taxpayer money in San Bernardino and Riverside counties.”

Hitting up the media
Opponents and supporters of the initiative to provide preschool for all 4-year-olds have embarkedon a media blitz as polls showed voters divided over the measure with the election just three weeks away.

The Yes on 82 campaign began airing an ad featuring Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, while a statewide advertising campaign sponsored by the No on 82 committee launched just shortly afterwards.

Noticeably absent from the supporters’ campaign has been Hollywood director Rob Reiner, a longtime preschool supporter who launched the initiative last year.

Reiner was forced to step down in March as head of the First 5 coalition, a taxpayer-subsidized statewide early education program, after questions were raised about whether the group violated campaign laws.

The questions revolved around First 5 commercials supporting the preschool initiative just before the Yes on 82 campaign secured enough signatures for the ballot.

“It looks like the controversy over the First 5 funding has dramatically changed the way this campaign is being run,” said Dan Schnur, a Republican campaign consultant who is not affiliated with either preschool campaign. “It’s got to be very difficult for (Reiner) to sit this out, particularly after having been so high-profile.”

The campaign declined a request from The Associated Press to speak with Reiner.

With their Hollywood insider out, the campaign has sought other big names, such as Villaraigosa and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom.

Has wide support
In the most recent poll, conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California in April, about 51 percent of likely voters said they support Proposition 82, with 40 percent opposed. The sampling error was plus or minus 3 percentage points. In February, about 55 percent of voters supported the initiative, with 34 percent opposed.

The initiative would make universal preschool available to all 4-year-olds whose parents want it by raising income taxes 1.7 percent on individual incomes over $400,000 or couples’ incomes over $800,000. It would raise an estimated $2.4 billion a year.

With limited campaign funding available ahead of the November general election races, both sides may have decided to save their spending until just before the election so it would have more effect, said Kareem Crayton, a professor of law and politics at the University of Southern California law school.

He said other topics, such as immigration and the war in Iraq, have dominated headlines for months, making it tougher for preschool backers to get their message out.

“Both of those stories are very difficult to upend, when you’re talking about getting the public’s attention,” Crayton said.

Ad campaigns
The Yes on 82 campaign is running three 30-second spots.

One statewide ad features a teacher of the year who says she can always tell which students have gone to good preschool, because they “read better and learn faster” than their peers.

The others are virtually the same, one in English and one in Spanish, narrated by Villaraigosa and airing in the Los Angeles market.

He says all children should have the chance to attend a high-quality preschool with certified teachers.

The No on 82 commercial begins with ominous music and features an authoritative figure walking down a hallway and parents at a school. Parents complain the initiative would create a costly new bureaucracy and could even include a “parent tax.”

Kathy Fairbanks, a spokeswoman for the No on 82 campaign, said that refers to a portion of the measure that would allow legislators to decide what to do if the program ever fell short of funding in the future. One of the options available would be to charge a fee for preschool, she said.

The initiative also has a built-in fund that would have money funneled to it even before the program launches in 2010.

Supporters and opponents have offered differing figures on the number of children who would benefit from the program. According to the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office, about 62 percent of California 4-year-olds currently attend some kind of preschool program, although some are more akin to day-care centers.

Both campaigns declined to say how much they are spending on the ad buys.

Oden on the Web, Clute on parade May 24, 2006

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Cindy Uken
The Desert Sun
May 24, 2006

Steve Clute and Ron Oden, rivals vying to become the Democratic Party’s candidate in the 80th Assembly District race this fall, have run different campaigns leading up to the June 6 primary.

Clute of Palm Desert has approached his race from a personal, one-on-one perspective since announcing his intentions last August. He has made his presence known at picnics, parades and party functions in Imperial County, where this particular race will be run or lost. Clute calls it a ground campaign and to date has raised about $45,000.

Oden, mayor of Palm Springs, has relied heavily on bilingual advertising. He has made occasional trips to Imperial County since announcing his candidacy in March. In the latest twist, Oden, who has raised about $78,000, has taken his campaign to the computer. He’s recorded 5- to 7-minute video blogs which appear on his Web site, http://www.OdenForAssembly.com. They are question-and-answer format and are billed as “uncensored and unedited.” Topics range from the personal to the political to the controversial.

