January 30, 2014 | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Shakeup in Ward 1 race makes Graham re-election bid tighter

Jim Graham, Washington, D.C., gay news, Washington Blade

D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) (Washington Blade file photo by Jeff Surprenant)

Gay D.C. Council member Jim Graham’s bid for a fifth term in office changed dramatically this week when fellow Council member David Grosso (I-At-Large) endorsed one of his opponents in the April 1 Democratic primary and Graham’s other primary opponent dropped out of the race.

One day after Grosso on Tuesday confirmed he has endorsed Ward 1 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Brianne Nadeau in the primary, Graham’s other opponent in the race, civic activist Bryan Weaver, withdrew from the primary and told the Washington Post he plans to run as an independent candidate for the Council seat in the November general election.

That means Graham faces a much tougher one-on-one race in the primary. And should he defeat Nadeau in that race he would likely face another hotly contested race against Weaver in November assuming another big name candidate doesn’t enter the November contest.

“I think it’s an opportunity for Ward 1 and the D.C. Council to get a strong, new, good-government voice on the Council,” Grosso told the Blade in discussing his decision to endorse Nadeau. “I think she’s a viable candidate who would step in and do a really good job as a Council member and be a strong ally up here on the Council.”

When contacted by the Blade for comment on Grosso’s backing of Nadeau, Graham released a statement saying he didn’t think Grosso’s endorsement of Nadeau would make a difference in the race.

“Having a non-Democrat comment on a Democratic primary won’t mean much,” he said. “My opponent is grasping for straws and she got one.”

Graham has received strong support from the LGBT community in each of his four previous election campaigns for his Council seat. With Nadeau and Weaver having a record of support for the LGBT community, some observers think the LGBT vote could be split between Graham, Nadeau and Weaver. Now that Weaver has dropped out of the primary it’s less clear how the LGBT vote would come down in a two-candidate race.

Many observers believe Graham’s more than 30 years of advocacy on behalf of the LGBT community as an activist and Council member and his past role as a leader in the fight against AIDS as head of the Whitman-Walker Clinic will prompt most LGBT voters to stick with him.

Both Nadeau and Weaver have cited the Council’s decision to reprimand Graham last year over allegations that he violated a city ethics rule by improperly intervening in the contract approval process involving Metro and the D.C. lottery contracts were grounds for voting him out of office. Graham has disputed the allegation, saying he favored one contractor over another on grounds it was better qualified for the work.

Grosso said that while Graham played an important role as an openly gay member of the Council during his early years in office he doesn’t think his replacement by a non-gay Council member would have an adverse impact on the LGBT community.

“I think we’ve come to a point in this city where as leaders you’d better be accepting of every single human being and who they are as a person,” Grosso said. “And I certainly hope that whether you’re straight or gay you are standing up for that and standing up for all the people in the District.”

Added Grosso, “That doesn’t take away from having representation on the Council of every group of individuals in our city. But I think we can do a good job of representing folks ourselves whether you’re straight or gay, and that’s important to us.”

Grosso has a strong record of support on LGBT issues.

The Washington Post reported that Grosso has recorded a robocall message urging Ward 1 residents to vote for Nadeau that’s expected to be released shortly.

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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