CHEVY CHASE, Md. — The scene at Dana Beyer’s Chevy Chase, Md., home is somber. With all but seven of the 35 precincts having reported their votes, it’s clear the transgender eye surgeon-turned-political hopeful has not garnered enough votes to secure one of the three state General Assembly seats for her home turf of District 18.
Beyer was pragmatic during a brief concession speech in her living room to a houseful of canvass workers, family, friends and supporters.
“I think you all did a great job,” Beyer said. “This doesn’t reflect on you and it doesn’t reflect on me. The people we ID’ed just didn’t vote. It was the difference between the IDs and the votes. They said they were voting for us and they just didn’t. So that’s it. We just have to live with that. And as they say, people get the elected officials they deserve.”
Beyer was running against incumbents Al Carr, Ana Sol Gutierrez and Jeff Waldstreicher in this race, the Democratic primary. According to unofficial numbers, Beyer trailed all three incumbents but was ahead of the other two challengers. With all precincts accounted for, Gutierrez led with 7,397 votes, Waldstreicher was in second with 6,946 and Carr in third with 6,349 (24.17, 22.69 and 20.74 percent of the vote respectively). Beyer had 5,064 votes or 16.55 percent. Vanessa Atterbeary had 3,982 (13.01 percent) while Michael Heney trailed with just 868 votes (2.84 percent).
After her speech, Beyer admitted the loss was a tough blow.
“It’s very disappointing,” she said. “I don’t know why it happened. As I’ve said before, I knocked on over 10,000 doors, my team knocked on 18,000 doors. We made 10,000 phone calls. Over 5,300 committed to vote for me but it hasn’t happened. Why it hasn’t happened, I don’t know.”
The winners are expected to coast to an easy victory in the November general election as the district, which includes Chevy Chase, Kensington and Wheaton, is overwhelmingly Democratic.
Beyer ran on a platform of health care reform, fair taxes for the middle class and civil rights. Hot-button issues in her district include Metro’s controversial Purple Line, Pepco response to storm-induced power outages and speed cameras.
What were the topics on people’s minds during her door-to-door visits?
“It depended when it was,” Beyer said. “When we started early on, it was the budget crisis. That was the No. 1 issue. So we talked about taxes and spending. I would have preferred to speak about health care because that’s my personal interest as a physician, but that was not the hot topic. We talked about transportation, mass transit, the Purple Line, and such.”
Had she won, Beyer would have been in a solid position to make history as the first transgender person to be elected to a state legislature. Beyer also ran unsuccessfully in 2006.
She says she doesn’t think being trans was a factor this time.
“The media didn’t bring it up other than the gay media,” she said. “It was never raised in my interviews with the Post or the Gazette. With all the other media, people didn’t seem to think it was relevant. And no voter has ever, back in 2006 or this year, ever brought up the issue. And one could say, ‘Oh well they’re just being very polite,’ but it’s hard to believe that the 15,000 doors I knocked on were all just very polite people. Or that they were truly homophobic but they were just being nice to me. I don’t believe that. I think they really didn’t care.”
Elsewhere in Maryland, seven openly gay and lesbian candidates won their races. Incumbent Dels. Heather Mizeur (D-Dist. 20), Maggie McIntosh (D-Dist. 43) and Anne Kaiser (D-Dist. 14) advanced to the general election, along with newcomers Mary Washington (D-Dist. 43), Luke Clippinger (D-Dist. 46) and Bonnie Cullison (D-Dist. 19). Gay Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Dist. 18) also won his race. With those victories, Maryland is poised to join just a handful of states served by seven openly gay and lesbian state legislators, according to a statement from the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund.
During informal conversations at Beyer’s house while waiting for poll numbers to come in, canvassers said Beyer’s trans status was a rare, though occasional, issue when they went door to door.
“One [person] said he wasn’t voting for her because of her lifestyle choices,” said one canvasser who wasn’t authorized to speak to the press. “But I don’t think most people even knew. I had one older person say, ‘Well you know she used to be a he,’ but I really think people like that, people of that generation, are becoming extinct. People like us, under 30, we just don’t care.”
With some liberal voters, it appeared to be an advantage.
“It did come up once, I can’t remember how,” another person on Beyer’s campaign said. “They were like, ‘Holy shit, that’s progressive. I’m gonna put her picture on my refrigerator.’”
Beyer said she has no immediate plans other than sleeping in and then going on a vacation, her first, she says, in “many, many years.”
“I’m proud of the job I did, so we’ll see,” she said. “I’ve reinvented myself enough times that when I went into this, of course I didn’t know what would happen, but I intended to win. I worked very hard to win but at the end of the day, I knew it wasn’t about the end result. I’d given it my best and I’m proud of that and I’ll move on.”