I received several queries recently from suspicious taxpayers, wondering what conference Desert Hot Springs Mayor Alex Bias and Interim Police Chief Walt McKinney were attending, where it was and whether taxpayers were picking up the tab.

All fair questions, of course.

The conference was “Restoration 2006: Community and Economic Recovery After a Disaster” in New Orleans.

Bias, McKinney and Ernest Calderon, emergency services director, all attended the two-day conference at city expense – $5,180.

“It was money well-spent,” said Mayor Pro Tem Gary Bosworth, reminding taxpayers that the San Andreas Fault Line rips through Desert Hot Springs. “If we do not prepare to become a disaster-resistant city, our residents are shortchanged.”

Service Employees International Union Local 700, which represents more than 12,000 local government service employees in the Greater Central Valley and is affiliated with 1.8 million members, has endorsed Ron Oden.


Here’s hoping that what happens in Vegas does not stay in Vegas.

Indio city leaders are in Las Vegas this week to attend the International Council of Shopping Centers, which runs through today. The mission is to talk with developers of commercial property and bring retail to Indio – not let it stay in Vegas.

Attending are City Manager Glenn Southard, Mayor Gene Gilbert, Mayor Pro Tem Ben Godfrey, Councilman Michael Wilson, Councilwoman Lupe Watson, and Community Development Director Steve Copenhaver, Development Manager Mariano Aguirre, Economic Development Specialist Karen Hawkesworth, Chief Building Official Tom Hosey, and Community Development Administrative Assistant Carol Emery.

Equality California endorses Ron Oden’s campaign for 80th District California State Assembly May 24, 2006

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Desert Mayor Seeks Assembly Seat May 24, 2006

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From the Los Angeles Times

Oden with Students 

Desert Mayor Seeks Assembly Seat
Palm Springs' Ron Oden, one of the nation's few openly gay black politicians, hopes to replace Republican Bonnie Garcia.

By Jonathan Abrams
Times Staff Writer

May 8, 2006

The two events are separated by thousands of miles and almost half a century, yet they never stray far from Ron Oden's mind.

As a child, he remembers hiding beneath a kitchen table when members of the Ku Klux Klan showed up at his grandfather's Alabama home. Decades later, when he was marching in a San Diego gay rights parade, tear gas was tossed into the crowd and sent him scurrying for cover.

The first incident opened Oden's eyes to discrimination. The second persuaded Oden, by then a Palm Springs councilman, to publicly reveal that he was gay.

Oden, 56, one of the country's few openly gay black politicians, accepts that some may view his race and sexuality as a double whammy. It is something he has dealt with for years while rising through the ranks of the City Council to become mayor and now embarking on a second run at a higher elected office.

Oden said the klansmen in Alabama left without incident, probably after they caught a glimpse of his grandfather's shotgun, and in San Diego, neighbors came to his aid to help wash away traces of tear gas. Both incidents still resonate for Oden, who considers equal rights among his top political priorities.

"Both had a profound impact," Oden said. "When they threw the can [of tear gas] it took me back to the place where people wanted to hurt others for something they had no control over, and that's not right."

Oden, a longtime Democrat, hopes to unseat incumbent Republican Bonnie Garcia later this year in the 80th Assembly District, an area that stretches from the Coachella Valley across eastern Riverside County and includes all of Imperial County.

He will first have to beat fellow Democrat Steve Clute, a former member of the Assembly, in the June primary.

"It's a natural transition," said Oden, who was trounced by Republican Mary Bono, the popular widow of singer Sonny Bono, in a bid for a congressional seat six years ago. "I think I'll bring a measure of hope to people in the district."

Oden, on the Palm Springs City Council since 1995, said that the local level has heard enough of his voice, but he believes he can still aid the region. His campaign will focus on improving education, on economic and health issues and on promoting equality.

He refrains from using words like trailblazer or pioneer when describing his tenure as mayor.

"I carry a tremendous weight that I didn't bargain for, but I understand the reality of it," Oden said.

Ken Reeves, mayor of Cambridge, Mass., and believed to be the country's first openly gay, black mayor, said he could empathize with Oden.

"Success in politics has a lot to do with choosing the right race," Reeves said. "He's been mayor for a while and done a good job and I'm sure he'll be running on that."

