Gay What ?
Rest of site back up shortly!

Gray wins vote but falls short of Stein Club endorsement

Tommy Wells, Vincent Orange, Vincent Gray, Jack Evans, Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, endorsement forum, gay news, Washington Blade

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray finished ahead of four rivals at the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club’s mayoral candidates forum. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray finished far ahead of four of his rivals at the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club’s mayoral candidates forum Thursday night but fell four votes short of the 60 percent threshold needed to win the club’s endorsement.

Gray beat D.C. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), his closest rival, by a margin of 58 percent (112 votes) to 38 percent (74 votes) in a runoff ballot, with 4 percent voting for no endorsement.

“I am so happy about the number of people that came out and supported us tonight,” Gray said after the vote. “It really is an affirmation of our record and we’ll continue to do the things that got us here tonight.”

In a first ballot vote, Gray came in first with 115 votes, ahead of Evans, who received 56 votes. Council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) came in third with 28 votes, just ahead of Council member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), who captured 26 votes. Council member Vincent Orange (D-At-Large) finished fifth with 8 votes. One person voted for no endorsement.

Under club rules, members have the option of holding a run-off vote between the top two vote getters in the first vote if no one obtains the 60 percent margin needed for an endorsement.

Paul Strauss, Pete Ross, U.S. Senate, District of Columbia, Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, endorsement forum, gay news, Washington Blade

Paul Strauss (left) and Pete Ross at the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club’s endorsement forum. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

In a separate endorsement vote on the contest for the city’s shadow U.S. Senate seat, challenger Pete Ross beat incumbent Paul Strauss by a vote of 93 to 85, with 33 people voting for no endorsement. Similar to the mayoral race, Ross failed to win the endorsement by falling 33 votes short of the 60 percent threshold needed for an endorsement.

Meanwhile, in a development that surprised some Stein Club members, mayoral contenders Andy Shallal and Carlos Allen were disqualified from participating in the forum because they didn’t return a candidate questionnaire that the club requires as a condition for being eligible for an endorsement. The two didn’t attend the event.

Democratic mayoral contender Reta Lewis returned the questionnaire but no one placed her name in nomination at Thursday night’s forum as part of another requirement for endorsement eligibility, according to Martin Garcia, the club’s vice president for political and governmental affairs. Garcia said Lewis also didn’t attend the event.

About 300 people, including D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large) and Council member Anita Bonds (D-At-Large), turned out to watch the forum, which was held at the Metropolitan Community Church of Washington at 474 Ridge St., N.W.

Mendelson and Bonds are running for re-election. Last week the Stein Club endorsed Mendelson but didn’t endorse in the at-large race in which Bonds and three other candidates are running in the April 1 Democratic primary because no one received the required 60 percent of the vote from the club’s membership.

Voting at Thursday’s endorsement forum took place after the participating candidates gave opening remarks and answered questions from the audience, which were submitted on index cards and read by Stein Club member Earl Fowlkes, who served as moderator.

Each expressed strong support for LGBT rights and each has a record of support for LGBT-related issues since the time they won election to the Council, with some, including Gray, pointing to their support for LGBT equality in previous jobs in government or in the private sector.

Evans, who has been on the Council for 23 years, brought with him a stack of 32 LGBT-related bills he said he introduced and helped pass during his tenure on the Council.

“I was the first elected official to support marriage equality at a time when no one was there,” he said.

Gray cited the LGBT-related initiatives he has put into effect since becoming mayor, including a first-of-its-kind transgender job training program. His LGBT supporters, who turned out in large numbers at the forum, have called him the nation’s strongest LGBT-supportive mayor.

“I’m proud to have stood up for what is right in the District of Columbia on behalf of the people who are LGBTQ in the District of Columbia,” he said. “I am proud to have led the fight on the Council of the District of Columbia to be able to approve marriage equality,” he said, referring to his role as chair of the Council in 2009 when the marriage bill came up.

Wells acknowledged that Evans, in his long tenure on the Council, and Gray, in his many LGBT-related initiatives as mayor, have done a lot for the LGBT community. Noting that his record and commitment to LGBT issues is also strong, he suggested that LGBT voters should consider turning their attention to issues such as ethics in government, that impact everyone.

“I am so proud of what we’ve done together to make this a fairer, just city for everyone,” Wells said. “Let me say that everyone on the dais has been part of that,” he said. “Your fight is my fight.”

