Historic Trans-Activist Drops Her California Campaign Bid

Ashlee Marie Preston is withdrawing from the California state house race, claiming ‘dirty tricks’ by the opposition.


Rodin Eckenroth/Getty

The transgender activist who announced a bid for elected office in California after confronting Caitlyn Jenner at a benefit last summer is pulling out of the race for state assembly.

Ashlee Marie Preston tells The Daily Beast in an exclusive interview that she had insufficient time to mount the type of campaign needed for an insurgent, unconventional candidacy such as hers.

“I cried the entire night,” Preston said by phone from New Haven, Conn., where she is participating in a panel discussion of black feminism at Yale University Friday. She planned to attend a meet and greet at the campus pride center later in the day, and said she decided overnight she couldn’t go there and pretend she was still a candidate.

According to the California Secretary of State’s website, the deadline to file paperwork to run for the District 54 seat, which is vacant following the resignation of California Assemblyman Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, was Thursday at 5 p.m. PST.

Preston, who was the first transgender editor-in-chief at Wear Your Voice magazine, positioned herself to run as the first out transgender candidate for statewide office. In addition to defending the LGBT community, she had promised to address issues that included immigration, rape culture, and police brutality.

As a trans woman of color, she made headlines in August when she called Caitlyn Jenner “a f----ing fraud” at a performance of the Trans Chorus of Los Angeles. Video of the showdown posted to Preston’s Facebook page has been viewed more than 531,000 times. The encounter, recorded one month after President Trump announced a ban on transgender military service via Twitter, put Jenner on the spot for supporting Trump for president.

“It’s really f----ed up that you continue to support somebody ... that’s erasing our f----ing community. And you support it!” Preston said in the video. “You are directly responsible for what has happened with transgender soldiers and the military. I am not afraid to say it to you.”

Jenner had tweeted her opposition to the ban the same day as the president’s tweet, but the former Olympian remains a staunch Republican, and has hinted she herself may seek political office.

Preston was running as a Democrat and faced stiff opposition in her bid to represent Century City, Westwood and a number of other Los Angeles neighborhoods. She blamed her decision to withdraw on “dirty tricks” but  hesitated when asked to elaborate.

“We have to be mindful of who we let into our spaces,” Preston told The Daily Beast by phone, when asked if bias, hate or perhaps indifference was behind her decision to quit. “When given the opportunity to raise up other voices, some people who make a big show of being supporters actually oppress and resort to dirty tricks. But there were so many people who did stand up and support me, and those are the people I want to acknowledge. And I will be doing that.”

When asked about the funds donated to her campaign and whether she would be returning them, Preston said “some funds were used to pay staff, and those will not be refunded. But I will reverse and refund what was given after a certain date,” she said, but declined to say when.