Gay What ?
Rest of site back up shortly!

Mayor Gray has earned our support

Lane Hudson, Vincent Gray, gay news, Washington Blade

Lane Hudson at Mayor Gray’s re-election campaign kick-off event on Sunday. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

It was nearly four years ago that a man with an impeccable reputation decided to challenge the incumbent mayor. Up to that point, Vince Gray had a lifelong career in non-profit management dedicated to improving the lives of others. He served for two years on the D.C. Council before being elected as its chair. By all accounts, his tenure was seen as a time of civility and productivity.

Once he put his hat in the ring to challenge Adrian Fenty, what followed was terrible to watch. The Fenty campaign worked vigorously to cast Gray as the new Marion Barry and the Washington Post editorial board was happy to play the accomplice. The largely white half of the city was mostly willing to go along with it.

While it could not be further from the truth, the betrayal of a few people furthered the notion that Vince Gray was just as the Fenty campaign had sought to portray him.  Those people are in jail or rightfully headed there soon. In the meantime, Mayor Gray has focused on doing his job.

Last week, he addressed the 2010 campaign in a wide-ranging interview with WUSA reporter Bruce Johnson and also during his re-election kickoff rally. He expressed remorse for the embarrassment that the misdeeds of his former staff had brought to the District. More importantly, he asked us to forgive him for it.

That’s exactly what we should do. He has said repeatedly that he had no knowledge of the misdeeds of the 2010 campaign and three years of an investigation by the U.S. Attorney has given us no reason to think otherwise.

On the issues, Mayor Gray is superior to every other candidate. He is the most LGBT friendly mayor in the country and is incredibly proud of it. He has always been a supporter of marriage equality in spite of coming from Ward 7, where support for marriage equality is among the lowest in the District. Under his leadership, D.C. developed a job training program for transgender residents and began the very first, and only, transgender awareness publicity campaign run by a local government. D.C. public schools have taken a much more proactive stance against bullying LGBT students and some high schools are actually sponsoring LGBT student pride days.

At this week’s Stein Club meeting, Mayor Gray said he absolutely supported D.C. recognizing the marriages performed in Utah before the Supreme Court stayed the lower court’s ruling pending appeal. Responding to a question from transgender Stein Club Officer Bobbie Strang, he also expressed support for outlawing transgender exclusions in insurance plans that are regulated by D.C. government. This would make a huge difference for the transgender community. These are positions that no one else in the race has taken.

In addition to his record, Vince is unmatched in strength of character. He was born and raised in the District and chose to stay here to build a life, a career and a family. His entire professional career, other than a brief stint running the D.C. Department of Health, was managing non-profits that provided services for people with mental disabilities and homeless teens. This is a man whose entire life has been about serving the neediest among us. That is exactly the kind of person I want leading our city.

Also, in a stark change from the previous mayoral administration, Mayor Gray and his staff have been readily accessible and very responsive to the LGBT community. He doesn’t only make himself and his staff available to our community and our advocacy organizations, he has also been very generous with his time, attending more LGBT events than any previous mayor.

Needless to say, the District is doing pretty darn good too: Cranes in the air, $1.5 billion in the bank, more than 1,000 new residents each month, rapidly improving test scores in public schools, nearly $200 million for affordable housing projects, lower unemployment numbers, burgeoning development east of the river, a growing technology sector and many more good things happening here. We are starting to appear on lists for good reasons instead of bad ones.

To sum it up, we’ve got a good thing going with Mayor Vince Gray. Let’s keep things headed in the right direction. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Lane Hudson is a D.C.-based Democratic activist and writer.

14
Jan
2014

Hundreds turn out for LGBT ‘Out & Ready for Hillary’ fundraiser

Town Danceboutique, Out and Ready for Hillary, Hillary Clinton, gay news, Washington Blade

Hundreds turned out for a Ready for Hillary event at Town Wednesday. (Washington Blade photo by Damien Salas)

More than 300 people packed the D.C. gay nightclub Town Danceboutique Wednesday night for the first LGBT fundraiser and rally organized by Ready for Hillary, the independent committee formed last year to urge Hillary Clinton to run for president in 2016.

