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Fallen activist honored in street-naming

Jeff Coudriet, gay news, Washington Blade

Jeff Coudriet died of lung cancer in February 2011. (Photo by Phil Attey)

A company that built a multimillion-dollar development project at the site of the historic O Street Market in the city’s Shaw neighborhood has honored the late Jeff Coudriet, a longtime gay rights leader and influential City Council staff member, by naming a street after him.

At a March 21 ceremony, officials with Roadside Development Corp. designated a one-block section of 8th Street, N.W, between O and P streets, as Coudriet Way. Although the street is open to the public and vehicular traffic it is part of the private land obtained by the company to build the project, according to Roadside co-founder Richard Lake.

“We worked with Jeff, who helped us bring about this development project,” Lake told the Blade. “Jeff worked tirelessly with us on this and died before the project was completed.”

Lake was referring to Coudriet’s role as committee clerk for the D.C. Council’s Committee on Finance and Revenue, which is chaired by Council member and mayoral candidate Jack Evans (D-Ward 2). Evans has said Coudriet acted as a facilitator on behalf of his office to help Roadside navigate the D.C. government bureaucracy to clear the way for a project supported by the community.

Among other things, it brought to a once blighted area a state-of-the-art Giant Food store, 650 residential apartments of which 90 are reserved for seniors at affordable costs, and a 182-room hotel along with 500 parking spaces.

Coudriet died of lung cancer in February 2011 at the age of 48. He was a longtime resident of the Shaw community.

He is credited with playing a lead role in efforts to repeal the city’s sodomy law and to pass the city’s first domestic partners law during his tenure as president of the Gay & Lesbian Activists Alliance from 1992 to 1995. He later served as president of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s largest LGBT political group.

He joined Evans’ staff in 2001 after having served on the staff of U.S. Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.). He left Evans’ staff in 2004 to take a job at the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration before returning to Evans’ staff in 2007, where he remained until the time of his death.

“It is impossible to put into words the contributions Jeff made to our city and its residents,” Evans said at the time of Coudriet’s death.


Carol Schwartz enters D.C. mayor’s race

Carol Schwartz, gay news, Washington Blade

Former D.C. Council member Carol Schwartz announced plans to run for mayor. (Washington Blade file photo by Pete Exis)

Former D.C. Council member and four-time Republican mayoral candidate Carol Schwartz surprised political observers on Monday by announcing she is entering the race for mayor as an independent candidate.

Schwartz, who often was at odds with the national Republican Party, has been a strong supporter of LGBT rights and enjoyed the support of large numbers of LGBT voters.

She won city-wide election four times to an at-large Council seat before losing her bid for a fifth term to GOP primary challenger Patrick Mara in 2008. Mara lost in the general election to independent Michael Brown who later lost his re-election bid to Council member David Grosso (I-At-Large).

Schwartz has stayed out of politics since losing her Council seat in 2008.

“My love for D.C. is a good part of why I’m running, as well as my great sense of responsibility about its welfare,” she said in a statement released to the media on Monday.

Many political observers as well as LGBT activists following the mayor’s race believe Schwartz’s entrance into the race will help Democratic mayoral contender Muriel Bowser, the Ward 4 Council member, at the expense of fellow Council member and rival mayoral candidate David Catania (I-At-Large).

As a non-Democrat, Schwartz is likely to take away more votes from Catania than from Bowser because loyal Democrats are expected to back Bowser, forcing Catania to compete for many of the same voters that would likely find Schwartz an attractive alternative to Bowser.

Ben Young, Catania’s campaign manager, called Schwartz’s candidacy an “orchestrated” effort by Schwartz to help Bowser win the race.

“This is as transparent as glass,” Young told the Blade. “Everyone knows how long their friendship goes back, and this is a sideshow – an attempt to divide the vote so that Bowser can squeak by. But it’s going to backfire on them,” he said. “They’ve underestimated the intelligence of voters.”

Another possible motive for Schwartz to target Catania, according to people familiar with the two, is that she and Catania clashed over various issues during Schwartz’s latter years on the Council. Catania threw his support behind Mara in the 2008 Republican primary, helping political newcomer Mara defeat Schwartz.

Bowser, appearing Monday night at the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club meeting where she won the club’s endorsement, said the allegation made by Young doesn’t dignify an answer.

“I launched my campaign for mayor last March 23,” she said. “I didn’t care then who was running and I don’t care now who’s running. Our vision and message is the same and we’re going to see the voters on Nov. 4 no matter who’s on the ballot.”

When asked about Young’s claim that her candidacy was orchestrated with Bowser, Schwartz told the Blade, “I appreciate and agree with Muriel’s response that this does not deserve a response. I want to be mayor on my own accord, which should be obvious to everyone on the planet by now.”

In the statement she released on Monday announcing her candidacy Schwartz said she is ready to return to politics.

“During this five-year break from political life – and many of you may remember, that break was not of my choosing – I have watched closely from the sidelines and have been concerned about what is happening in our city’s present and what its future will look like,” she said.

