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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

Say no to Mara: Vote against hypocrisy

Republican Patrick Mara has announced another run for Council-at-Large in the District. I endorsed Mara in a 2008 race to elect a non-Democrat to the Council. During that race many overlooked his Republican views because he was running for a seat on the Council that had to go to a non-Democrat and supporters hoped if he won he would fight for the citizens of D.C. Mara is a very genial guy, great to have a meal or drink with. With that being said there is absolutely no reason for the people of the District to vote for him today and plenty of reasons not to.

Mara talks government reform and the need for honesty and ethics in government, but how can you trust what he says — or know what reforms he would actually support — given the hypocrisy of his support for ultra-conservative Republicans diametrically opposed to what he claims to believe.

Mara actively supports ultra-conservative Republican Party candidates who espouse policies that would harm women, minorities and the LGBT community in D.C. He actively supported Mitt Romney, who believed 47 percent of the American people were takers (including veterans, seniors and the unemployed). Further, Romney claimed that President Obama’s support of issues such as marriage equality, the Dream Act and healthcare for all Americans were simply gifts meant to win a campaign.

Mara was a delegate to the Republican National Convention and actively supported the Romney/Ryan ticket with their all-out war on women and the LGBT community. In fact, Mara was gleeful when blogging from the RNC Convention in Tampa, Fla., including such fun tidbits as, “If you didn’t see Ann Romney last night, you missed a great speech; One of those rare moments when the stage isn’t occupied by a seasoned politician.” Or this one, “The best event of the day was “Nuestra Noche” (sponsored by the American Conservative Union) in Ybor City. Sen. Marco Rubio, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez and Tagg Romney appeared; former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was a no-show.”

Having fun at a convention is fine and part of what a convention is about. But blogging about being excited by Republican politicians and organizations, such as the American Conservative Union, which are incredibly out of touch with the needs of D.C. voters, is another thing.

Mara tells anyone who will listen that he doesn’t agree with the Republican Party platform and personally favors marriage equality and full civil rights for the LGBT community and that he is pro-choice. In doing so, he asks us to overlook his active support for candidates and a party that don’t believe those things. He asks us to overlook his support and work for a party that forced the District to stop spending its own money on needed and legal abortions for poor women; his work for a party whose candidates had as their stated mission to shut down Planned Parenthood; his work for a party whose candidates signed a pledge from the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage promising to support a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage; and his work for the candidates who opposed a woman’s right to choose. And, truth be told, none of this is new for Mara.

In 2004, when even the Log Cabin Republicans took a principled position to not endorse George Bush for reelection because he opposed gay rights, Mara obviously felt that was not an issue important enough to him and he endorsed Bush. Neither did he consider it important enough that Bush was against D.C. voting rights and said if a D.C. voting rights bill reached his desk he would veto it.

Now Mara wants the support of the people of the District, including Latinos, the LGBT community and women. But why would anyone in those communities support him? Even if voters forgive him the Bush endorsement as old politics, what about this year’s endorsement and work for the Romney/Ryan ticket?

For years, Republican politicians in the District have suggested they should be supported because they will then influence the policies of their party. It is the height of hypocrisy to ask voters to continue to believe that nonsense. With their (and Mara’s) supposed influence over the years, the party has gotten even worse on issues related to women, the poor, minorities and the LGBT community. You can’t influence a party if you support and work for its candidates that have adopted a litany of positions you say you disagree with. And with the city in the best financial shape in years — and the envy of most states — you also can’t claim you are running to correct the economic policies of the city.

Many voters have not yet made up their mind on who to support for this at-large Council seat. I would suggest that one person not deserving of your vote or support for these and other reasons is Patrick Mara.

Mara owns a consulting firm; sits on the school board as a representative of Ward One; and has a stake in Meridian Pint, a popular neighborhood pub. It seems he has plenty to do without sitting on the D.C. Council. I wince when he claims he is a more moral and ethical politician than others on the Council or those running. Ethics must be a real consideration when voting, but there is a huge ethical issue when someone claims to have one set of positions yet actively supports candidates with positions diametrically opposed to them.

Voting for Mara would reward a D.C. Republican, who when the chips were down and the country’s and the District’s future was on the line, disregarded his claimed beliefs and fell in line to support Mitt Romney for president.

