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How did LGBT candidates fare in D.C. elections?

Phil Pannell, Ready for Hillary, Hillary Clinton, Democratic Party, LOOK, gay news, Washington Blade

Phil Pannell won election as Alternate National Committeeman as part of a slate of candidates called Ready for Hillary. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Eight gay or lesbian candidates won their races on Tuesday in the city’s primary and Democratic Party election while another eight LGBT candidates were defeated.

Among the winners were gay Democratic activist Phil Pannell and lesbian Democratic activist Courtney Snowden, who won election as Alternate National Committeeman and Alternate National Committeewoman as part of a slate of candidates called Ready for Hillary.

The two have said the slate was created to encourage former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to run for president in 2016.

Gay Libertarian Party candidates Bruce Majors, who’s running for mayor, and Martin Mouton, who’s running for the city’s shadow U.S. House seat, ran unopposed in their party’s primary. Both will be on the general election ballot in November.

Also winning was gay Republican activist and Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Marc Morgan, who ran unopposed for the Replication nomination for an at-large D.C. Council seat in November.

Six out of seven LGBT candidates that ran for seats on the Democratic State Committee as part of an insurgent slate called The Rent is Too Darn High lost their races on Tuesday. Among the losing candidates was transgender activist Alexandra Beninda, who was vying to become the first known transgender person to win election to a D.C. citywide office. Beninda was running for an at-large seat on the State Committee.

Others who ran on the ‘Rent is Too High’ slate and lost were gay or lesbian Democratic activists Gregory Cendana, Edgardo Guerrero, Nikisha Carpenter, Jessica Pierce and Andy Litsky. Lesbian Tamara Angela Ferrell was the only LGBT member of the slate to win her race in Ward 4.

Gay Democrats Ron Collins and David Meadows, who were challenged by members of the ‘Rent is Too High’ slate, won their races for State Committee seats representing Ward 6.

Incumbent gay State Committee member Bill O’Field, who didn’t run on a slate, lost his bid for re-election to the State Committee for a seat representing Ward 1.

Gay Democratic activist and former Gertrude Stein Democratic Club treasurer Barry Daneker is listed by the Board of Elections as having won an at-large seat on the State Committee on Tuesday more than a month after he announced he was leaving D.C. to take a job in Rhode Island in March. Neither Daneker nor a spokesperson for the State Committee could be immediately reached to determine whether Daneker’s election would be invalidated if he’s no longer a D.C. resident.

02
Apr
2014

Taking sides in ‘painful’ mayoral race

Hillary Rosen, mayoral race, gay news, Washington Blade

Hilary Rosen, a longtime LGBT advocate and CNN commentator, endorsed David Catania for mayor. A Blade survey of prominent D.C. activists reveals a split in support for Catania and rival Muriel Bowser. (Photo courtesy of CNN)

An informal survey of 37 prominent LGBT advocates in D.C. found that 13 of them would vote for Council member David Catania (I-At-Large) for mayor if the election were held this week, 12 would vote for Council member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), and 12 were undecided.

All but five of the activists identified themselves in the survey conducted by the Washington Blade as registered Democrats This development suggests a significant number of LGBT Democrats who are normally loyal to their party in D.C. elections are considering voting for Catania, the openly gay independent and former Republican.

Veteran transgender activist Jeri Hughes, who was among those saying she’s undecided in the mayoral race, appeared to reflect the views of many in the LGBT community in weighing their choice between Catania and Bowser.

“Party lines become blurred when the independent candidate represents the Democratic Party line supporting the needy and social welfare to a greater extent and better than most Democrats,” said Hughes.

“I am inclined to vote along my party line, Democrat, but I need to know more about Council member Bowser’s vision for the District,” she said.

Hughes was also among about 30 mostly Democratic LGBT activists that met privately with Catania on Monday at Catania’s campaign headquarters on Connecticut Avenue, N.W., to engage in a “frank” discussion on a wide range of issues, including non-LGBT issues, according to those familiar with the meeting.

Others attending the meeting were transgender activists Earline Budd, Ruby Corado, and Alexandra Beninda and gay Latino activist Jose Gutierrez.

Gay Democratic activist Lane Hudson, who organized the meeting, said most of the attendees, including him, supported Mayor Vincent Gray in the April 1 Democratic primary and are now either undecided or are leaning toward Catania in the November general election.

