The D.C. Democratic State Committee voted Monday night to appoint its chairperson, Anita Bonds, a longtime ally of the city’s LGBT community, to fill a vacant at-large seat on the City Council until a special election is held in April.
Bonds, 67, has the reputation of being a consummate political insider who has been aligned with Ward 8 D.C. Council member and former mayor Marion Barry since 1978, when Barry won election as mayor on a strong pro-gay rights platform.
“I have been supportive of the gay community for as long as I can remember,” Bonds told the Blade on Tuesday.
Her comment came a few hours after she was sworn in to fill a Council seat that became vacant when Council member Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large) won election as Council Chair.
“She’s the political operative extraordinaire,” said political commentator Mark Plotkin on Fox Five News.
At least seven out LGBT people are members of the D.C. Democratic State Committee, including the president and vice president of governmental and political affairs of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s largest LGBT political group.
Two LGBT members reached on Tuesday said they voted for Bonds over her two challengers, former State Committee member John Capozzi and current State Committee member Douglas Sloan.
Gay State Committee members Bill O’Field of Ward 1 and Barrie Daneker of Ward 5 told the Blade they voted for Bonds because they admire her work in city government and politics for more than 30 years and recognize her longstanding support on LGBT issues.
Former Stein Club President David Meadows, who worked for Bonds as a State Committee staffer from 2007 to 2011, called Bonds a “pioneer” straight supporter of LGBT equality going back to the 1970s.
Seventy-one of the State Committee’s 80 members turned out to vote on the Council appointment at a meeting on the campus of Catholic University in Ward 5, where Bonds lives. She received 55 votes, capturing the Council appointment in a first-ballot vote.
Sloan received 7 votes and Capozzi received 5 votes. Two members attending the meeting didn’t vote for any of the three candidates, and a ballot cast by another member was invalidated, according to Daneker.
Sloan and Capozzi, like Bonds, are members of the Stein Club and are strong supporters of LGBT rights.
Bonds said she plans to run in the special election scheduled for April 23, where as many as eight ore more candidates are expected to enter the race, possibly including gay activist Nick McCoy.
Bonds’ association with Barry began at a time when Barry was considered the nation’s most LGBT supportive big city mayor. Although Barry continues to express support for LGBT equality in general, he lost support from most of the city’s LGBT political activists in 2009, when he and his Council colleague, Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7), became the only two of the 13 Council members to vote against the city’s same-sex marriage law.
“I am a proponent of marriage equality,” Bonds told the Blade on Tuesday. “I watched him give his explanation,” she said, referring to Barry’s assertion that he was acting on behalf of his Ward 8 constituents, whom he said opposed same-sex marriage.
“But I would have voted for it,” Bonds said.
Daneker, who serves as the Stein Club’s treasurer, said he’s certain that Bonds doesn’t share Barry’s opposition to same-sex marriage.
“She’s been a strong supporter of LGBT equality for years and years,” said Daneker.
Meadows said Bonds came out in favor of the D.C. same-sex marriage bill at the time it came before the Council for consideration in 2009. The Council passed the bill in December 2009 by a vote of 11-2, and then Mayor Adrian Fenty signed it that same month.
Although observers said most of the LGBT members of the State Committee appeared to have joined their straight allies in backing Bonds, Ward 8 gay Democratic activist Phil Pannell spoke out against Bonds’ interim appointment to the Council. Pannell, a former State Committee member, has been at odds with Bonds over the years over various non-LGBT issues and State Committee actions.
Among other complaints, Pannell said he questioned Bonds’ commitment to LGBT rights after he learned that she appointed Council member Alexander earlier this year as one of D.C.’s three presidential electors pledged to President Obama in the Electoral College vote scheduled for Dec. 15.
Pannell, noting that Alexander joined Barry in voting against the city’s same-sex marriage law, characterized her appointment as an Obama elector as a “slap in the face” to the president, who emerged as a same-sex marriage supporter during his re-election campaign.
Bonds said she appointed Alexander at the recommendation of local and national party leaders and noted that similar to the appointment of all Democratic Party electors, it was cleared by the Obama campaign.
“We have to remember that we are the party of all of the Democrats,” Bonds said. “All who hold to the principles of the community of America – we’re not going to agree on everything.”
Gay Democratic activist Peter Rosenstein disputed Pannell’s assertion that Bonds’ appointment of Alexander as an elector raised questions about Bonds’ support for LGBT rights.
“I know Anita Bonds has been a strong supporter of our community,” Rosenstein said.
The other LGBT State Committee members who couldn’t be reached to determine how they voted on the Council appointment are Tobias Quaranta, president of the D.C. Young Democrats; Lateefah Williams, outgoing president of the Stein Club; Julius Agers, vice president for government and political affairs of the Stein Club; Ron Collins, former director of the Mayor’s Office of Boards and Commissions; and Gregory Cendana, member of the D.C. Asian Pacific Islanders Democratic Caucus.