February 14, 2014 at 7:14 am EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Gray, Mendelson receive top GLAA ratings for April primary

Vincent Gray, gay news, Washington Blade

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray is running for re-election. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray (D) and City Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large) on Thursday received a +10 rating from the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, the highest possible rating score on a scale of -10 to +10, in their respective races for re-election in the city’s April 1 Democratic primary.

Gray and Mendelson, who are longtime supporters of the LGBT community, were the only two candidates to receive a +10 among a total of 43 candidates rated in contests for mayor and seats on the City Council.

Council members Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) and Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), who are running for mayor, came in close behind Gray with ratings of +9.5 and +8 respectively. Both have also been longtime supporters of the LGBT community.

GLAA is a non-partisan LGBT advocacy group founded in 1971. It says it rates candidates on the basis of their past records on LGBT, AIDS and other issues deemed important to the LGBT community and on their responses to a detailed questionnaire that asks about those issues.

The group has said it gives higher ratings to candidates that go beyond just expressing support on LGBT issues when they show through their questionnaire responses an understanding of the issues and how best to address them.

GLAA President Rick Rosendall called the LGBT related records of Wells and Evans “excellent” and noted that the group said in its statement that Evans has the longest record of support due to his 20-year tenure as a Council member. He said Gray and Mendelson received a +10 score because both had undertaken a large number of pro-LGBT initiatives in the last few years that, along with their strong past records, gave them an edge over the other candidates.

“Mr. Gray’s accessibility, responsiveness, and follow-through have made him highly effective on LGBT issues,” GLAA said in its statement. “He has been a champion for transgender people, including with Project Empowerment job training.”

Among the other mayoral candidates running in the April primary, Busboys and Poets restaurant owner and progressive political activist Andy Shallal received a +6; Council member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) received a +5.5; attorney and former State Department official Reta Jo Lewis received a +4.5, Council member Vincent Orange (D-At-Large) received a +3; and businessman and civic activist Carlos Allen received a “0” rating.

In its statement accompanying the ratings, GLAA said Allen received an automatic score of “0” under the group’s policy for candidates who don’t return the questionnaire and have no known record on LGBT issues.

All of the Democratic mayoral candidates that returned the questionnaire expressed strong support for LGBT rights in general.

Among the non-Democratic mayoral candidates, GLAA gave Statehood-Green Party candidate Faith a +3.5 and gay Libertarian Party candidate Bruce Majors a +2.

Majors, a longtime LGBT rights advocate, received a +2 rating because “his party’s ideological distrust of government is at odds with policies and reforms favored by GLAA,” the group said in its statement. “Consequently, many of his responses were interpreted as non-responsive or negative,” the statement says.

Gay D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) received a +7.5 compared to his sole opponent in the Democratic primary, public relations executive and community activist Brianne Nadeau, who received a +5.

Political observers say Graham is facing his toughest re-election race this year for a fifth term on the Council

GLAA said it gave Graham higher points for his long record of support on LGBT and AIDS related issues, citing his work recently on pushing through a bill to provide better services to homeless LGBT youth. The group gave him a slight edge over Nadeau in the substance of his questionnaire responses.

But the group gave Nadeau a slight edge over Graham over the two candidates’ positions on an issue GLAA has long considered important – whether tiny, ad hoc neighborhood citizens groups should be given legal standing to protest liquor licenses of restaurants and bars.

GLAA favors giving exclusive authority to challenge liquor licenses to the city’s elected Advisory Neighborhood Commissions rather than un-elected ad hoc groups, which nightlife advocates say unnecessarily block or delay the approval of licenses for nightlife establishments, both gay and straight. Nadeau, a former ANC commissioner, said she supports giving ANCs the sole legal standing to contest liquor licenses.

GLAA said Graham didn’t take a position on the issue in his questionnaire response, saying he described instead how he helped facilitate a committee of citizens and businesses representatives to consider the issue.

In the Council Chair race, GLAA said Mendelson’s +10 rating reflects his record as an ally who has shepherded through the Council a long list of LGBT supportive bills, including the marriage equality bill.

The group said it gave Mendelson’s opponent, Democrat Calvin Gurley, a “0” rating because Gurley didn’t return the questionnaire and also has no known record on LGBT issues.

Among the five Democrats running in the At-Large Council race, challenger Nate Bennett-Fleming, who currently serves as the city’s non-paid “shadow” U.S. Representatives, received a +7, one point higher than the +6 rating GLAA gave to incumbent Council member Anita Bonds, who won the seat in a special election last year.