Bowser beat Gray in the primary by a margin of 43 percent to 33 percent according to final returns released by the Board of Elections. Six other candidates, including another three members of the City Council, finished far behind Bowser and Gray.

Hudson said he now supports Catania. Although he said Catania’s record on LGBT rights is far more extensive than Bowser’s, his decision to back Catania is based on his belief that Catania is better qualified to lead the city.

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

LGBT advocates in D.C. are divided between David Catania and Muriel Bowser in the race for mayor. (Washington Blade photo of Catania by Michael Key; Blade photo of Bowser by Damien Salas)

Among the LGBT advocates supporting Bowser are Bil Browning, founder of the LGBT news blog Bilerico Project, and his partner, Jerame Davis, former executive director of the National Stonewall Democrats.

Other Bowser supporters, as identified in the Blade survey, include Kurt Vorndran and Lateefah Williams, both former presidents of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club; Courtney Snowden, public relations executive and former Human Rights Campaign official; A. Billy S. Jones, veteran gay rights activist; and Riley Temple, an attorney and gay rights advocate.

Gay Democratic activist and businessman Everett Hamilton, who serves as a communications consultant to Bowser’s campaign, said other Bowser supporters include Elizabeth Birch, former executive director of the Human Rights Campaign; Jeff Marootian, former LGBT outreach director for the Democratic National Committee; and veteran lesbian activist Sheila Alexander-Reid, a radio talk show producer and founder of the lesbians of color advocacy organization Women In the Life Association.

Also among Bowser’s LGBT supporters is Christopher Dyer, the gay activist who served as director of the City’s Office of GLBT Affairs under former Mayor Adrian Fenty.

Hamilton pointed to a statement released by Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz congratulating Bowser on the day following her primary victory. He said Wasserman Schultz’s strong backing of Bowser would prompt D.C. Democrats, including LGBT Democrats, to remain loyal to their party’s nominee.

“Muriel’s vision to move D.C. in a positive direction resonates with the District’s working and middle class families,” Wasserman Schultz said in her statement. “Her plans to invest in the city’s schools, infrastructure, and economic development embody the Democratic Party’s priorities to increase opportunity for all.”

Although Wasserman Schultz said she believes D.C. Democrats are committed to uniting behind Bowser following the April 1 primary, at least two nationally recognized lesbian and gay Democrats have come out in support of Catania.

Hilary Rosen, a communications firm executive, Democratic Party advocate and commentator on CNN, announced on her Facebook page last month that she’s backing Catania because, among other things, he’s a “candidate who can bring people together.”

Steve Elmendorf, chief of staff to former House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) and current principal in the Democratic leaning lobbying and public affairs firm Elmendorf-Ryan Communications, raised eyebrows in Democratic Party circles when he, too, announced his endorsement of Catania.

Among other things, Elmendorf serves as chairman of the board of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, which also has endorsed Catania. The group raises money for openly LGBT candidates for public office across the country.

“I think David is a candidate who can bring people together and most importantly has shown himself to be willing to do the work,” Rosen said in her Facebook statement. “For example, when he chaired the [D.C. Council] Health Committee he created accessible health clinics for residents all over D.C. but most importantly east of the River.”

Others who identified themselves as Catania supporters in the Blade survey include Deacon Maccubbin, former Lambda Rising bookstore owner; Joel Lawson, Dupont Circle civic activist; Roger Moffatt, Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner in the Southwest Waterfront area; Alexandra Beninda, transgender activist and member of the D.C. Human Rights Commission; and William Waybourn, former publisher of the Washington Blade. Each of them said they are Democrats.

Also identifying themselves as Catania supporters in the survey are Marvin Carter, CEO of the local LGBT charitable group Helping Our Brothers and Sisters; Charles Francis, public relations executive and founder of the Kameny Papers Project, which arranged for the preservation of the papers of the late gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny; and Berin Szoka, a Libertarian Party activist and 2012 supporter of presidential candidate Ron Paul. Carter and Francis said they are registered as independent voters. Szoka said he’s a registered Republican.

Among the 12 Blade survey participants who identified themselves as being undecided in the mayoral race, gay activist Bob Dardano, transgender activist Toni Collins, and gay ANC commissioner and Georgetown University student Craig Cassey said they are “leaning” toward backing Catania. Each said they are registered Democrats.