Organizers said the large turnout was in keeping with the outpouring of support the Ready for Hillary organization is receiving from the LGBT community across the nation.

Guest speakers at the event included Michelle Clunie, actress and star of the television series “Queer as Folk,” and Kris Perry and Sandy Stier, the lesbian couple that became plaintiffs in the U.S. Supreme Court case that successfully challenged California’s Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage.

“I really like Hillary,” Clunie told the Blade. “I met her. I trust her. I believe in her. She’s always the smartest person in the room. I think she’s over qualified for the job and I think she’ll make one of the best presidents ever.”

Clunie said she traveled to D.C. from her home in California to attend and speak at the event at the invitation of D.C. gay Democratic activist Lane Hudson, who, along with D.C. gay Democratic activist Peter Rosenstein, served as coordinators of the rally in which attendees paid $20.16 to attend.

Lisa Changadveja, Ready for Hillary’s LGBT Americans Director, told the gathering that more than 1.5 million people across the nation have signed on as supporters of the political action committee, or PAC, which under federal campaign finance rules cannot have any interaction with Clinton.

Changadveja said more than 35,000 people have made contributions of $100 or less to the organization as part of its outreach to small donors and potential campaign volunteers if and when Clinton decides to enter the 2016 presidential race.

Perry and Stier, who are longtime partners, were married last year shortly after the Supreme Court ruling overturning Prop 8 cleared the way for same-sex marriages to resume in California.

“I’ve met the Secretary a few times and I’ve been incredibly impressed by her commitment to children, families, LGBT people and equal rights in general,” Perry said of Clinton. “She was amazing as Secretary of State and her leadership at the United Nations and elsewhere. I think she’s done an awful lot to prove to the community that she’s a good candidate.”

Perry said she just moved to D.C. to take a job with a children’s advocacy organization called the First Five Years Fund. With their four sons “grown up” and either attending college or living on their own, she and Stier plan to divide their time between Washington and their home in Berkley, Perry said.

Although Clinton herself couldn’t attend the event under campaign finance rules, organizers arranged for a substitute that appeared to delight the crowd. A life-size cut-out photo of Hillary Clinton was propped up on a platform in front of a backdrop with the words “Ready for Hillary” written on it multiple times.

A photographer working with the Ready for Hillary group took dozens of pictures of people standing beside the Hillary cut-out photo.

“This is incredible,” said Earl Fowlkes, a D.C. gay activist who, among other things, serves as chair of the Democratic National Committee’s LGBT Americans Caucus.

“I never expected to see this many people here to encourage Hillary to run,” he said. “And this goes to show you the kind of depth she has in the LGBT community for this many people to come out on a Wednesday night and basically give her the message that we want you to run. We’re ready for her.”

Added Fowlkes, “We had a black president and now we’re ready for a woman president. I’m ready.”

Gay Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Anthony Lorenzo Green, who represents an ANC district in Ward 8, said he too believes Clinton is the best-qualified candidate to succeed Barack Obama as president.

“I prefer Democrats with a backbone,” Green said. “And she has continuously proved that she is not afraid to stand up to these Republicans and let them know that there are people in this country that we really need to look out for and she is the right person to do that.”

To see more photos from the event, click here.

16
Jan
2014

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 glaa.org.

26
Mar
2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

31
Mar
2014

Taking sides in ‘painful’ mayoral race

Hillary Rosen, mayoral race, gay news, Washington Blade

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

16
Apr
2014

Dems should value party loyalty in mayor’s race

Muriel Bowser, mayor, D.C. Council, Democratic Party, primary, gay news, Washington Blade

Mayoral candidate Muriel Bowser (Washington Blade photo by Damien Salas)

To answer Lane Hudson’s question: Yes, Democrats should place a high premium on party loyalty in this fall’s mayor’s race.

