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Gay man runs for Ward 1 school board seat

Scott Simpson, gay news, Washington Blade

‘Throughout my career and for over a decade in D.C., I’ve been committed to expanding educational opportunities for all students,’ said Scott Simpson. (Photo courtesy of Simpson)

LGBT rights and education advocate Scott Simpson on April 29 announced his candidacy for the Ward 1 seat on the D.C. State Board of Education, saying he wants to put his more than 10 years of experience on education and youth issues to work for the city’s schools.

Simpson’s announcement came six weeks after incumbent Ward 1 school board member Patrick Mara said he would not run for a second term, creating an open seat in the upcoming nonpartisan election scheduled for Nov. 4.

“Ward 1 families deserve a strong advocate on the State Board of Education who’s rooted in the community and understands how education policy choices impact students in the classroom,” Simpson said in a statement.

“Throughout my career and for over a decade in D.C., I’ve been committed to expanding educational opportunities for all students,” he said. “I’m ready to put those skills to work on behalf of Ward 1 families on the State Board of Education.”

A biography released by Simpson’s campaign says he began his career in D.C. working with students involved with the local LGBT youth advocacy group SMYAL. He served as a full-time volunteer with SMYAL through the Washington AIDS Partnership’s AmeriCorps program, his biography says.

Simpson currently serves as press secretary for the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the nation’s largest civil rights coalition. Among other things, Simpson assists the organization in advocating for “a range of education policies that improve the lives of students across the country,” his biographical write-up says.

Wade Henderson, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, has personally endorsed Simpson for the school board seat, saying Simpson has “proven to have the substance, skills and vision to help our schools meet their challenge of providing a quality education to every student.”

Beverly Wheeler, former executive director of the State Board of Education and a longtime Ward 1 civic activist, is serving as chair of Simpson’s campaign committee. Others who have endorsed Simpson include David Mariner, executive director of the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community; and Todd Peterson, former SMYAL Board chair.

Former Ward 1 school board member Dotti Love Wade, who was defeated by Mara in the 2010 election, has said she is interested in running again for the seat this year, according to Simpson. Wade couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Gay University of Maryland teaching assistant and former D.C. government employee David Do told the Blade he plans to enter the race for the Ward 1 school board seat on June 14, opening the way for two openly gay candidates to compete with one another for the seat.

If Simpson or Do were to win the election they would become the second openly gay member of the State Board of Education. Gay education advocate Jack Jacobson won election to the board’s Ward 2 seat in 2012.

In March, veteran gay rights and Ward 8 civic activist Phil Pannell announced his candidacy for the Ward 8 seat on the Board of Education.


Carol Schwartz enters D.C. mayor’s race

Carol Schwartz, gay news, Washington Blade

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Random thoughts on the world of politics

Reading newspapers, watching the anti-gay videos people share on Facebook and listening to the hate being spewed on some TV and radio shows is often enough to get my blood boiling. You get tired yelling back at the TV when listening to the nonsense, half-truths and outright lies spouted on Fox News by the likes of Sean Hannity and Breitbart news editor Ben Shapiro.

The world is a more difficult place to navigate than ever before and it has made me more passionate about some issues. Thankfully, after getting riled up about hateful rhetoric, there comes along a riveting and positive video or story that has me feeling really positive about the future. One such video appeared on Facebook recently. It was a rap by a 15-year-old brought up by lesbian parents (

After watching, you can’t help but feel positive about the future knowing there are kids like him in the world.

A recent story sure to depress was the murder in Clarksdale, Miss., of an openly gay mayoral candidate, Marco McMillian. That there are people in the world who will hate you just because you are gay should make us redouble our efforts to gain our civil and human rights.

