Editor’s note: Some minor changes were made to this story after it was posted as the Blade’s Lou Chibbaro heard from additional sources. The changes are in bold.
At least 29 gay or lesbian candidates are running for Advisory Neighborhood Commission seats in the city’s Nov. 2 election, and some who have served as commissioners for multiple terms are facing strong opposition.
Most observers familiar with ANC races say issues like trash collection, street crime, parking, and liquor license applications for restaurants or bars rather than LGBT rights dominate ANC elections.
Among the gay commissioners facing opposition this year is Dupont Circle Commissioner Ramon Estrada, who is being challenged by attorney Sunit Talapatra, who says Estrada’s opposition to various development projects along the 14th and U Street, N.W. corridor don’t represent the views of the majority of those living in Single Member District 2B09.
Estrada did not return a call seeking comment.
Four other gay commissioners in the Dupont Circle ANC are running unopposed in their re-election bids.
In the section of Ward 6 near the Washington Nationals Stadium, gay longtime Commissioner Bob Siegel, who represents SMD 6D07, is being challenged by urban design advocate David Garber, who says Siegel has not been aggressive enough in monitoring the rapidly changing area surrounding the new stadium.
Siegel disputes that claim, saying Garber has only been to one ANC 6D meeting in the three months he has lived in ANC 6D07. He says Garber doesn’t have the familiarity of the longtime residents in an area where new high-rise condominiums and upscale rental apartments are rapidly replacing the warehouses and auto repair garages that once dominated the neighborhood. Garber told the Blade he moved into the district in July but has familiarized himself with the important issues facing the neighborhood.
Siegel received a setback last month when popular Ward 6 Council member Tommy Wells endorsed Garber.
Congress created the ANCs in the early 1970s when it wrote and approved the city’s Home Rule Charter. In what was then considered a new means of advancing grassroots participatory democracy, the city’s congressional overseers designated 37 Advisory Neighborhood Commissions to represent neighborhoods throughout the city and subdivided them into 286 Single Member Districts.
Each district includes approximately 2,000 residents and is represented by a single commissioner elected to a two-year term. Commissioners are unpaid and their role is limited to advising the city government on a wide range of policy matters. The Home Rule Charter instructs city officials to give “great weight” to the recommendations of the ANCs.
In Ward 5, gay incumbent Barrie Daneker, who represents SMD 5C07 in the city’s Bloomingdale neighborhood, is facing a challenge from attorney James Fournier. Fournier states on his campaign website that Daneker didn’t adequately reach out to his constituents over a controversial liquor license application in the district and has not adequately handled a controversial proposal to develop the site of the city’s former water filtration plant near North Capital Street and Michigan Avenue.
Daneker said he has a two-term record of working closely with constituents and soliciting their views on a wide range of issues, including the water filtration site and the liquor license flap. He told members of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club Monday night his outspoken support for the city’s same-sex marriage equality law was controversial in a ward where many residents strongly opposed the law.
Ward 5 Council member Harry Thomas Jr., who angered many of his constituents by voting for the marriage bill, endorsed Daneker’s ANC re-election bid. Thomas won the Democratic nomination for his own seat by winning the primary in September by a comfortable margin despite organized opposition led by same-sex marriage opponents.
Daneker said some of that same opposition may be seeking to oust him from office in the ANC race.
Fournier could not be immediately reached.
In the Estrada-Talapatra race in Dupont Circle, Talapatra, who is straight, is being backed by gay civic activist and former Dupont Circle Civic Association President Joel Lawson.
Lawson and gay D.C. nightlife advocate Mark Lee have raised concerns in the past about Estrada’s tactics in opposing the liquor license of the Cada Vez restaurant, which hosted a weekly gay Latino dance party called Fuego. Estrada and others living near 15th and U St., N.W., where Cada Vez was located, complained that it appeared to be operating as a nightclub disguised as a restaurant, placing it in violation of the terms of its liquor license.
In an action that angered gay activists, Estrada and his domestic partner confronted the gay patrons of the Fuego dance party with video and still cameras, videotaping and photographing them as they entered and left the premises. Estrada said the action was needed to submit evidence to the city liquor board that Cada Vez was violating its liquor license by operating as a nightclub. But gay activists said the videotaping intimidated many Latino gays, some of whom feared they would be outed.
“Although Ramon is gay and I am a straight ally, I remain disturbed by the insensitivity Ramon’s demonstrated in sanctioning the videotaping of young LGBT patrons entering a club a couple years ago,” Talapatra told the Blade. “What home situations were those young kids returning to? Although businesses should abide by the conditions of their liquor licenses, of course, it is important not to embroil innocent patrons in any alleged dispute,” he said.
Another seven of the gay or lesbian ANC incumbents are facing opposition, but most are expected to win re-election to their respective seats.
Stein Club President Jeffrey Richardson said the club’s bylaws prevent it from endorsing ANC candidates because ANCs were created as non-partisan positions and the club doesn’t endorse non-Democrats. But Richardson said the club would send a list of the gay or “LGBT supportive” ANC candidates to its members to help them make “an informed decision” on which ANC candidates to support.
(Photo: Stein Club president Jeffrey Richardson; Blade file photo)
Following is a list the ANC candidates, both incumbents and challengers, who identified themselves as gay or lesbian to Stein Club members:
Juan Lopez, SMD 1B07, incumbent (South Columbia Heights)
Bill O’Field , SMD 1C02, (Kalorama Triangle)
Mike Feldstein, SMD 2B01, incumbent/unopposed (Dupont Circle)
Jack Jacobson, 2B04, incumbent/unopposed (Dupont Circle)
Victory Wexler, 2B05, incumbent/unopposed (Dupont Circle)
Mike Silverstein, 2B06, incumbent/unopposed (Dupont Circle)
Phil Carney, 2B07, incumbent/unopposed (Dupont Circle)
Ramon Estrada, 2B09, incumbent (Dupont Circle)
Alexander ‘Alex’ Padro, 2C01, incumbent/unopposed (Shaw)
Michael Benardo, 2F05, incumbent (Logan Circle)
Lee Brian Reba, 3C01, incumbent/unopposed (Woodley Park/Zoo)
Tom Smith, 3D02, incumbent/unopposed (Upper Northwest)
Bob Summersgill, 3F07, unopposed (North Cleveland Park/Van Ness)
Michael Yates, 4C01, incumbent/unopposed (Upper Northwest)
Joseph Martin, 4C09, incumbent/unopposed (Petworth)
Thalia Wiggins, 5B06, incumbent (Northeast)
Mary Lois Farmer-Allen, 5C06, incumbent (Northeast)
Barrie Daneker, 5C07, incumbent (Bloomingdale)
Neil Click, 6B08, incumbent (Capitol Hill)
Michael Patterson, 6B09, incumbent (Capitol Hill/Barney Circle)
Larry Frankel, 6B10 (RFK Stadium area)
Brian Cox, 6C05 (North Capitol Hill/H St., N.E. corridor)
Andy Litsky, 6D04, incumbent/unopposed (Southwest Waterfront)
Roger Moffatt, 6D05, incumbent (Southwest Waterfront)
Robert ‘Bob’ Siegel, 6D07, incumbent (Nationals Stadium area)
Zina Williams, 7B02, incumbent/unopposed (Naylor Rd., S.E. area)
Catherine Woods, 7C03, incumbent (Fitch Pl., N.E. area)