Among her concerns has been the large numbers of city residents “left behind or pushed out” of the city during a period of economic growth and prosperity. She said she’s also troubled over corruption in city government that has “gone beyond the pale.”

“I want a leader who has the wisdom to recognize chicanery before the ‘you know what’ hits the fan and who has the courage to take it on and stop it before its hits,” she said.

“Today, our citizens are in need of someone who will fight for their interest, someone who will help earn back our reputation; someone who will be beholden to no one but them,” she said. “I believe that I am that someone.”


Vote for next generation of leadership in D.C.

vote, elections, leadership, slate, gay news, Washington Blade

Honing in on four key problems facing our community: a lack of good jobs, ever increasing costs of housing, prohibitive wages for our workers, and the denial of D.C.’s claim to statehood.


For some time now, wooing and turning out young voters is the name of the game for Democratic candidates at all levels of government. In the District of Columbia, an influx of young professionals over the last decade and the racial and socio-economic shift that have followed make engaging this group more important, yet more elusive than ever.

It’s hard to believe that this city’s main draw for newcomers is the opportunity to work in politics and government, and somehow, that would mean local politics would take “a back seat to the existential angst of being a 20- or 30-something in this city,” as Robert Samuels wrote in a Washington Post article last week referring to youth involvement in local elections.

But Robert Samuels hasn’t met the leaders behind the Rent Is Too Darn High slate.

I moved to D.C. in 2008 with a laser-like focus on being a part of the movement for social change at the national level. As an advocate for the United States Student Association, a national youth advocacy organization, I was inspired daily by the energy, passion and ability of my peers working to make higher education affordable. Over the years, I developed roots in the District community. This community is comprised of people in similar circumstances: 20- and 30-year old D.C. transplants with deep progressive values and a belief in the power of people to change their surroundings.

The fact that our views at times clashed with our role in the rapidly gentrifying city we called home — and yes, we do call D.C. home — was not lost on me. Having been raised in a household of school board presidents and churchgoers, the call to contribute to my local community grew stronger.

That calling brought me to the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club to help serve as the voice for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Democrats in D.C. This group connects my passion for politics and progress with my commitment to being a community leader in the city I call home. And now, in the middle of my second term on the executive board of the Club, we’ve made it a point to engage young community members.

Serving as a leader of the largest constituent group in the D.C. Democratic Party has its challenges. There were those who questioned my authenticity, my ability to lead and even my sexuality. But for every one person who cast doubt on the spirit of this new generation of community leaders, there were two others who stood firmly behind us.

I continue to be inspired by many of these leaders who answered the call to fight for change at home and across the country. Many of these folks are now running for City Council, leading local organizations like the Washington Interfaith Network, the Youth Pride Alliance, TransLaw, and the Latino/a GLBT History Project.

One such group is the Rent Is Too Darn High slate for D.C. Democratic State Committee, the largest and most diverse slate seeking to give this body a fresh start. So while the Washington Post might make a debatable argument about youth involvement in the mayoral election, what is absolutely clear is that young people and LGBT people are energized by and driving engagement in local politics.

Representing the wisdom of long-standing community leaders joined by the fresh perspectives of young organizers, this slate is honing in on four key problems facing our community: a lack of good jobs, ever increasing costs of housing, prohibitive wages for our workers, and the denial of D.C.’s claim to statehood.

I’m convinced that one path to changing these conditions is through the effective stewardship of the D.C. Democratic State Committee. For too long, this organization has fought against transparency and accountability, and now wrestles with the perception of being complicit in corruption.

Unlike other candidates and slates, the Rent Is Too Darn High candidates bring native Washingtonians together with D.C. transplants to tackle head-on the policies depriving our communities of what they need to support their families. With Rent Is Too Darn High candidates at the helm of the D.C. Democratic State Committee, we can have a significant role in bringing these issues in front of the mayor’s office and the City Council.

So as a fellow D.C. community member, come April 1st, I’m giving my support to all the candidates bearing the Rent Is Too Darn High name. And I urge all LGBT people committed to a new generation of Democratic leadership in D.C. to do the same.

Angela Peoples is president of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club.


Former Stein Club president weighs race for att’y gen’l

Lateefah Williams, gay news, Washington Blade

Lateefah Williams, an attorney and longtime LGBT rights advocate, said she plans to run for the newly created position of elected D.C. attorney general. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Former Gertrude Stein Democratic Club President Lateefah Williams, an attorney and longtime LGBT rights advocate, said she plans to run for the newly created position of elected D.C. attorney general if she determines her legal background meets the specific criteria established by law to hold the position.

Williams, 37, has a law degree from Georgetown University School of Law, is a member of the D.C. Bar and has practiced law in various capacities for more than 10 years.

But she said an attorney with the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics told her that her legal experience may not meet the definition of a requirement that attorney general candidates must have been “actively engaged… as an attorney in the practice of law” for at least five of the past 10 years.