Both are strong supporters of LGBT rights. But the slightly higher rating for Bennett-Fleming, a recent law school graduate relatively new to the local political scene compared to Bonds, who has been active in politics and government since the 1970s, is likely to raise eyebrows among some local activists.

GLAA President Rick Rosendall said Bennett-Fleming’s questionnaire responses included a few more substantive insights than Bonds’ but called both candidates’ responses “very good,” saying GLAA considers a rating of +5 and above to be a good showing for a candidate.

The ratings for the other At-Large Democratic candidates were: Pedro Rubio, +3; John Settles II, +2.5; and Kevin Valentine Jr., 0. Valentine is among the candidates who didn’t return the questionnaire and have no known LGBT record, GLAA said.

Among the non-Democratic At-Large candidates running in their respective party primaries, Statehood-Green Party candidate Eugene Puryear received a 4.5; Statehood-Green Party candidate G. Lee Aikin received a +3; and Libertarian Party candidate Frederick Stein, who didn’t return the questionnaire, received a “0.”

Gay Republican candidate Marc Morgan, who’s running unopposed for the GOP nomination for the At-Large Council seat, received a +2. GLAA said he didn’t return the questionnaire.

In its statement accompanying the ratings, GLAA said Morgan’s record of involvement in LGBT rights activities in Ohio and Arizona and his involvement with the National Minority AIDS Council in D.C. were counted in his favor and viewed as “very admirable.”

The statement says Morgan lost points for “his support for anti-gay politicians John Boehner, Robert Ehrlich, and Laura Knapereck,” which “detract from his record.” Boehner, a Republican and Speaker of the U.S. House, among other things, has blocked the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA, an LGBT rights bill, from coming up for a vote in the House. Ehrlich is a former Maryland governor and Knapereck has served in the Arizona legislature.

In the remaining Council races, GLAA issued these ratings:

Ward 3: Council member Mary Cheh (D), +8.5; Ryan Sabot (Libertarian), “0” [Questionnaire wasn’t returned].

Ward 5: Council member Kenyan McDuffie (D), +4.5; Kathy Henderson (D), “0” [Questionnaire was returned but GLAA disagreed with most responses]; Carolyn Steptoe (D), -2.

GLAA said Steptoe didn’t return the questionnaire and is viewed as having a negative record for testifying in support of placing D.C.’s same-sex marriage law on the ballot in a voter referendum in 2010.

Ward 6: Charles Allen (D), +8.5; Darrel Thompson (D), +2; Pranav Badhwar (Libertarian), +2.

Allen, the former chief of staff for Wells, received the highest rating for a non-incumbent running in the primary. In its statement, GLAA said Allen has a long record of support for LGBT issues both as a former Council staffer and former president of the Ward 6 Democrats.

GLAA’s detailed analysis of its ratings, including links to the candidates’ questionnaire responses, can be found here: http://www.glaa.org/archive/2014/primaryratings.shtml

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

    A “Perfect 10” rating by GLAA is simply not credible for a mayor (1) whose administration remains under an ethical cloud for its last criminally-tainted election campaign, (2) whose MPD chiefs just downgraded GLLU police services again and (3) who won’t come clean on the number of anti-LGBT hate crimes his police department *closed with an arrest* in the three years beginning with Gray’s inauguration.

    The fault lies largely with GLAA not asking competent, tough questions regarding MPD management, MPD transparency, strengthening GLLU, strengthening OPC with LGBT consultants/ investigators, etc.

    I didn’t see a single question regarding strengthening MPD’s core GLLU unit at a safe, accessible location for citywide use. So why should Gray, Lanier and Groomes NOT quietly disband MPD’s GLLU and continue their fiction of GLLU auxiliary officers– as they are now doing. Lanier has been wanting to do that for years.

    It’s doubtful DC’s LGBTs can fully trust MPD chiefs’ iron-fisted control of GLLU at this point. So what does GLAA know of Philip Eure’s award-winning work at OPC– an office which is INDEPENDENT of MPD? Why is MPD dragging their heels in cooperating with OPC which also handles complaints of police bias? Why isn’t GLAA insisting on MPD IAD case reporting to OPC? Funding OPC independent statistical compilation of all police complaints and putting an LGBT investigator/ consultant on OPC’s staff.

    Without informed, tough, and relevant questions, of course an incumbent mayor can achieve a “perfect 10” score. But it is not very credible.

