Clark Ray, the gay candidate who lost his race for an at-large D.C. Council seat in the September primary, has chosen not to enter a preliminary contest for another at-large seat that will become vacant on Jan. 1.
The 82-member D.C. Democratic State Committee is scheduled to vote Jan. 6 to appoint an interim replacement for Council member Kwame Brown (D-At-Large), who won election Nov. 2 as Council chairman.
Ray did not file as a candidate for the State Committee appointment process by the Nov. 6 deadline. He did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
Some political observers say the winner of the State Committee appointment for interim Council member will have the advantage of incumbency and greater name recognition in a special citywide election expected to take place in spring of 2011. Twelve candidates filed papers to compete for the interim appointment, including former Ward 5 Council member Vincent Orange, who is considered the frontrunner.
Earlier this year Ray said he would consider running for Brown’s seat in the 2011 special election if he lost his race in September for the seat held by Council member Phil Mendelson.
Mendelson, who has a strong pro-LGBT record, won the primary with 63 percent of the vote, beating Ray in precincts with high concentrations of gay voters. D.C. Shadow Sen. Michael D. Brown came in second, with 27 percent of the vote. Ray finished third with 9 percent of the vote, losing in every precinct.
Gay Democratic activist Peter Rosenstein, who served as a Ray campaign adviser, said Ray would have a decent chance of winning in the special election despite his poor showing in the September primary. Rosenstein noted that special elections are known for yielding a low voter turnout. He said Ray could win with 10,000 votes — which he received in the primary — in a multi-candidate contest.
“He could pull this off if the gay vote unifies behind him, which I think it will,” Rosenstein said.
At least two other candidates said to be considering entering the race for the special election have strong pro-gay records and could take LGBT votes away from Ray. Adam Clampitt received gay support as an at-large candidate in the 2008 Democratic primary before withdrawing from the race and backing Michael A. Brown, who won the primary and general election.
Republican Patrick Mara, an early supporter of same-sex marriage, stunned the political establishment when he defeated longtime Council member Carol Schwartz in the 2008 GOP primary. Mara lost in the general election to Michael A. Brown but came back to win a seat on the D.C. school board in Ward 1 earlier this month. Mara is said to be weighing whether to run in the special election for the at-large Council seat.
“Clark spent over $200,000, ran for two years, knocked on doors throughout the city, hung signs everywhere and got less than 10 percent of the vote,” said gay activist Bob Summersgill, who campaigned for Mendelson in the September primary.
Summersgill noted that Ray and several candidates competing for the interim appointment for the vacant at-large seat, who also ran and lost in Council races this year, “need to explain why we should give them any consideration in the special election.”