The requirement is part of a law passed by the City Council to establish qualifications for someone to become D.C. attorney general.

Over most of the past five years Williams has served as political and legislative director for the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, which represents Metro workers; and as a nonprofit speech rights policy analyst for the advocacy group OMB Watch. Prior to that she worked as a law firm associate for several years handling insurance cases, plaintiff related tort law and family law matters, according to a biography she released to the Blade.

“As an attorney who has spent most of my career engaged in legislative and policy work, I decided to seek clarification of this requirement,” Williams said in her regularly published biweekly column in the Blade.

“It is a well-known and accepted practice that many organizations hire attorneys to work in public policy positions because of the additional legal analysis skill set that we bring to the position,” she said.

“The D.C. Code does not define the term ‘actively engaged,’ so it is not immediately evident how this provision applies to attorneys with the requisite years of bar membership, who are practicing law in less traditional ways,” she said.

“I think I have a strong case for meeting these criteria,” she told the Blade.

Kenneth McGhie, general counsel for the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics, told the Blade on Monday that the board will not make an official determination on whether candidates meet the legal criteria for the position until after they submit a required 3,000 valid petition signatures needed to be placed on the ballot.

Once that hurdle is met, McGhie said, the board will look at the legal background of each of the candidates and make a determination on whether they meet the criteria for the job as specified in the law that created the elected attorney general post.

He said a candidate can appeal a decision by the board that he or she doesn’t meet the legal criteria and, should the candidate lose their appeal, they may take the matter to the D.C. Court of Appeals.

Williams said she told various community leaders and activists that she was considering running for the attorney general position and received widespread encouragement to run. She said she decided to hold off on filing papers officially declaring her candidacy until she obtains additional guidance on whether her legal background meets the statutory criteria.

“I didn’t want to begin raising money and collecting signatures and recruiting volunteers until this matter is at least reasonably addressed,” Williams told the Blade.

She noted that one of the board’s attorneys said a possible option for her would be to become a candidate, submit her ballot petitions and wait to see if a rival candidate files a challenge to her candidacy on the “qualification” question. The board would then make a formal ruling on the challenge following a hearing.

McGhie, however, said the board on its own will determine whether the candidates meet the legal criteria regardless of whether a rival candidate files a challenge.

The issue of an elected D.C. attorney general has been mired in controversy since voters in 2010 approved an amendment to the D.C. City Charter calling for an elected city attorney general rather than the current system that authorizes the mayor to appoint the attorney general.

Last year, the City Council voted to postpone the election for the position from 2014, as specified in the ballot measure approving an elected attorney general, to 2018, saying the city wasn’t ready to elect an attorney general.

Earlier this year, the D.C. Court of Appeals overturned the Council’s action in response to a lawsuit filed against the city by attorney Paul Zuckerberg, who has announced his candidacy for the attorney general position. The appeals court ruling held that the Council didn’t have legal authority to change the year in which the election was to take place.

The Board of Elections has tentatively scheduled a special election for the position. The special election is set to take place on the same day as the city’s regularly scheduled general election in November. It will allow candidates from any party or independent candidates to run for the attorney general position.

In addition to Zuckerberg, D.C. attorneys Mark Tuohey and Edward “Smitty” Smith have filed papers to run for the position.

“I decided to consider running after reading about the declared and potential candidates and feeling that there is no one in the race with an extensive background in public service or community advocacy,” Williams wrote in her column in the Blade.

As the only woman and only LGBT candidate in the race so far, she said she would bring to the attorney general’s position a perspective that other candidates don’t have.


Tom Chorlton, gay rights leader, author dies at 67

Tom Chorlton, Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, gay news, Washington Blade

Tom Chorlton, a longtime advocate of LGBT rights, died Jan. 5 from complications associated with leukemia. (Washington Blade archive photo by Doug Hinckle)

Tom Chorlton, a longtime advocate of LGBT rights and former D.C. resident who taught political science at the College of Charleston in South Carolina, died Jan. 5 from complications associated with leukemia. He was 67.

Chorlton has been credited with playing a key role in the early 1980s in organizing support for gay rights within the Democratic Party. Among other endeavors, he helped found the National Association of Gay and Lesbian Democratic Clubs in 1982 and served as its first executive director from 1982 to 1987.

While living in D.C. from the mid-1970s to the early 1990s, Chorlton advocated for LGBT rights on a local and national level. He served as president of D.C.’s Gertrude Stein Democratic Club from 1981 to 1982 and ran as a candidate for an at-large seat on the D.C. City Council in 1988 under the banner of the D.C. Statehood Party.

Although he lost his Council race, his role as the first serious openly gay candidate for a seat on the Council opened the way for the election in subsequent years of gay D.C. Council members David Catania (I-At-large) and Jim Graham (D-Ward 1).

Friends and associates say Chorlton had a dual passion for LGBT rights and political science, with a strong interest in American history during the period just before and after the Revolutionary War.