    Going forward, GLAA should factor in much greater scrutiny of mayoral candidates’ understanding of all the city’s law enforcement performance issues, along with effective and independent police oversight by Council, OPC and others.

  • In some ways I think the GLAA rating is hilarious and what GLAA has really done is rate itself into irrelevancy and give itself a failing grade.

    I actually belonged to GLAA briefly in the early 90s and participated in one candidate rating (where no Libertarian candidate was involved) and was upset to see that they automatically gave incumbents extra points over challengers, as long as the incumbent had done even a slight bit for gay gay rights. An incumbent for example who had slowly evolved to supporting civil unions would get more points than a challenger who campaigned for gay marriage.

    I think it's clear the surviving GLAA members (who are not very numerous – this is a rating put out by a few people – if you dig through their website you find only a few names, Rick Rosendall and Bob Summersgill, their third active member, Barrett Brick, passed away this year) are statists. (One GLAA officer actually tweeted two years ago when I ran for Congress as a Libertarian in 2012 that no one need pay any attention to me, the day I picked up petitions, since I was running as a Libertarian – and I then got a high enough vote, 16,700 votes, to get the Libertarian Party permanent ballot status in DC). They actually say in their press release on the scoring that they "interpreted" my (lengthy) answers as "negative or non responsive" because they don't like libertarians, because it is an "unusual" ideology that "distrusts" government. Which this year of all years means the GLAA has shown themselves to be completely antiquated and out of touch with public sentiment.

    But beyond this there is a brown nosing/rent seeking element to GLAA's ratings. They actually rate the Green Party members almost as low as they do the Libertarians, and give their high rankings to, as the headline of their press release crows, incumbent Democrats. One suspects the Greens would fund all the programs GLAA likes to put gays on the dole and give them a government housed, state controlled gay community center at a much bigger budget than the Democrats. But since the Democrats are much more likely to be elected, GLAA members want to curry favor with them.

    I suppose I should send a Valentine's bouquet to the GLAA for their statism and bigotry. If they'd just ranked me slightly below the incumbents with whom they are currying favor, I'd not be able to say much. As it is, the irony means the non-gay political blogosphere is already covering their farcical ratings, and giving my campaign and DC Libertarians much more favorable exposure among sympathetic voters than we would have gotten this weekend without them.

  • I will not get into it with Brian or Bruce here, though I assert that GLAA’s thorough and meticulous process will withstand scrutiny. Our policy brief: http://tinyurl.com/glaa2014pdf – Our ratings: http://tinyurl.com/glaaratings14 (and if the URLs I just typed in get deleted, look up GLAA’s website). We do not claim that our policy views are universally agreed to by all LGBT people, as if our community were monolithic. But a great deal of meticulous work, including consulting a wide array of coalition partners, went into our policy brief (which has 75 footnotes) and questionnaires. And we show our work, posting on our website the full responses by candidates and the points breakdown for each candidate. We have a four-decade record of accomplishment that speaks for itself. It is easy to say that we are about policy and not party, but we have a long record to prove it. Nonpartisanship cannot mean applauding everyone equally, since that would defeat the purpose of our advocacy. But given our policies and questions, which again emerged from consultation with coalition partners, our evaluations are demonstrably fair. And it can hardly be a surprise that Bruce’s anti-government views clash with GLAA’s approach.

    • Could GLAA release the questionnaire and all of the candidates answers? I know of at least one candidate who agreed with all of GLAA’s positions, but still received a low rating. A comment about his ideology being at odds with GLAA was made, but that’s strange since his answers were pretty much “perfect” in the questionnaire that is supposedly the basis of your rating system. What other ideologies are being considered by GLAA that are not being covered in the questionnaire, or even in their well drafted position paper?

  • We love GLAA’s past performance, Rick, but any activist group is only as good as its last performance. When it comes to avoiding the horrendous violence and bashings we’ve seen in DC, IMHO GLAA needs to widen its reliable sources, GLAA partners or not.

    What LGBT victims of violent hate crimes (and potential victims) want to know (for starters) is…
    — Are my attackers still out there attacking other LGBT victims?
    — Will I and my friends be assaulted again?
    — How many of DC’s anti-LGBT hate crimes committed in the last four years have been *CLOSED with an ARREST*?
    — How come NYPD can routinely and promptly apprehend hate crimes perpetrators, but Vincent Gray’s MPD can’t?