Gay rights advocate and journalist Isaiah Poole and gay Asian and Pacific Islander association director Gregory Cendana said they are undecided but are leaning toward Bowser. The two said they are also registered Democrats.

Others identifying themselves as undecided are A. Cornelius Baker, former executive director of the Whitman-Walker Clinic; Bob Summersgill, a Ward 3 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner and former president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance; lesbian activist Barbara Helmick, a Ward 1 civic activist; attorney, tax preparer and Ward 1 civic activist Wallace Dickson; and attorney and Dupont Circle civic activist Edward Grandis. All five said they’re Democrats.

Another survey participant saying he was undecided was Robert Turner, the gay executive director of the D.C. Republican Party. Turner, a registered Republican, said the local GOP has the legal authority to nominate its own mayoral candidate and may do so in time for the June filing deadline for the November general election.

In addition to Bowser and Catania, gay Libertarian Party candidate Bruce Majors and Statehood-Green Party candidate Faith, a former Broadway musician and perennial D.C. mayoral candidate, will also appear on the November ballot for mayor.

Majors and Faith ran unopposed in their respective party primaries on April 1. However, Board of Elections returns show that Faith received 191 votes, 19 fewer than the 210 write-in votes cast for several people not yet identified by the Board.

A Board of Elections spokesperson said Faith was expected to be certified as the winner because she received more votes than any of the individual write-in candidates.

The returns showed that Majors received a total of 30 votes in the primary by Libertarian Party members. Three write-in votes were cast by members of his party.

The Blade’s survey included Majors’ and Faith’s names as mayoral candidates in the November election, but none of the LGBT advocates participating in the survey expressed support for them.

Majors, a D.C. real estate agent and longtime supporter of LGBT rights, has said he plans to wage an aggressive campaign espousing Libertarian Party principles and how they would benefit the city.

The Stein Club, the city’s largest LGBT political organization, did not endorse a candidate for mayor in the Democratic primary because no candidate received a required 60 percent of the vote of the club’s membership. Gray received the most votes but fell just short of the 60 percent threshold.

In a development that surprised some longtime Stein Club members, the club didn’t take immediate steps to endorse Bowser as the Democratic nominee at its regularly scheduled meeting on April 14.

Stein Club President Angela Peoples said the club’s officers would soon discuss plans for when to hold an endorsement meeting. She noted that the club’s bylaws prevent the club from endorsing a non-Democrat in races where a Democratic candidate is running.

Former Stein President Vorndran, who didn’t attend Monday’s meeting, said the club’s longstanding tradition since its founding in the 1970s has been to endorse Democratic primary winners at the club’s first meeting following the primary if the club had not already endorsed those candidates.

As a Democratic Party organization, endorsing primary winners almost never involved controversy assuming they were supportive on LGBT issues, Vorndran said.

“It was as routine as approving the minutes,” he said.

But he said the club’s apparent hesitation to endorse Bowser at its meeting this week suggests the club’s officers are uncertain that Bowser would garner the 60 percent threshold needed for an endorsement at this time.

With a number of club members supporting Catania, a sizable number of members would be expected to vote for the option of “no endorsement,” at least two club members told the Blade.

Peoples said the club and its officers are following an endorsement process adopted last year in which a club endorsement-political committee was formed to determine procedures for making endorsements.

“Our goal is to involve members in the process as much as possible,” she told the Blade. “At Monday’s meeting I said that we would take the feedback to the political committee and give them a chance to determine what the best next step is for the process,” she said.

“The only thing that can be inferred from that is that the Stein Executive Committee remains committed to an open and transparent endorsement process,” she said.

The possible complication in the Stein Club’s endorsement process is yet another example of how divisions within the LGBT community over the Bowser-Catania race may create tension between fellow Democratic activists.

“This race has been painful because I have been forced to make choices which adversely affect individuals whom I respect and admire,” said transgender activist Hughes.

“David Catania has been an LGBT champion, an exemplary and effective Councilman, and personally I love him,” Hughes said. “Muriel Bowser has supported LGBT rights and many in our community love her.”

Added Hughes, “It would be a relief to abdicate choice and rely solely on party line, but this choice will have a real impact on how the District will fare and prosper in the next four years.”

