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Victory Fund endorses Catania for mayor

David Catania, Catania for mayor, D.C. Council, gay news, Washington Blade

David Catania won the Victory Fund’s endorsement even though he hasn’t yet announced his candidacy for mayor. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, an influential national group that raises money for LGBT candidates for public office, created a stir among local activists this week when it announced it has endorsed D.C. Council member David Catania (I-At-Large) for mayor.

With many LGBT activists supporting Mayor Vincent Gray’s re-election bid and others in the LGBT community supporting one of the four other City Council members running for mayor, some are asking why the Victory Fund would endorse Catania before he has formally announced he’s running for mayor.

Catania has formed an exploratory committee for a mayoral race and has said he most likely would run if Gray wins the Democratic primary on April 1.

Victory Fund Press Secretary Steven Thai said that while the group doesn’t endorse unannounced potential candidates very often, it has taken this step before. He noted that the Victory Fund endorsed former U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) for the U.S. Senate in 2012 before she officially announced she was running for the Senate.

Baldwin went on to declare her candidacy for the Senate and won that race, making history by becoming the first out lesbian or gay person to become a U.S. senator.

“David Catania brings an incredible amount of passion and commitment to his job,” the Victory Fund’s chief operating officer, Torey Carter, said in a statement released by the group on Tuesday.

“He helped guide Washington through a period of unprecedented growth and revitalization,” Carter said. “He is ideally positioned to lead a city with such a diverse and dynamic people.”

The Victory Fund also announced on Tuesday its endorsement of gay Virginia State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) in his race for the 8th District U.S. House seat being vacated by retiring Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.).

Ebbin is running in a hotly contested Democratic primary scheduled for June 10 in which two other openly gay candidates are running in an 11-candidate race.

“Adam Ebbin has distinguished himself as an outspoken voice of progressive values,” Carter said in a separate statement on Tuesday. “After ten years in the state legislature, he has remained committed to his goal of increasing equality and opportunity for those who are often left behind.”

Virginia State Del. Mark Sickles (D-Fairfax), who came out publicly last week in a column in the Washington Post, emerged as an unexpected ‘out’ candidate in the 8th District congressional race. Also running is gay rights attorney and radio talk show host Mark Levine, who worked as a legal counsel for gay former U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.). Levine says he’s been out as gay since the 1980s.

As of this week, the Victory Fund has endorsed 71 out LGBT candidates in national, state and local races and expects to endorse more than 200 out candidates across the country in the 2014 election cycle, the group says on its website.

Among those endorsed so far are at least nine gay or lesbian candidates running in D.C., Maryland and Virginia, including Catania and Ebbin.

But missing from its endorsement list so far are lesbian Maryland Del. Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery Country), who’s running for governor, and gay D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), who is running for re-election to a fifth term.

Spokesperson Thai reiterated the Victory Fund’s longstanding policy of not disclosing why the group has not endorsed a candidate. However, he said many more candidates are in the endorsement pipeline and the group could very well endorse candidates not on the list in the next few weeks and coming months.

He said the group’s criteria for endorsing any candidate, as posted on the website, include a demonstration that the candidate is viable and can show a path to victory; a record of support on LGBT rights; and the completion of a detailed application seeking an endorsement. Thai said an endorsement for a prior election doesn’t carry over to the next election and all incumbents must re-apply each time they run.

Graham couldn’t immediately be reached to determine if he applied for an endorsement in his Council race.

The Mizeur for governor campaign didn’t say specifically whether the campaign formally applied for a Victory Fund endorsement.

“We are in close communication with the Victory Fund and we would welcome their support,” campaign spokesperson Steven Hershkowitz told the Blade.

Meanwhile, in a little-noticed development, Del. Peter Murphy (D-Charles County), one of eight openly gay members of the Maryland General Assembly, announced last month that he is not running for re-election to that position. Instead, Murphy said he decided to run for president of the Charles County Board of Commissioners, a position equivalent to a county executive.

“Whether you’re a state legislator or a county commissioner president, it’s all about the quality of life for all people,” Murphy said in a Feb. 3 statement. “I’ve always been accessible and responsive as a delegate, and I look forward to the opportunity of continuing to serve all our residents with the same enthusiasm and dedication.”

As a candidate for governor, Mizeur is giving up her seat in the House of Delegates. Records with the state board of elections show that she did not file for re-election to her delegate post prior to the filing deadline of Feb. 25. The election board lists Mizeur as an “active” candidate for governor in the June 24 Maryland primary.

The departure of Mizeur and Murphy from the House of Delegates would lower the number of out gay or lesbian members of the Maryland General Assembly from eight – the highest in the nation for a state legislature – to six if all six remaining lawmakers are re-elected this year.

The others running for re-election are State Sen. Richard Madelano (D-Montgomery County) and Delegates Maggie McIntosh (D-Baltimore City), Luke Clippinger (D-Baltimore City), Mary Washington (D-Baltimore City), Anne Kaiser (D-Montgomery County) and Bonnie Cullison (D-Montgomery County).

All except Kaiser have been endorsed by the Victory Fund.

Other out gay or lesbian candidates in Maryland that have received the Victory Fund’s endorsement this year are Evan Glass, Montgomery County Council; Byron Macfarlane, Howard County Register of Wills; and Kevin Walling, Maryland House of Delegates, Montgomery County.

Walling is running in a different district than that of Mizeur and Kaiser’s districts in Montgomery County.

26
Feb
2014

Levine seeks U.S. House seat from Va.

Mark Levine, Democratic Party, Virginia, gay news, Washington Blade

Mark Levine (Photo courtesy of Levine for Congress)

Gay rights attorney and radio talk show host Mark Levine on March 9 officially launched his campaign for the U.S House seat in Northern Virginia being vacated by retiring Rep. Jim Moran (D).

At a rally in his Old Town Alexandria townhouse packed with supporters and family members, including his parents, Levine described himself as an “aggressive progressive” who will fight for the progressive causes and policies that he said many fellow Democrats have shied away from.