Bowser said she is proud to have won the club’s endorsement in the past when running for her Ward 4 Council seat.

“I think Tommy is right,” she said. “There have been a lot of people who have worked long and hard so that all the institutions of the District of Columbia are equal.  Because of their hard work we’re talking about marriage equality tonight.”

Bowser, among other things, cited her role as co-introducer of a bill approved by the Council earlier this year calling for services for LGBT homeless youth.

Orange pointed to his role as a committee chair to help push through a bill introduced by gay D.C. Council member Jim Graham to add protections for transgender people in the city’s Human Rights Act.

In keeping with the club’s longstanding format for endorsement forums, the candidates were asked to leave the main hall where the event took place at the conclusion of the forum to give club members a chance to speak among themselves on who they support for the endorsement.

Among those speaking on behalf of Bowser was her gay brother, Marvin Bowser.

“Muriel has been up front in support of all of the LGBTQ issues in her campaign, including marriage equality, the anti-bullying law, and the homeless youth bill,” he said. “She’s about supporting the diversity and the vitality of the city,” he said. “She’s fully engaged in all the issues important to that.”

Martin Garcia, Angela Peoples, Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, endorsement forum, gay news, Washington Blade

Stein Club Vice President for Legislative and Political Affairs Martin Garcia (left) and President Angela Peoples. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Stein Club President Angela Peoples said that while she’s disappointed that the club was unable to make an endorsement in the mayor’s race, along with the shadow Senate seat and several Council races, the endorsement forum has been beneficial to LGBT voters.

“I’m really proud and humbled and excited to see so much energy from the entire LGBT community,” she said. “The turnout at this event really shows that our LGBT community is diverse. We have straight allies. We have transgender leadership in our organization. We have people who have been here for a long time and also people who are new and excited.”

Peoples said the strong support that all of the candidates have expressed for LGBT equality was a testament to the strength of the LGBT community.

07
Mar
2014

Bowser or Catania?

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

The race between David Catania and Muriel Bowser for mayor is dividing the LGBT community. (Washington Blade photo of Catania by Michael Key; Blade photo of Bowser by Damien Salas)

D.C.’s overwhelmingly Democratic-leaning LGBT community will likely be navigating unchartered waters this summer and fall as an LGBT-supportive Democrat, Council member Muriel Bowser, runs against a prominent openly gay Council colleague, independent David Catania, in a hotly contested race for mayor.

“I have no idea how it will come out,” said Rick Rosendall, president of the non-partisan Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance.

“Many people are talking about supporting Catania,” Rosendall said. “At the same time, some people are circling the wagons as Democrats.”

Rosendall is among many activists who see a potential dilemma for LGBT voters in a city in which virtually all elected officials and nearly all credible candidates for public office are supportive on LGBT rights. Many have longstanding records of support on issues that were once considered highly controversial, such as the city’s same-sex marriage law.

Bowser’s decisive victory over D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray in the city’s April 1 Democratic primary appears to have come with the support of large numbers of LGBT voters, even though the city’s most prominent LGBT leaders backed Gray.

A Washington Blade analysis of 18 voter precincts believed to have large concentrations of LGBT residents shows that Bowser won 14 of them, with Gray and mayoral candidate Tommy Wells, a Council member from Ward 6, each winning two of the “LGBT” precincts.

Several of the precincts won by Bowser are located in areas long known as “gay” neighborhoods, including Dupont Circle, Logan Circle, Adams Morgan and Shaw. Other precincts she won are in areas considered up and coming neighborhoods into which many LGBT people are moving, such as the 14th and U Street, N.W. corridor, Bloomingdale, and Ledroit Park.

Everett Hamilton, owner of a local public relations firm and longtime gay Democratic activist, is serving as a volunteer communications strategist for the Bowser campaign. He said he believes Bowser captured the majority of LGBT votes for the same reason that she won the overall citywide vote.

“At the end of the day, LGBT people, like all city residents, are going to vote for the person who can best run the city and who they believe is best for the city,” he said.

With a gay brother and a gay campaign manager, Hamilton said no one can dispute the fact that Bowser and her campaign have strong ties to the LGBT community, Hamilton said.

Other political observers, however, point out that Gray was ahead of Bowser and the other mayoral candidates until U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen took the extraordinary step of implicating Gray in an illegal scheme to raise more than $600,000 for Gray’s 2010 mayoral election campaign less than a month before the primary.