16
Apr
2014

LGBT activists rally for Gray at re-election kick-off

Vincent Gray, gay news, Washington Blade

‘Today, I apologize to you for the pain that my campaign caused. I ask for your forgiveness,’ Mayor Vincent Gray said of his 2010 mayoral campaign. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

At least a dozen LGBT activists joined more than 500 city residents on Saturday for Mayor Vincent Gray’s first rally to launch his 2014 re-election campaign.

Several of the activists said Gray’s mention of LGBT people two times in his speech at the rally highlighted his long record of support for the LGBT community.

The event was held in a packed auditorium at an arts and recreation center on Mississippi Avenue in Southeast D.C. known as THEARC.

“I look around this room and I see folks from every part of our city,” Gray told the gathering. “I see enormous talent and tireless dedication. I see white, I see black, I see brown, and every color in between,” he said.

“I see straight, I see gay, and I see transgender. I see rich and I see poor,” he said. “But above all, I see what makes us the greatest city in the greatest country on Earth — I see a community.”

In another part of his speech Gray said the accomplishments of his first term included his longstanding effort to unify the city’s diverse and growing population.

“We are bringing together young and old, black, brown and white, Latino, Asian, immigrants from throughout the world, gay, straight, able and disabled,” he said.

Gray is being challenged by eight candidates in the city’s April 1 Democratic primary, including four City Council members, all of whom have records of support on LGBT issues.

Much of the coverage of Gray’s speech by the media focused on his apology to the city for the campaign finance irregularities associated with his 2010 mayoral campaign, which led to criminal charges and guilty pleas by four of his top campaign staff members. Gray has said the campaign finance law violations by the four staffers happened without his knowledge.

“I know that the 2010 campaign caused many people great pain,” Gray said in his speech. “I know that our city suffered embarrassment. Today, I apologize to you for the pain that my campaign caused. I ask for your forgiveness.”

Gray added, “Although I cannot apologize for the misdeeds of others, the 2010 campaign was my campaign, and I am deeply sorry for the pain and embarrassment it caused.”

The LGBT activists attending the rally joined virtually everyone one else in the packed auditorium in rising to their feet to give Gray a prolonged ovation in response to his apology. Many in the audience chanted, “Four more years, four more years” before sitting down to listen to the remainder of Gray’s speech.

“I thought it went extremely well,” said gay Democratic activist Lane Hudson, a member of Gray’s 2014 campaign finance committee.

“It’s an overflow crowd. There are hundreds and hundreds of people here,” Hudson said. “The mayor gave a great speech. He addressed very well the 2010 election issue and laid out a real clear vision for the next four years.”

Asked how the LGBT vote is likely to break down in the April 1 primary, Hudson said, “I think it will probably split just like it did in the last election. But one thing that’s clear is Vince Gray is the best mayor in the entire country on LGBT issues.”

At least four prominent transgender activists attended the rally, including Earline Budd, Jeri Hughes and Alexandra Beninda. Budd and Beninda were appointed by Gray to the D.C. Human Rights Commission as the first-ever transgender people to serve on the commission.

“He has done what I think is vital to this city in so many ways in terms of economic development,” said Beninda. “Within our transgender community he definitely has a place in our hearts because he has done so much – with Project Empowerment, with the Transgender Awareness Campaign,” she said in referring to a city-sponsored job training program and a trans related non-discrimination campaign initiated by Gray.

“He has done more than anybody else has ever done in the city for the transgender community,” Beninda said.

Hughes and Budd said Gray, while breaking new ground in his support for the transgender community, has an exceptionally strong record in support of the entire LGBT community. The two also said the city as a whole has prospered under Gray’s tenure as mayor.

LGBT activists who are backing other candidates, including Council members Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) and Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), have said those candidates are also strong supporters of LGBT rights and that LGBT people should select a candidate based on non-LGBT issues.

Longtime gay activists Deacon Maccubbin and Bob Summersgill said they are backing Wells over Gray, among thing things, because Wells has a stronger record on ethics in government issues.

Gay rights advocate and D.C. Department of Health official Ivan Torres, who attended the Gray rally on Saturday, said he believes Gray comes out ahead on non-LGBT issues.

“You can have any preferences that you like,” Torres said in referring to LGBT people supporting candidates running against Gray. “But you cannot deny that in the past four years Washington, D.C. has gone forward — forward in so many ways — economic development, the unemployment rate has gone down, and development is there, and the integration of us gay people, the gay and lesbian community, the transgender community into governance.”

