Over ten years ago, I got my second real gig in politics - after working for a political consultant in the 1998 elections, I finally was hired to manage a campaign for State Assembly starring an unknown candidate in Dwayne Crenshaw. At the time, our only opponent was Steve Padilla, a well-liked city councilman from Chula Vista. Within a few months, Juan Vargas entered the race, and while we ran a great campaign, Dwayne lost.*
A few years later, Dwayne ran again for City Council, and came so close to winning that the campaign that his opponent, the late Charles Lewis, started drank more alcohol to deal with the stress, and since Kaiser neglected to tell him that Mr. Lewis had liver disease (despite multiple tests showing that he had major liver issues), Mr. Lewis died.** Finally, in the 2nd race for City Council (post-Lewis) Dwayne's secret - that he's gay - finally came out.
Now, in some ways, this was a good thing. Dwayne got to finally be himself, and stopped having to hide who he is. At the same time, Dwayne was subjected to the same homophobia that he long feared. He lost his race for City Council, and his political career was over. Now, keep in mind, he didn't enter into some sham marriage, or engage in rampant homophobia, but simply tried to keep his sexual orientation from the public realm. But that was enough to end his political career.
Thereafter, Dwayne worked in the nonprofit world, and rose to the heights of Executive Director for a nonprofit not-to-be-named. Still, homophobia rose its ugly head (allegedly), and Dwayne was fired. Like most people, post-politics***, Dwayne went to law school. And I was happy for him then, and I'm happy for him now.
In the following years, Dwayne has become the Executive Director for San Diego Pride, and as of today, Dwayne is a law school graduate. I couldn't be prouder. What caught me most of all is Dwayne's speech today at his graduation celebration (old habits die hard). His focus of thought on civil rights, from marriage equality to equal treatment for all children in school, to ending the death penalty, and all things in between, represented all my hopes for Dwayne the first time I heard him speak all those years ago. I am proud of my friend, and San Diego Pride couldn't have found a better leader.
Anyway, Dwayne, if you're reading this, and I hope you are, congratulations. I'm proud of you.
*I actually blame myself for that - Dwayne thought about dropping out, and I told Dwayne to stay in. My theory being, "what the hell else are we going to do with all this campaign literature?" In retrospect, I'm not that proud of my advice.
**Weirdly enough, my boss represented Charles Lewis' family in the medical malpractice action against Kaiser. According to the arbitrator's decision, Kaiser knew that Lewis had serious liver problems, but never told him. Now, if this was any random person, it would be scary enough, but Lewis was a City Councilman from San Diego and could've cancelled Kaiser's contract with the City of San Diego.