As an assistant professor at the College of Charleston, Chorlton taught courses on the American Presidency and Politics of the American Revolution up until October 2013, when he was diagnosed with leukemia.

In 2012, after years of research and writing that Chorlton called a labor of love, he completed and published his book, “The First American Republic: 1774-1789.” The book consists of profiles of the 14 little-known leaders of the American Revolution who served as president of the Continental Congress from the time it was formed in 1774 to 1789, when George Washington took office as the nation’s first elected president under the new U.S. Constitution.

“What few Americans realize is that there had been a fully functioning national government prior to 1789,” Chorlton wrote in his book. “It was called the Continental Congress and it was, in every respect, the First American Republic (1774-1789).”

Deacon Maccubbin, former owner of D.C.’s Lambda Rising bookstore and a longtime friend of Chorlton’s, said Chorlton was born in Illinois, where his parents adopted him and raised him in the City of Belleville.

Chorlton received a bachelor’s in political science in 1968 from St. Louis University. Upon graduation, he served as a teacher in the Peace Corps in Kenya before returning to the U.S., where he worked in Washington in 1975 on the staff of U.S. Rep. Melvin Price (D-Ill.).

He earned his master’s degree in government administration in 1977 at Webster University in Missouri. During his time of studies there he was employed as a local government specialist with the St. Louis Area Council of Governments.

Shortly after leaving Washington in the early 1990s, Chorlton taught history and government at Columbia College’s Lake Campus in central Missouri. He began his post as an assistant professor at the College of Charleston in 2003, according to Erin Blevins, administrative coordinator for the college’s Department of Political Science.

Blevins said among the courses Chorlton taught were LGBT Politics, American Government, Contemporary Political Issues, Politics of the American Revolution, and the U.S. Presidency.

Kurt Vorndran, who served as president of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club in D.C. several years after Chorlton held that post, credits Chorlton with being among the first to organize a political fundraising dinner for a gay rights cause in 1981 on behalf of the Stein Club.

Vorndran said the Stein Club’s 1981 dinner, held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, drew hundreds of people, including members of Congress, then-D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, and many other D.C. elected officials and straight allies, such as labor union and civil rights leaders.

“At the time, very few, if any, national or local LGBT groups put on this type of political banquet that attracted big name politicians and media coverage,” Vorndran said. “This was something Tom started.”

Maccubbin and his husband Jim Bennett, who are serving as executors of Chorlton’s estate, said in a statement that plans for a memorial service would be announced shortly. The statement says a portion of Chorlton’s ashes would be interred at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in Charleston and at a family plot in Belleville, Ill.

“Another small portion of his ashes will be scattered in Antarctica, the only continent Tom had not yet visited,” the statement says. “He has travelled extensively all his life, beginning with his Peace Corps service, and has been to more than 50 countries, including regions as diverse as Mongolia and Easter Island, Fiji and Kenya, Moscow, Beijing and Iran,” the Maccubbin-Bennett statement says.

“Those who believe in heaven know that Tom is there now with his mom and his canine friends who went before,” Maccubbin and Bennett said in a separate statement. “Those who don’t believe in the afterlife know that Tom created a heaven right here on earth, and shared it with all of us. He will live in all of our hearts forever.”


Let’s end corruption, stagnation in D.C. politics

Pete Ross, gay news, Washington Blade

Pete Ross attended the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club’s candidate forum on Mar. 6. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)


My candidacy for the office of U.S. senator — and my pledge of a new way forward in the struggle for D.C. statehood and full representation — received a tremendous boost from the March 6 candidate forum hosted by the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club. I personally want to thank Club members, and particularly those who helped my candidacy win the straw poll that evening.

Now I need all members of the LGBT community to vote for me between now and Election Day on April 1, and to urge your friends and neighbors, through social media and personal contact, to cast their ballots for my candidacy. This contest will be at the bottom of a crowded ballot, and D.C. voters have been overlooking its importance because of the inaction and lack of respect for the office displayed by the incumbent during his 18-year tenure.

I have been a member of the Stein Club for many years, and have personally supported its activities financially. As the father of an openly gay son, I understand and appreciate the important role that a strong, organized and diverse GLBTQ community can fulfill in supporting both parents and children in these moments. I will always seek the advice and counsel of leaders and members of this community as we move forward in a more energetic, inclusive and activist campaign to achieve our goal of national equality and justice for the 640,000 residents of D.C.

If elected as the District’s Shadow U.S. senator, my main mission will be to advance D.C. statehood, budget autonomy and full voting rights in Congress. I want to re-examine all of the paths taken during the past 40 years, including the possibility of reviving the D.C. Voting Rights Amendment to the Constitution, as we renew and reinvigorate this struggle, not only among the residents of the nation’s capital, but also among the citizenry of all 50 states.

I will reach out to our youth, our seniors and our returning citizens for the vision and valuable contributions they can make to our struggle. Unlike the incumbent, I promise to work with all supporters of statehood and D.C. voting rights, and to shun lone-wolf, election year stunts such as hastily flying off to Hollywood to secure one statement of support from one actor, as the incumbent did in the midst of this campaign.

