Westside Bash 

Council candidates trade charges on sexual orientation

Thursday, Mar 3 2005
An undercurrent of gay-bashing has emerged in the hard-fought 11th District City Council race, but in this case it is a straight candidate, Flora Gil Krisiloff, who claims to be victimized by a campaign of innuendo that she is anti-gay.

Krisiloff alleges that one of her two opponents, Bill Rosendahl, has attempted to dissuade voters in the Westside district from supporting her by portraying her as unfriendly to gays.

“I’ve been painted as anti-gay when I’m absolutely not,” Krisiloff said.

Rosendahl, a professor at Cal State Dominguez Hills and a former civic affairs talk-show host, is gay. Both candidates boast endorsements from prominent gay leaders. Attorney Angela Reddock also is running. If none of the candidates to succeed outgoing Councilwoman Cindy Miscikowski receives more than 50 percent of the vote in the March 8 election, the top two finishers will face off in a May 17 runoff.

Krisiloff said Rosendahl and members of his staff began contacting community leaders and gay voters last fall to ask if they knew about her attitude toward gays. The charge is supported by Lance Lipscomb, a Krisiloff backer who said Rosendahl campaign manager Mike Bonin called him and posed the anti-gay issue.

Lipscomb, a community activist and hotel executive, told the Weekly he was undecided in the race until late last year, when he sent both Krisiloff and Rosendahl an e-mail detailing the basis for his decision on whom to back. He went with Krisiloff. Then, he said, came the call from Bonin, who “asked if I knew Flora was anti-gay.”

Lipscomb sent Rosendahl and Bonin a letter in January objecting to the call, saying he was stunned by the “implication that I had not done my homework” before deciding to back Krisiloff.

“As a gay man myself, I know this anti-gay characterization is completely untrue . . .” Lipscomb wrote. “The repeating of an alleged comment that involves an emotionally charged subject is irresponsible unless thoroughly documented and addressed directly by the accuser to the accused.”

Krisiloff campaign staffer Janny Kim told the Weekly that she was present at a Westchester community meeting last year where, she said, Bonin and Rosendahl told Sierra Club member Marcia Hanscomb — a Rosendahl supporter — that the former Sierra Club legislative director was wrong to have endorsed Krisiloff.

“Bill said she doesn’t like gays and that Bob Hattoy shouldn’t be endorsing her,” Kim said.

Hanscomb remembers the encounter, although she recalls the details differently. “I can tell you that I was told Ms. Krisiloff had been going around whispering to people that Bill is gay.”

Krisiloff denied that she or her campaign staff ever made an issue of sexual orientation. She said she was especially sensitive to discrimination, having been a victim of racial bias (she is of Asian and Costa Rican descent). She declined to elaborate but attorney Irving Reifman, in a February 11 letter to Rosendahl, said Krisiloff “had to endure taunts of ‘half breed’ through her early life.”

Much of the basis for the anti-gay innuendo is traceable to community forums, at which Krisiloff discusses her family. When presenting a biographical sketch, the candidate routinely mentions her husband and three sons, and on at least one occasion has noted that “I am the only candidate who is married and has children.”

A statement similar to that one caught the attention of Pat McOsker, president of the United Firefighters of Los Angeles, which backed Rosendahl after hearing from each of the candidates. “She did make a point of telling the firefighters present that she was the only married person in the race,” McOsker said.

Robert Acherman, a Westchester activist, said Krisiloff spoke to him and several others at a community picnic last year.

“She made sure to mention that Bill was gay,” Acherman said. “I think she was trying to scare people in a way.”

In a prepared statement, Rosendahl denied calling Krisiloff anti-gay, but also expressed concern about comments he has heard that Krisiloff made about him.

“I have not said Flora Krisiloff is anti-gay, and I do not believe that she is,” Rosendahl said. “I have been disturbed, however, that a number of extremely credible people have told me that she has on a number of occasions said things about me that have been interpreted as gratuitous comments about my sexual orientation.”

These included McOsker “and another prominent community leader,” Rosendahl said. He added that he and Bonin “contacted some of her top supporters in an effort to persuade her to be more careful about these comments in the future.”

Rosendahl also said that “unlike Ms. Krisiloff, I have not and will not attempt to make this a public issue.”

Krisiloff denied that she ever discussed her opponent’s sexual orientation, and said her mention of her family was just “a fact of my life.”

“It’s not different from me pointing out that I’m a public health nurse,” Krisiloff said. “I’ve spent the last 20 years raising my sons while having a parallel career in public service. My family is such a big part of my life, and not to be used in the way the Rosendahl camp is using it. I don’t understand what I’m supposed to have done wrong.”

Reddock, the third candidate, is single.

Tim Key, chief public-affairs officer for the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center, said that although anti-gay sentiment exists in Los Angeles County, it’s fairly well-known in political circles that even subtle gay-bashing can spark more negative reaction than can homosexuality.

“I think it’s a politically risky move here in Los Angeles,” Key said. “It usually backfires here if you try and do that.”

Robin Toma, executive director of the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission, said it was legitimate to ask why a candidate would continually point out that she is married, because it could be a type of “code,” much as candidates once stressed that they were landowners to transmit that they — in an era of alien land laws — were native-born Americans.

“But I certainly wouldn’t make the attribution that it shows she’s anti-gay,” Toma said.

The twist on gay-bashing — the issue of whether it crosses the line for a straight candidate to point out that she is the only one in the race who is married and has a family, or whether it instead is crossing the line for a gay candidate to portray such statements as evidence of the opponent being anti-gay — adds an extra touch of tension to an already touchy race in the closing week of the campaign.

Miscikowski staff chief Alex Ponder, a Krisiloff supporter who is gay, said any anti-gay allegations against Krisiloff are off the mark.

“All you need to do to verify that Flora is not a gay-basher is to talk to Flora.”

Rosendahl supporter Sheila Bernard said she isn’t surprised that in the final weeks the campaign is going negative. She pointed out that she recently received a mailer alleging that Rosendahl “flip-flopped” on the controversial issue of the Playa Vista development, when in fact he always opposed it.

“I hoped we wouldn’t see it, but there is going to be some negative campaigning this week,” Bernard said.?

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