That is not only unethical behavior but the height of hypocrisy. There are a host of candidates running who have been much more consistent in standing up for what they say they believe and who haven’t waivered in their fight for all the people of the District.


Congratulations to Anita Bonds

Congratulations to Anita Bonds on her win for Council member at-large. Congratulations also to Elissa Silverman for running a good campaign and I hope she will stay involved in politics and get more involved in community affairs. As for Patrick Mara, this marks his third loss and I hope that he will be successful in his career as he moves on with his life, his new wife and expected child. Pat is a nice guy but his politics were shown to be just wrong for D.C. voters.

Like many, I was disappointed in the small turnout. Maybe those voters who stayed home are happy with everything. In many ways the District under the leadership of Mayor Gray is doing better than it ever has before. We are fiscally solvent and envied by cities and states across the nation. The economy is booming with 55 cranes up across the District in every ward building both commercial space and new rental apartments and condos. The mayor has submitted a balanced budget to the Council with pay increases for city workers for the first time in years; $100 million for affordable housing; $15 million for competitive grants for small non-profits; funding for libraries to remain open 7 days a week; a capital budget that addresses the renovation of the MLK library, additional new and renovated schools, rebuilding and renovating of parks and recreation centers and all without any increase in taxes or fees. In fact there are certain tax reductions such as getting rid of the tax on other than D.C. municipal bonds and the elimination of the double tax on those who own cooperative apartments in the District.

There is much that still needs to be done and it is important for residents to give voice to their ideas on how to move forward. There are complaints about not enough police; the need for more ambulances; and a host of issues from what to do about the homeless population to how to improve our schools.

This was a special election to fill the seat vacated by Phil Mendelson who won as Council chair last November. It is possible people felt the winner was only being elected for 1.5 years and would have to run again next year so they didn’t bother to come out. Or they were unhappy with all the candidates and therefore stayed home. Or the media didn’t pay enough attention to the candidates, or the candidates were boring or some other reason.

What some forgot was that there was another important issue on the ballot and that was whether the District should have budget autonomy. That means Congress could not interfere with the part of the D.C. budget passed by the Council and signed by the mayor that dealt with the money coming from our own tax collections. That ballot measure, which won with 84 percent of the vote, could be a major step forward for District independence. It could mean we won’t be totally beholden to Congress every time they have a budget stalemate like the one we have now.

Beginning today and moving forward the people of the District need to make their voices heard. Bonds will now have a vote on a host of issues including the mayor’s budget; issues related to the new healthcare exchange mandated by the Affordable Care Act; determining how or if to vote on new ethics reform; whether to make surrogacy contracts in the District legal; regulatory reform; and so many other issues that no one ever really asked her about during the election.

Voters and the media appeared to accept the contest being run on the platitudes given to us by most of the candidates. I do have faith that Bonds will work hard but her seat, along with that of many other council members, is up again next year so vigilance and oversight on what all our Council members do remains an important role for all of us.


Council race heats up

Patrick Mara, Republican Party, Republican National Convention, Washington Blade, gay news

Patrick Mara at the 2012 Republican National Convention (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Gay Democratic activist Peter Rosenstein raised eyebrows last week when he called on the LGBT community not to vote for pro-gay Republican candidate Patrick Mara in the April 23 special election for an at-large seat on the D.C. City Council.

In his political column in the Blade, Rosenstein reminded LGBT voters that Mara, while saying he personally supports LGBT rights, was a delegate at the Republican National Convention last summer for GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who opposed nearly all LGBT rights initiatives.

“Mara tells anyone who will listen that he doesn’t agree with the Republican Party platform and personally favors marriage equality and full civil rights for the LGBT community and that he is pro-choice,” Rosenstein wrote. “In so doing, he asks us to overlook his active support for candidates and a party that don’t believe those things.”

But longtime gay Democratic activist and D.C. civic leader Joel Lawson, who’s supporting Mara, said Mara’s support for Romney doesn’t bother him and shouldn’t be a problem for others in the LGBT community who are considering voting for Mara.

“I’m a lifelong active Democrat,” Lawson told the Blade. “And the only ‘R’ I’m worried about is reform. And those attacks on Pat are just more nasty fighting that’s hurt D.C.”

