Yeager Suspends State Senate Bid to Lead BAYMEC Foundation

Three-and-a-half decades after co-founding the Bay Area Municipal Elections Committee, Ken Yeager has decided to call off his bid for state Senate to take the helm as the first-ever executive director of the LGBTQ advocacy group’s philanthropic arm.

The BAYMEC Community Foundation, which spun off from the parent organization in 2013, announced the hire Wednesday, Yeager’s first day on the job. “I’m delighted to be taking on this new endeavor,” the recently termed-out Santa Clara County supervisor said in a press release. “There is so much that needs to be done.”

This particular endeavor may be new to Yeager, but the cause of advancing queer and trans rights has defined his career from the launch of BAYMEC to his election as the first openly gay elected in the South Bay to his tenure on the county Board of Supervisors.

“We are very excited to have … Yeager on board,” BAYMEC Community Foundation Board President James Gonzales said. “We see it as a continuation of the great job he has been going in the community over the past 35 years. Frankly, we can’t think of anyone who knows these issues as well as he does.”

Yeager, 66, who also teaches political science part-time at San Jose State, said leading BAYMEC will allow him to continue the work he championed as a county elected. “There is so much that needs to be done,” he said.

For one thing, Yeager said he can keep working with local high schools and colleges on developing LGBTQ-informed curriculum and policies. He also wants to support the county’s Getting to Zero campaign to stamp out HIV, an initiative he lobbied for as supervisor. Another priority: building gay-friendly senior housing, something he started before leaving office.

The elder statesman said he’s equally committed to ensuring that the county’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs—another achievement from his time in office—remains adequately funded and staffed. Same for two other programs he fought for: an LGBTQ homeless shelter and Gender Health Center at Valley Health Center.

“There is no shortage of work that needs to be done,” Yeager said. “I hope the [BAYMEC] foundation gets to the point soon where he can open an office and be a place where interns and volunteers can work on issues of concern to our community.”

Though he won’t rule out a run for office in the future, Yeager said he plans to commit to his work with the foundation because it’s so intertwined with his legacy.

The career public servant launched the PAC’s parent nonprofit in 1984 with fellow queer activist Wiggsy Siversten. Eight years later, Yeager made history as the first gay man to win elected office in Silicon Valley when he won a seat on the San Jose-Evergreen Community College Board of Trustees. He’d go on to serve on the San Jose City Council for two terms and another two on the county Board of Supes.

Siversten applauded Yeager’s decision to return to his roots.

“Ken is the one person who can effectively bridge all the community organizations and leaders to city and county services,” she said. “I’m glad we’re not losing him to Sacramento, at least not for the time being.”

Yeager’s exit from the race for state Sen. Jim Beall’s District 15 seat narrows the field to his erstwhile county board colleague Supervisor Dave Cortese, San Jose Councilman Johnny Khamis, former Assemblywoman Nora Campos and former FEC chair Ann Ravel.

Jennifer Wadsworth is the former news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.


  1. Finally Yeager shows signs of intelligent life. He had a zero chance of winning unless for running for Most Useless Public Official. Yeager is stuck in the past. Discrimination is illegal. Besides, nobody cares about sexual orientation anymore.

    Advocating for “gay friendly senior housing” is idiotic. Please Ken, tell us who isn’t treating people equally before waving the rainbow false flag. But if “gay friendly” housing is needed, then we absolutely must reinstate “separate, but equal” accommodations for Hispanic friendly, Asian friendly, Native American friendly, and friendly housing.

    Then there is Yeager’s support of HIV “Getting To Zero”. About 15,800 Americans died in 2016 who were HIV+, though HIV was not necessarily the cause of death. Deaths due to old age, car crashes, suicide, are included in the figure.

    Meanwhile over 75,000 Americans died of opioids last year. Opioids, crystal meth, alcohol, and suicide cause many more deaths. These are a much more serious health problem than HIV and disproportionately impact the LGBT community.

    The only good news is that Yeager has been put out to pasture in BAYMEC. Both have become irrelevant anachronisms.

  2. “first-ever executive director of the LGBTQ advocacy group’s philanthropic arm.” = Rainbow (Golden) Handshake. Pretty sweet deal. On top of pension.

  3. Thank you Gay in SJ for your comments. Mr. Yeager was locally known as “Yeagar the Quitter” , he quit nearly every project he started as a Supervisor in Santa Clara County.

    Ken Yeagar quitting had nothing to do with his sexual orientation. This is Silicon Valley, most people here really don’t care about that.

    They care about what people do, and Mr. Yeager shamelessly wore the LGBTQ badge to give him access and standing but once he had that standing he did little good, lots of harm and he knew he would never see the light of day in elected office as a state senator.