As a staff attorney for gay former Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), Levine said LGBT rights and marriage equality would be an important part of his campaign platform and would be at the top of his agenda if elected to Congress.

“I think all too often Democrats take what they can get and maybe cast a vote but aren’t out there changing the course of the debate,” he said.

“So those of you who know me and even some of you that don’t know me that well know that I’m really not a quiet person,” he said, drawing laughter and applause. “I don’t think we need quiet people in Congress.”

Levine is one of 11 candidates running in the hotly contested Democratic primary in a heavily Democratic district where the winner of the primary is expected to win the general election in November.

Among the others running are gay Virginia State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria), and State Del. Mark Sickles (D-Fairfax), who came out as gay last month in a column in the Washington Post.

The Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, which raises money for out LGBT candidates, has endorsed Ebbin. The group called Ebbin a champion for progressive causes and LGBT equality during his nine years in the Virginia General Assembly, both as a senator and former delegate.

Levine said he hopes to distinguish himself from his rivals by drawing attention to his experience in legal and public policy work for more than 20 years. He pointed to his stint as a congressional staffer and his outspoken advocacy for progressive causes, including universal health care, in his regular appearances on radio and TV political talk shows such as those on Fox News and MSNBC.

12
Mar
2014

Catania enters race for mayor

David Catania, gay news, Washington Blade

David Catania is the first serious openly gay contender for the office of D.C. mayor. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

D.C. Council member David Catania (I-At-Large) filed papers on Wednesday to become a candidate for mayor in the November general election, saying he has the “values and the vision and the tenacity” to tackle the challenges facing the city.

As a 16-year veteran on the Council with a long record of legislative accomplishments, including his role as author of the city’s historic marriage equality law, Catania becomes the first serious openly gay contender for the office of D.C. mayor with a shot at winning.

“This is a city that believes strongly in equality of opportunity, a strong sense of fairness and the importance of playing by the rules,” Catania said at a news conference outside the city’s Reeves Center municipal building, where he registered his candidacy.

“These are the values we all share and these are the ones that have guided me since I was elected,” he said.

In what many LGBT activists will likely view as a twist of fate, a large segment of the city’s LGBT community has already lined up behind the re-election campaign of Mayor Vincent Gray, who they consider the most LGBT-supportive mayor in the history of the city.

The potential dilemma of LGBT voters having to choose between an out gay candidate with a longstanding record of support on their issues and a pro-LGBT mayor they consider a longtime friend and ally was likely heightened on Wednesday when Catania reiterated his call for Gray to resign.

When asked by reporters at his news conference what he thought about revelations by the U.S. Attorney earlier this week that Gray was aware of an illegal “shadow campaign” orchestrated by businessman Jeffrey Thompson to benefit Gray’s 2010 mayoral campaign, Catania said he believes the allegations to be true.

“I made my feelings known about the mayor’s shadow campaign when it was first disclosed nearly two years ago,” he said. “I said he should have resigned then and I believe that today.”

Catania, however, said the timing of his declaration of candidacy for this week was set in motion over a week ago, before the revelations of the U.S. Attorney were known, when he set up a campaign bank account that required him to formally enter the race this week.

Catania said he’s ready to run against Gray or any of the other seven Democrats challenging Gray in the city’s April 1 Democratic primary, including four of Catania’s Democratic colleagues on the Council.

In response to questions by reporters, Catania said he’s not at all deterred by the fact that he’s an independent and former Republican running in a city with an overwhelmingly Democratic electorate. No non-Democrat has ever won election as mayor in the District of Columbia.

“I want to be as clear as I can be,” he said. “I won more citywide races than everyone else in the race combined. I’ve won five times citywide. I’ve represented every corner of the city since 1997.”

Catania added, “I believe I have the values and the vision and the tenacity to tackle the challenges facing the city and I have the record of accomplishments that supports it. So I’m not worried about who prevails in the Democratic primary. I’ve got a record that I’m very proud of and that I’m very excited to share, and I’m very excited to talk about my vision for the city.”

The most recent poll on the Democratic primary, which was conducted before the latest revelations about Gray’s alleged 2010 shadow campaign, show Gray leading his closest rival, Council member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), by a margin of 28 percent to 20 percent. Council members Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), and Vincent Orange (D-At-Large), were trailing with 13 percent, 12 percent and 4 percent respectively.

Businessman Andy Shallal had 6 percent, attorney and former State Department official Reta Jo Lewis had 3 percent, and civic activist Carlos Allen had less than 1 percent.

Political observers, including Bob Summersgill, former president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, said that if Gray squeaks out a victory in the primary with around 30 percent of the vote or less, many of the Democratic voters that backed his rivals could turn to Catania in the November election.

When asked by the Blade where he thinks the LGBT vote would go in the general election, Catania said he believes he would be a strong contender for that vote based on his record on a wide range of issues.

“I think people are going to vote their interests and their values,” he said. “And I hope we can refrain from having constituency voting blocs. I don’t think that’s good for anybody.”

But he added, “I’m happy to put my record as an LGBT advocate against anyone. I hear in these forums how everyone takes responsibility and credit for same-sex marriage. But I was there. I know members who never showed up for the hearings and never said a word on the dais,” he said.

“I know the difference between those who have revisionist history and those who were there,” he said. “And so whether it’s having been the first openly gay elected member of the Council, from championing everything from HIV education and treatment to same-sex marriage to adoption to transgender rights, I’ll put my record against anyone’s.”

When asked about a recent independent report indicating shortcomings in the D.C. Police Department’s handling of anti-LGBT hate crimes, Catania praised Police Chief Cathy Lanier but said he would not discuss personnel issues before the election.

“I think Cathy Lanier has been an excellent chief,” he said. “Now we can all do better and learn from our mistakes…[T]here’s always room for improvement both in terms of the reaction of the LGBT community, internal affairs and others,” he said.

A transcript of Catania’s news conference follows:

Reporter: So you just filed your papers today to run?

