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Longtime political activist Margaret “Midge” Costanza died yesterday in Hillcrest after a battle with cancer. She was 77.

She most recently served as a public affairs officer for District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis. She had a long career in politics, having managed a New York county campaign for Senator Robert Kennedy in 1964 and served as assistant to the president for public liaison during Jimmy Carter’s administration.

It was in that role, according to Costanza’s obituary in the Gay & Lesbian Times, that Costanza organized an unprecedented White House meeting of gay and lesbian activists and “opened the doors for gay rights to be discussed on a national level,” according to the former director of National Gay Rights Advocates.

She moved to San Diego in 1990 and was active in local political races as well as in the LGBT community. She served as an adjunct professor at San Diego State University, where she established the Midge Costanza Institute for the Study of Politics and Public Policy.

In the Union-Tribune’s obituary of Costanza, Dumanis credits Costanza for her success: “I’m the first woman D.A. in San Diego because Midge paved the way,” she told the newspaper.

Before arriving on the San Diego political scene or even the national one, Costanza cut her teeth on local politics in her hometown of Rochester, NY, where she became the first woman elected to the Rochester City Council, according to her obituary in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.

“She was a great source of pride for Rochester,” the city’s mayor said.

Writing for SDNN, Vince Hall, vice president of public affairs for Planned Parenthood in San Diego said:

Midge never lost sight of her one true purpose in life: to make our nation a better place, where women are full and equal partners, not just in theory — but in every real aspect of our lives from the class room to the board room to the White House.

Do you have personal memories of Costanza and her work locally? Feel free to share your reflections by commenting on this post.

— ADRIAN FLORIDO

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