March 6, 2012 | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Stein Club won’t endorse in at-large D.C. Council race

The Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s largest LGBT political group, was unable to endorse a candidate in the at-large D.C. City Council race on March 1 when none of the four candidates running received a required 60 percent vote from club members.

In a unanimous vote, club members endorsed D.C. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), who is running for re-election unopposed.

Evans and the four at-large candidates are running in the city’s April 3 Democratic primary. In a city where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than an eight to one margin, winners in the primary are considered the odds-on favorite to win in the general election in November.

In the at-large race, challenger Sekou Biddle received 45 percent of the Stein Club members’ vote, with incumbent Council member Vincent Orange receiving 37 percent and challenger Peter Shapiro receiving 19 percent. The fourth candidate in the race, E. Gale Holness, didn’t receive any votes.

In a second ballot runoff vote between Biddle and Orange, Biddle received 55 percent, falling five points short of the 60 percent threshold needed for an endorsement. Orange received 39 percent of the runoff vote.

“We had club members speaking on behalf of all four candidates,” said Stein Club President Lateefah Williams.

Williams said the four at-large candidates spoke at the March 1 endorsement meeting and urged club members to support them, saying they each were in support of LGBT rights. Biddle, Orange, and Shapiro said in a club candidate questionnaire that they support the city’s same-sex marriage law. Holness said in her questionnaire response that she favors placing the D.C. gay marriage law before voters in a referendum, an action strongly opposed by the Stein Club and LGBT advocates.

The meeting was held at the Democratic National Committee headquarters on Capitol Hill.

The club endorsed Biddle over Orange in the city’s April 2011 special election in which Orange won the race for the at-large seat. The seat became vacant as a result of the 2010 election, when then At-Large Council member Kwame Brown won election as Council chairman.

Williams said the club will hold an endorsement meeting sometime next month for the May 15 special election to fill the Ward 5 Council seat. The Ward 5 seat became vacant earlier this year when incumbent Council member Harry Thomas resigned after being indicted on an embezzlement charge.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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