Catania: Actually, this has been in the works for some time. We decided in January that this would be the week we would announce. In fact, just last Wednesday, before any of the latest revelations came out, we opened our bank account and by law we have five business days to file. And so last Wednesday we opened our bank account, always with the intention of filing this week. And of course you know what has happened in the intervening time known to all of us.

Reporter: What do you think about what’s happened with the mayor this week?

Catania: Well, I made my feelings known about the mayor’s shadow campaign when it was first disclosed nearly two years ago. I said he should have resigned then and I believe that today.

Reporter: What is your path to victory at this point? Does the mayor have to win the primary?

Catania: No. I want to be just as clear as I could be. I won more city wide races than everyone else in the race combined. I’ve won five times citywide. I’ve represented every corner of the city since 1997. I believe that I have the values and the vision and the tenacity to tackle the challenges facing the city and I have the record of accomplishments that supports it. So I’m not worried about who prevails in the Democratic primary. I’ve got a record that I’m very proud of and that I’m very excited share and I’m very exciting to talk about my vision for the city.

Reporter: This is a city that remains hugely Democratic.

Catania: That’s right. And I would be delighted to put my record against any of those who have Democrat by their name as it relates to democratic values. I think my record more embodies democratic values than the field of candidates running as Democrats. If you look at what I’ve done for marriage equality, medical marijuana, smoke free D.C., cutting the rate of uninsured children and adults in half in this city, my work with HIV, and most recently my work with respect to education, including a fair funding bill which is finally going to give the resources for poor kids to catch up. And so labels are fine but I think the people are looking for a leader who’s actually delivered. And there’s one thing I can say – I’ve delivered.

The others have talked a good game and good for them for having labels. But I’ve actually delivered.

Reporter: You’re a former Republican and you’re also a white person. How does that play into the racial mix of this city?

Catania: Well I think the citizens of this city want a leader that shares their values. And it doesn’t matter what label you have. Clearly I do. This is a city that believes strongly in equality of opportunity, a strong sense of fairness and the importance of playing by the rules. These are the values we all share and these are the ones that have guided me since I was elected. So with respect to labels, you know, I think they may matter with some but by and large if you look at where we are in the city and if we’re going to secure our future we need a leader who shares our values, has a vision, and has the tenacity to get the job done.

Reporter: You’re campaigns have actually taken money from Jeffrey Thompson and then I guess you had a really serious falling out with him. Would you give back the money you took from Jeffrey Thompson or did you give the money back?

Catania: You know, Mr. Thompson held a fundraiser for me in 2006. And so the bulk of the funds that were raised through that fundraiser were in 2006. Unfortunately, as you know, we, unlike federal campaigns, we close each of our campaigns out – by law we’re required to – at the conclusion of the election. So the money has simply been closed out. Now the money – whatever was left over – went to a constituent services fund. And so it’s not like I have additional monies lying around to do that. And I think we’re prohibited by law from taking our existing campaign funds to pay back the debts of another campaign.

Reporter: Were you the chairman of the Health Committee when the agreement to give Jeffrey Thompson more money signed out? You fought that, didn’t you?

Catania: I think what’s interesting is that we’re here today because of the work of the Committee on Health when I became chairman. In 2005 when I became chairman of the committee the first thing I wanted to do was kind of survey the landscape of the area of responsibility that I had, which included the city’s three largest contracts for managed care and for Medicaid. And so I actually put the money in in 2005 to conduct an audit of our three managed care organizations, including Jeff Thompson’s. That audit is what ultimately led to Mr. Thompson having to settle with the city with $17 million in 2008. So it’s not about having a falling out one way or another. I was doing my job. I wanted the city’s largest contracts to be subject to an audit. They were. It demonstrated that he was helping himself, candidly, and that resulted in him having to pay some money back. I suspect that’s part of what inspired him to try to find leaders that were more malleable. I wasn’t one of them.

Reporter: The mayor calls him a liar. He says everything he says is a lie, lie, lie.

Catania: Well I think this whole subject, this whole drama we’ve had with Jeff Thompson – this great drama – the time has come for this to end. And you know we need to be talking about how we’re going to make sure our kids are ready to succeed. We need to be talking about an affordable housing plan and a public safety plan of action for Fire and EMS. The less we talk about Vince Gray and Jeff Thompson the better. That’s for others to talk about. I’m talking about my vision for the city, which doesn’t include serving as a human lie detector for Jeff Thompson or Vince Gray.

Reporter: What about this settlement. Did you think that settlement that was reached with Chartered Health was good and above board or did you think –

Catania: Which settlement, the first one or the second?

Reporter: The one that was agreed to [by the city] and paid him.

Catania: This was obviously an attempt to square accounts with the shadow campaign as far as I am concerned. It was laid out as meticulously as it could be. Jeff Thompson in 2008 had to pay $12 million because he stole from the city. And then two weeks after he wins his primary his group begins putting in motion the very settlement that ultimately, that Mayor Gray advanced – that we paid him the money from the false claims actions against the city. Do I believe the mayor knew it and participated and do I believe the city actually paid the shadow campaign money back? Yes, I believe that…

Reporter: You have a reputation for being a little difficult. I won’t even say the words that some – [Tom Sherwood interrupts: The Rahm Emanuel of D.C.?]

Catania: Well listen, we’re not cutting the crusts off cucumber sandwiches here. This is not a garden party. This is about running a $12 billion organization where the lives of 640,000 people depend on someone being honest, having values and a vision and being faithful to those values and those visions. And so I’m not going to apologize for the passion that I take to this job. I think most of us are outraged when they have Fire and EMS officials just standing by while our citizens are in harm’s way. I think most of our citizens are outraged when the see half of our African American males not graduating on time for high school. I think most of our citizens are outraged when they see our homeless in rec centers. So I’m not going to apologize for that outrage. I’m not going to apologize for the passion. It’s helped me get though some of the toughest measures in the last 15 years, 16 years on the Council…

Reporter: Concerning the police department, there was an independent report that just came out saying there are some shortcomings in their handling of hate crimes and that the chief may have caused the Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit to not be able to do its job as well as it could. If you were elected, have you decided whether you would retain the police chief?