In his April 23 op-ed, Hudson delivered a litany of reasons why former Republican David Catania should get the votes of Democrats over Democratic nominee Muriel Bowser. According to Hudson, Council member Catania has the superior list of achievements in general, and is more qualified for the job of mayor. Taking his case right to the gutter, Hudson labeled Bowser “an unqualified Democrat,” who doesn’t deserve our vote just because of a party label.

We get it! You like David Catania, and you want him to be mayor. That’s fine. Why not just leave it at that? Muriel Bowser is an equally fine choice; she’s a solid Democrat and has a solid record on LGBT issues. More importantly, she’s done nothing to disqualify herself as the nominee of Democrats in the District. And quite frankly, it’s absurd to claim that Council member Bowser is “unqualified” given her own time on the Council and her other civic achievements. Would Muriel Bowser be deemed qualified enough if she were a white gay man like David Catania or Lane Hudson? I wonder.

Setting Bowser and Catania aside for a moment, the underlying premise of Hudson’s commentary is equally disturbing. He apparently sees no value in political parties. The whole purpose of a party primary is for competing factions to come to a consensus about a general election candidate.

As Democrats, we considered Mayor Gray, Muriel Bowser and others for this nomination. After hearing all the arguments, Democrats picked Bowser as their standard-bearer. From this point forward, unless she does something disqualifying, it’s completely rational to assume that the vast majority of Democrats will support Bowser in the general election. Why wouldn’t they? It’s not bullying in the least to expect a party to fall in line behind its nominee after a primary election. In fact, that’s the whole point of being a political party and having a primary election. The only difference this time is that Catania supporters would rather have him over Bowser, so they’re whining about a process that plays out exactly this way every election year.

As fabulous as David Catania may be, he’s not a member of the Democratic Party. And even gay Democrats need a more compelling reason to vote for a non-Democrat than the fact that said candidate is also gay. If Catania is so progressive, so in touch with Democratic values and so qualified to get the votes of Democrats – then he should join our party and ask for our nomination. Until that day arrives, Democrats should absolutely coalesce around Muriel Bowser, and they should continue to press all factions of the party to fall in line.

Isaiah Webster III lives in Ward 6.

30
Apr
2014

Catania best-qualified candidate ever for D.C. mayor

David Catania, qualified, gay news, Washington Blade

David Catania filed papers to run for mayor on March 12 at the Reeves Center. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Isaiah Webster III wrote in his May 2 Blade column that Democrats should support Muriel Bowser over David Catania simply because Bowser managed to win the Democratic nomination with a small percentage of Democrats. On April 1, 90 percent of the District’s registered voters either did not vote or they voted for other candidates.

Bowser, who ran as the anti-Gray candidate of resentment, vowed not to support the Democratic nominee if Mayor Gray won the nomination. Now that she has prevailed, Webster writes that Democrats should vote for Bowser despite her questionable qualifications.

My involvement in the Democratic Party goes back to fall 1960 in Michigan when I helped organize Grosse Pointe Young Democrats in support of John Kennedy’s election.  At 19, I first arrived in Washington during January 1961 for JFK’s inauguration.

In 1979, I was the first openly gay person to serve on the D.C. Democratic State Committee. During the 1980s, I was an officer of the District’s Democratic party. In 1980, I was one of five D.C. gay delegates to the Democratic National Convention in New York at Madison Square Garden. The Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, moreover, was founded in my living room in January 1976.

Webster accused Lane Hudson in his April 23 column of “taking his case right to the gutter.” But it is Webster who got down in the gutter when the raised the issue of race:  “Would Muriel Bowser be deemed qualified enough if she were a white gay man like David Catania or Lane Hudson?”

Outside the District, voting for Democrats has great meaning. But here in Washington, the issue of party affiliation has little relevance, other than most decisions are made within the Democratic Party.

