Bonnie Dumanis, California, 1994
Bonnie Dumanis (R)
San Diego, California
Elected Municipal Court Judge 1994
Elected Superior Court Judge 1998
Elected District Attorney 2002
News article about Bonnie Dumanis
Judge Nation's First Openly Gay D.A.
By Ryan Pearson
Associated Press, November 13, 2002
SAN DIEGO (AP) - A state judge was chosen as the nation's first openly gay district attorney after winning a bitter, tightly contested election that took a week of vote counting to decide.
Bonnie Dumanis declared victory Tuesday after the counting of 10,000 absentee and provisional ballots showed her leading incumbent San Diego County District Attorney Paul Pfingst by 3,556 votes with only about 200 remaining to be counted.
Dumanis, 50, becomes the first openly gay district attorney in the United States, according to the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund.
"I think this was more about my opponent than it was about me," Dumanis said Tuesday. "The message was: It was time for a change."
Later in the day, Pfingst issued a concession statement thanking his supporters and his office's employees.
Pfingst headed an office that boasted the state's highest felony conviction rate, but his second four-year term was dogged by scandals. Pfingst was accused of failing to enforce ethics codes, and a one-time top deputy was convicted of theft for using employees and equipment from the office to run his personal business.
Dumanis entered the nonpartisan race last year after the county prosecutors' union gave Pfingst a no-confidence vote.
She didn't make her sexual orientation an issue. "Healing the office is the top priority," she said.
However, voters in the Hillcrest and North Park neighborhoods, the center of the city's gay community, favored Dumanis by a 2-to-1 margin and may have been key to her victory, according to an analysis by The San Diego Union-Tribune.
Dumanis said she was "proud and pleased to be a part of the gay community" but noted she also had support outside those areas.
The campaign became bitter and sometimes mean-spirited as Pfingst was accused of making anti-Semitic comments about a fellow prosecutor 17 years ago, and Dumanis was prompted to disclose that she had attempted suicide in the 1980s.
The Washington, D.C.-based Victory Fund promoted Dumanis nationwide by asking members for donations and sending out 7,000 mailers featuring her picture. Group members contributed about $11,000 to her campaign, said fund spokesman Jason Young.
Young said he expects Dumanis to be "tough on all crime," including hate crimes targeting gays and lesbians. "Gay and lesbian San Diegans can look forward to strong support in the district attorney's office."
Dumanis plans to form a cold-case homicide task force and launch new initiatives on white-collar and narcotics crime. She said the office under Pfingst "has done a lot in the hate crime area and I think that should continue."