Mayoral candidate calls for putting HIV status on driver’s licenses
D.C. mayoral candidate Leo Alexander startled some attendees of an Aug. 11 candidates’ forum focusing on HIV/AIDS when he said he’s considering pushing a requirement that the HIV status of D.C. residents be disclosed on their driver’s license.
“We have to treat this as an epidemic and do what’s necessary to address it,” he said.
Mayor Adrian Fenty did not attend the forum and City Council Chairman Vincent Gray, Fenty’s main rival, arrived at the forum a few minutes after Alexander mentioned his HIV driver’s license proposal. Two other mayoral candidates present when Alexander raised the issue, Sulaimon Brown and Ernest Johnson, did not comment on the proposal.
About 100 people attended the forum, which was organized by local HIV/AIDS groups D.C. Fights Back and AIDSvote.org. It was held at the Eastern Market on Capitol Hill.
Christine Campbell, vice president for national advocacy and organizing for AIDS group Housing Works, and Ron McInnis, an official with the International AIDS Society, moderated the forum and asked the candidates questions before opening the event to questions from the audience.
“That’s scary,” said Campbell after the forum, in discussing Alexander’s call for placing a person’s HIV-positive status on their driver’s license. “He seemed to be very serious about that.”
Existing city law prohibits the Department of Health from publicly disclosing tests results for any sexually transmitted disease, including HIV.
All four candidates present, including Gray, expressed strong support for strengthening the city’s programs combating AIDS.
When one questioner asked the candidates how they would implement the city’s participation in President Obama’s recently released National HIV/AIDS Strategy, Johnson said, “I don’t even know what it is, but I will make it better in D.C.”
Saying he would find out what the Obama strategy is all about, he added, “I know people appreciate honesty.”
Gray said he would build on the D.C. HIV prevention and testing strategies developed by Dr. Shannon Hader, director of the city’s HIV/AIDS Administration under Fenty, saying the epidemiological “tracking” Hader developed for HIV in the District has worked well.
Hader resigned from her post earlier this year, triggering speculation that she had irreconcilable disagreements with the head of the city’s Department of Health, Dr. Pierre Vigilance, and that Fenty sided with Vigilance. Hader has said she left the AIDS agency to take a new job with an international health foundation. Hader attended the Aug. 11 forum but didn’t speak.
“I feel that the candidates, while they know some about HIV and AIDS, that there is no real depth and they don’t have a lot of plans,” Campbell said.
“I think that Vincent Gray was probably more well versed in the issues simply because he has had to deal with it in some of his previous positions,” she said, noting that Gray has worked in the city government’s health-related areas in the past, including his current post as City Council chair.
Mendelson could face 2nd gay challenger
It’s widely known that D.C. City Council member Phil Mendelson, a longtime supporter of the LGBT community, is being challenged by Clark Ray, the gay former director of the city’s Department of Parks & Recreation in the Sept. 14 Democratic primary.
But in a little-noticed development, Mendelson could face yet another gay challenger in the November general election. Darryl Moch, an ordained minister and assistant pastor at D.C.’s gay-oriented Inner Light Ministries, is one of two candidates running for the at-large seat in the Statehood Green Party primary.
If Mendelson wins the Democratic primary and Moch defeats rival David Schwartzman in the Statehood Green primary, the two will go against each other in the general election. No Republican candidate is running for the seat.
Moch told the Blade earlier this month that he’s running as an openly gay candidate with a focus on his party’s longtime mission: to secure congressional voting rights and eventual statehood for the District of Columbia. He said he would be an aggressive supporter of LGBT issues on the Council and is a strong backer of the city’s same-sex marriage equality law.
“Overcoming the divisions that exist among religious, social and cultural groups is paramount,” Moch says on his campaign website, darryl4dc.com. “I believe that bridging those divides will improve the quality of life for everyone and ultimately, the disadvantaged residents within a community.”
Moch also serves as executive director of the Labor Heritage Foundation, a D.C.-based non-profit group.
In addition to Ray and Moch, three other out gay candidates are running in the Sept. 14 primary. D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) is considered the favorite to win in the primary and the November general election. Gay Republican Marc Morgan, who is running unopposed in the GOP primary in September, is expected to face an uphill fight against Graham in the November general election.
Gay Republican Timothy Day is running unopposed in the GOP primary in Ward 5. He is expected to be the general election rival of incumbent Ward 5 Council member Harry Thomas, who is considered the favorite in the Democratic primary.
Meanwhile, gay D.C. Council member David Catania (I-At Large), who isn’t running in the primary, is considered the favorite to win re-election to his at-large seat in November.
Kwame Brown takes gay bar tour, attends drag show
D.C. City Council member Kwame Brown (D-At Large), who is running in a hotly contested race for the Council Chairman’s seat, took his campaign on a gay bar tour Aug. 14 with campaign adviser and longtime gay activist Phil Pannell at his side.
Brown began his tour at Nellie’s Sports Bar on U Street, N.W., and made visits to the D.C. Eagle downtown; Remington’s, Phase One and Bachelors Mill on Capitol Hill; and Ziegfeld’s in Southwest before going to Lace and Delta Elite in Northeast.
With Pannell and other campaign workers seated beside him, Brown watched Ziegfeld’s drag show, with female illusionist Donnell Robinson, who performs as Ella Fitzgerald, leading a group of drag performers. At least two of the performers had “Kwame Brown” stickers attached to their sequined gowns.
“It’s great to get out in the community and visit our local businesses that provide jobs and support the community, every community,” Brown said.