A recent column I wrote led to criticism by some for using too strong language in telling D.C. residents why they shouldn’t vote for Patrick Mara for Council-at-large seat in D.C. Some were offended that I had the temerity to call him a hypocrite. I assume he has been called worse in his life. But some felt that was too strong a word. Yet, I didn’t even criticize him for his support of school vouchers. Mara, on the State Board of Education is responsible for improving our public schools yet supports spending scarce public funds on private education. In D.C., the schools that receive more than 96 percent of that voucher money (including money from hard-working members of the LGBT community) are parochial schools that can and do discriminate against LGBT teachers, students and parents. This is just one more example of Mara supporting a policy at odds with his claimed support of the LGBT community. Today at forums he spouts Republican doctrine suggesting D.C. refund money to taxpayers rather than use it to deal with the issues of homelessness, affordable housing and education. Clearly, that doctrine didn’t work out so well for the nation when George Bush proposed it.

An up moment came this week with a press release from Whitman-Walker Health announcing it will honor Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) at the annual spring benefit “Be the Care” on April 18 at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. Another up moment was Bill Clinton’s op-ed in the Washington Post calling on the Supreme Court to strike down DOMA as unconstitutional. Some say better late than never but then we must remember how different times were 17 short years ago.

Another positive piece of news this week was that both Walter Dellinger, former acting solicitor general in the Clinton administration, and respected gay attorney Paul M. Smith of Jenner and Block, have agreed to participate on a panel tentatively titled, “After the Arguments,” to be held at HRC on Monday morning April 15 from 8-10 a.m. It will be a discussion of the Supreme Court cases on DOMA and Prop 8 organized by the D.C. chapter of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association.

Good and bad news these days comes fast and furious but because of the work of so many in the LGBT community and our allies we continue to make progress. Now if only the Supreme Court would catch up with the majority of people in the country and accept that marriage equality is not only here to stay but should be considered protected by Constitution of the United States.


Local gay activist tapped to lead Stein endorsement forum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Patrick Mara for D.C. Council

The commencement of early voting on Monday leading to an April 23 election date will engage D.C. voters in the District’s most inclusive electoral format.

The special election to fill a D.C. Council At-Large seat allows all voters the opportunity to evaluate the candidates on a non-partisan basis in a single election, absent the filter of a primary election determining the eventual winner due to single party dominance. The nearly one-in-five “independent” voters registered without political party affiliation, prohibited from voting in the District’s “closed” primary system, can also participate equally.

One candidate stands out from the current gaggle of six competitors from three local political parties.

A leading contender among them is again expected to garner the support of a large number of LGBT voters, comprising 10 percent of District residents, eager to reward one of the community’s strongest allies with a long and exemplary history advocating for our civil rights. The only candidate who testified before the D.C. Council in favor of full marriage equality, later successfully lobbying congressional objectors to prevent legislative intervention.

This life-long registered Democrat is casting my vote for the candidate with an “R” after his name.

In the case of Patrick Mara, that letter represents “reform.”

Several opponents have attempted to “nationalize” the election and make party designation a campaign issue. D.C. residents have not been impressed. Same with the Washington Post, observing last month in a full-throated early endorsement that “indicative of Mr. Mara’s strength is the fact that the only thing his opponents seem able to attack is his affiliation as a Republican.”

A too-collegial Council has exhibited an unseemly tolerance for past and present ethical lapses, scandal and “business as usual.” Voters want windows wide letting fresh air inside the Wilson Building. An independent-minded, socially progressive and fiscally prudent candidate not among the usual clubhouse constituency is the best way to crack them open.

Mara has earned high praise from parents and education improvement advocates since his election in November 2010 to the State Board of Education representing diverse Ward 1. Mara is widely commended for his detailed citywide perspective on education issues not limited to the parochial focus of other candidates.

Improving the small business environment and encouraging entrepreneurship is a cornerstone of Mara’s campaign. He prompts hearty laughter at neighborhood forums referencing the District’s 51st rank in business friendliness among states. The former restaurant co-owner knows the obstacles confronting the main streets of commerce enlivening city neighborhoods. Mara has discovered that voters across D.C. understand that broader-based employment opportunities result from improved regulatory, tax and business growth policies that encourage a thriving local economy.

When Mara narrowly lost election to an At-Large seat two years ago, I had proffered that a vote for him “is a vote for diversity in local government and a much-needed addition of a fresh and independent voice on a dais filled with long-serving entrenched members of a single political hierarchy.” It’s as true now as it was then.

