D.C. Council members Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), and Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) – each of whom is running for mayor – waved to thousands of cheering onlookers on Saturday as they marched in D.C.’s Capital Pride Parade.
Mayor Vincent Gray, who has yet to announce whether he will run for a second term but who many believe will throw his hat in the ring, also marched in the parade, with LGBT supporters and city employees marching in his contingent.
The fact that four prominent politicians and long-time LGBT allies are either running or expected to run for mayor in the April 2014 Democratic mayoral primary highlights what many activists say is D.C.’s status as one of America’s most LGBT supportive cities.
But for many in the LGBT community, the fact that four longtime friends are running or likely to run against each other poses a dilemma. On what basis will they choose one over the other, some are asking.
In interviews with the Washington Blade during LGBT Pride month, several activists who discussed the upcoming mayoral election said it is far too early to make a decision on whom to back, even among those who supported Gray in his 2010 mayoral election campaign.
“We don’t know who else will get in the race,” said gay Democratic activist Peter Rosenstein, who supported Gray in 2010 and who has written several commentaries for the Blade praising Gray’s administration for making important improvements in the city, including the local economy.
“It’s much too early to make a decision,” Rosenstein said.
Veteran gay and AIDS activist Cornelius Baker, however, said he remains a strong Gray supporter and he and many others in the LGBT community he knows won’t line up behind anyone else until Gray makes his intentions known.
“We’re all waiting for him to give us the word that he’s running,” said Baker at a Black LGBT Pride event two weeks ago. “I’m ready to do all I can to support him because he’s done an excellent job on the issues that are important to me.”
Rick Rosendall, president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, a non-partisan advocacy group that rates candidates based on their record and positions on LGBT-related issues, expressed caution about basing a decision on who to back solely on a candidate’s general statements of support.
“All friends are not created equal,” he said. “It behooves us to look inside the wrappers and compare the candidates’ records on translating their friendly words into results,” said Rosendall. “But that’s for another day – it’s Pride, and we have much to celebrate.”
Rosendall backed Gray in the 2010 election.
Christopher Dyer, who served as director of the city’s Office of GLBT Affairs under Mayor Adrian Fenty, said he’s supporting Bowser, who was a strong Fenty supporter in the 2010 election in which Gray beat Fenty in a hotly contested race.
Also backing Bowser is gay activist and businessman Everett Hamilton.
If Fenty’s LGBT backers transfer their support to Bowser, who was a strong political ally of Fenty’s, the Ward 4 Council woman could receive a considerable boost for her campaign among LGBT voters. Fenty won in most of the city’s election precincts with high concentrations of LGBT residents in his unsuccessful bid for a second term in 2010.
Gay Democratic activist John Fanning said he is among the Ward 2 LGBT residents supporting Evans in the mayoral election next year.
“Jack has the experience and has paid his dues,” said Fanning, noting that Evans has been on the D.C. Council since 1991.
Mark Lee, an advocate for nightlife businesses and a business columnist for the Blade, said the mayoral contenders’ strong record of support on LGBT issues opens the way for LGBT voters to look at other issues.
“The hard work by community leaders over many years has made LGBT issues non-controversial in District politics or governance,” Lee said. “As a result, we now have both the opportunity and obligation to participate as full citizens and evaluate candidates on a wide range of issues.”
In media interviews during the past few weeks, each of the three Council contenders in the mayor’s race as well as Gray have said they welcome voter scrutiny of their positions and records on all issues.
Meanwhile, at least two others have given hints that they were considering entering the race. Gay D.C. Council member David Catania (I-At-Large) reportedly is weighing a run, according to political insiders. Should he run and win, Catania would make history by becoming the first out gay person elected mayor of D.C.
Robert C. Bobb, who served as city administrator under former D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams and later as president of the D.C. school board, is also said to be considering a run for mayor next year. Bobb expressed support for LGBT rights during his campaign for the school board post in 2006 as well as during his tenure as city administrator.
Catania, a longtime vocal supporter of LGBT rights, was the author and lead advocate for the city’s same-sex marriage law, which the D.C. Council passed in 2009. He recently switched from serving as chair of the Council’s Committee on Health to being chair of the Committee on Education, where he has emerged as a vocal advocate for school reform.
Evans, Bowser and Wells each voted for the marriage equality law after advocating for such legislation since winning election to the Council.
“I intend to spend more time focused on that, and when and if I decide to do something else I’ll make that decision, but it’s hard to do two tracks,” Catania told the Blade while marching in the Capital Pride Parade on Saturday. “People often make calculations that are not thoughtful and I want to postpone that campaign mode as long as possible,” he said.
Michael K. Lavers contributed to this report.