A native of Stockton, California, Lange P. Luntao is one of an increasingly large group of “boomerangs,” local slang for college-educated millennials who decide to return to Stockton and serve their local community. Luntao is of Filipino-Irish heritage and comes from a family of teachers. After graduating with honors from Harvard University in 2012, where he was politically active as Communications Director for the campus’ College Democrats, he followed in the footsteps of his parents him and became a Fulbright fellow in Malaysia before teaching ethnic studies and sociology at a local Stockton college preparatory school.
When Luntao was elected as a Board Trustee for the Stockton Unified School District in 2016, he became the first openly gay man elected to public office in San Joaquin Valley as well as the youngest member ever elected to the Board at the age of 26. Luntao regularly collaborates with the San Joaquin Pride Center and counsels at the Center’s Gender Alliance Association.
When asked about what he thinks it means for the local Stockton and LGBTQIA communities to see an out gay man in public office, Luntao quickly pointed out Stockton is a city in a red part of California that is still homophobic and conservative. “I think about how growing up I didn’t have many LGBT role models to look to in the community. It’s important for me to be a voice of acceptance, inclusion, and diversity, particularly in schools, because the message that’s given to LGBTQ educators is that you need to hide who you are. That’s a disservice to our kids, especially to those who are struggling with their gender identity or are LGBT, because it’s important to be who you are and live truthfully”. Luntao also remarks that most out LGBT leaders represent a limited number of metropolitan areas, and it is also important to spread a message of acceptance and inclusion in suburban and rural areas.
On the same day Luntao was elected, former schoolmate Michael Tubbs, ran and won against the incumbent Stockton Councilmember for District 6 in 2012, later going on to win the seat of mayorship of Stockton in 2016 after being endorsed by then-President Obama. Tubbs defeated his opponent by a majority and became the city’s youngest mayor at 26 as well as the first African American mayor of Stockton. These two young men are members of a millennial generation campaigning for change and societal justice and it is fair to say they, along with their peers, are only getting started. And as for the prospect of Luntao in higher political office? “I’m not sure! I love the work I’m doing to improve our school system and I want to do it well”.
Luntao wants to leave a message to young LGBTQ individuals across the country: “elected office is not for everyone. Running for office is tough and it opens you up to scrutiny. But there’s a role for everyone in our civic democracy. If you don’t want to run, run someone’s campaign, or attend board meetings and hold people accountable. I want many more LGBT folks to run, but more than that I just want our community to link in with the political system to build a government that looks like, understands, and attempts to serve the duplicity of us’s”.