December 4, 2012 at 8:18 am EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Stein Club president ousted as new group takes control
Lateefah Williams, Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, Washington Blade, gay news, Human Rights Campaign

A Gertrude Stein Democratic Club endorsements meeting from October of this year. After last night, many of the club’s leaders are out, such as Lateefah Williams — shown here — who was defeated last night. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Three young activists who became members of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club for the first time within the past week won election Monday night to three of the club’s five officer positions, gaining control of the city’s largest LGBT political group.

In a development that stunned many of the club’s longtime members, gay political consultant Martin Garcia beat incumbent Stein Club President Lateefah Williams, an attorney, by a vote of 47 to 45.

Angela Peoples, former legislative director of the United States Student Association, and Vincent Villano, communications director for the National Center for Transgender Equality, beat club backed candidates Jon Mandel and Hassan Naveed for the offices of Vice President for Legislative and Political Affairs and Vice President for Administration respectively.

The vote came after close to 50 young LGBT activists, some of whom had never attended a Stein Club meeting before, filed into a meeting room at the John A. Wilson city hall building to cast their votes for the insurgent candidates.

“Getting this many folks in the room to have this debate – I think that’s the democratic process in action,” Garcia told the Blade after the winners were announced.

“I think we need to build upon what Gertrude Stein has done and bring folks into the fold and into this organization,” he said. “I think the energy around our candidacies did this.”

Garcia and his fellow insurgents chose not to run candidates against the club’s incumbent treasurer, Barrie Daneker, and secretary, Jimmie Luthuli, who ran for re-election unopposed.

It became clear during the brief speeches by the candidates on both sides that the new group shares the Stein Club’s loyalty to the Democratic Party and the club’s commitment to LGBT equality.

Garcia, Peoples, and Villano, however, told club members in opening remarks and in response to questions that their aim is to expand the diversity of the club’s membership and boost its organizational and fundraising capabilities.

Among the new members who joined to support the slate were Latino and Asian-American members of the LGBT community, including Gregory Cedana, who became the first out gay Asian-Pacific Islander community member to win election as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention earlier this year,

Gay Democratic and Ward 8 community activist Phil Pannell, a longtime Stein Club member, surprised some fellow members by placing Garcia’s name in nomination, indicating his support for the new slate.

Pannell said the club’s fundraising efforts haven’t been as aggressive as they could be and its support for his own candidacy for the Ward 8 school board seat in the November election was limited to an endorsement, with no effort to campaign for him.

Stein Club member and transgender activist Jeri Hughes expressed strong disappointment over the outcome of the club election, saying the new members should have worked with the current officers and members before running for office.

“Who are these people?” she said. “They come to one meeting and they take over the club?”

Veteran club member Barbara Helmick said she is hopeful that the new officers will do a good job in advancing the club’s objectives of advocating for LGBT rights.

“There was a brilliant organizing campaign to bring in some new people,” she told the Blade. “And they’ve got some good ideas. I think Lateefah has and the whole Stein board served honorably and well and had a fabulous year,” she said. “And now is the time to come together and build Stein and move into the future.”

Williams said she and the other club officers, after organizing numerous club endorsement forums and other club activities during the past year, responded to the challenge by the insurgent group by waging their own effort to win re-election.

Peoples beat Mandell for the vice president for legislative and political affairs post by a vote of 47 to 44. Villano beat Naveed for the post of vice president for administration by a vote of 48 to 41.

“We both organized,” Williams said. “You can see the race was incredibly close. It was almost equally split in terms of the support we both had.”

Garcia said he plans to work closely with the longtime members.

“I’m going to work my butt off to earn the respect and build relationships with the folks who have been here in the past,” he said. “And hopefully they won’t turn their back on the organization because I’m going to work diligently to make sure that Gertrude Stein is built and moves forward and it can be the best organization that I can make it.”

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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    • Peter Rosenstein

      I am surprised that someone would take umbridge at the use of the term insurgent as if it were in any way demeaning to those in office currently or those that won the offices.