13
Jan
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

Mayor attends ‘Gray Pride’ rally in campaign’s final days

Vince Gray, activists, Gray Pride, Vincent Gray, District of Columbia, gay news, Washington Blade, Capital Pride Parade

Mayor Vincent Gray, shown here marching in D.C.’s LGBT Pride Parade, joined about 50 LGBT activists last week for a fundraiser and rally sponsored by Gray Pride. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray (D) joined about 50 LGBT activists last Thursday night for a fundraiser and rally sponsored by Gray Pride, an LGBT group established in the past month to support his re-election campaign.

The event was held at the Northwest Washington home of longtime gay rights and AIDS activist A. Cornelius Baker. It took place three days after Lane Hudson, co-chair of Gray Pride, released the names of its 24 members, many of whom have been longtime activists in the LGBT rights movement.

“Comprised of a diverse group or people from all walks of life and all parts of the city, the Gray Pride Committee will work to highlight Mayor Gray’s solid record of accomplishment on LGBT issues in order to win LGBT support for his re-election,” according to a statement released by the group on March 24.

The group has had a presence on Facebook and Twitter before the official announcement of its members last week.

In addition to Hudson, Gray Pride co-chairs include Courtney Snowden, a principal at the Raben Group public affairs firm and former Capitol Hill staffer for then Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.); Jose Ramirez, HIV youth educator and board member of the Youth Pride Alliance; Alexis Blackmon, staff member of the Mayor’s Office of Community Affairs and graduate of Project Empowerment, a city job training program with an outreach to the transgender community; and Peter Rosenstein, executive director of a national non-profit organization, Blade columnist and gay Democratic activist.

Members of the Gray Pride Committee include transgender activists Alexandra Beninda, Earline Budd, Jeri Hughes, Bobbi Elaine Strang, Ruby Corado, and Julius Agers; and gay or lesbian activists Brian Goldthorpe, Consuella Lopez, A. Cornelius Baker, Edgardo Guerrero, Ian Hedges, Jose Gutierrez, Justin Hill, Matt Ashburn, Miguel Ayala, Patricia Hawkins, Paul Kuntzler, Paul Morengo and Ted Eytan, M.D.

31
Mar
2014

Budd to be sworn into HIV/AIDS Commission

Earline Budd, gay news, Washington Blade

‘My passion has and continues to be with HIV,’ said longtime activist Earline Budd. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Veteran D.C. transgender activist Earline Budd is scheduled to be sworn in by Mayor Vincent Gray on Dec. 2 as a member of the Mayor’s Commission on HIV/AIDS.

The swearing in ceremony for Budd and other newly appointed members of the HIV/AIDS Commission will take place about a year-and-a-half after Gray inducted Budd and fellow transgender activist Alexandra Beninda as members of the D.C. Commission on Human Rights.

“In July 2012 I became one of the first transgender women appointed to the Commission on Human Rights,” Budd told the Blade in an email. “But my passion has and continues to be with HIV as I have made it no secret that I am HIV positive and am dedicated to providing services to this population, especially those who are homeless and who are struggling,” Budd said.

The swearing in ceremony for the HIV/AIDS Commission members was scheduled to be held outside the mayor’s office in the John A. Wilson City Hall building at noon on Monday, Dec. 2.

27
Nov
2013

Local gay activist tapped to lead Stein endorsement forum

Earl Fowlkes Jr., Black Pride, Washington Blade, gay news

Center for Black Equity President Earl Fowlkes, Jr. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Democratic National Committee member and gay activist Earl Fowlkes of D.C. was scheduled to serve as moderator Thursday night, March 21, at a candidate endorsement forum where five Democrats running in a special election for an at-large D.C. Council seat were expected to court LGBT voters.

The event, organized by the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s largest LGBT political group, was scheduled to take place at 7 p.m. at the Metropolitan Community Church of Washington, 474 Ridge Street, N.W.

“Any candidate hoping to represent the entire District must be a vocal advocate for the issues our community cares about,” said Angela Peoples, the Stein Club’s vice president for political and legislative affairs.

“As the largest LGBT organization in D.C., the Stein Club is well positioned to endorse and use the organizing and fundraising powers of our members to help our chosen candidate push for victory on April 23,” the date of the special election, Peoples said in a statement.