I will be a full-time, year-round advocate on Capitol Hill, and won’t use the office to further my business interests. And I vow that I will never flash my U.S. Senate ID to try to get out of parking tickets and a drunk-driving arrest. I will not use the office to shirk my civic responsibilities.

These antics by the incumbent have demoralized and depleted the momentum for statehood and full representation. It is time to change.

In addition to my mission outlined above, I will work hand-in-hand with the District’s congresswoman, Eleanor Holmes Norton, to protect the interests of the LGBT community and of all D.C. residents, including fighting discrimination against LGBT federal workers, funding of the Ryan White HIV/AIDS law, protecting undocumented gay residents and advocating for justice and equality for the District of Columbia.

This election is about ending stagnation and corruption in DC politics, from the highest to the lowest office on the ballot.

Vote for change, action and integrity. Vote for Pete Ross for Shadow U.S. senator.


Stein Club member challenges endorsement of Bowser

Muriel Bowser, gay news, Washington Blade

Muriel Bowser (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Gertrude Stein Democratic Club’s vote to endorse D.C. Council member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) for mayor and several other endorsements the club made at its June 9 meeting are “illegal” and could subject the club to a lawsuit, according to club member Don Haines.

During the Stein Club’s regularly scheduled meeting on Monday, July 14, Haines said the club violated its own bylaws when it voted on July 9 to endorse Bowser and the other candidates as part of a single vote.

He noted at Monday’s meeting that the club’s president, Angela Peoples, overruled his request for a ”division of the question” that would have allowed a separate endorsement vote for each of the candidates, giving members the option of voting for an endorsement of some candidates while opposing endorsements for others.

“I am fully confident in the actions taken by the Stein Club on June 9 and believe everything was done in line with the club bylaws and rules,” Peoples told the Blade in an email. “The votes on June 9 and the discussion at last night’s meeting show that the vast majority of the club members share that perspective,” Peoples said.

“However, I did tell Don that I would have an independent third party review documents to ensure the club is free from legal liability,” Peoples told the Blade in an email.

At least two other club members who side with Haines’ call for another endorsement vote are supporting D.C. Council member David Catania (I-At-Large) for mayor. Haines said he has yet to make up his mind about which mayoral candidate to support.



Gray says D.C. should recognize Utah marriages

Vincent Gray, gay news, Washington Blade

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray told a meeting of the Stein Club that the city should recognize same-sex marriages performed in Utah before the Supreme Court issued a stay and halted the weddings. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray told a meeting of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club Monday night that he believes the city should recognize same-sex marriages performed in Utah.

Gray said he would consult with D.C. Attorney General Irvin Nathan on the matter. But he said he sees no reason why the city shouldn’t recognize the Utah marriages performed prior to a Supreme Court decision putting same-sex nuptials on hold in the state until the courts resolve the issue.

“I’ll talk to Irv Nathan about it,” Gray said. “But my position would be unequivocally that we ought to do that.”

Gray’s statement on the Utah marriage issue came in response to a question by Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance President Rick Rosendall.

Gray’s response came three days after U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced on Jan. 10 that the federal government would recognize the Utah same-sex marriages. On that same day, Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler told the Blade that Maryland would also recognize the Utah same-sex marriages.

A spokesperson for Nathan told the Blade on Monday that Nathan and his legal team were reviewing the Utah marriage question and would likely develop a position for the District to take on the matter shortly.

A U.S. District Court Judge in Utah startled the state’s conservative political establishment on Dec. 20 when he ruled that Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage violates the U.S. Constitution and refused to put a stay on his ruling while state officials appealed his decision. The Tenth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals also refused to place a stay on the right of gay and lesbian couples to obtain marriage licenses in the state.

During the period between the District Court judge’s Dec. 20 ruling and the Supreme Court’s decision to issue the stay on Jan. 6, more than 1,300 gay and lesbian couples married in Utah. Utah’s Republican governor, Gary Herbert, responded to the Supreme Court stay order by declaring the same-sex marriages invalid.

Gay rights attorneys quickly disputed Herbert’s assertion, saying the marriages were performed at a time when the District Court ruled they were legal under the federal Constitution.

Stein Club President Angela Peoples said the club invited Gray to speak before its regularly scheduled monthly meeting Monday night as part of a series of appearances the club has arranged for mayoral and City Council candidates competing in the city’s April 1 Democratic primary.

She said other mayoral candidates, including City Council members Jack Evans (D-Ward 1), Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) and Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) have already appeared before the club.

Others who spoke at the Stein Club meeting on Monday were Council members Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), who’s running for re-election; Anita Bonds (D-At-Large), who is also up for re-election; and Vincent Orange (D-At-Large), who is running for mayor.  Also speaking was shadow U.S. House member Nate Bennett-Fleming, who is one of four candidates running against Bonds, and Shadow U.S. Senator Paul Strauss, who is running for re-election.