      I guess it is my oldtime New York political background which makes me not flinch at the term at all but rather see it as a new group of individuals who have come in and taken over. It doesn’t demean the work of Lateefa and Julius who have worked hard for the Stein Club and deserve all our thanks. But it also doesn’t negate the work of Martin and his slate who worked to bring in new people and got themselves elected. Stein has seen many officers over the years and the club continues to serve the LGBT Democrats in the District of Columbia. I have been a long-time member though not an active one but still see a role for the Club in City politics and as a Chapter of National Stonewall Dems. I hope that Martin and the new officers will carry on the hard work of our past officers and take the Club to new heights.

  • Barrie Daneker

    For the record some stats of interest for our full membership should be aware of: from 11/28 to 12/3 there were 46 memberships contributions made. Of those contributions 4 were partnership memberships allowing 2 votes. That meant there were 50 new potential voters added to the rolls in the 6 days prior to the election. Of those 50 votes, 6 votes were from members who have appeared on our rolls in past years. Resulting in 46 new members who are first time members of GSDC who under the bylaws were eligible to vote in the officers election.

  • Barrie Daneker

    @ John Marble for the record John is correct his membership was last valid for the year 2006.

  • Jeri Hughes

    The Gertrude Stein Club election for Officers on December 3rd was a farce.

    It became a farce when a group of new members – most whom have never attended a Stein Club meeting, or participated in the local issues affecting the District – attended tonight’s election process with the sole intention of usurping the Stein Club leadership.

    Martin Garcia, Angela Peoples, and Vincent Villano – the individuals who won the election – state that they are active and involved in issues that are related to the LGBT community. That may very well be. The reality is I don’t know. My associates at the Stein Club don’t know. They are strangers. By their own admission, none had been Stein club members for more than a week. None are representative of the population that has steadfastly and painstakingly participated in the process or progress that the Stein Club has endorsed and initiated within the District of Columbia. Had they desired to enhance the Club’s efforts, or make the Club more effective, they would have been welcomed to participate. They would have been welcomed as friends and as members. I must assume that they were just too busy or pre-occupied to be a part of that effort. They did not have time to work with the Club, or the members, this year, or the years before. They did, however, have the time and energy to recruit forty or so of their associates to pay dues and stack votes immediately prior to this election of Club officers. This might be a neat trick to win an election, but it does not inspire my faith in their integrity or in the process of Democracy. Quite the opposite.

    To maintain electoral integrity, there is a thirty day mandatory Club membership prior to a vote on the endorsement of political candidates. This is to ensure that only real and actual stein Club members participate in the electoral process. Unscrupulous candidates could potentially stack the vote with their supporters to gain advantage. Unfortunately, that same waiting period does not apply to the election of Club officers – which in hindsight, of course, is an extremely poor policy. This vulnerability facilitated the election of Garcia, Peoples, and Villano. In future elections, it could potentially facilitate adversarial organizations like the National Organization for Marriage or the Family Research Council to stack new members and essentially destroy the Club’s mission. Admittedly, the maneuver was effective and legal. Some might even call it clever. I witnessed the ballot count. It was an accurate victory supported by a margin of two to five votes. No matter how clever or effective the strategy, it was not ethical. It does nothing to enhance the credibility or integrity of the Gertrude Stein Club, or the fair application of our officer elections. Personally, I believe that their strategy exhibits contempt for the actual participating Stein Club membership, and the Stein Club in general.

    The election process on Monday December 3rd is an irrevocable scar on the exemplary history of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club. Even though the newly elected officers may harbor the best of intentions, and provide youth, enthusiasm, and talent to the organization, their introduction to the Club outweighs any benefit that they might contribute. Ethics isn’t a mere word. It is a way of life. It is a measure of how the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club has maintained credibility and support from our neighbors and our allies. We cannot afford to compromise that reputation.

    Jeri Hughes

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