Fowlkes, who served as an Obama delegate at the Democratic National Convention last summer, was chosen by the club’s officers to preside over a forum in which club members appear to be dividing their support among several of the candidates with strong records of support for LGBT rights. He also serves as CEO and president of the Center for Black Equity, a national LGBT advocacy organization.

Fourteen prominent club members, including former Stein treasurer and transgender activist Alexandra Beninda, recently announced their support for Elissa Silverman, a former Washington Post reporter and current budget analyst for the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute. The 14 activists are hosting an LGBT “meet and greet” for Silverman at the 17th Street, N.W., gay bar Cobalt on April 6.

Another ten prominent club members, including former presidents Kurt Vorndran and Lateefah Williams, announced they are hosting their own “meet and greet” for Anita Bonds, chair of the D.C. Democratic State Committee. The State Committee earlier this year elected Bonds as interim Council member for the at-large seat until the special election is held on April 23.

Other club members, along with LGBT activists not affiliated with the club, are backing Michael A. Brown, a former at-large Council member; and Matthew Frumin, an attorney and Ward 3 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner.

Not as many Washington D.C. LGBT activists have surfaced as backers of the fifth Democratic candidate, attorney and marijuana decriminalization advocate Paul Zuckerberg. But Zuckerberg says he is reaching out to LGBT voters.

All five Democratic candidates scheduled to appear at the Stein Club’s endorsement forum Thursday night have expressed strong support for LGBT equality, including marriage equality for same-sex couples. Brown, the only candidate who has previously served on the D.C. Council, has a strong voting record in support of LGBT rights, including his vote for the city’s same-sex marriage law in 2009.

With the club’s membership appearing to be divided among the candidates, it was unclear going into Thursday night’s forum whether any candidate would obtain the 60 percent vote among club members needed for an endorsement under the club’s rules.

“Stein Club members care deeply about this city and the people who live in it,” said Stein President Martin Garcia in a statement. “Electing the best Council member for our city’s LGBT community is part of the responsibility we have to the District.”

The remaining two candidates in the special election who are not Democrats – Republican Patrick Mara and Statehood Green Party candidate Perry Redd – have also expressed strong support for LGBT rights.

Mara, who has run for the Council before, has attracted gay and non-gay Democrats as supporters and is considered by political observers to have a shot at winning in an election where a low voter turnout is expected.

The five Democratic candidates’ responses to a Stein Club questionnaire asking them to state their positions on LGBT issues can be viewed at www.steindemocrats.org.

21
Mar
2013

Silverman wins vote, falls short of Stein Club endorsement

Elissa Silverman, At-Large Council election, Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, gay news, Washington Blade

Elissa Silverman (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

City Council candidate Elissa Silverman beat her four fellow Democratic rivals Thursday night at an endorsement forum sponsored by the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club but fell short of capturing a 60 percent vote total needed to win the club’s endorsement.

Silverman, a budget analyst and former journalist, received 39 votes, or 54.9 percent, in a second ballot runoff against interim Council member Anita Bonds, who received 26 votes, or 36.6 percent. Five club members voted to “abstain” from choosing a candidate in the runoff balloting.

The five Democrats who competed for the Stein Club endorsement and two others – a Republican and a Statehood Green Party candidate – are running in an April 23 special election for an at-large D.C. Council seat. The seat became vacant when Council member Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large) won election last year as Council Chair.

Earlier this year, the D.C. Democratic State Committee, which Bonds chairs, chose her to fill the seat as an interim Council member until the special election is held.

At the Stein Club forum Thursday night, Silverman received 43.6 percent in a first ballot vote, with Bonds receiving 32 percent. Attorney and Ward 3 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Matthew Frumin received 14 percent on the first ballot; former at-large Council member Michael A. Brown received 7 percent. Attorney Paul Zuckerberg, an advocate for marijuana decriminalization, received 2.8 percent.

Close to one hundred people turned out for the forum, which was held at the Metropolitan Community Church of Washington on Ridge Street, N.W., in the city’s Shaw neighborhood.

The voting took place after the five candidates gave opening remarks and answered questions presented by club member Earl Fowlkes, who served as the forum’s moderator. In response to questions by Fowlkes and written questions by audience members, each of the candidates expressed strong support for LGBT rights.