Catania: Look, I think Cathy Lanier has been an excellent chief. Now we can all do better and learn from our mistakes. But I want to make clear I’m not talking about personnel decisions until after the election. It is the right of every mayor to select those individuals that he or she wishes to work with. I think that Chief Lanier has been an excellent chief but there’s always room for improvement both in terms of the reaction of the LGBT community, internal affairs and others.

Reporter: We’re now in the primary. Will you be out campaigning or will you wait to see who wins the primary?

Catania: No, the race starts today, Tom. The race starts today.

…If we’re electing leaders rather than administrators I think it’s time for people to look at the record. And among those who are running for mayor if you look at what have they done in the last 15 months. I think that’s a fair subject for discussion and it’s what I intend to talk about during this race. But look, it isn’t about who the Democratic nominee might be. I have an affirmed agenda that I believe is consistent with the values of our residents. I think we can do better. We have incredible fundamentals. When I look at our economy and I look at the values of our citizens and we have yet to capture the entire trajectory, the entire direction of those values…

Q: The leading candidates in the Democratic primary are all very supportive on LGBT issues. The mayor says he’s very supportive. Whoever wins the primary, how do you think the LGBT vote will go in the general election?

A: Lou, I think people are going to vote their interests and their values. And I hope we can refrain from having constituency voting blocks. I don’t think that’s good for anybody. I’m happy to put my record as an LGBT advocate against anyone. I hear in these forums how everyone takes responsibility and credit for same-sex marriage. But I was there. I know the members who never showed up for the hearings and never said a word on the dais. I know the difference between those who have revisionist history and those who were there. And so whether it’s having been the first openly gay elected member of the Council, from championing everything from HIV education and treatment to same-sex marriage to adoption to transgender rights, I’ll put my record against everyone’s or anyone’s.

Q: Can you say something about the EMS?

A: You know, I’m very open to the idea of separating the EMS and putting it candidly under the Department of Health because I see the EMS as the front line of the Department of Health. These are the front line deliverers of health services. The way it has been organized, specifically it’s been subsumed by the Fire Department and has not been able to stand on its own. And so I’m open to the idea of separating the two…

Q: Would you retain Chief Ellerbe as fire chief?

A: No. I’ll make an exception because that’s so glaring.

Q: How do you assess your chances?

A: Good.

Q: Why do you think they’re good?

A: Well I think this is an election about change. I think the electorate is eager to have a leader instead of an administrator and I think the work that I’ve done touches many constituencies across the city. Who else can claim that they saved our public hospital? Who else can lay claim to a marriage equality bill that finally made all of our families equal before the law? Who else can claim that they produced the lowest rate of uninsured children in the country? Who else championed medical marijuana or the most comprehensive mental health system for young people in the country? So I think it’s time to ask some of those who are running on the inertial of a label why they believe they have a chance of winning having accomplished so little.

12
Mar
2014

Gay groups ‘not excluded’ from D.C. parade

Patricia Hawkins, Pat Hawkins, D.C. Center, St. Patrick's Day Parade, gay news, Washington Blade

Patricia Hawkins, who serves on the board of the D.C. Center, said the group plans to march in D.C.’s St. Patrick’s Day parade next year. (Washington Blade file photo by Pete Exis)

Unlike their counterparts in New York City and Boston, no LGBT Irish organization or any other LGBT group has applied to become a contingent in D.C.’s annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade, even though the parade has no policy that would exclude an LGBT contingent.

“We are a non-profit,” said Colleen Cohan, vice chair of the St. Patrick’s Parade Committee of Washington, D.C. “So we don’t exclude any group that wants to participate in the parade.”

Cohan said the D.C. committee does have a policy banning “political campaigning” or commercial advertising by members of parade contingents. But she said contingent participants are free to carry signs or a banner displaying the name of their organization.

The mayors of New York City and Boston chose not to march in St. Patrick’s Day parades in their cities this year as a show of solidarity with the LGBT community because parade organizers ban participation of contingents that self-identify as LGBT.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio hosted a St. Patrick’s Day breakfast Monday morning at the Gracie Mansion mayoral residence but boycotted the parade in Manhattan later in the day.

“I simply disagree with the organizers of the parade in their exclusion of some individuals in this city,” CNN quoted him as saying at a news conference.

De Blasio marched in a separate St. Patrick’s Parade over the weekend in the Borough of Queens, which allows out gay contingents.

Boston Mayor Martin Walsh decided early Sunday, March 16, not to march in the South Boston St. Patrick’s Parade shortly before the parade was scheduled to start that same day, saying, “I have to do my best to ensure that all Bostonians are free to participate fully in the civic life of our city,” according to CNN.

Cohan said she was informed by one of her colleagues on the D.C. St. Patrick’s Parade Committee that an LGBT group contacted the committee about participating in the parade last year but never followed up.

“I believe it was last year that we received an inquiry from an LGBT group,” she said. “And we directed them to apply online, to submit the application online. But we never received an application and that was the last we ever heard from them.”

She said she doesn’t know the name of the LGBT group that contacted the committee.

Lesbian activist Patricia Hawkins, who serves on the board of the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community, said it may have been the center’s executive director David Mariner that made the inquiry to the parade committee.

According to Hawkins, Mariner indicated the center’s staff and volunteers may not have had the time to organize an LGBT parade contingent for this year’s parade. In an email, Mariner told the Blade a D.C. Center spokesperson would provide a comment on the matter shortly.

“We definitely plan to do this next year,” she said. “I have been at the parade almost every year here in D.C. and sometimes in New York,” said Hawkins, noting that she’s half Irish.

