The Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s largest LGBT political group, endorsed Democrat Sekou Biddle Monday night for an at-large seat on the D.C. City Council that’s up for grabs in an April 26 special election.
Biddle beat former Council member Vincent Orange (D-Ward 5) and four other Democratic candidates competing for the club’s endorsement in a second ballot vote, capturing 61.2 percent of the ballots cast. He needed at least 60 percent of the vote for the endorsement under the club’s election rules. Both candidates are straight.
The D.C. Democratic State Committee appointed Biddle, a former Ward 4 school board member, to the at-large Council seat on an interim basis in January under rules established for filling vacant Council seats. The seat became vacant when Council member Kwame Brown (D-At-Large) became Council Chair after winning election to that post in November.
Stein members voted on the endorsement following a candidates’ forum held at Town nightclub in which Biddle and each of the other five candidates appearing before the club expressed strong support for LGBT issues, including support for the city’s same-sex marriage law.
Biddle won the club’s endorsement in 2007 in his successful race for a school board seat and was considered the favorite for winning an endorsement again Monday.
But Orange, in a stronger showing than expected, received 16 votes, or 38.7 percent, of the 53 votes cast on the first ballot, preventing Biddle from capturing the needed 60 percent to win. Biddle received 30 votes, or 56 percent, on the first ballot.
Ward 8 Democratic Committee president Jacque Patterson received four votes in the first ballot voting. Joshua Lopez, an aide to former Mayor Adrian Fenty; Bryan Weaver, a former Ward 1 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner; and Dorothy Douglas, a former Ward 7 school board member, received one vote each in the first ballot vote.
On the second ballot, which was limited to Biddle and Orange, Biddle received 30 votes compared to 19 votes received by Orange.
Three additional candidates running in the April 26 special election were ineligible to compete for the Stein Club’s endorsement because they are not Democrats. They include Patrick Mara, a Republican and longtime supporter of LGBT rights; Alan Page, a Statehood Green Party candidate; and independent candidate Arkan Haile.
Democratic candidate Tom Brown did not return a Stein Club questionnaire required for the club’s endorsement and for participation in the forum. Although he attended the forum, he was not allowed to speak. He has since promised to complete and return the questionnaire, and the club will post it on its website, according to club officials.
The questionnaire responses by the six candidates who attended the club’s endorsement meeting, which cover a wide range of LGBT issues, can be viewed at steindemocrats.org.
“It’s exciting to get the support of Gertrude Stein Democratic Club members,” Biddle said after the vote. “I think I’ve shown in the four years since I’ve been serving the city that I’ve made people proud and I’ve led and have really been a champion for the LGBT community.”
The Stein club’s interim president, Lateefah Williams, said the club’s officers and members would decide within the next week on the amount of a campaign contribution the club would make for the Biddle campaign. She said the club would also provide volunteers to help the campaign.
“We endorsed a candidate who’s very committed to LGBT issues,” Williams said. “We’re very fortunate that all of our at-large Council candidates are indeed supportive of our issues.”
Nearly all special elections in D.C. have been known for attracting a low voter turnout, making the outcome hard to predict, according to political observers.
The D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics issued a ruling on Tuesday disqualifying Patterson as a candidate in the April 26 election, saying it determined he failed to submit the required 3,000 petition signatures needed to be placed on the ballot for an at-large Council seat. In a separate ruling, the board confirmed that Mara obtained more than 3,000 signatures and qualifies for placement on the ballot. The board investigated Patterson, Mara and Weaver’s petitions in response to challenges filed by the Biddle and Lopez campaigns. A board spokesperson said the challenges against Weaver’s petitions were dropped.