On April 30 at Policy Restaurant on 14th Street, N.W., Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance celebrated its 43rd anniversary. Carol Schwartz, a progressive Republican and an excellent former member of the City Council, financially supported the event as a sponsor.

So did Council members Catania, Jack Evans, Vincent Orange and Tommy Wells.  Every time that Schwartz ran for office, I voted for her.

In Bowser’s years on the Council, what has she accomplished? Although Bowser chairs the committee responsible for housing issues, she has done nothing to address the housing crisis. The InTowner newspaper called her “derelict in carrying out her assigned responsibility.”

On the important issue of education, Bowser has failed to offer a single proposal of substance to improve our schools.

Since 1997, Catania has been elected five times — winning votes in all eight wards.  Over the years, David has achieved an outstanding record of accomplishments. Colbert I. King of The Washington Post wrote: “They don’t come any smarter, more dedicated or gutsier than Catania. And no one works harder.”

I have known every mayor since the late Walter Washington was elected in November 1974. I can write with great confidence that David Catania is the best-qualified person to have ever run for mayor of the District of Columbia.

Paul Kuntzler is a longtime LGBT advocate and D.C. resident.

07
May
2014

House race divides LGBT advocates

Richard Tisei, Republican, Massachusetts, gay news, Washington Blade

Richard Tisei said he would serve as a strong advocate for LGBT rights within the ranks of House Republicans if elected. (Photo courtesy of Tisei).

The controversial decision earlier this year by the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund to endorse gay Republican Richard Tisei over pro-LGBT Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass.) has prompted five openly gay or bisexual U.S. House members, all Democrats, to sign on as supporters of a fundraiser for Tierney.

The fundraiser, scheduled for June 25 in Washington, is being backed by at least two-dozen prominent LGBT Democrats and straight allies, including the entire Massachusetts congressional delegation, former Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese, and transgender advocate and Maryland State Senate candidate Dr. Dana Beyer.

Gay former Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) is among those signing on as an honorary co-chair of the fundraising event, which is being organized by two of Frank’s former staff members.

The former staffers, Joseph Racalto and Maria Giesta, principals in the Washington political consulting firm Giesta Racalto, said they initiated the event to “blunt” the Victory Fund’s endorsement of Tisei.

Tisei is a former Massachusetts State senator. He has a strong record of support for LGBT rights, including marriage equality. He backed a transgender rights bill that came up before the legislature.

Racalto and other LGBT Democrats supporting Tierney said they have no objection to an LGBT supportive gay Republican running for Congress.

But they said the Victory Fund should not have endorsed such a candidate in a race against a longtime straight ally such as Tierney, who has received a perfect 100 percent rating on LGBT issues from HRC.

“Although I applaud Tisei – and all LGBT political candidates who run for public office — this endorsement is not justified and sets a dangerous precedent,” Racalto said in a Blade commentary.

In a phone interview on Tuesday, Tisei told the Blade he would be a champion for LGBT issues if elected to the House and would serve as a strong advocate for LGBT rights within the ranks of House Republicans.

He said he would not hesitate to defy House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) by signing a discharge petition to force Boehner and other House GOP leaders to bring the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA, to the House floor for a vote.

ENDA, which calls for banning employment discrimination against LGBT people, has been stalled in the Republican-controlled House. The Democratic-controlled Senate passed the legislation last year.

Racalto said that while Tisei has personally been supportive on LGBT issues, his commitment to push for those issues came into question last month when he formed a joint fundraising committee with conservative Republican Frank Guinta, who’s running for a House seat in New Hampshire.

Guinta opposes same-sex marriage and abortion rights and had considered aligning himself with the ultra conservative Tea Party.

Tisei said the joint fundraising arrangement will enable the two candidates to share expenses and won’t in any way compromise his positions in support of LGBT rights.

“During the past 10 years I have seen a lot of people’s positions change and evolve, including the president’s, by the way,” Tisei said.