18
Mar
2014

Graham, Nadeau fight for LGBT votes in Ward 1 race

Jim Graham, Brianne Nadeau, Ward 1, D.C. Council, gay news, Washington Blade

Gay D.C. Council member Jim Graham and challenger Brianne Nadeau face off in the Ward 1 Council seat primary April 1. (Washington Blade photo of Graham by Jeff Surprenant; Blade photo of Nadeau by Michael Key)

Gay D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) and challenger Brianne Nadeau are attracting citywide attention as the two battle over the LGBT vote and the vote from other diverse population groups in Ward 1 in a hotly contested race in the city’s April 1 Democratic primary.

Most political observers say Graham is facing his toughest re-election campaign since first winning the Ward 1 Council seat in 1998 as an openly gay man.

Nadeau is a former advisory neighborhood commissioner and vice president of a local public relations firm that specializes in promoting progressive causes. She’s an outspoken supporter of LGBT rights and has vowed to be a champion for the LGBT community if elected to replace Graham.

Graham has argued that his status as one of two openly gay members of the Council brings an important insight and sensitivity into his work on behalf of the LGBT community that straight allies, no matter how committed, don’t have. He also notes that his out gay colleague, David Catania (I-At-Large) is giving up his Council seat to run for mayor.

Thus if he were to lose his re-election bid, Graham has said, it would leave the Council without an openly gay member for the first time in 16 years.

In addition to his role as a strong advocate for LGBT equality, Graham has long been viewed as a champion of progressive causes such as tenants’ rights, low-income workers, and the needs of the highly diverse immigrant population of Latinos, Asian-Pacific Islanders and Ethiopians, among other immigrant groups, that have settled in Ward 1.

He has had longstanding support from these demographic groups as well as support among longtime black residents of the eastern part of the ward. Combined with past support from younger professionals moving into refurbished neighborhoods Graham says he helped bring about normally would have made him the odds-on favorite to win the Democratic nomination for a fifth term in office, according to Ward 1 political activists.

But the same activists and Ward 1 observers now say all bets are off due to a flurry of negative media reports about Graham over the past several years stemming from an allegation in 2008 that he interfered with the contract approval process for a Metro development project while serving on the Metro board.

Based on findings of an investigation by Metro, the D.C. Council voted 11-2 in February 2013 to reprimand Graham for violating a city ethics rule by improperly mixing his role as a Council member and Metro board member.

The investigation concluded that Graham favored one developer over another to receive a contract to develop a residential and commercial complex in his ward. He then urged the developer he didn’t favor to withdraw in exchange for Graham pushing for that developer to receive an unrelated city lottery contract, the investigation found.

Graham has long asserted he did nothing wrong, saying the developer he opposed was unqualified for the project and he acted in what he believed to be in the best interest of his constituents. He told the Blade he never favored the other developer and noted that ultimately a third developer emerged to carry out the project.

“If you look at the facts, there was no crime committed, there was no law broken, there was no money exchanging hands,” Graham told the Blade.  “And what we have is a conflict between two roles of a Metro Board member and Council member.”

Graham points out that the Metro contract matter happened nearly six years ago and that he was re-elected in the interim.

Nadeau has attacked Graham over the ethics issue since entering the Ward 1 race last year, saying the Council’s decision to reprimand Graham has decreased his effectiveness as a Council member.

She raised the issue again on Monday in a debate with Graham on News Channel 8’s Bruce DePuyt Show, saying Graham’s actions were another in a series of ethical lapses by D.C. Council members over the past four years that resulted in the criminal prosecution of three of Graham’s colleagues on corruption charges.

Her candidacy received a boost last week when the Washington Post endorsed her following earlier endorsements she received from the Current newspapers and Council members David Grosso (I-At-Large) and Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), who’s running for mayor. She also received an endorsement from former Ward 6 Council member Sharon Ambrose, the prominent feminist group Emily’s List, the Women’s Campaign Fund and the D.C. Association of Realtors.

The Post endorsement of Nadeau was expected because it came on the heels of a series of Post editorials criticizing Graham over the Metro contract and ethics allegation.

Graham, meanwhile, has received endorsements from prominent labor organizations including the Metropolitan Washington Council of the AFL-CIO; the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (ASCME); the Hotel and Restaurant Workers Union; the Service Employees International Union (SEIU); National Nurses United, and the Teamsters. The Hotel Association and the Sierra Club also endorsed Graham.

Graham has also received the backing of Ron Simmons, president and CEO of the Ward 1-based AIDS advocacy and service organization Us Helping Us, which reaches out to black gay men; and of Kurt Schmoke, the former Baltimore mayor who since 2003 has served as an administrator at Howard University in D.C.

Schmoke, who currently holds the position of Interim Provost and Chief Academic Officer at Howard, told the Blade he contributed to Graham’s campaign as an individual, not in his official capacity, to express his “thanks” for Graham’s support of Howard.

“My perception is that Councilman Graham has been very supportive of the university on a variety of issues that have arisen” over the past decade, he said.

Graham has said he believes his support remains strong among LGBT voters. But doubts over that assumption surfaced last month when Nadeau finished ahead of Graham at the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club’s endorsement meeting by a vote of 70 to 64. She didn’t receive the endorsement of the Stein Club, the city’s largest LGBT political group, because she fell short of capturing a required 60 percent of the vote needed to endorse.

However, her strong showing raised eyebrows among LGBT activists, who view Graham as a leader on LGBT issues for more than 30 years as a Council member, attorney, and past executive director of the city’s Whitman-Walker Clinic during the height of the AIDS epidemic.

Graham’s supporters say the Stein Club members voting in the Feb. 27 meeting aren’t representative of the LGBT community in Ward 1, which they predict will turn out for Graham in large numbers on Election Day.

Nadeau supporters, however, say the Stein Club vote reflects the view by many in the LGBT community that Nadeau would be a strong advocate for LGBT equality on the Council and that LGBT voters are now focusing on a wide range of non-LGBT issues on which to base their vote. They argue that just like all other Ward 1 residents, LGBT residents are also troubled over Graham’s alleged ethics breach.

Nadeau disputes arguments by Graham supporters that Graham’s motive in intervening in the Metro contract matter was to push for the best possible deal for his Ward 1 constituents, which boosted his reputation as a fighter for the interests of his ward.