Gray, who spoke for about 20 minutes before answering questions from club members, acknowledged that several of the eight candidates challenging him in the primary have strong records of support on LGBT issues.

“But the fact of the matter is I’m the only one who’s actually been in the seat where you really implement and have the ability to influence policy as the mayor,” he said. “And as a result, while I think they have done some good things, I don’t think they have come near matching what I have done and I don’t think they will.”

Gray said his support for the LGBT community dates back to his days as a student at D.C.’s Dunbar High School when he observed firsthand how his class valedictorian, who was gay and later realized he was transgender, was subjected to hostility.

“It was painful to me watching what he had to go through, what he had to endure as a human being,” Gray said. “And I said to myself if I ever had the chance I’m going to do something to be able to ensure equality for people who should have the opportunity to be themselves.”

Years later, when he was chair of the D.C. Council at the time the city’s same-sex marriage law came up for a vote in 2009, Gray said he experienced hostility and rejection from same-sex marriage opponents in response to his support for marriage equality.

“Frankly, what I went through as chairman nobody hopefully will ever have to go through,” he told Stein Club members. “I had people screaming at me. There were some ministers that supported me for Ward 7 Council member and then for Chair. And they don’t speak to me anymore,” he said.

“And I said fine. If that’s the way you want to row, that’s all right with me. I know who I am. I know what I stand for and I am not flinching. I am not blinking. This is the right thing to do and we’re going to continue to do the right thing in the District of Columbia. And you all let me know when you get on board, OK?”

The latter comment drew applause from club members, many of whom are supporting Gray’s re-election.

The Stein Club’s former president and current vice president for political affairs, Martin Garcia, announced at the meeting that the club will hold a joint candidate forum and endorsement meeting for City Council candidates on Feb. 26 and a combined mayoral candidate forum and endorsement meeting on March 5.

Garcia said the club has yet to decide whether to make endorsements in other races, including  the congressional delegate seat current held by Democrat Eleanor Holmes Norton; the races for “shadow” U.S. senator and U.S. representative; and Advisory Neighborhood Commission races.


Gray, Bowser in tight race

Vincent Gray, Muriel Bowser, mayor, race, gay news, Washington Blade

Mayor Vincent Gray and Council member Muriel Bowser lead a slate of candidates seeking the Democratic nomination in next week’s primary. (Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

Supporters of Mayor Vincent Gray (D) and his main rival, City Council member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), were making a final appeal to LGBT voters for support this week just days before the city’s April 1 Democratic primary.

Two polls released on Tuesday and a separate poll released one week earlier each show Gray and Bowser in a statistical tie and far ahead of the other six mayoral candidates.

Bowser’s dramatic rise in the polls over the past month has prompted her campaign to step up its effort to urge supporters of the other candidates — especially Council members Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) and Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) — to switch their backing to Bowser.

Although most observers believe the LGBT vote will be divided among several candidates, some activists say LGBT voters could be a deciding factor in the race if they coalesce behind either Gray or Bowser.

One of the polls released this week by the Washington Post shows Bowser with 30 percent support from a sample of likely voters, with Gray receiving 27 percent. An NBC4/Marist poll also released on Tuesday shows Bowser with 28 percent and Gray with 26 percent.

The poll released one week earlier and commissioned by WAMU Radio and the Washington City Paper showed Gray and Bowser each receiving 27 percent. All three polls show that Gray’s support has largely remained at the same level it was more than two months ago while Bowser’s support has risen by more than 10 points.

According to the NBC4/Marist poll released on Tuesday, among likely Democratic voters, Council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) was in third place with 11 percent; Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) was in fourth place with 9 percent; and Busboys and Poets Restaurant owner and progressive activist Andy Shallal and Council member Vincent Orange (D-At-Large) each had 4 percent.

Attorney and former State Department official Reta Jo Lewis had 2 percent and businessman Carlos Allen had less than 1 percent. Fifteen percent of the respondents were undecided. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.7 percent.

“The latest polls are showing what we knew all along — that this is a two-candidate race,” said gay activist and businessman Everett Hamilton, who’s supporting Bowser. “All the candidates are great on our issues and we are really fortunate to have an embarrassment of riches among the candidates,” he said.

“So this election is really not about whether someone will be good on LGBT issues,” Hamilton said. “It’s about things that need to be better in this city.”

Transgender activist Jeri Hughes, who supports Gray, said she was troubled that some opponents of Gray are arguing that people shouldn’t vote for him because of the pending criminal investigation into an illegal shadow campaign on the mayor’s behalf in 2010.

At least four people associated with Gray’s 2010 election campaign, including businessman Jeffrey Thompson, have pleaded guilty to criminal charges related to the raising of more than $660,000 in illegal campaign funds. But despite statements by U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen that more is to come in his ongoing investigation, which began four years ago, no charges have been filed against Gray, who strongly denies any involvement in illegal campaign activities.