Lawson added, “This race is between Pat Mara and business as usual, and Pat is the strongest [candidate] for reform.”

Political observers say people like Lawson – both gay and straight – appear to be part of a growing bloc of voters who are angry about the long list of ethical lapses that have surfaced in city politics over the past several years.

Among the concerns of these voters were the arrest and guilty pleas on corruption related charges by former D.C. Council Chair Kwame Brown and former Ward 5 Council member Harry Thomas, both Democrats, who were sentenced to time in jail.

The U.S. Attorney’s office continues to investigate illegal campaign finance practices uncovered in Mayor Vincent Gray’s 2010 election campaign. And the City Council last month voted to reprimand gay Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), who was accused of violating city ethics rules by reportedly interfering with a city contract. Graham disputes allegations that he acted improperly on the contract matter.

Similar to most elections in D.C. over the past 20 years or longer, each of the seven candidates running in the special election – five Democrats, one Republican (Mara), and a Statehood Green Party candidate – are strong supporters of LGBT equality, including same-sex marriage.

The candidates include Democrats Michael Brown, a former Council member who lost his re-election bid last year to David Grosso (D-At-Large); Anita Bonds, chair of the city’s Democratic State Committee, which elected her as interim Council member until the special election is held; former Washington Post and Washington City Paper reporter Elissa Silverman, who most recently has worked as a budget analyst for the progressive think tank D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute; and local attorneys Paul Zuckerberg  and Matthew Frumin, who operate D.C. law firms.

Also running is community activist and ex-offender advocate Perry Redd, who was nominated by the Statehood Green Party.

The Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance is expected to rate each of the candidates on LGBT issues later this month based on their responses to a GLAA questionnaire that the group has been giving to candidates running for local office for more than 30 years. The Blade will report on the candidates’ detailed positions on LGBT issues when the GLAA questionnaire results are released.

The Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s largest LGBT political group, is scheduled to hold a forum for the Democratic candidates on March 21 at the Metropolitan Community Church of Washington. The club is also scheduled to vote on an endorsement at the forum. But club members say an endorsement is uncertain due to the group’s requirement that a candidate receive a 60 percent majority vote among members to earn the club’s backing.

With each of the candidates supportive on LGBT issues, activists following the campaign say the so-called “gay vote” could be driven by non-gay issues as well as name recognition and the perception of the candidates’ visibility in the LGBT community.

Brown and Mara have run for City Council seats in the past, and each has done well in precincts known to have high concentrations of LGBT residents at various times. Bonds, who has been active in city politics for many years, is less known to non-activists but has support from several key LGBT movers and shakers. Among them is David Meadows, a former Stein Club president, who now works on her Council staff.

Silverman, Redd, Frumin, and Zuckerberg are newcomers to electoral politics and must overcome a lack of widespread name recognition, political observers have said. Silverman, Frumin, and Zuckerberg told the Blade they have been longtime supporters of LGBT equality and, if elected, would push for city policies and laws that strengthen the ongoing quest to achieve full equality for LGBT city residents. Each said they would have voted for the city’s same-sex marriage law had they been on the Council when it came up for a vote in 2009.

Redd couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. Longtime Statehood Green Party leader and LGBT rights supporter David Schwartzman told the Blade that Redd is a strong supporter of LGBT equality, including same-sex marriage.

D.C. political consultant Chuck Thies is among the local political observers who believe Mara and Brown are the two frontrunners in the race. Thies told the Blade that gay Democratic activists may be worried about Mara because he has received a significant number of Democratic votes in two previous runs for a Council seat.

In a 2011 special election for an at-large seat, Mara came in second, just behind Vincent Orange, a Democrat with wide name recognition who won the eight-candidate race. Mara beat Democratic candidate Sekou Biddle, who was backed by most LGBT Democratic leaders.

In a development that surprised some gay Democratic activists, Mara won by large margins in at least seven of the 14 voter precincts with high concentrations of LGBT voters.

In the special election set for April 23, Mara has a solid bloc of the city’s Republican voters and could benefit by his Democratic opponents splitting the vote among each other while capturing a sizable portion of the Democratic vote as a perceived reform candidate, Thies said.