    And BTW, Gray is taking credit for reporting data on police incident reports that were there EIGHT YEARS AGO. Some at MPD have been prevaricating so long, they don’t realize how badly they’re doing it. Is Gray is being fooled or more likely following MPD’s lead?

  • There are other important issues to consider in any candidate. Gray is on record with his contempt for the Constitution. If he has no respect for the first and second amendments, then why would we think he truly respects our rights?

  • Brian, GLAA met with GLOV to inform the public safety section of our policy brief. We are well aware of those frustrations. Our policy brief and questionnaire covered a lot of ground on a range of issues, and involved a great deal of effort. Spinning everything around just one issue and adopting an intemperate and insulting tone toward hard-working volunteer activists is not helpful. If we thought we were done, we would not have spent so much effort on our elections project. There is plenty for all of us still to do, as our brief shows. Publishing information on two dozen candidates’ positions and records on a spectrum of LGBT issues in D.C., as we did on Thursday, is part of it. I am not going to get into an extended back-and-forth here. Comment boards are a poor choice for constructive discussions.

  • Hey, Rick. GLOV is a terrific organization with an indispensable mission. But GLOV (and The Center) is not and can not be wholly *INDEPENDENT* of MPD/Lanier/Gray (+their donors/ allied interests, etc.).

    You’ll recall last year, Jason Terry blew the lid off the fiction of a ADL-led MPD ‘unbiased’ study of hate crimes. (MPD wasted yours/GLAA’s time with that nonsense too, I recall.)

    However, Terry’s expose’ invited some of us to drill down even more. Connecting the financial/ donor dots from MPD/Gray/Lanier to ADL to The Center to GLOV doesn’t take a lot of effort either. Now I’m not ‘shocked, shocked’ at all that fairly common urban gov “incest” in Gray’s EOM.

    Still as CM Wells alluded to more generally in a recent J-PS Committee hearing, the principle that LGBT and all victims of hate crimes ought to be protected by some checks and balances *independent* of MPD (and EOM) is one that an ethical, honorable DC government should exalt– and upon which mayoral and Council’s candidates should be judged.

    The Office of Police Complaints (OPC) does seem like a ready-made office to help accomplish that for independent investigation of LGBT police complaints, BTW. OPC *IS* independent and they’re already handling police bias cases. LGBTs and GLAA should find out more about that office.

    However, OPC’s director advises that MPD is not cooperating with OPC as it should. Gray should be docked points for that.

    Also, Gray’s/ Lanier’s ‘death by a thousand cuts’ destruction of GLLU is an alarm which should be sounded now by GLAA, GLOV and everyone right now– before any election, please. In the meantime, Gray’s points ought to be docked for that, too.

    Lastly, just as an organizational “tone/ appearance” matter, I guess, I’d suggest dropping the screaming opening report headline which appears to be a GLAA endorsement. Whatever, your good intentions for it, it does cast doubt among some, I’m sure, upon the assertion that GLAA is unbiased with its survey.

  • Brian, GLAA is well aware of OPC, since its creation resulted in significant part from efforts by a coalition of groups including NAACP, ACLU, National Black Police Association, and GLAA. We cite OPC in our policy brief, and have defended its funding over the years.

  • Thanks for your confirmation regarding GLAA’s prior support of OPC, Rick. I thought I read that somewhere in GLAA’s archives, but wasn’t sure.

    LGBTs and OPC need GLAA’s help again, however. INDEPENDENT oversight makes *ALL* the difference. Something like MPD’s Special Liaison Division (parent of DHHLU, GLLU, LLU, ALU) should be set up at OPC.

    We need an independent office to turn to– headed by thoughtful lawyers whose craft and training honors human rights, due process, accurate statistical reporting and checks and balances. Enabling language needs to be updated by Council now for OPC so as to prevent more MPD coverups. (See Director Eure’s testimony before Council’s J-PS last month).

    Gray’s (and Lanier’s) titular support for some of DC’s worst opponents of Marriage Equality– especially in Ward 5 and MPD’s Fifth District police– is outrageous…

    Gray and Lanier SAY one thing to LGBT voters, but in reality they REWARD our city’s worst anti-LGBT bigots and politicos.

    But kudos to both Wells and Evans for understanding that independent checks on our city’s PD is needed– and that maintaining GLLU’s core unit and office is essential for victims of stalking and intimate partner violence.

  • All this hate on Gray too bad he will win come Nov

  • How does this rating system work? It appears to strongly favor incumbents and Democrats. Why was DC Statehood-Green Eugene Puryear given only a +4.5?

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