“I don’t think the people moving toward Bowser are LGBT people for the most part,” Hughes said. “This is due to allegations against the mayor. Nothing has been proven. I’m very disappointed that so many people are buying into innuendo,” she said.

“I can’t turn away my support because of innuendo,” said Hughes. “I believe the mayor is of the utmost integrity and most people I know in the LGBT community share this view.”

Hughes and Lane Hudson, a local gay Democratic activist who founded an independent LGBT group supporting Gray called Gray Pride, are among a number of activists who consider Gray’s record on LGBT issues to be the strongest in the nation for a big city mayor.

Transgender activists have described as groundbreaking a first-of-its-kind city job training program initiated by Gray aimed at low-income transgender residents, who often face prejudice and discrimination when seeking employment. Also considered groundbreaking by activists was the mayor’s recent directive requiring health insurance companies doing business in the city to cover gender reassignment surgery and other procedures deemed medically necessary for transgender people in the process of transitioning.

Hudson, however, acknowledges that the campaign finance scandal has chipped away at Gray’s support among voters, including some LGBT voters.

“It will be a close race,” Hudson said. “The turnout will be crucial. The more activist types are favoring Gray,” he said. “I feel he is getting around half to a majority of LGBT votes.”

Evans and Wells supporters, meanwhile, questioned whether the latest polls accurately reflect the view of the people who will actually turn out to vote. They urged supporters to remain loyal to their respective candidate in a hotly contested election with an outcome that seasoned political observers, including LGBT advocates, said was unpredictable, in part, because the voter turnout is expected to be at an all-time low.

A low turnout is expected, according to political observers, because voters are unaccustomed to having a primary – or any city election – in April. In a controversial action, the D.C. Council voted last year to move the primary from September to April 1.

In addition to Democratic candidates, gay Libertarian Party candidate Bruce Majors is running unopposed in his party’s mayoral primary on April 1, ensuring that he will be on the ballot in the November general election.

Also running unopposed in the April 1 primary is Statehood-Green Party candidate Faith, a former Broadway musician who has run for public office several times in the past.

At a campaign rally Monday night at the D.C. gay bar Number 9, Evans reminded the mostly gay crowd that he has been on the front lines in support of LGBT rights since he began his tenure on the Council in 1991 when he led the effort to repeal the city’s sodomy law. In his GLAA questionnaire response, Evans lists nearly two-dozen LGBT-related bills he has introduced, co-sponsored or supported that have passed since he became a Council member.

Jack Evans, Washington Blade, gay news

‘I’m the alternative that you need,’ said Jack Evans. ‘And I can win if you vote for me.’ (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Evans said he’s telling anyone who will listen – including LGBT voters – that he has a shot at winning if everyone familiar with his long record of accomplishment on a wide range of issues votes for him.

“What I’m saying to people is I’m the alternative that you need,” Evans said. “And I can win if you vote for me.”

All of the candidates except Allen have expressed strong support for LGBT rights, including marriage equality. Although Allen has expressed general support on LGBT issues during candidate forums, he received a “0” rating from the Gay & Lesbian Activists Alliance for failing to return a questionnaire asking about specific issues. The non-partisan GLAA rates on a scale of -10 to +10.

Gray received a +10, the highest possible rating from GLAA. He received 58 percent of the vote in the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club’s mayoral endorsement forum, falling four votes short of the 60 percent threshold needed for an endorsement under the club’s rules. With support from Stein Club members divided among the candidates, the club did not endorse anyone for mayor.

Wells received a +9.5 GLAA rating; Evans received a +9, Shallal received a +6, Bowser received a +5.5, Lewis received a +4.5, and Orange received a +3.

The mayoral candidates responding to the GLAA questionnaire each expressed support for a wide range of LGBT issues and initiatives proposed by the non-partisan GLAA. GLAA President Rick Rosendall noted that none of the mayoral candidates were designated as hostile or in opposition to a significant LGBT issue.

Wells supporters point to his role as chair of the Council’s Judiciary and Public Safety Committee, where he has pushed through a number of important LGBT-related bills, including a measure easing the ability of transgender people to obtain a new birth certificate to reflect their new gender. Wells has also monitored police handing of anti-LGBT hate crimes in a series of oversight hearings on the subject.

Orange supporters, including LGBT backers from his home base in Ward 5, note that, among other things, he helped push through legislation to create the city’s Office of GLBT Affairs and worked with gay Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) in securing Council passage of an amendment that added transgender people to the D.C. Human Rights Act’s prohibitions against discrimination.

In addition to being a longtime supporter of LGBT rights, Shallal said he regularly arranges for his Busboys and Poets restaurants to host and sponsor LGBT-related events, including “a monthly queer open series that encourages self-expression for the LGBT community.”

Lewis said that as a senior State Department official in the Obama administration, she backed then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s implementation of domestic partnership benefits and spousal privileges to same-sex partners of U.S. Foreign Service employees. “I was proud to have been a part of the administration that made it possible for landmark legislation like the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act to become law,” she said on her GLAA questionnaire response.

