Three fresh faces in the Democratic party. They come from Atlanta, Philadelphia and Southern California with new voices helping to reshape one of America’s two major political parties.
Representative Malcolm Kenyatta of Pennsylvania, Representative Sam Park of Georgia and Long Beach, Calif. Mayor Robert Garcia — three gay men — were part of the 2020 keynote address at the Democratic National Convention.
Kenyatta, 30, represents the 181st District in the Pennsylvania General Assembly. He raised his profile in May with a fiery speech on the assembly floor. “You can boo, but it’s true!” Kenyatta exclaimed as he rose to counter a Republican proposal of re-opening restaurants in the state.
Kenyatta’s demands of safe working conditions and fair wages during the midst of the coronavirus pandemic were greeted with boos from his Republican colleagues.
“They are booing working people who are just trying to ask how they can go to work without getting sick, which is not the most outrageous request,” Kenyatta said of that moment.
Mark Segal founded the Philadelphia Gay News in 1976. He is a mentor and friend to Kenyatta and his fiancé, Dr. Matthew Jordan Miller.
“As someone who has been doing what I’ve been doing for 50 years now it is a delight to see someone like Malcolm come on the scene,” Segal said. “Someone that the LGBT community nationally has not seen in a long, long, long time.”
Segal recognized Kenyatta’s potential in becoming a significant figure in public service.
“He’s totally an original,” Segal said. “But he has that spark of activism and progressiveness that we had way back in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. He has that spark of Stonewall. He has that activism in him.”
Kenyatta is a surrogate for former Vice President Joe Biden. If Biden were to knock off sitting President Donald Trump in November, Pennsylvania and its 20 electoral votes are key.
Kenyatta said it's going to take resources of money and time to turn his state blue. Pennsylvania, he said, has many swing seats “that are right on the edge” that Democrats can win.
“The national election sucks all the oxygen out of the room,” Kenyatta said. “When the reality is property taxes and schools and criminal justice reform and police reform and illegal guns and stopping the flow of these easily accessible weapons of war on our streets. So many of these things aren’t going to be solved in the Oval Office or on Capitol Hill, so many of these issues are going to be determined in state legislatures.”
Pennsylvania legalized same-sex marriage in May of 2014. Kenyatta met Miller, an author, on the social networking app, Instagram. He said they are planning a ceremony for 2021.
“When I wanted to marry the man I loved, Joe Biden was the first national figure to support me and my family,” Kenyatta said as part of the DNC’s 11-minute keynote address video.
Georgia Representative Sam Park also participated in the video.
Park, 34, an openly gay man, expressed concern about how schools will re-open during the pandemic.
“When teachers in Gwinnett, Georgia and across the country are being asked to return to the classroom without a plan to keep them safe and parents are exhausted juggling full-time work and full-time childcare,” Park said.
Park was raised by South Korean immigrants and is the first Asian American man elected to the Georgia legislature. He recently lost his mother to cancer. Feelings of grief were part of Park’s keynote comments.
“We have lived that feeling of helplessness,” Park said. “When someone you love is very sick and access to healthcare is a matter of life and death.”
The third member of this distinguished group is Garcia, the Mayor of Long Beach, Calif. Garcia, 42, is a first-generation immigrant from Peru and vocal supporter of California Sen. Kamala Harris, Biden’s vice presidential nominee.
Recently, Garcia blasted the Trump campaign’s doom and gloom strategy.
“Donald Trump is talking about America like he hasn’t been the President for the last 3+ years,” Garcia tweeted. “He’s going to try to inflame the country to win the election — and we can’t let that happen. No more lies. No more appeasement. We will push back every single time.”
Alan Quach has met Garcia multiple times. A resident of Long Beach, Quach said Garcia has done a “wonderful job of making Long Beach gay friendly.”
First elected Mayor in 2014, Garcia, a former Republican, won re-election in 2018. Long Beach is California’s seventh-largest city with more than 462,000 people and a deepwater port which is the nation’s second-busiest container ship port.
In his DNC keynote speech, Garcia said he has “lived the frustration of paying off student loans.”
The son of housekeepers, Garcia has a PhD in Educational Policy and is fluent in English and Spanish. He married his spouse, Matthew Mendez in 2018.