    Ann Ravel, who is also running for office, I understand worked with now Governor Gavin Newsom on passing Prop 8. I understand Ms. Ravel and Mr. Newsom both represent they are married to persons of the opposite sex. So what?

    Didn’t Prop 8 do more for people who want to marry someone of the same sex than Mr. Yeagar did for the LGBTQ community? No, Mr. Yeagar didn’t continue his run for senate because he knew it would be a failed effort because voters here knew the truth.

    Most of all, ” Yeagar the Quitter” knew that when he had an opportunity to step up and do something for a bisexual father who had been beaten down in our local courts by recalled Judge Aaron Persky, he did nothing.

    Mr. Yeagar knew that when that father complained to the Los Gatos police and DA Jeff Rosen about the abuse, they did nothing, despite the fact that father had campaigned for Mr. Rosen in 2010.

    And when Supervisor Yeagar learned that man had been sexually abused by a Rabbi at Shir Hadash in Los Gatos and offered nearly $350,000 in a settlement that would prevent him from talking about it, that Mr. Yeagar did nothing about that.

    IMO, Mr. Yeagar quit because he knew he would never get the LGBTQ vote, the mom vote, the dad vote, the youth vote, or any votes that will matter. And Mr. Yeagar knew that the same vote that recalled Judge Aaron Persky in a landslide 2018 June primary, would prevent Mr. Yeagar and Mr. Dave Cortese from ever being senators in California.

    Odds are, Mr. Cortese will be the next to dream up the PR statement explaining that he is suspending his campaign.

    Despite how it often appears, people in Santa Clara County really just want to vote for individuals willing to do the right thing.

    • Thank you for the additional insights and advocacy.

      AFAIK, there remains only 1 area of discrimination: civilian blood donation by men having same sex encounters within the past 12 months. Otherwise, no LGBT restrictions. The honor system is used and all blood is screened. No such restrictions for US military, EU, Australia, New Zealand, and probably more too. I’ve donated blood in 3 non-US countries.

      Restrictions were prudent when HIV blood screening technology wasn’t available. But it’s been around for years in the US and developed countries. I have a much needed blood type, am HIV negative, only have protected sex, but a donation is declined unless I become celibate.

      Tough moral choice when I read of urgent appeals for my blood type. Do I lie and maybe help save a life or not donate? So far it’s been no donation. Organ donations are screened for HIV. Am registered organ donor and everything is in good working order. Transplant patients could get my heart, liver, kidneys, and eyes. But not my blood.

      Yeager is abundantly aware of the situation, but declines to advocate for scientific reform. Meanwhile supply restrictions increase medical costs and puts patients at risk due to scarcity.

  4. Ken Yeager is an icon for a lot of the LGBTQ community, but that is fading, and recent events have proven he only wears that badge of gay honor for a ‘card’. it’s 2019, no one cares who you love. Everyone I know in the community saw this coming that he would have a larger role in BAYMEC. This organization is a farce today, yesterday it actually stood for something. But i realized the toxicity, the clique and ‘the club’ upon my own political endeavors as a queer candidate. I had sought the organizations endorsement, offered an olive branch in an area they politically forget, and yet I was politically down the middle, and provided great solutions to future of development and progress. They refused to have an interview before the board, and decided not to endorse the only gay candidate in entire bay area. This was politically motivated and cowardly giving no reason, when they themselves endorsed new candidates around the bay with no experience and even endorsing the Mayor of Long Beach (if i remember Long Beach is very far from the bay area). When I watched the BAYMEC special that was filmed it was very hypocritical because they acted entirely different following and very cold to approach unless you could do something for them.
    He promotes his books but fails to promote or give new people a chance. I feel he is part of the corporate clique and they only use our diversity to use against one another. BAYMEC practices Selective Inclusion it which who they feel represents their agenda, you can be gay, lesbian or trans, but if you don’t agree 100% you are not in the band.

    If you look at all the endorsements given in last election cycle they are all connected and mainly friends. Until they start supporting grassroots candidates, I will not be giving the support to BAYMEC or recognizing its influence and false mission statement.

    Don’t count Ken out yet, he will be back running for an elected office in no time. Evan Low and Yeager are making “Progress” in the name of equality. Equality would be treating others the same despite differences. The clique does not want to lose its power or influence. Essentially follow the money.

    Thanks for your service Ken, but its time for a new generation and you need an open mind. You have paved the way for many, now its time to start passing the torch to out of the box thinkers. Go with your heart, not your wallet.

    • Clarification. – They Decided not to endorse therefore was only gay candidate not endorsed by BAYMEC

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