In addition to the coveted newspaper nod, Mara earned endorsements from the Sierra Club, D.C. Chamber of Commerce and D.C. Realtors Association. The latter prompted Mara to note “the cultural diversity of D.C. is at risk if we do not protect and build affordable housing. Working families, young people with burgeoning careers, artists, immigrants and a wide range of other folks should be able to claim a stake here in the District.”

Mara enjoys significant support among D.C. LGBT voters. He’s earned it with his active engagement on community issues as well as standing for sensible reform in matters affecting the entire city.

Patrick Mara merits your vote.

Mark Lee is a long-time entrepreneur and community business advocate. Follow on Twitter: @MarkLeeDC. Reach him at


Winning reform on Tuesday

District voters aren’t much motivated to participate in the April 23 special election to fill a D.C. Council At-Large seat. Early voting numbers have been negligible and turnout at the polls on Tuesday will likely be low.

For many, it’s merely a reminder of the serial scandals that prompt another trudge to the voting booth. For others, less-than-inspiring racial appeals by two of the candidates, including the party-appointed incumbent enjoying frontrunner status, have rankled – and resulted in a rebuke by the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance coupled with a request for an apology.

The suspicion that yet another candidate masks her outdated tax-and-spend intentions with political bromides were confirmed for some with news reports of the candidate’s surprising declaration that residents enduring taxation levels among the nation’s worst “don’t mind paying taxes.” The contrast with D.C. Council member David Catania’s blunt reminder the following day at a budget briefing that city spending has increased 23 percent in the past two years could not have been starker.

Despite these depressing developments, a leading contender in what is expected to be a dual contestant race has remained as above the fray as possible amid campaign-closing histrionics. While others have concentrated on besmirching him due to party affiliation, such antics have proven ineffective.

It’s also not resonating among those weary of the self-protective and ever-forgiving political culture downtown that has created a dismaying level of tolerance for malfeasance by colleagues. An independent progressive perspective not beholden to the prevalent “politics and policies as usual” seems downright desirable for many.

The “horse race” appraisal by knowledgeable observers suggests that the contest is trending toward an ultimate battle for votes between two candidates – incumbent Anita Bonds and reformer Patrick Mara.

Interim Council member Bonds undoubtedly hopes that a divided field of opponents will result in splitting reform-minded voters looking for less of the same. Mara’s narrow loss when finishing second in a similarly crowded field in a 2011 special election illustrates that potential outcome.

When several Council members who have endorsed Bonds held a news conference on Monday to encourage votes predicated on same-party designation, Mara responded by stating “the D.C. Council is broken and too many politicians like it that way. Six Council members have endorsed the incumbent. This is the same Council that hardly punished one of its own for ethics violations. This is the same Council that largely sat quiet while two members, now convicted felons, voted on ethics reform laws.”

Likewise, when the D.C. Fraternal Order of Police endorsed Mara last week, he quipped that “voters tell me they worry about two kinds of crime in the District: the first is in their neighborhoods, the second occurs in City Hall. If elected, I intend to fight crime on our streets and within our government.”

This election also marks awareness by LGBT voters that gay issues are no longer contestable in local politics. A collective celebration of a transitional moment for fully 10 percent of District residents, the freedom to live our lives now includes the opportunity to evaluate candidates as other voters do. With civil equality has come the obligation to consider a full range of local issues.

We have the chance to elect a longtime consistent advocate who has defended our rights when it mattered and worked hard to ensure that congressional objectors of marriage equality stood aside.

Voters longing for a new standard of conduct among local politicians, smarter use of government resources and sensible tax policies, reform of a regulatory morass thwarting small business growth and hindering economic vitality and broader employment opportunities, investment in affordable housing, improvement in school performance encouraging better educational outcomes, and a diversity of voices on a dais long too chummy, have a simple choice.

Help win reform with Patrick Mara.

Mark Lee is a long-time entrepreneur and community business advocate. Follow on Twitter: @MarkLeeDC. Reach him at


LGBT vote expected to split in special election

Anita Bonds, Patrick Mara, D.C. Council, gay news, Washington Blade, Elissa Silverman

Interim Council member Anita Bonds (left), GOP candidate Patrick Mara (center) and Elissa Silverman (right) have attracted prominent LGBT support in their race for Council. (Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

The LGBT community appeared to be dividing its support between what pundits say are the top three contenders in the city’s April 23 special election in which six candidates are competing for an at-large seat on the D.C. City Council.

