Kevin James (left) joins Mayor Pete Buttigieg (center) and Mayor Eric Garcetti (right) at LA rally. (Photo by Al Seib, Los Angeles Times)

Making the Switch from Republican to Democrat

Kevin James
5 min readJul 2, 2019

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LA Public Works President, Film Chief, and former Republican Mayoral candidate just did it — here’s why.

Turning 18 years old days before my freshman year of college in Norman, Oklahoma, and just two months after the first AIDS cases were discovered in 1981, I had no idea that my twenties would be consumed by worry, fear, stigma, anger, and the brutal early death of friends my age. Eighteen was not supposed to be middle age. For all I knew, I wouldn’t live to be 30.

People were afraid of us. Employers were afraid to hire us. Some family members were even afraid to hug their gay sons and brothers.

I moved to Los Angeles in the 1980s to find a community willing to accept me as a gay man, a community where I had the chance to grow and to thrive even while the darkness, pain, and uncertainty of the AIDS epidemic affected every part of my life. I still had something to offer.

LA offered a home to our community in the middle of a modern plague. LA was also equipped with the best medical care in the world to help our sick and dying brothers and sisters.

LA is special. There were only two or three cities in the world at that time where such a supportive community could have been created.

Feeling guilt and frankly lucky to be healthy, I reached out to AIDS Project Los Angeles to volunteer my help. It was during my early days at APLA that I first met immigrants that I learned were undocumented. They were receiving services from APLA provided because of their HIV status and regardless of their immigration status.

I was an active Democrat during those years. But as the death sentence related to AIDS finally subsided and my term as Co-Chair of the Board of APLA expired, I grew less interested in party politics, and re-registered as a “decline-to-state” voter. Around the same time, in 2002, a high-profile legal case I was handling resulted in my frequent appearance as a guest on talk radio programs, which then led to my own talk radio show.

With economic and financial matters in mind, and a desire to encourage Republicans and conservatives to support LGBT issues, in 2007 I registered as a Republican.

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Kevin James

President of City of Los Angeles Board of Public Works and Director of LA Mayor’s Office of Film & TV. Former entertainment litigator and Assistant US Attorney.