Toni Atkins

Gay rights activist and political power broker Ben Dillingham dies at 72

Gay rights activist and political power broker Ben Dillingham dies at 72

Ben Dillingham, a retired Marine who became a political power broker clearing a path for pioneering gay office holders in Southern California, has died at his home in San Diego. He was 72.

“He was the lodestar for those of us aspiring to serve in politics,” said state Sen. Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), who in 2014 became the first lesbian speaker of the state Assembly.

Dillingham died Thursday after battling pancreatic cancer.

Dillingham became the top aide for San Diego Mayor Maureen O’Connor after her election in 1986 and soon...

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