He added that he sees his role as an advocate for change within the Republican Party and the Republican caucus of the House.

“A lot of people are re-examining their positions on marriage equality and other LGBT issues,” he said. “And I’m going to work with as many different types of people on as many types of issues as I can…And I can serve, especially within the Republican caucus, as someone who helps bring people over to the right side of the issue.”

Gregory Angelo, president of the Log Cabin Republicans, said the group endorsed Tisei last week. Angelo said he isn’t troubled over Tisei’s joint fundraising effort with Guinta.

“The more interesting aspect of this story to me is that ‘Tea Party’ types who contribute to this fund will be donating money to a gay Republican running for the House of Representatives,” Angelo said. “That’s the real story here.”

Victory Fund press secretary Steven Thai said his group saw Tisei as a change agent for the Republican Party along with Tisei’s longstanding record in support of LGBT rights when it endorsed him.

“I think it is sometimes shortsighted for folks to focus on the kind of short-term gains that can be made right now instead of the long-term goal that this world would be very different if we had more Republicans that supported us on our issues,” Thai said. “And the only way we’re ever going to get to that point is by electing openly gay Republicans that care about our issues.”

D.C. gay Democratic activist Peter Rosenstein, who signed on as a member of the host committee for the Tierney fundraiser, said he agrees with the Victory Fund’s mission of helping to elect LGBT-supportive candidates but not at the expense of long-time LGBT-supportive incumbents like Tierney.

“I don’t see this as a conflict with my support for the Victory Fund,” he said in referring to his role in the Tierney fundraiser. “I support the Victory Fund but not all of their candidates.”

Political observers in Massachusetts say Tisei has a shot at unseating Tierney in part because he’s perceived by many voters as a moderate Republican with a progressive record as a state legislator for more than 10 years.

Tisei came within just one percentage point of beating Tierney in the 2012 election at a time when Tierney’s wife and two brothers-in-law became embroiled in an illegal gambling scheme that landed his wife and one brother-in-law in jail.

Tierney himself was cleared of any wrong-doing in the scandal, in which his wife, Patrice Tierney, pleaded guilty in 2010 to filing false tax returns in connection with a checking account belonging to one of her brothers. As much as $7 million in illegal gambling funds passed through the account, according to law enforcement officials.

Politico reported that Tierney blames his brothers-in-law for duping his wife into believing the funds were part of a legal sports gambling business based in the Caribbean island of Antigua, which the brothers claimed to have been operating.

Republican Party operatives both in Massachusetts and outside the state have been raising the gambling scandal in attack ads targeting Tierney.

As if that were not enough, Tierney is being challenged by two Democrats in the state’s Democratic primary in September. One of the candidates, former U.S. Marine and Iraq war veteran Seth Moulton, raised more money than Tierney in the most recent campaign reporting period, raising concern among Tierney supporters. On his campaign website, Moulton has expressed support for LGBT rights, including marriage equality.

The gay House members signing on as honorary co-chairs for the Tierney fundraiser are Reps. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Mark Pocan (D-Wisc.), and Mark Takano (D-Calif.). Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), the first openly bisexual member of Congress, also signed on as an honorary co-chair.

The name of Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), the first openly gay person to win election to the U.S. Senate, is conspicuously absent from the list of honorary co-chairs for the Tierney fundraiser. Racalto said organizers invited Baldwin to participate but have not heard back from her office.

A Baldwin spokesperson didn’t respond to a request from the Blade for a comment on why Baldwin hasn’t signed on to the fundraiser. The Victory Fund endorsed Baldwin in her hotly contested Senate race in 2012 and helped raise money for her successful campaign.

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) has signed on as an honorary co-chair for the Tierney fundraiser along with Tierney’s eight House colleagues from Massachusetts, all of whom are Democrats. The state’s other senator, Elizabeth Warren (D), has so far not signed on as an honorary co-chair.