With all of the candidates expressing support for LGBT equality, including support for the city’s same-sex marriage law, LGBT voters appear to be assessing the candidates on non-LGBT issues, according to activists following the campaign.

“As has been the case for a long time in our city, we are blessed to be in a position of choosing among friends,” Rick Rosendall, president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, said earlier this year.

A large number of LGBT activists have come out in support of Democrats Anita Bonds and Elissa Silverman as well as Republican Patrick Mara. Each has held several LGBT “meet and greet” events, with some of them held in gay bars. A smaller number of activists have expressed their support for Democrat Matthew Frumin.

The only publicly released poll so far, conducted by the Public Policy Polling Company, showed Bonds in the lead among likely voters, with 19 percent, followed by Mara and Silverman, who each had 13 percent. Frumin had 8 percent, with Democrat Paul Zukerberg and Statehood-Green Party candidate Perry Redd each with 2 percent.

But political observers were quick to point out that the most significant finding of the poll was that a whopping 43 percent of those polled said they were undecided less than two weeks before the election. The large number of undecided voters makes it difficult to predict a winner, political observers have said.

One of the first signs that LGBT voters were divided over the field of candidates came in March, when the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s largest LGBT political organization, was unable to make an endorsement because no candidate received a required 60 percent of the vote among club members.

However, Silverman received 55 percent of the Stein members’ vote, with Bonds coming in second with 37 percent.

Mara received the endorsement of the D.C. Long Cabin Republicans. His supporters point out that a number of prominent LGBT Democrats are backing Mara, who also won the endorsement of the Washington Post, and that Mara won in city precincts with large numbers of LGBT residents in two previous elections in which he ran for a Council seat.

Frumin, meanwhile, received the highest rating from the non-partisan Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance — a +7 on a rating scale of -10 to +10. Bonds came in second with a GLAA rating of +6.5. Silverman and Redd each received a +5.5 rating, with Mara receiving a +5 and Zuckerberg receiving a +2.

The candidates’ answers to separate GLAA and Stein Club questionnaires show that each of them indicated overall strong support on LGBT issues, with some losing points for not providing what GLAA says were detailed enough responses to the questions. Others lost points for disagreeing with GLAA on some issues.

Bonds, a longtime Democratic Party leader who has worked in the city government in the past, was appointed to the Council seat on an interim basis earlier this year by the D.C. Democratic State Committee, which she chairs. The appointment lasts until the time of the special election. Bonds is being backed, among others, by former Stein Club presidents Kurt Vorndran and Lafeefah Williams and current Stein Club treasurer Barry Daneker.

Silverman, a former journalist with the Washington City Paper and Washington Post, has worked as a budget analyst in recent years for the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute, which advocates for reforms in the city’s tax code. She is being backed by a number of LGBT activists, including many of the Stein Club members who voted for her in the club’s endorsement meeting in which no endorsement was made.

Mara, an elected member of the D.C. school board from Ward 1, has been a longtime supporter of LGBT rights and boasts of being the only candidate in the at-large Council race who testified in favor of the city’s same-sex marriage law when it came before the D.C. Council in 2009. Gay Democratic activists Joel Lawson and John Klenert are among the LGBT activists supporting him.

In a sometimes heated debate among LGBT activists, some, including gay Democratic activist and commentator Peter Rosenstein, argue that LGBT people should not vote for Mara because he was a GOP convention delegate and supporter of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who opposes nearly all LGBT rights initiatives, including gay marriage. Mara’s gay backers say Mara is the only “true” reform candidate who promises to fight corruption and cronyism in city government.

Frumin is an attorney in private practice and a Ward 3 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner.

The remaining two candidates, Democrat Paul Zuckerberg, an attorney and longtime advocate for decriminalizing marijuana; and Perry Redd, a Statehood-Green Party candidate and community activist, have received less traction among LGBT activists. The two have raised far less money for their campaigns than the other four candidates.