Gray has long denied having any knowledge in the scheme that led to the indictment of businessman Jeffrey Thompson, who pleaded guilty to orchestrating the scheme in exchange for being promised a more lenient jail sentence. It was Thompson who has told prosecutors Gray knew about the illegal activity and approved it.

The revelations by Machen resulted in an immediate rise in support for Bowser that many observers believe led to her victory at the polls.

Catania’s LGBT supporters, meanwhile, have said that Catania’s reputation as a reform politician with a strong legislative record on issues such as healthcare, education, and LGBT rights will have none of the negative baggage that Gray had as the general election campaign for mayor moves forward.

Longtime gay Democratic activist Paul Kuntzler, one of the founders of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, surprised many in the LGBT community last week when he announced his support for Catania over Bowser. Ben Young, Catania’s campaign manager, said “many more” prominent LGBT Democrats would soon announce their support for Catania.

Veteran gay Democratic activist Peter Rosenstein, a Blade columnist, has emerged as one of Catania’s leading critics, saying Catania’s status as a former Republican whose philosophy isn’t as progressive as people think will work against Catania in a city with an overwhelmingly Democratic electorate.

Angela Peoples, president of the Stein Club, the city’s largest LGBT political group, said the club’s bylaws prevent it from endorsing a non-Democratic candidate when a Democrat is running in a particular race.

Even if the club could endorse a non-Democrat, Peoples said she expects the club to back Bowser, although its members have yet to set a date to vote on an endorsement.

“As always, I will certainly yield to the will of the membership,” she said. “This election poses an interesting situation for many folks and for LGBT folks in the District as there is an LGBT candidate on the ballot,” Peoples said.

“However, I think what I’ve seen thus far coming out of the primary is Democrats are uniting around Councilwoman Bowser. And I think that’s great to see,” she told the Blade.

Peoples said the club would likely adopt a plan for an endorsement vote at its April meeting scheduled for next Monday night.

The city’s most prominent transgender activists, who were solidly behind Gray in the primary, also have yet to say whether they will back Bowser now that she defeated a mayor that many in the trans community considered a champion for their rights.

Although Bowser has voted for all transgender equality measures that have come before the Council, Catania has been the author of several of those measures, including a landmark bill removing longstanding obstacles to the ability of trans people to obtain a new birth certificate to reflect their transition to a new gender.

10
Apr
2014

Mayor, 5 Council members attend Stein Club awards

Angela Peoples, Rod Snyder, Martin Garcia, Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, gay news, Washington Blade

The Stein Club marked its 37th anniversary last weekend. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray and five members of the City Council, three of whom are running for mayor, turned out for the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club’s annual awards reception and fundraiser on Sept. 28, at the Sonoma Restaurant and Wine Bar on Capitol Hill.

The event marked the 37th anniversary of the founding of the Stein Club, the city’s largest LGBT political organization.

Those named as recipients the club’s recognition for service to the LGBT community were LGBT Youth Pride Alliance Leader Nikisha Carpenter; D.C. Trans Coalition organizer Andy Bowen; and former D.C. Young Democrats President Toby Quaranta. The club also presented an award of recognition to the D.C.-based group TransLAW, which serves as a legal clinic providing assistance to the transgender community.

The Council members attending the event included Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5), and Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6). Evans, Bowser, and Wells have announced they are candidates for mayor in the April 1, 2014 Democratic primary.

The three have a strong record of support on LGBT rights issues as does Gray. Each voted for the city’s same-sex marriage law in 2009. Gray served as Council Chair at the time the marriage equality bill came up for a vote. Gray’s supporters in the LGBT community consider him to be the most LGBT-supportive politician to serve as D.C. mayor.

Gray has yet to say whether he will run for re-election for a second term. Some Stein Club members say they will have a hard time choosing among friends in the mayoral race.

Others have said LGBT voters, like other city residents, will likely choose a mayoral candidate based on non-LGBT issues.

04
Oct
2013

Trans activist Hughes to run for Stein Club president

Jeri Hughes, Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, gay news, Washington Blade

Jeri Hughes (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Veteran D.C. transgender activist Jeri Hughes this week announced she is a candidate for president of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club in the group’s annual officers’ election scheduled for Nov. 18.

