The Gertrude Stein Democratic Club last week broke from its longstanding tradition of endorsing incumbent City Council members for re-election when it turned down endorsements for Council members Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) and Yvette Alexander (Ward 7).
Club members who spoke at a Feb. 23 endorsement meeting held at the Human Rights Campaign headquarters cited the two Council members’ December 2009 vote against the city’s same-sex marriage law as the reason the two should not be endorsed. The Council passed the same-sex marriage law by a vote of 11-2.
The club endorsed the two Council members in the 2008 Democratic primary and the November 2008 general election.
Barry and Alexander are running now in the city’s April 3 Democratic Primary, with political pundits saying Barry is the favorite to win his party’s nomination and the general election in November. Observers say the outcome of the Ward 7 race is uncertain.
Barry, who attended the meeting, told Stein Club members he has a long record of support on LGBT issues since 1978, when he won election as D.C. mayor, and throughout his tenure as mayor and Ward 8 Council member. He said the club should not judge him solely on his vote on the marriage issue.
Some club members, including Ward 8 gay activist Phil Pannell, pointed to Barry’s decision to participate and speak at a 2009 rally at Freedom Plaza against the same-sex marriage bill that was organized by the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage.
Neither Alexander nor a representative of her campaign attended the meeting. In a club questionnaire she completed and turned in prior to the meeting, Alexander did not discuss her vote against the marriage bill but said, “I will not support efforts to undo marriage rights secured for D.C.’s LGBT community.”
Three of the four candidates running against Barry for the Ward 8 Council seat – Darrell Danny Gaston, Jacque Patterson, and S.S. Sandra Seegars – attended the meeting to compete for the club’s endorsement. But none of them were able to obtain a 60 percent majority vote required for a club endorsement, resulting in a Stein Club ‘no-endorsement’ for the Ward 8 race.
In the Ward 7 contest, community activist Tom Brown won the endorsement with a 62 percent vote on a second ballot. Brown did not return a club questionnaire, but Stein President Lateefah Williams said Brown expressed support for LGBT rights, including same-sex marriage, during his appearance at the Feb. 23 meeting.
“Our bylaws don’t require people to submit a questionnaire to get an endorsement,” Williams said.
She noted Barry also did not return the questionnaire.
Each of the other four candidates running against Alexander for the Council seat, in addition to Brown, attended the meeting and urged the club to back their candidacies, expressing general support for LGBT related issues. They included Kevin Chavous, Dorothy Douglas, Monica Johnson, and Rev. William Bennett II.
Bennett was among a few of the candidates seeking the club’s endorsement who acknowledged they would not have voted for the same-sex marriage bill if they were on the Council at the time it came up, citing religious grounds for their opposition.
On Feb. 16 the club endorsed the re-election bids of D.C. Congressional Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, Ward 4 Council member Muriel Bowser, and D.C. shadow representative candidate Nate Bennett-Fleming.
The Stein Club, the city’s largest LGBT political organizations, is scheduled to hold its final endorsement meeting for the upcoming primary on March 1 for the at-large and Ward 2 Council races. The meeting will be held at the Democratic National Committee headquarters on Capitol Hill.