Many of the questions addressed non-LGBT issues, prompting the candidates to discuss their views on education reform, homelessness, unemployment, and the city’s procurement policies among other issues.

“I would have loved to have gotten the endorsement, but we had a majority of Stein Club members support me,” Silverman said after the forum. “So I’m thrilled.”

Silverman’s strong showing came after 14 prominent LGBT activists, most of whom are Stein Club members, announced their support for Silverman in an invitation to an LGBT “meet and greet” event for the candidate to be held at a Dupont Circle area gay bar. Among them are former club treasurer and transgender activist Alexandra Beninda and club members Barbara Helmick, Gregory Cendana, and Jerry Clark.

Another ten prominent Stein Club members, including former club presidents Kurt Vorndran and Lateefah Williams, announced they are hosting a separate “meet and greet” for Bonds.

“I think the candidates did a very good job tonight,” said Stein Club President Martin Garcia. “I think all of the candidates have a very good understanding of our issues. Unfortunately, today the club couldn’t come to a consensus on just one,” he said.

“But that doesn’t mean we’re not going to be out and about participating in the election as we come closer to April 23,” Garcia said.

Frumin, who received the highest rating on LGBT issues from the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, a +7 out of a possible +10 earlier this month, said he was pleased with the vote total he received at the Stein Club forum.

“I didn’t do the process of recruiting members to come so you have voters who are there,” he said. “So people who voted for me were people who were hearing from me tonight for the first time, and I think getting the votes I got was a pretty good accomplishment.”

Supporters of Brown noted that Brown received strong support from LGBT activists in his previous successful race for an at-large Council seat as an independent. They said his vote total of just 7 percent at Thursday’s Stein Club forum was due, in part, to a better effort by Silverman and Bond to turn out supports for the forum.

Brown lost his re-election bid in November to independent David Grosso, who ran as a reform candidate. Political observers say Brown’s widespread name recognition makes him a strong contender in the April 23 special election, where a low voter turnout is expected.

Republican Patrick Mara is also considered a viable candidate in the special election because he has attracted a large number of Democratic voters, including gay Democrats, in two previous races for a Council seat.

Silverman worked as a reporter for the Washington City Paper as the paper’s “Loose Lips” political columnist before becoming a reporter at the Washington Post. Since 2009 she has worked as a budget analyst for the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute.

She told the Blade after the forum that her strong showing from Stein Club members was due to her positions and her approach to addressing both LGBT and non-LGBT issues.

“I think Stein Club members care about this city, they care about this city’s ethics, they care about spending our tax dollars well, they care about being an inclusive city,” she said. “Those are all things that are central to my campaign.”

During a discussion among club members following the appearance of the candidates, Stein Club treasurer Barrie Daneker urged members to vote for Bonds.

“Anita Bonds attended her first Gertrude Stein meeting in 1978,” he said. “She’s been supportive of our community for a long time…We couldn’t have a better candidate for the City Council,” Daneker said, on LGBT and all other issues.

22
Mar
2013

Year in review: Gray names trans women to Human Rights Commission

Vincent Gray, Jeffrey Richardson, Alexandra Beninda, Earline Budd, Human Rights Commission, gay news, Washington Blade

Mayor Vincent Gray administered the oath of office to Alexandra Beninda (second from right) and Earline Budd as members of the D.C. Commission on Human Rights at a ceremony in the Wilson Building. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

In what LGBT activists considered an historic development, Mayor Vincent Gray on July 11 administered the oath of office to transgender advocates Earline Budd and Alexandra Beninda as members of the D.C. Commission on Human Rights.

Gray nominated the two for the post and the D.C. City Council confirmed the nominations earlier in the year.

The appointments represent the first time a transgender person has been named to the city’s Commission on Human Rights, which acts as an adjudicatory body that enforces the city’s Human Rights Act. The act, among other things, bans discrimination in employment, housing, education and public accommodations based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, race, religion and ethnicity.

“I’m very pleased and I’m looking forward to the challenge and I’m always honored to be a representative of my community,” Budd said after the swearing in ceremony. “I’m going to do the best I can in this position and make sure that discrimination ends.”

Beninda said she was looking forward to joining Budd on the commission

“I’m definitely very excited about getting started,” she said. “I look forward, myself and Earline, to be able to represent our LGBT community overall and especially our transgender community in terms of making sure our voices are heard.”

27
Dec
2012