Hughes is the second candidate so far to enter the race for the president’s position. Stein Club Vice President for Legislative and Political Affairs Angela Peoples announced two weeks ago that she was running for president after incumbent President Martin Garcia said he would step down as president and run for the vice presidential seat held by Peoples.

If successful, Hughes would be the first transgender person to serve as the club’s president. Transgender and Democratic Party activist Julius Agars served as the club’s vice president two years ago.

Meanwhile, Stein Club Secretary Jimmie Luthuli announced this week that she is running for the position of vice president for administration. That post is being vacated by incumbent Vincent Paolo Villano, who isn’t running for re-election. As of this week, no one has announced candidacy for the Stein Club treasurer’s position, which is being vacated by gay Democratic activist Barrie Daneker, who also decided not to seek re-election.

“Everyone who knows me knows I’m a fighter who works hard to help the community,” Hughes said. “Whatever the issues are I will fight for them.”

She added, “This has very little to do with Martin and Angela. I want to give the existing members a choice.”

Garcia, Peoples and Vallano ran as a slate in the club’s election last year in opposition to the slate organized by then-Stein Club President Lateefah Williams. Their victory, which caught some of the club’s longtime members by surprise, resulted in a change in leadership and came about after an effort by the then challengers to sign up more than 50 new members supportive of them just days prior to the election.

At the time, Hughes criticized the new group for “stacking” the election, even though she acknowledged their actions were allowed under the club’s bylaws. The club has since changed its bylaws to require prospective members to join the club at least 30 days prior to a club election in order to be eligible to vote.

31
Oct
2013

Stein Club election heats up

Martin Garcia, Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, gay news, Washington Blade, Stein Club

Martin Garcia, Stein Club’s current president, is now running for vice president. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Gertrude Stein Democratic Club officials Martin Garcia and Angela Peoples issued a statement on Tuesday announcing the names of three people running with them on a slate for the five officer positions in the club’s Nov. 18 election.

Garcia, the club’s current president, announced last month he’s running for vice president for legislative and political affairs, a post currently held by Peoples. Peoples, in turn, announced she’s running for president.

In the statement released on Tuesday, Garcia and Peoples said Vietnamese-American “queer community organizer, advocate and poet” Diana Bui will run on their slate for the position of vice president for administration; local transgender activist Bobbi Strang, who has worked with the D.C. Trans Coalition and Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV), will run for secretary; and local gay activist Terrance Laney, a former special assistant for the LGBT advocacy organization National Black Justice Coalition, will run on the slate for Stein Club treasurer.

Peoples is being challenged in the race for president by veteran D.C. transgender activist and longtime Stein Club member Jeri Hughes. Bui will be running for the vice president for administration post against Jimmie Luthuli, who currently serves as the club’s secretary. Luthuli told the Blade she is backing Hughes for president.

No candidates have surfaced so far to challenge Garcia, Strang or Laney. The club members currently holding the secretary and treasurer’s positions being sought by Strange and Laney are not running for re-election.

“I could not be happier with the talent and experience represented on our slate,” Peoples said in the statement. “The club’s membership is full of diverse backgrounds and perspectives; Diana, Terrance, and Bobbi are a tribute to that diversity.”

Luthuli, a public policy analyst, said she and Hughes would bring years of experience and involvement in the LGBT community to their positions as president and vice president for administration.

“Jeri and I will be asking members of the club to support us,” she said.

06
Nov
2013

‘Incumbent’ slate wins Stein Club elections

Angela Peoples, Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, gay news, Washington Blade

Angela Peoples won election as the Stein Club’s president Monday night in a hotly contested race. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Gertrude Stein Democratic Club’s vice president for legislative and political affairs, Angela Peoples, won election as the club’s president Monday night in a hotly contested race against transgender activist and longtime club member Jeri Hughes.

Peoples ran on a slate that she and Stein Club President Martin Garcia organized after the two decided to swap positions, with Garcia stepping down as president to run for the vice presidential position currently held by Peoples.

Peoples won by a vote of 49 to 24. Garcia ran unopposed and was declared the winner of the vice president’s position by acclamation.

Stein Club members supporting both Peoples and Hughes said both candidates were well qualified to serve as president but a majority chose Peoples as part of a new, younger leadership team that won control of the club in its 2012 election on a platform of reinvigorating the organization by aggressively building a larger, more diverse membership.