Mara, Silverman and Frumin have each portrayed themselves as reform candidates and have pointed to city corruption related investigations that led to the arrest and indictment of two D.C. Council members during the past two years.

Although Bonds strongly disputes critics’ claims she is part of the entrenched political establishment, impartial observers say she has a good shot at winning because Mara, Silverman and Frumin are likely to split the so-called “reform” vote.

Observers also believe Bonds benefited from a decision earlier this month by former D.C. Council member and Democratic contender Michael Brown to drop out of the race. Brown would have been in direct competition with Bonds for voters in Wards 5, 7, and 8, according to political observers.


Why I’m voting for Anita Bonds

As a long-time resident of the District of Columbia and an active member of the LGBT community, it is my honor to explain why I am voting for Anita Bonds in the D.C. special election primary on April 23.

As a member of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club since 1978 and as chairman of the Democratic Committee, Bonds has been a strong champion of our issues. Patrick Mara, Elisa Silverman and Matthew Frumin have all been supportive. But Bonds has been a straight ally to our community long before straight allies were popular. In addition to being a champion for our community, Bonds has a distinguished record promoting the values of equality and fairness for all residents of the District, especially those who have been less fortunate.

To be honest, when I first heard that Bonds was running, I wasn’t initially a supporter. In general, I tend to support candidates who are socially progressive and support sweeping reform as a way to improve the city. I wondered if Bonds would be able to champion the progress that we’ve made as a city. This is a legitimate question and after meeting and talking with her, I was convinced that not only would she be able to move the city forward, but she would continue to be a passionate advocate for those in our city who haven’t been able to benefit from the rapid progress the city has made under the Williams, Fenty and Gray administrations.

Bonds has served the residents of the District of Columbia in many roles starting with cabinet-level positions for Mayors Barry and Pratt Kelly. During her tenure with the government, Bonds helped create the Mayor’s Summer Youth Job Program, which provided jobs for the youth of the city. In 1998, she was appointed director of neighborhood engagement for Mayor Williams and played an integral role in improving government responsiveness and the delivery of services to the neighborhood.

As the four-term chair of ANC 5C, which included the Bloomingdale, Eckington, Stronghold, Pleasant Hill, Truxton Circle and Edgewood communities, Bonds spearheaded many projects that benefited those neighborhoods, including the renovation of the Florida Avenue Park and the beautification of tree boxes throughout Ward 5.  It was during her tenure that crime rates began to plummet and the property values of these neighborhoods began to change. This process that is happening all across the city has created some very contentious dialogue, which Bonds has tried to help facilitate.

I had the good fortune to grow up in Mt. Pleasant. I have seen a great transformation in my lifetime. Despite our great progress, we are a city of great economic disparity with a growing gap between those with resources and those without. Serving the needs of all residents is a complex challenge that faces us. On the one hand, increased property values provide much-needed revenue to provide world-class services to all residents. On the other, some of this progress has forced poorer residents out and there is a legitimate fear of displacement.

As someone who has benefited greatly from economic prosperity not of my own doing, I feel that it is important to support leaders who understand that it will take more than putting a logo on banners and letterhead to make this one city.

We need leaders who understand how to make government work for every resident from Chevy Chase to Congress Heights. Bonds is the best equipped of all the candidates running in this special election to be that Council member and I strongly encourage you to join me in supporting her on April 23.

Christopher Dyer is the former director of the Mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs under Mayor Adrian Fenty and a longtime activist in the city. Reach him via


Log Cabin official to head GOP in D.C.

Robert Turner II, Log Cabin Republicans

Outgoing D.C. Log Cabin Republicans President Robert Turner II. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Robert Turner, president of the Log Cabin Republicans of Washington, D.C., is expected to step down from that post later this month to become executive director of the D.C. Republican Committee.

Turner was to be appointed to the executive director’s position by Ron Phillips, who was the strong favorite to win election on Jan. 10 as chair of the 126-member DCRC, which serves as the governing body of the city’s Republican Party.