Other supporters of the event, in addition to Solmonese, Rosenstein, and Beyer, include former Barney Frank staffers Peter Kovar and Diego Sanchez; Brad Luna; John Weinfurter; Tucker Gallagher; Lane Hudson; and Paul Hazen.

Racalto said he didn’t extend an invitation to participate in the event to Rep. Michael Michaud (D-Maine), who came out as gay last year and who has been endorsed by the Victory Fund in his race for governor of Maine.

“We didn’t invite him simply because of his run for governor,” Racalto said. “The Victory Fund played no part in that decision.”

Barney Frank, Massachusetts, World Bank, human rights, Democratic Party, United States House of Representatives, gay news, Washington Blade

Former Rep. Barney Frank and several of his former staffers are involved in a June fundraiser for Rep. John Tierney. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

07
May
2014

Reject divisive rhetoric in mayor’s race

rhetoric, voting, District of Columbia, independent voters, gay news, Washington Blade

Turnout in the Democratic primary was a record low since home rule came to the District of Columbia.

Two weeks ago, I wrote here in the pages of the Washington Blade the reasons that I support independent candidate for mayor, David Catania. The title of the column questioned whether it was more important to have loyalty to a political party or to continue the progress we are seeing in our city.

I felt like it was an important question to answer given the unique nature of the primary we just endured and the choices before us in the general election. After a careful examination of the records of the two candidates, I feel that David Catania offers far more substance and a solid record of accomplishment compared to Muriel Bowser.

A supporter of Bowser’s wrote a response to that column and his main premise is that Democrats should support the Democratic nominee unless she has done something to disqualify herself. I suppose some will ascribe to that train of thought, though such an approach would deprive voters of a campaign that addresses the issues most important to our city. Perhaps that is the strategy of the Bowser campaign, but I hope not.

Turnout in the Democratic primary was a record low since home rule came to the District of Columbia. Bowser’s plurality in that primary represents a small fraction of eligible voters in D.C. and fewer actual votes than any other nominee in at least 20 years, even as our population has grown.

The primary campaign was also woefully short on addressing issues because of the juggernaut of U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen’s investigation of the 2010 campaign. His inability to bring finality to his investigation before the primary, along with reckless accusations made through the media, significantly influenced the outcome of the primary. Simply put, the general election is much needed in order to have an election in which voters can make a choice between candidates without the cloud that hung over the primary and surely was a contributing factor to the record low turnout.

Now that our choices have narrowed to David Catania and Muriel Bowser, there is no longer a reason to divert attention from the issues. So far, however, I have yet to hear any rational arguments from the Bowser campaign or its supporters on why she is more qualified and has a more compelling vision for the future of our city. To suggest that Bowser deserves to win the general election because she has done nothing to disqualify herself as the Democratic nominee is an incredibly low bar.

Most disappointing in the column last week was a not-so-veiled charge that I employed bias based on race and sexual orientation in my decision not to support Bowser, “Would Muriel Bowser be deemed qualified enough if she were a white gay man like David Catania or Lane Hudson? I wonder” and “gay Democrats need a more compelling reason to vote for a non-Democrat than the fact that said candidate is also gay.”

Given that I supported a straight black man in the primary, Mayor Vince Gray, it is a preposterous suggestion. Also, in my column I did not even mention that Catania is gay. Suggesting that his sexuality is why I, or other gay Democrats, support him ignores the rationale I laid out and insinuates that gay voters are too shallow or dumb to consider the complex issues of a campaign and arrive at an informed opinion.

For all those who have been ashamed of the history of local politics in D.C. for so many reasons and have longed to have a campaign that we can be proud of, this is our chance. But it is up to us as the voting public to demand better. It should also be made clear by Muriel Bowser’s campaign that such negative and divisive rhetoric has no place in public discourse.

Failure to do so would risk advancing harmful divisions in our community. D.C. can do better and committing to avoiding this type of rhetoric is very much needed to set the proper tone for the coming campaign. It would also show that Muriel Bowser has the wherewithal to show leadership on this issue and is committed to an inclusive campaign.

