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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

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

Vincent Gray, gay news, Washington Blade

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

13
Jan
2014

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

‘Ready for Hillary’ event draws packed house

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Democratic activist Phil Pannell (left) is among the more than 450 Hillary Clinton supporters who turned out Thursday for a ‘Ready for Hillary’ event. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

More than 450 people, including LGBT activists, turned out for D.C.’s first official rally and fundraiser Thursday night for Ready for Hillary, the independent super PAC formed earlier this year to urge former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to run for president in 2016.

As many of the attendees entered Look restaurant and lounge on the 1900 block of K St., N.W., where the event took place, they were greeted by veteran D.C. gay rights and civic activist Phil Pannell, who was among the volunteers staffing a check-in table.

“I’m really excited to be here and excited about Hillary,” said Pannell, who is among a growing number of D.C.-area LGBT activists who supported Barack Obama over Clinton in the 2008 presidential race but who are enthusiastic Clinton supporters now.

“Like so many people I know, I want to be a part of this,” Pannell said.

In keeping with their policy of encouraging support from small donors, organizers of the Ready for Hillary rally Thursday night set the admission price at $20.16.

Gay Democratic activist Peter Rosenstein, one of Ready for Hillary’s early supporters, said that same admission price will be in place for the organization’s next event in D.C. that will target a specific LGBT audience. Called “Out and Ready for Hillary,” the event will take place Jan. 15 at the gay nightclub Town Danceboutique.

Among those working on plans for the January event is Lisa Changadveja, Ready for Hillary’s LGBT Americans director. Changadvja announced the January event at Town from the stage at the rally Thursday night.

In an interview with the Blade in November, Changadveja said she and a corps of volunteers will be setting up Ready for Hillary booths at LGBT Pride events across the country in 2014.

“We’re here to encourage her to run in 2016 because she has the grassroots support behind her and she has the LGBT community behind her if and when she decides to run,” Changadveja said.

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), the first member of Congress to officially endorse Clinton for president in 2016, told the gathering Thursday night that he sees support for a Clinton candidacy growing in his home state of Ohio and all parts of the country.

“What we want this campaign to be is something that ushers in the new era of politics in the United States, that Hillary can break the logjam in Washington, D.C. and move our country forward,” he said. “And with your help she’s going to be able to do that.”

Among the LGBT activist leaders listed as members of the host committee for the January Ready for Hillary event at Town nightclub are veteran transgender advocate Dana Beyer; gay Democratic National Committee member and Center for Black Equity CEO Earl Fowlkes; gay Democratic activist Lane Hudson; Gertrude Stein Democratic Club Secretary Jimmie Luthuli; and gay restaurant manager and civic activist Dito Sevilla. Rosenstein is also a member of the host committee.

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Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) spoke at the event. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

14
Dec
2013

Elmendorf hosts Mizeur fundraiser

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Maryland Del. Heather Mizeur (on right) (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

About sixty people attended a fundraiser for lesbian Maryland Del. Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery County) at gay Democratic lobbyist Steve Elmendorf’s D.C. home on Monday.

Former Human Rights Campaign President Elizabeth Birch, Winnie Stachelberg of the Center for American Progress and lesbian Democratic political strategist Hilary Rosen are among those who served on the event’s host committee. Tickets for the fundraiser ranged from $100-$1,000.

Mizeur, who did not immediately return the Washington Blade’s request for comment, said during an exclusive interview in November that she is “taking a very serious look” at a 2014 gubernatorial campaign. She would likely face Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, Attorney General Douglas Gansler and Howard County Executive Ken Ulman if she sought to succeed Gov. Martin O’Malley.

O’Malley told the Blade in a post-Election Day interview that he would support Brown in the 2014 gubernatorial campaign. Mizeur’s supporters remain adamant, however, that she would prove an effective governor if elected.

“I met Heather when she worked for John Kerry and have always admired her work ethic and commitment to progressive issues,” Elmendorf, who chairs the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, said.

“Heather is one of the hardest workers in politics and the importance of that cannot be underscored; and being the only woman competing in a primary with several other men could be the advantage she needs to win the primary,” gay Democratic activist Lane Hudson added.

10
Jan
2013

Stein Club special meeting upholds election of new officers

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(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Berrie Daneker (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

20
Dec
2012