“This year we saw a lot of energy and enthusiasm and I think we’re going to carry that into 2014,” Peoples said after the election results were announced. “We’re going to continue to raise money, we’re going to reach out and hold candidates accountable to move our community and our issues forward,” she said, referring to next year’s D.C. mayoral and City Council elections.

“The Stein Club will be fine,” Hughes told the Blade in a statement after the election. “It was a fair election. I truly appreciate the support that I received.”

The Stein Club, which celebrated its 37th anniversary in October, is the city’s largest LGBT political organization.

Peoples and Garcia earlier this month invited three new members of the club — Diana Bui, Terrance Laney and Bobbie Strang — to join their slate of candidates for vice president for administration, treasurer and secretary respectively. Laney and Strang won in uncontested races after incumbent treasurer Barrie Daneker chose not to run for re-election and incumbent secretary Jimmie Luthuli ran for vice president for administration.

Shortly after Luthuli announced her intent to run for the vice presidential post Bui entered the race for the position as a member of the Garcia-Peoples slate.

During a candidate discussion period on Monday, Bui described herself as a “Vietnamese-American queer” who has worked in the fields of public relations, media and social justice advocacy. She said she would become a “fearless” advocate for LGBT equality if elected to the position.

Luthuli, who was not part of the Garcia-Peoples slate in the 2012 club election, said her status as a longtime club member and LGBT rights advocate would bring continuity and more experience to the club’s leadership team.

Bui beat Luthuli in the race for the vice president for administration post by a vote of 40 to 31.

Biographical information on members of their slate released by Garcia and Peoples says Bui serves as co-chair of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum D.C. Chapter. She also heads the immigration advocacy work for the Asian Pacific Labor Alliance in the role of membership and chapter coordinator, according to the biographical information.

Laney, the club’s treasurer-elect, recently worked on the successful marriage equality campaign in Rhode Island and previously served as special assistant to the CEO at the LGBT advocacy group National Black Justice Coalition.

Strang, who will assume her duties as Stein secretary in January, has been active with the D.C. Trans Coalition, Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV), and the D.C. Center, information released by the club says. It says she has also worked at the D.C. Office of Latino Affairs and currently works as the first openly transgender employee at the D.C. Department of Employment Services.

Monday night’s election came just under a year after Garcia, Peoples and Villano organized a successful challenge to a slate organized by then-Stein Club President Lateefah Williams, resulting in the ouster of the club’s established leadership.

Supporters credited Garcia, a political consultant, with helping to recruit as many as 50 new members in December 2012 to back his slate, prompting Hughes and other longtime members of the club to complain that the new group “stacked” the election.

But Garcia and others, including many of the club’s longtime members, acknowledged that signing up new members immediately prior and up to the time of the election meeting was permitted under the club’s bylaws.

Earlier this year the club voted to change the bylaws to require that people be members of the club for at least 30 days to be eligible to vote in a club officers election.

Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, Bob Kuntzler, gay news, Washington Blade

Members of the Stein Club cast ballots for their 2014 leadership. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Correction: This story originally reported that the vote for president was 73-24 instead of 49-24. We regret the error.

19
Nov
2013

Richardson to lead Ward 6 Dems

Jeffrey Richardson, gay news, Washington Blade, Ward 6

Jeffrey Richardson (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Gay activist and D.C. government official Jeffrey Richardson on Dec. 7 won election as president of the Ward 6 Democratic Committee, defeating opponent DeLeon Ware by a “very close” margin, according to Democratic State Committee official Bill O’Field.

O’Field said he couldn’t immediately obtain the final vote count but said it would become available soon.

Richardson is the former director of the city’s Office of GLBT Affairs under Mayor Vincent Gray and currently serves as director of the D.C. Office of Volunteerism. He’s also the former president of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s largest LGBT political organization.

The Stein Club’s president-elect, Angela Peoples, said she is pleased that Richardson won his race to lead the Ward 6 Democrats and the Stein Club looks forward to working with him in the coming year.

Richardson won an earlier election as president of the Ward 6 Democrats held in October, but the State Committee ruled that the election was invalid because a misleading public notice about the time period for the voting prevented registered voters from arriving in time to vote.

11
Dec
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

Stein Club ready for future with new leaders

With the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club special meeting and election controversy over and the slate originally elected on Dec. 3 officially reaffirmed as the winners, the club can move to the work it is destined to do — advocate for the LGBT community of D.C.