Oden is well-liked in Palm Springs. The city is a popular vacation destination and internationally known gay tourist mecca. Gays are estimated to make up more than a third of the city's nearly 50,000 residents.

"Ron has brought together different communities, gay and straight," said John Williams, owner of a Palm Springs hotel that caters to gays.

But there have been difficulties during his tenure as well.

A recent attempt to turn the O'Donnell Golf Club into a public course brought a strong outcry from club members, including fellow Councilman Chris Mills. The issue has yet to be resolved.

Local labor organizers also criticize Oden for his support of a Wal-Mart Supercenter two years ago, and his disapproval of attempts to unionize workers at the city's Spa Resort Casino.

Joseph Duffle, a labor union representative, called Oden a liar, saying he turned his back on labor issues when he voted for the supercenter.

But Hal Ball, Oden's campaign manager, said Oden had been misunderstood and that the mayor never said he would vote against the Wal-Mart.

"Ron represents all the city and not just one person," Ball said. "Joe decided to go against Ron and he's done that."

Including meetings, charitable work and public appearances, a typical Oden day is a 12-hour tour through the city and surrounding area.

The mayor's position is part time, but Oden, living on savings, treats it as a full-time job.

"There's no way I can be at all the places people want me to be," Oden said. "Not even if they had cloning perfected."

Oden, born in Detroit but reared in Southern California, holds degrees in sociology, history and theology. He is a Seventh-Day Adventist minister, but stepped away from the church shortly before entering politics.

In 1989, with his marriage of 12 years fraying as he struggled with his sexuality, he accompanied his brother, George, on a vacation to Palm Springs.

He says he experienced an epiphany as he entered the city. He ran from the car in tears feeling that he was home.

The account sounds surreal and corny at points, but Oden swears by it.

"It was as though something was speaking to me or drawing me," he said.

He moved to the city a couple of months later, first teaching at the College of the Desert and then making what he calls a seamless transition into politics.

City residents are caught more off guard by his race than his sexual orientation, Oden said. It has led to some awkward moments at public functions.

"They'll announce my name and I'll walk up to a podium and people will still be looking for the mayor," Oden said. "That's where you have to have a sense of humor about life."

That same good-natured attitude also helps him cope with what could have been a difficult family situation. His former wife had her New Orleans home damaged by Hurricane Katrina, and she and Oden's two daughters relocated to Palm Springs.

"She's the mother of my children," Oden said. "The fact that she needs my assistance is no problem whatsoever."

His oldest daughter has since moved to Upland with her husband.

If his bid for the Assembly seat is successful, Oden believes his political career could skyrocket.

"This is America," he said. "The sky is the limit, and there are no barriers or limitations."


Megascene, the largest Gay Newspaper in the Coachella Valley, endorses Ron Oden for State Assembly May 22, 2006

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Capital Political Action Committee endorses Ron Oden for California 80th District State Assembly 2006 May 17, 2006

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Equality California endorses Ron Oden’s campaign for 80th District State Assembly May 17, 2006

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Equality California Political Action Committee (EQCA PAC) endorses candidates and supports their campaigns through donations, targeted mail and volunteer muscle. The Equality California PAC works to expand the number of equality-minded representatives in Sacramento and to ensure that we can continue our progress toward true equality.


San Diego Democratic Club endorses Ron Oden for State Assembly May 17, 2006

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The Committee to Elect Ron Oden 2006 is proud to announce an endorsement by Service Employees International Union, Local 700 May 17, 2006

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California Legislative Black Caucus endorses Ron Oden’s run for 80th district State Assembly May 17, 2006

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ECCO (Elections Committee for the County of Orange) Endorses Ron Oden for 80th District State Assembly May 17, 2006

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Welcome to the Official Ron Oden Media Syndicate May 17, 2006

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Get the latest, most up to date information on Palm Springs Mayor Ron Oden, and his 2006 campaign for 80th District State Assembly.

Endorsements, Press Releases, articles, and media mentions related to Ron Oden will be posted here.

Advocate, The: Making gay black history: Ron Oden was no stranger to success when his historic election as Palm Springs mayor made international headlines May 1, 2006

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Advocate, The: Making gay black history: Ron Oden was no stranger to success when his historic election as Palm Springs mayor made international headlines