A breakdown of the GLAA rating scores for each of the candidates and their questionnaire responses can be accessed at


Gay candidates trailing rivals in money raised for Nov. election

David Catania, candidates, gay news, Washington Blade

Mayoral candidate David Catania this week won the endorsement of the city’s police union. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Seven of the eight out gay or lesbian candidates running for various positions in the city’s Nov. 4 general election are trailing their opponents in the amount of money they have raised to support their campaigns.

According to the latest round of candidate reports filed on Aug. 10 with the city’s Office of Campaign Finance, D.C. Council member David Catania (I-At-Large), who’s gay, is trailing Council member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) by nearly $2 million in money raised in the race for mayor.

The reports show that Bowser, the Democratic Party nominee, has raised more than $2.7 million since she began her campaign last year and had more than $1 million in cash on hand. Catania has raised just under $775,000 since entering the mayoral race earlier this year and had just under $464,000 in cash on hand, according to his finance report.

Former Council member Carol Schwartz, who’s also running for mayor as an independent candidate, has raised $65,623 as of Aug. 10 and had $50,375 in cash on hand as of that date. Schwartz’s report shows that $33,000 of the total amount she raised came from a personal loan she made to the campaign.

Gay mayoral candidate Bruce Majors, who’s running under the banner of the Libertarian Party, has so far raised $6,549 for his campaign and had $128 in cash on hand as of Aug. 10, as shown in his finance report.

Most political observers view Catania’s fundraising effort so far as a respectable showing in a city where Democrats make up the overwhelming majority of registered voters and where no non-Democrat has ever won election as mayor.

Catania’s campaign received a boost on Wednesday when the city’s police union announced it has endorsed him over Bowser and Schwartz.

In other city races, lesbian public relations executive Courtney Snowden came in second place in the fundraising department for the hotly contested 15-candidate race for two at-large D.C. Council seats up for grabs in November. Snowden is running as one of 11 independent candidates in the race in which a Democrat is only eligible for one of the two seats.

In the contest for the newly created elective position of D.C. Attorney General, lesbian attorney and former Gertrude Stein Democratic Club President Lateefah Williams appears to have finished last in fundraising in a five-candidate race, with $9,685 raised and just over $9,000 in cash on hand. Her opponents have raised between $45,000 and over $200,000, with some of them kicking in large sums of their own money they earned as attorneys for big name law firms.

“I see a pathway for overcoming the money advantage that several of my opponents currently hold,” Williams told the Blade. “During the petition signature phase of the campaign, I was not able to focus on fundraising to the extent that I would have liked,” she said. “Moving forward, I will be working with my fundraising team on a daily basis.”

Ward 1 school board candidate Scott Simpson, one of two gay men running in a five-candidate race, is leading the pack in money raised. His finance report shows he raised $22,493, with close to $20,000 in cash on hand. Rival gay candidate David Do has raised $11,420 and has $5,000 in cash on hand.

A campaign finance report for gay Libertarian candidate Martin Moulton, who’s running for the city’s non-voting “shadow” U.S. House seat, couldn’t immediately be found on the Office of Campaign Finance’s website.

In the at-large Council race, incumbent Council member Anita Bonds (D-At-Large), a longtime supporter of LGBT rights, is considered the odds on favorite to win re-election to the so-called “Democratic” seat.

Campaign finance records show Snowden has raised $87,123 since the start of her campaign and had $81,123 in cash on hand as of Aug. 10. Her lead rival, restaurant owner and progressive activist Khalid Pitts, who’s also an independent, has raised $115,873 since the start of his campaign and had $98,052 in cash on hand as of Aug. 10.

However, the campaign finance reports show that the total amount raised by both Pitts and Snowden include a $15,000 loan by Pitts to his campaign and an $11,000 loan by Snowden to her campaign.

Gay Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Marc Morgan, who’s running for the at-large seat as the Republican nominee, raised $18,516 and had $726 in cash, his finance report shows.

Several of the other independent candidates running for the at-large seat raised between $10,000 and over $50,000 since starting their campaigns. Among them former City Paper news reporter and civic activist Elissa Silverman, who came in third with $56,324 raised and $20,221 in cash on hand.

Silverman drew support from many of the city’s prominent LGBT activists when she ran for the same seat two years ago. But this time, Snowden’s finance report shows that many well-known local and national LGBT leaders gave money to her campaign, with no recognizable LGBT big-wigs giving money to Silverman.

Among those contributing to Snowden’s campaign were Rea Carey and Darlene Nipper, executive director and deputy executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force; Paul Smith, the gay rights attorney who argued the 2003 Supreme Court case that overturned state sodomy laws; businesswoman and prominent Democratic Party activist Hilary Rosen; Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund Vice President Denis Dison (the Victory Fund endorsed Snowden); and former assistant U.S. Attorney General and public affairs and lobbying firm owner Robert Raben.