Turner would replace Nick Jeffress, the executive director who resigned at the end of last year and was appointed by outgoing DCRC Chair Robert Kabel.

Kabel, who’s gay and is the former president of the board of the national group Log Cabin Republicans, won election last year as one of D.C.’s representatives on the Republican National Committee. He’s ineligible for another term as DCRC chair because of a term limit rule.

Turner is believed to be the first out gay to serve as executive director of a state or D.C. Republican Party committee.

A native of Austin, Texas, Turner moved to D.C. in 1995 to work as a congressional staff member before starting his own political consulting company, The Turner Group.

He also serves on the board of Capital Pride Alliance, the governing body in charge of running D.C.’s annual Capital Pride parade and festival.

Turner said voter outreach would be his top priority when he assumes the day-to-day operations of the DCRC.

“Most people who live in D.C. either think the party doesn’t exist or it’s a joke,” he said of the city’s Republican Party.

“And we need to change that mentality,” he said. “We need to show that we are a viable alternative to the corruption in the Wilson Building. We need to talk to voters, first and foremost, and see what their ideas are and then show them how the Republican Party of D.C. can jell with their ideas.”

He said the DCRC’s top priority in the first part of this year is to help elect GOP candidate Patrick Mara, the current Ward 1 school board member, to the City Council in a special election in April to fill an at-large seat.

The seat became vacant when Council member Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large) won election as Council chair. The seat was filled last month on a temporary basis under city election rules when the D.C. Democratic State Committee appointed its chair, Anita Bonds, as interim Council member until the special election is held on April 23.

Mara is a longtime supporter of LGBT rights and testified before the Council in 2009 in support of the city’s same-sex marriage bill, which passed in the Council later that year.

Turner said he believes Mara has a shot at winning the special election if Republican and independent voters as well as a sizable number of gays who supported Mara in the past turn out in large numbers.

“There are 30,000 Republicans and 350,000 Democrats,” he said in pointing to the city’s voter registration rolls. “But there’s also about 80,000 registered independents that we can tap into, and a lot of those voters are disaffected voters.”

Turner was quick to reply when asked what he thinks the national Republican Party should do in the wake of President Obama’s defeat of GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney.

“Well, the first thing the party needs to do is talk to more people than straight, white men,” he said. “There are women, gays. There are minorities out there who believe in the principles of the Republican Party – of less government, less taxes, less regulations and a strong military. Let’s talk to those people and show them Republican Party ideals work in tandem with their principles as individuals.”


Bonds wins D.C. Council race

Anita Bonds, Lateefah Williams, Bill O'Field, Democratic Party, Washington D.C., Council, gay news, Washington Blade

‘I know I have many friends in the LGBT community for which I am blessed,’ Anita Bonds (center) told the Blade after her win on Tuesday. Bonds pictured here with Lateefah Williams (left) and Bill O’Field. (Washington Blade photo by Lou Chibbaro)

Incumbent Democrat Anita Bonds won the race for an at-large seat on the D.C. Council in the city’s special election on Tuesday, beating five rivals, including pro-gay Republican Patrick Mara, who drew support from LGBT activists.

But Democratic candidate Elissa Silverman, who came in second place citywide, won in 12 of the city’s 14 precincts identified as having high concentrations of LGBT residents. Mara came in second in the same 12 precincts, with Bonds coming in third.

Bonds won by a wide margin in the two remaining “gay” precincts, one in Anacostia and the other along the Southwest waterfront area, where large numbers of black LGBT residents live.

“I know I have many friends in the LGBT community for which I am blessed,” Bonds told the Blade after delivering her victory speech at the Channel Inn Hotel located on the Southwest waterfront.

“I don’t know how they all voted, but when we look at the data we’ll probably discover that persons who have been members of the community 15 to 20 years, they knew Anita,” she said. “Those who are relatively new to D.C., many didn’t know me or know my record.”

David Meadows, former president of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s largest LGBT political group, serves as press secretary for Bonds’ Council office. He noted that Bonds became a member of the Stein Club as a straight ally in 1978, two years after the club was founded, and has been a strong LGBT rights supporter ever since.