Although the special meeting and the challenges brought forth may have raised a few eyebrows in the community and seemingly split the club into two factions, its mission was accomplished. Allowing members the opportunity to question, challenge, gain clarification and in some cases vent, the meeting was democracy in action at its best and much needed to help the club move forward.

After all, the club is a democratic organization that thrives on democratic principles. The special meeting allowed members to participate in a democratic process and gain clarity on a number of issues that raised flags of concerns.  I am sure that this will ultimately lead to a revision of the club’s bylaws, which will only help to allow the club to carry out its mission more effectively.

Additionally, the new leadership certainly has brought a lot of positive energy into the group by taking a page out of President Obama’s book and organizing to bring in a diverse group of new members who are “fired up and ready to go!” If you combine this energy with the renewed energy of the club’s existing members, 2013 and beyond is sure to bring great things for the LGBT community in Washington, D.C.

However, there is still a giant elephant in the room – the need of the new leadership to win those over who still doubt their leadership ability. No one is denying that winning over the doubters will not be an easy task. Yet, the challenges that the new leadership will face should not be used as a method of attack before they have had ample time to prove themselves. Countless organizations have had changes in leadership that may have caused a riff in the membership, but they have banned together for the good of the organization and its mission.

The Stein Club members and the community should allow the new leadership the time necessary to do exactly that, especially considering that the one thing that resonated in the special meeting was that there is still work to be done to improve the lives of those in the LGBT community. Yes, there have been great successes in the quest for equality in recent months in Washington, D.C., and across the country but you cannot rest on your laurels when all members of the community are not treated equally.

Among the work that needs to be done is reducing the number of hate crimes plaguing the LGBT community in D.C. This very important issue and others should now be the focus as we prepare to enter into 2013.

The special meeting, challenges and questions about the meeting are now in the past. That chapter has ended and it is time to move onto to a new one. In this new chapter, Martin Garcia, Angela Peoples, Vincent Villano, Barrie Daneker, and Jimmie Luthuli stand posed to lead a club with a rich history and tradition into a new era. This executive board, like those that have come before them, will continue the legacy and be staunch advocates for the LGBT community.

Membership in the organization is growing; fresh ideas are flowing and old and new members are eager to work together. We are “fired up and ready to go!” That’s what every organization wants and we have it. We need to embrace that.

I stand behind the club leadership and am ready to do whatever I can to improve the lives of my fellow LGBT brothers and sisters. Will you join me and do the same?

Jerome Hunt, Ph.D. is the outgoing vice president of administration for the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club and a researcher specializing in “post-racial” black leaders and the black LGBT community. He is a Visiting Professor at the University of the District of Columbia. Reach him at Jerome.r.hunt@gmail.com or on twitter @jeromehuntphd.

03
Jan
2013

Stein Club special meeting upholds election of new officers

Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, Washington Blade, gay news

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

More than 70 members of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club voted by an overwhelming margin Wednesday night to uphold the election two weeks ago of three new officers who gained control of the club in an upset victory.

The vote came in a special meeting called one week earlier by the club’s current officers to consider whether to invalidate the Dec. 3 club election of Martin Garcia, 27, as president; Angela Peoples, 26, as vice president for legislative and political affairs; and Vincent Villano, 26, as vice president for administration.

“We were all very excited to reaffirm the election of Marin Garcia and his slate,” said outgoing Stein Club President Lateefah Williams, who lost to Garcia by a vote of 47 to 45.

“And I’m very happy that we’re going to be moving forward as a united Stein Club,” Williams told the Blade after the meeting.

In a gesture aimed at avoiding a rift between the club’s old and new members, Williams withdrew from contention for the club presidency in the event that the special meeting voted to invalidate the election of the new officers and called for a new election.

“The new members have a hill to climb here with the old members,” said Stein Club treasurer Barrie Daneker, who won re-election unopposed after Garcia and his supporters chose not to run candidates for the treasurer and secretary’s position.

Berrie Daneker, Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, Washington Blade, gay news

Berrie Daneker (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

“But I’m confident that once they see their leadership and if they produce, then Gertrude Stein will be stronger than we’ve ever been in our 37 years of existence,” Daneker told the Blade.

Some feared that a bitter argument would erupt at the special meeting over a proposed challenge to the validity of 17 of the 46 new members who joined the club less than a week before the election.

The new members, who Garcia and his supporters recruited, are believed to have given Garcia, Peoples, and Villano their razor-thin margin of victory over Williams and her slate of candidates seeking the two vice president positions.