Some Graham supporters have said Nadeau would be far weaker than Graham on constituent services issues because, unlike Graham, she wouldn’t be as aggressive and unafraid to step on toes to get things done as Graham is. Nadeau bristled over that claim in an interview with the Blade earlier this month.

“I will tell you, I will throw elbows,” she said. “I will fight. I will be tough. But I will never cross the lines that he has crossed,” she said. “And I will never – you will never, ever read about me for ethical lapses, quote unquote, which, by the way, are politician-speak for corruption.”

Graham’s supporters say the ethics matter, in which no law was violated, is being used by Graham’s critics to unfairly put him in the same category as three former Council members – Kwame Brown (D-At-Large) and Harry Thomas (D-Ward 5), who were forced to resign after facing criminal prosecution on corruption related charges, and Michael Brown (I-At-Large), who was prosecuted on bribery charges after losing his re-election bid in 2012.

“This is the only plank in my opponent’s platform,” Graham said in an interview with the Blade. “She is unable to point to anything that is significant that she’s accomplished in the ward. And so this is what I expect her to take advantage of.”

Graham also challenged Nadeau’s stated record of accomplishments for Ward 1 residents as an ANC commissioner.

“She has been an ANC member, but I went over my email during her time of service and it’s just email after email after email from her,” he said. “Council member, will you help me with this? Council member, will you set up this meeting? Council member, will you intervene on this matter?”

According to Graham, Nadeau benefitted personally from his constituent service work when she sought his help in obtaining a city subsidy under the D.C. Home Purchase Assistance Program, known as HPAP, to assist in her purchase of a condo. Graham said she encountered a bureaucratic “roadblock” that his office helped her resolve.

“I was happy to do it because I always respond that way to everybody who contacts me,” Graham said. “But she’s never acknowledged all the help she got from me as an ANC commissioner, which was very substantial and frequent.”

Nadeau fired back when asked to respond to Graham’s comments.

“It’s the job of a Council member to respond to constituent service requests and to work with ANCs to resolve issues in the community, and I’ve never suggested that Jim hasn’t done that,” she said.

“But we deserve to have a Council member who can deliver constituent services while also behaving ethically in office,” she added. “Jim has demonstrated his inability to behave ethically and his corrupt behavior led his colleagues to reprimand him and strip him of a leadership role that is important to our community.”

She was referring to a decision by Council Chair Phil Mendelson to remove from the portfolio of the committee that Graham chairs jurisdiction over of the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) at the time Graham was reprimanded. Nadeau said losing direct jurisdiction over ABRA reduced Graham’s ability to have a say over issues involving liquor licenses, which directly impacts Ward 1.

Graham has said he has continued to play a key role in ABRA matters as an individual Council member with years of experience working on liquor-related issues.

Prominent LGBT advocates have lined up behind both Graham and Nadeau, and without polling data measuring the gay vote it’s impossible to predict which of the two will capture a majority of that vote or whether the LGBT vote will split evenly between them.

Veteran lesbian activist and Ward 1 resident Barbara Helmick, who supports Nadeau, and gay businessman and Latino community advocate Jay Haddock, who is backing Graham, appear to represent the view of many in the opposing camps within the LGBT community over the Graham-Nadeau race.

Helmick is among those who believe Nadeau’s overall qualifications and strong commitment to LGBT equality outweighs the loss of an openly gay Council member if she wins her race for the Ward 1 Council seat.

“Brianne will bring a fresh new energy that the Council desparately needs,” she said in a statement to the Blade.

She notes that when Graham successfully challenged 16-year Council veteran Frank Smith in 1998 he argued that 16 years was a long time to serve and that it would benefit the ward to have a new face on the Council.

“I thought Jim was right then and now that Jim has served 16 years, I think it is apt today,” Helmick said. “Sometimes after so long, some politicians become more of the system than of themselves.”

Haddock, a native of Puerto Rico who serves as president of Capital Hotels and Suites, said he witnessed first-hand Graham’s dedication and effectiveness in the fight against AIDS during Graham’s tenure as head of Whitman-Walker Clinic. At the time, Haddock, among other things, served as chair of the city’s Latino Commission under then Mayor Anthony Williams.

“The Jim Graham I know would run to people’s side to do a will because they were dying,” he said. “The Jim Graham I know has really been on the first line of defense for minority communities.”

Graham was especially helpful to Latino community projects during his tenure on the Council, Haddock said, including with La Clinica del Pueblo, a health clinic that treats many LGBT clients.

“If some people don’t feel he should be around any longer in his ward, that’s entirely up to them,” said Haddock. “But I completely feel that he is very effective, very dependable and a good friend to the minority communities of Washington, D.C. And it’s very important to have that representation on the Council.”

18
Mar
2014

Pannell to run for D.C. school board

Phillip Pannell, gay news, Washington Blade

Phil Pannell (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Veteran gay rights and civic activist Phil Pannell said he’s running for the Ward 8 seat on the D.C. State Board of Education in a special election expected to take place July 15.

The Ward 8 seat was declared vacant this week by the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics following the resignation of incumbent Trayon White, who left the position to take a city government job. School board members are barred from working for the city government under a D.C. law.

Pannell lost to White in a special election for the Ward 8 school board seat in 2011 by fewer than 200 votes. Pannell ran against White again in the regularly scheduled election in 2012 and lost by a larger margin. Supporters say Pannell has a long record of involvement in school and education issues in Ward 8 and is highly qualified to serve on the board.

If he were to win in July he would become the second out gay member of the board. Gay civic activist and former Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Jack Jacobson won election to the Ward 2 seat on the school board in 2012.

19
Mar
2014

Ebbin finishes fourth, Levine eighth in straw poll

Adam Ebbin, Virginia, gay news, Washington Blade

State Sen. Adam Ebbin (Photo courtesy of Adam Ebbin)

Gay congressional candidates Adam Ebbin and Mark Levine finished in fourth place and eighth place respectively in an unscientific straw poll conducted March 17 in a race in which 11 Democrats are competing in a June 10 primary for the 8th District U.S. House seat being vacated by Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.).