“I wouldn’t say it was overwhelming,” Meadows said in describing Bonds’ support among LGBT voters in Tuesday’s election. “But I think that there were many long-term LGBT residents that understood the support that Anita Bonds brought to our community.”

In the citywide race, Bonds received 32 percent of the vote, with Silverman receiving 28 percent. Mara received 23 percent. Democratic candidates Matthew Frumin and Paul Zuckerberg received 11 percent 2 percent respectively. Statehood Green Party candidate Perry Redd also received 2 percent.

As predicted by many political observers, only about 10 percent of the city’s registered voters turned out to vote in the special election, appearing to be one of the lowest turnout elections ever in D.C.

Each of the candidates expressed strong support for LGBT rights, including backing for the city’s same-sex marriage law. Bonds and Silverman drew support from many of the city’s prominent LGBT activists.

Mara also drew support from some of the city’s prominent gay Democratic activists, raising speculation that he could win the race as a reform candidate appealing to Democratic voters, both gay and straight, who yearn for a fresh face on the Council.

But Silverman appears to have won over a majority of the voters that political pundits say Mara attracted in his two previous races for a City Council seat.

Silverman came in first in Wards 1 and 2, and 6, where large numbers of LGBT voters live. Mara won in Ward 3, where the majority of the city’s registered Republicans reside. Silverman’s win over Mara in Ward 1 came as a surprise to some because Mara, a Ward 1 resident, won election last year to the Ward 1 seat on the city’s Board of Education.

Bonds won by wide margins in the majority black Wards 4, 5, 7 and 8.

Silverman received the most votes among members of the Gertrude Stein Club at an endorsement meeting in March. But she fell five points short of the 60 percent majority vote required for a Stein Club endorsement. Bonds came in second place in the endorsement vote.

Individual Stein Club members appeared to be evenly divided in their backing between Silverman and Bonds.

LGBT activists familiar with city voting trends caution that the so-called “LGBT” precincts may not be representative of all LGBT voters because most of them are in majority white sections of the city. Gay Democratic activist Phil Pannell, a longtime resident of Ward 8, has said black LGBT residents tend to be dispersed in many different precincts and tend not to be concentrated in a few specific precincts such as those in Dupont Circle, Logan Circle and Adams Morgan.

Following is the breakdown of the vote between the leading three candidates in voter precincts identified as having high concentrations of LGBT residents. Percentages are rounded:

  • Precinct 14 (Dupont Circle): Silverman, 44 percent; Mara, 37 percent; Bonds, 6 percent
  • Precinct 15 (Dupont Circle): Silverman, 43 percent; Mara, 39 percent; Bonds, 11 percent
  • Precinct 16 (Logan Circle): Silverman, 46 percent; Mara, 32 percent; Bonds, 11 percent
  • Precinct 17 (Logan Circle): Silverman, 36 percent; Mara, 34 percent; Bonds, 15 percent
  • Precinct 18 (Shaw): Silverman, 40 percent; Mara, 18 percent; Bonds 24 percent
  • Precinct 22 (14th & U Street, N.W. corridor): Silverman, 45 percent; Mara 31 percent; Bonds, 13 percent
  • Precinct 23 (U Street & Columbia Heights): Silverman, 48 percent; Mara, 21 percent; Bonds, 17 percent
  • Precinct 24 (Adams Morgan): Silverman 51 percent; Mara 20 percent; Bonds, 13 percent
  • Precinct 25 (Adams Morgan): Silverman, 41 percent; Mara, 34 percent; Bonds, 8 percent
  • Precinct 36 (Columbia Heights): Silverman, 45 percent; Mara, 36 percent; Bonds 20 percent
  • Precinct 89 (Capitol Hill): Silverman 50 percent; Mara, 36 percent; Bonds, 4 percent
  • Precinct 90 (Capitol Hill): Silverman, 47 percent; Mara, 36 percent; Bonds, 6 percent
  • Precinct 112 (Anacostia): Silverman, 5 percent; Mara, 4 percent; Bonds, 78 percent
  • Precinct 127 (Southwest Waterfront): Silverman, 29 percent; Mara 20 percent; Bonds, 39 percent