But during nearly two hours of discussion, no one moved to take action against the 17 new members, who came under question during the past week when the home addresses for eleven of them couldn’t be verified. Others questioned the qualification of six of the 17 new members who joined under a special membership category with a reduced fee of $15 restricted to students, senior citizens, and limited income people. The club’s regular membership costs $35.

Although many expected the special meeting to divide along the lines of the longtime club members and the new insurgent members who gained control of the club, those speaking in support of upholding the election and withdrawing the challenge came mostly from the ranks of the old members.

Gay Democratic Activist and longtime Stein Club member Bob Summersgill said no one presented any evidence or valid rationale for disqualifying any of the new members.

“There is nothing in the bylaws that says anything about where you have to live,” he said. “There is nothing in the bylaws to define low income.”

Gay activists Lane Hudson and Steve Gorman, who are also club members of longstanding, said they were impressed with Garcia and his supporters’ political organizing skills that enabled bring in close to 50 new members.

Garcia told the meeting that he and the new members that supported him have been involved in local and national politics and Democratic Party activities. He said his objective are to strengthen the Stein Club by bringing in more members with diverse backgrounds so it can do more in its longstanding role as the city’s largest LGBT political organization.

Transgender activist and longtime Stein Club member Jeri Hughes, who was one of the members who challenged the club election, surprised some at the special meeting when she said the meeting should not vote on the question of invalidating the election or challenging memberships.

Instead, Hughes proposed bringing up the invalidation question at the club’s next regular meeting in January.

As she has in Facebook postings and in a Blade commentary, Hughes called the election a “farce,” saying the winning side “stacked” the election meeting with people who were “strangers” to the club.

While the new members acted within the club’s rules and bylaws, “that doesn’t make what they did right,” she said.

However, when fellow club member Ed Craft told her later that he planned to withdraw from the club because of his objection to the new officers’ takeover, Hughes urged him not to do so.

“I don’t think these are bad people,” she told Craft in a Facebook message Wednesday night. “I think they did something wrong…and foolish, but the club does good work and has done good work. We can still do good work. Leaving serves no purpose.”

Martin Garcia, Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, Washington Blade, gay news

Gertrude Stein Democratic Club President-elect Martin Garcia (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Former club president Kurt Vorndran, who was among the longtime members who called for letting the election of the new officer’s stand, introduced a resolution calling for changing the club’s bylaws to restrict the ability to vote in the election of club officers to people who have been members for at least 30 calendar days.

The club voted to table Vorndran’s motion, with the intent to bring it up at the next regular meeting in January.

Craft told the Blade he believes many of the old members will withdraw from active participation in the club due to the flap over the election and for what he said was the failure of the special meeting to enable longtime members to raise concerns and ask questions.

“I feel the meeting tonight was a complete farce,” he said. “I feel it was staged, that Lane Hudson through his motions made it impossible for the meaningful exchange of information that was the purpose of this meeting to take place.”

Craft was referring to a set of rules governing the meeting that Williams and the existing Stein Club officers proposed at the beginning of the meeting. Nearly everyone president voted to approve the rules, which, among other things, limited the time people could speak on a specific issue to two minutes.

While Craft spoke to the Blade immediately after the meeting adjourned, club member Robert Brannum shouted to the members collecting their belongings and leaving the meeting room that he was outraged he wasn’t allowed to speak during the closing session of the meeting. When Brannum, who spoke earlier in the meeting, requested to speak at the closing session, Hudson and other members objected, saying the rules adopted at the start of the meeting prevented him from doing so.

“The whole purpose of having an orderly meeting is to achieve the objectives of the meeting, and that’s what we did,” Hudson told the Blade. “People had their say, they came together and we’re in a much better place than when the meeting began.”

In a statement she sent to the Blade Thursday morning, Williams said more effort will be needed to heal the rift between all of the old and new members.

“I think the meeting was successful as an initial first step at dialogue between long term and new members and bringing both groups together,” she said. “Unfortunately, due to some motions that ended the dialogue early, some members still feel that they did not have an opportunity to have their questions addressed.”

Williams added, “I think the key is to look at this meeting as the beginning of the process of healing and not the culmination of it. I hope that all members continue to engage one another to work through any concerns that may still exist. I wish the new board well and I hope that they continue efforts to help bridge the gap between long term and new members.”

20
Dec
2012