October 17, 2012 | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Mendelson wins top GLAA rating for D.C. Council
Phil Mendelson, D.C. Council, Washington Blade, gay news

D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large) received GLAA’s highest possible score in his race for City Council Chair. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large) received a +10 rating from the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, the highest possible score, in his race for the position of City Council Chair.

Mendelson, a long-time supporter of LGBT rights who played the lead role in shepherding the city’s same-sex marriage law though the Council, is considered the strong favorite to beat Democratic challenger Calvin Gurley in a Nov. 6 special election.

GLAA rates candidates on a scale of -10, the worst possible rating, to +10, the highest score.

In the general election race for two at-large Council seats, GLAA gave challenger David Grosso, an independent, a +9 rating compared to a +7.5 rating for incumbent Michael A. Brown, who’s also an independent.

In a statement announcing its ratings, GLAA, a non-partisan LGBT advocacy organization, said Grosso and Brown are equally supportive on the issues deemed important by GLAA and both have strong records of support on those issues.

The statement says Grosso received the higher score based on the “substance” of his answers to a GLAA questionnaire, which asks candidates to provide detailed responses to a wide range of LGBT-related issues as well as a few non-LGBT specific issues.

In a development likely to raise concern among some LGBT Democrats, GLAA gave incumbent Council member Vincent Orange (D-At-Large) a +0.5 rating, saying Orange disagrees with GLAA on a number of issues and “showed no understanding of the issues in his questionnaire” responses.

The GLAA ratings came out on Oct. 10, the same day that the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s largest LGBT political group, voted to endorse Orange’s re-election bid. His supporters among club members say he has shown overall support on most LGBT issues.

Most political observers believe Orange and Brown remain the strong favorites to win re-election, with Grosso considered the challenger with the best shot at pulling off an upset victory by winning one of the two seats.

Others running for the at-large seats who were rated by GLAA are independent A.J. Cooper (+4); Leon Swain Jr. (+4), Statehood Green Party candidate Ann Wilcox (0); and Republican Mary Brooks Beatty (0). GLAA said Wilcox and Beatty failed to return the questionnaire, resulting in an automatic 0 rating absent credible information about their records or positions on LGBT issues.

The Log Cabin Republicans of D.C. endorsed Beatty.

In other Council races, GLAA gave a -3.5 rating to incumbent Council members Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7) and Marion Barry (D-Ward 8). Both voted against the same-sex marriage law when it came up for a vote in the Council in 2009. GLAA says Barry lost additional points for speaking at an anti-gay rally calling for the Council to defeat the marriage equality law.

The group says Alexander lost additional points for introducing an amendment to the same-sex marriage bill that would have “effectively removed protections of the D.C. Human Rights Act on the basis of sexual orientation.” The amendment died in committee.

GLAA gave Alexander’s Republican challenger, Ron Moten, a +1.5 rating and Barry’s independent challenger Jauhar Abraham a 0 rating. Both failed to return the questionnaire, but GLAA said Moten scored points for his record of providing services to LGBT youth through his organization Peaceoholics.

In the remaining two Council races, LGBT supportive incumbents Jack Evans (D-Ward 3) and Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) are running unopposed. GLAA gave Evans a +8.5 rating and Bowser a +6.5.

In the at-large race, LGBT activists appear to be dividing their support between Orange, Brown and Grosso, who has been aggressively courting the gay vote, according to some observers.

Brown supporters say Brown expended political capital in sections of the city dominated by conservative black voters in an effort to campaign for the same-sex marriage law, saying they believe he worked hard to persuade black clergy to support marriage equality.

Grosso supporters say Grosso was a behind-the-scenes advocate for LGBT rights while working for pro-gay Congresswoman Norton and pro-gay former Council member Ambrose.

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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