Former Virginia Lt. Gov. Don Beyer, who’s considered the frontrunner in the race, finished first with 127 votes. Ebbin received 41 votes, with Levin receiving 22 votes.

The straw poll was conducted by the campaign of Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-Va.), whose 11th District boarders on the 8th District. Donald Brownlee, a Connolly campaign official, said the straw poll was taken at Connolly’s annual St. Patrick’s Day party in Fairfax just across the border from the 8th District. He said a majority of the attendees that participated in the poll are residents of the 8th District.

“We are neutral in the race,” he said of the 8th District contest. Connolly is running unopposed in the primary.

Beyer came in first place in another straw poll on March 1 conducted within the 8th District by the Mount Vernon District Democratic Committee at the committee’s annual Mardi Gras party. Ebbin came in fifth and Levine came in 10th in that poll, which organizers also said was unscientific. Just over 400 people voted in the poll.

“Adam is proud of the support he’s gotten across the 8th District as the campaign continues to gain momentum,” said Michael Beckendorf, Ebbin’s campaign manager, who declined comment on the straw polls.

Levine said most straw polls are conducted at political fundraisers where people pay to attend, as was the case with the two straw polls for the 8th District congressional race.

“They are useful as good fundraisers,” he said. “But the only real poll will be the one on June 10.”

19
Mar
2014

Record number of LGBT candidates on primary ballot

Gay News, Washington Blade, Transgender D.C.

Alexandra Beninda is the first known transgender person to run for a citywide office in the District. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Gay D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) will be one of 17 openly LGBT candidates to appear on the ballot in the city’s April 1 primary election, representing an all-time high for the number of out candidates running in a single D.C. election.

Among those running is Alexandra Beninda, a transgender activist and member of the city’s Human Rights Commission, who is seeking an at-large seat on the D.C. Democratic State Committee. She becomes the first known transgender person to run for a citywide office in the District.

Beninda is one of 11 LGBT candidates running for at-large or ward seats on the Democratic State Committee, which serves as the governing body of the city’s Democratic Party.

Graham is the only out gay person running this year in the city’s Democratic primary. He’s running for a fifth term in a hotly contested race against Democratic challenger Brianne Nadeau for the Ward 1 Council seat.

In other races, gay Libertarian Party activist Bruce Majors is running unopposed for his party’s nomination for mayor, ensuring that he will be among the mayoral candidates on the ballot in the November general election.

Gay Libertarian Party candidate Martin Moulton is running unopposed for his party’s nomination for the city’s shadow U.S. House seat, one of three unpaid elected “shadow” positions created to lobby Congress for D.C. statehood and congressional voting rights.

Moulton will face Democratic Party and Statehood-Green Party challengers in the general election in November.

In a race expected to draw widespread attention, gay Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Marc Morgan of Ward 1 is running unopposed for the Republican nomination for an at-large D.C. Council seat being vacated by gay incumbent David Catania (I-At-Large), who’s running for mayor.

Under the city’s home rule charter, the seat currently held by Catania is reserved for a non-majority party candidate, which prevents a Democrat from holding the seat. Morgan’s supporters, including Robert Turner, the gay executive director of the D.C. Republican Party, have said Morgan could have a shot at winning Catania’s seat depending on who else enters the race between now and the June cut-off date for an independent candidate.

In recent years, Democrats with widespread name recognition have switched their party registration from Democrat to independent to run for one of the two at-large Council seats reserved for a non-Democrat. As of this week, no independent candidate has filed papers to run for the seat in November.

Unlike other parts of the country, the D.C. Republican Party has embraced LGBT rights and supports the city’s same-sex marriage law.

In the D.C. primary races for Democratic Party positions, veteran gay rights advocate and Ward 8 civic leader Phil Pannell is running for the post of Alternate National Committeeman as part of a slate of candidates called D.C. Ready for Hillary. Lesbian activist Courtney Snowden is running on the same slate for the position of Alternate National Committee Woman.

Pannell and Snowden joined forces with former D.C. Council Chair Arrington Dixon and longtime Democratic Party activist Mary Eva Candon, who are running for National Committeeman and National Committee Woman respectively. All four positions are linked to the Democratic National Committee.

According to Pannell, the slate’s primary mission is to build support for a run for president by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

In other races, seven out LGBT candidates, including Beninda, are running for Democratic State Committee seats on an insurgent slate called The Rent is Too Darn High.

In a statement released earlier this month, leaders of the 30-candidate slate made it clear that the candidates are dissatisfied with the current State Committee leadership team headed by D.C. Council member Anita Bonds (D-At-Large), who serves as chair of the State Committee.

“The Committee’s recent history is riddled with mismanagement of elections, lack of transparency, and now wrestles with the perception of being complicit with scandal and corruption,” the statement says.

Gregory Cendana, Democratic Party, gay news, Washington Blade

Gregory Cendana (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The LGBT candidates on the slate and the seats they are running for are Gregory Cendana (At-Large seat); Edgardo Ed Guerrero (At-Large seat); Beninda (At-Large seat); Nikisha Carpenter (At-Large seat);  Jessica ‘Jess’ Pierce (Ward 4 seat); Tamara Angela Ferrell (Ward 4 seat); and Andy Litsky (Ward 6 seat).

Cendana is among the leaders of the slate.

Gay Democratic activist Bill O’Field, who serves as treasurer of the State Committee, is running for re-election to a Ward 1 State Committee seat. O’Field is not running on a slate but he is widely known to be part of the State Committee faction supportive of Bonds.

Also running as Bonds supporters are gay Democratic activists Ron Collins and David Meadows. Collins, an incumbent, is running for re-election to a Ward 6 seat on the committee. Meadows is also running for a Ward 6 seat on the State Committee.