Mara’s appeal to Democrats this year surfaced at the Stein Club’s February meeting, when a resolution was introduced to allow Mara to participate in the club’s candidate forum on March 21, even though the club’s bylaws bar the club from endorsing a non-Democrat in races where Democrats are competing.

“Some of us thought it would be useful to the community to give him a chance to speak,” said Christopher Dyer, the Stein Club member and director of the city’s Office of GLBT Affairs under Mayor Adrian Fenty, who introduced the resolution.

The resolution lost by a wide margin, with many club members saying a Democratic group shouldn’t be giving a platform to a Republican candidate. However, longtime club members said the fact that such a resolution even came up suggests that Mara appeals to LGBT voters.

Thies called Frumin the dark horse candidate, who could be a strong competitor to Mara and Brown based on his ability to raise campaign funds. The most recent campaign finance reports filed with the city show he raised just under $72,000 in contributions and kicked in $10,628 of his own money, making him the best funded candidate in the race so far.

Mara has raised just over $20,000 and Silverman has raised a little over $36,000 as of the last finance reporting period. Brown and Zuckerberg had raised around $9,500 during the same reporting period, with Bonds raising $11,000. Redd came in last in fundraising, with just $900.95 as of the last reporting period ending Jan. 31.

Like most special elections, voter turnout is expected to be low, giving key voting blocs, including the LGBT vote, the ability to play a decisive role in who wins. And so far, the buzz within LGBT political circles has been over whether gay Democrats should remain faithful to their party or break ranks and vote for Mara.

“Mara will not win LGBT votes if the community holds him responsible for his work for, and support of, an ultra-conservative party and Romney/Ryan,” Rosenstein told the Blade.

Veteran gay Democratic activist John Klenert, who’s supporting Mara, said that to him, Mara’s strengths outweigh his support for Romney.

“This race comes down to a personal issue: that Pat will serve honestly, with integrity and strong ethics,” Klenert told the Blade. “This is about new blood for an ethically challenged City Council.”


Patrick Mara for City Council

Two weeks ago, fellow Washington Blade contributor Peter Rosenstein took to these pages to present his strongest case for why the District’s LGBT community shouldn’t vote for Patrick Mara in the April 23 special election for an At-Large D.C. Council seat: Mara, a socially moderate Republican who’s a strong supporter of gay rights, attended the party’s convention in Tampa and supported Mitt Romney for president.

Consider me underwhelmed.

If Rosenstein wishes to make the case that the gay community can’t support any candidate for office who has supported another candidate that doesn’t support gay rights, he’ll have disqualified anyone in the current field who’s been supportive of Council member Marion Barry.

Instead of entertaining Rosenstein’s arbitrary and unreasonable standard for casting your vote, consider Mara’s stance on just two major local issues that affect LGBT voters in their daily lives.

The first is marriage equality, which is settled law in the District of Columbia thanks in part to Mara’s efforts. When the Council had public hearings on the matter, nearly 300 people signed up to testify. Then, as a board member of the D.C. chapter of Log Cabin Republicans, I testified.  But as a regular citizen – a straight one at that – so did Patrick Mara. He even took the additional step of lobbying conservative members of Congress not to oppose the District’s efforts.

All of the candidates running today say that, were they on the Council back in 2009, they would have voted to support bringing marriage equality to the District. That may be true, but only one of them—Pat Mara—took direct action to make it so.

The other issue is home rule. The Home Rule Act requires affirmative congressional action with respect to the entire District budget. So, for instance, if there’s a federal shutdown, that affects the District’s use of its own funds. It also deprives D.C. citizens of full voting rights in Congress, even though we pay federal taxes. Mara has long been a supporter of giving the District budget authority and voting rights, both as a board member of D.C. Vote and as a strong advocate within the party for including congressional representation for the District in the national Republican Party platform.

The facts speak for themselves: Patrick Mara is a moderate Republican with genuine cross-over appeal. The fact that the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club actually met to discuss allowing him to address their membership speaks volumes to that appeal, which surely makes partisans like Rosenstein nervous.

Mara is running an excellent grassroots campaign doing it the old-fashioned way — going door to door and meeting the voters. And he has a vision for education and ethics reform that all voters can get behind.

Robert Turner is executive director of the District of Columbia Republican Party and former president of the D.C. chapter of Log Cabin Republicans. Reach him at or @RobertTurnerDC.