07
May
2014

Bowser wins Stein Club endorsement

Muriel Bowser, gay news, Washington Blade

Muriel Bowser won the endorsement of the Stein Club in her bid for mayor. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s largest LGBT political group, voted Monday night to endorse D.C. Council member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) for mayor.

The club also voted to endorse Council member Anita Bonds (D-At-Large) in her re-election bid, Ward 1 Council candidate Brianne Nadeau and Ward 6 Council candidate Charles Allen. Bonds, Nadeau and Allen each won the Democratic nomination for their respective Council seats in the city’s April 1 primary.

Bowser also won the Democratic primary, beating Mayor Vincent Gray and three other Council members who ran for mayor.

The club’s vote on the endorsements followed a town hall meeting in which Bowser, Nadeau and Allen spoke and answered questions from club members about their positions on both LGBT and other issues.

The meeting was held at the Human Rights Campaign building at 17th Street and Rhode Island Ave., N.W.

The endorsements also came after at least five club members who are supporting D.C. Council member David Catania (I-At-Large) for mayor sought to block an endorsement vote, citing provisions of the club’s bylaws that they said did not allow such a vote unless a special endorsement forum was held or unless a separate vote was taken to suspend the rules.

Stein Club President Angela Peoples said the club’s executive committee carefully reviewed the bylaws and determined they did not prevent the club from voting to endorse Bowser and the three Council candidates as well as shadow Senate incumbent Paul Straus, who also won the Democratic nomination for his post in the April 1 primary.

The vote on Monday night came in the form of a motion introduced by Stein Club member Jeri Hughes that called for endorsing all Democratic nominees that the club didn’t endorse for the primary.

The club didn’t make primary endorsements for mayor, the three Council seats and the shadow Senate seat because no candidate obtained the required 60 percent of the vote needed for an endorsement as specified by the club’s bylaws.

At Monday night’s meeting, the club voted 35 to 8 to approve a motion calling for the endorsements. There were two abstentions, two “no votes,” and one spoiled ballot. The vote for the endorsements passed with 73 percent of those voting, easily clearing the 60 percent rule.

“I’m glad the Democrats are going to support the Democrats,” Bowser said after the vote. “That’s what the Gertrude Stein is all about.”

Bowser was referring to the discussion last month by some club members, including the officers, that an endorsement vote for Bowser and the Council candidates wasn’t needed because it should be assumed that a Democratic club would support the Democratic nominees.

Other club members, however, speaking on condition that they not be identified, suggested that the club’s officers wanted to avoid a direct endorsement vote in the general election out of fear that Catania supporters might line up enough votes to block the 60 percent threshold needed for an endorsement.

Peoples said the officers never sought to avoid an endorsement vote. She said the officers waited before scheduling an endorsement vote to ensure that the process was open and club members had a chance to weigh in on the decision. Peoples said the officers also wanted to hold a town hall meeting to give members the opportunity to listen and ask questions of the candidates before voting on an endorsement.

Monday’s vote suggests that Catania supporters could only muster about 13 votes, which fell short of the 40 percent needed to block an endorsement.

The club members that spoke out against an endorsement of Bowser on Monday night were Don Haines, Paul Kuntzler, Lane Hudson, Pat Hawkins, Robin Helprin and John Klenert. All except Haines are supporting Catania. Haines said he’s undecided on whom to back for mayor.

After the endorsement vote Haines introduced a motion calling for the club to ask the City Council to withhold a salary for the mayor in his or her first two years in office. Haines said the motion was directed at Bowser, whom he said has sought to impose a similar withholding of a salary for the city’s shadow House and Senate members, who currently work as volunteers without a salary.

He noted that Bowser proposed that no salary should be approved for the Shadow positions for at least two years during which time the people holding those positions must “prove their worth.”

At the request of former Stein President Kurt Vorndran members voted to table Haines’ motion.

10
Jun
2014