O’Field and Meadows, who works as communications director for Bond’s City Council office, have praised her leadership on the State Committee and on the Council, saying she is a strong supporter of LGBT equality and has a long record of support for city residents facing economic hardship.

19
Mar
2014

Beyer changed position on same-sex marriage

Don Beyer, gay news, Washington Blade, Virginia

Don Beyer (Photo public domain)

Former Virginia Lt. Gov. Don Beyer, who is running against two gay candidates in an 11-candidate race for Virginia’s 8th congressional District U.S. House seat, expressed strong opposition to same-sex marriage when he ran for governor in 1997.

In a position paper on his campaign website this year for the congressional race, Beyer says, “I believe the institution of marriage should be available to committed, same-sex couples” and adds, “I support full equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.”

But in a 1997 gubernatorial debate against Republican rival Jim Gilmore, which was televised on C-Span, Beyer was asked whether he agreed with then-U.S. Sen. Charles Robb (D-Va.) that gay couples should be allowed to legally marry.

“I disagree with Sen. Rob that homosexual marriages should be the law in Virginia or in America,” he said. “I value the American family. I do not believe that we should have discrimination on the basis of many different things in Virginia, but I do not think we should elevate a homosexual relationship to the status of a civil marriage,” he said in the debate.

Beyer lost the election to Gilmore, who also opposed same-sex marriage at the time.

19
Mar
2014

Mayor honors ‘Sheroes’ of LGBT movement

Kelley Robinson, Planned Parenthood, Cathy Chu, SMYAL, Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders, Amy Nelson, Whitman-Walker Health, Sheroes of the Movement, Mayor's office of GLBT Affairs, gay news, Washington Blade

From left, Kelley Robinson of Planned Parenthood, Cathy Chu of SMYAL and Amy Nelson of Whitman-Walker Health received their Sheroes of the Movement awards at a ceremony in the Fannie Mae Conference Center on Friday. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

On behalf of his Office of GLBT Affairs, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray on March 21 presented the city’s 2014 Sheroes of the Movement Award to three women chosen for outstanding contributions to the “LGBT movement and community” of the District of Columbia.

In a ceremony at the federal Fannie Mae Conference Center on Wisconsin Avenue, N.W., Gray handed the awards to Cathy Chu, Youth Leadership Manager for the local LGBT youth advocacy and services group SMYAL; Amy Nelson, Supervising Attorney at Whitman-Walker Health’s Legal Services Program; and Kelley Robinson, Assistant Director for Youth Engagement at Planned Parenthood.

“The purpose of these awards is to honor Sheroes of the District of Columbia GLBT community for their achievement and community service during Women’s History Month,” said Earl Fowlkes, chair of the Mayor’s GLBT Advisory Committee, which selected this year’s honorees.

“These unsung Sheroes have contributed so much to our community and are often not recognized for their work in helping to make the District one of the most vibrant GLBT communities to live and work in the United States,” Fowlkes in a statement in the ceremony’s program book.

A statement released by the mayor’s office says the Office of GLBT Affairs organized this year’s 3rd annual Sheroes of the Movement Award program with the Mayor’s Office on Women’s Policy and Initiatives and the Mayor’s Office of Community Affairs.

The statement describes the 2014 awardees as “three lesbian, bisexual or queer women who have made significant contributions to the LGBT movement and community in the District.”

Chu, among other things, develops programs and training initiatives “designed to empower young LGBTQ-identified individuals in the District, Maryland and Virginia,” according to biographical information released by the mayor’s office. She also serves on the Steering Committees for the National Association of Gay-Straight Alliance Networks and Asian Pacific Islander Queer Sisters.

As part of her work at SMYAL, she facilitates the Women’s Leadership Institute, which provides a weekly discussion group and overnight retreats for more than 100 “young LGB women and gender non-conforming youth” in the D.C. area, information released by the mayor’s office says.

Nelson, an attorney, among other things, oversees Whitman-Walker Health’s client intake, supervises staff attorneys and represents clients — about half of whom are LGBT — in the areas of health care access, public benefits, consumer rights and workplace rights cases.

She is credited with playing the lead role in launching the city’s first Name and Gender Change Clinic to assist transgender people in updating their legal identity documents and personal records. In partnership with the local group TransLAW, the Name and Gender Change Clinic has served more than 270 clients and has trained more than 150 volunteers to carry out its services.

Among other things, Nelson has served on the board of Miriam’s House, a residence for HIV-positive, homeless women.

Robinson operates Planned Parenthood’s national youth and campus engagement programs known as the Planned Parenthood Generation, which is a project of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, information released by the mayor’s office says.

“She is dedicated to cultivating, engaging, and supporting a broad, diverse network of young leaders, especially young people of color and LGBTQ youth,” a statement in the program book says. “Kelley has doubled Planned Parenthood’s campus presence over the last two years, for a total of 250 campus groups nationwide, nearly 100 teen advocacy programs and thousands of individual activists,” it says.

“It’s a real honor to be here,” Gray told the awards gathering. “I’ve said there’s a lot of people who have done a lot for the residents of the District of Columbia to bring about a level of understanding and acceptance that otherwise might not exist in the District of Columbia – maybe more so than any other city or state.”

Gray added, “We need to recognize people who work and do this kind of advocacy. I’m proud to be in a city that is a leader on the issues that are important to us…I want to again congratulate the honorees tonight.”

Kelley told the Blade after the ceremony that she was “so proud” to have been selected as an honoree.

“It is an incredible honor and I’m just honored and privileged to be able to do the work that I do every day working with young people, working with communities of color, working with queer folks,” she said.

Nelson said she, too, was “honored and humbled to be recognized along with” Chu and Robinson. “And I’m thrilled that the mayor and his office decided to honor us and create this event.”

Chu said after the ceremony that an important part of her work is to monitor the growing number of Gay-Straight Alliance groups or GSAs that students are forming in D.C.-area high schools as well as some middle schools.

“We definitely see growth. We know of 93 GSAs right now,” she said in both public and private schools in the D.C. metro area.

24
Mar
2014