Gay D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) will be one of 17 openly LGBT candidates to appear on the ballot in the city’s April 1 primary election, representing an all-time high for the number of out candidates running in a single D.C. election.
Among those running is Alexandra Beninda, a transgender activist and member of the city’s Human Rights Commission, who is seeking an at-large seat on the D.C. Democratic State Committee. She becomes the first known transgender person to run for a citywide office in the District.
Beninda is one of 11 LGBT candidates running for at-large or ward seats on the Democratic State Committee, which serves as the governing body of the city’s Democratic Party.
Graham is the only out gay person running this year in the city’s Democratic primary. He’s running for a fifth term in a hotly contested race against Democratic challenger Brianne Nadeau for the Ward 1 Council seat.
In other races, gay Libertarian Party activist Bruce Majors is running unopposed for his party’s nomination for mayor, ensuring that he will be among the mayoral candidates on the ballot in the November general election.
Gay Libertarian Party candidate Martin Moulton is running unopposed for his party’s nomination for the city’s shadow U.S. House seat, one of three unpaid elected “shadow” positions created to lobby Congress for D.C. statehood and congressional voting rights.
Moulton will face Democratic Party and Statehood-Green Party challengers in the general election in November.
In a race expected to draw widespread attention, gay Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Marc Morgan of Ward 1 is running unopposed for the Republican nomination for an at-large D.C. Council seat being vacated by gay incumbent David Catania (I-At-Large), who’s running for mayor.
Under the city’s home rule charter, the seat currently held by Catania is reserved for a non-majority party candidate, which prevents a Democrat from holding the seat. Morgan’s supporters, including Robert Turner, the gay executive director of the D.C. Republican Party, have said Morgan could have a shot at winning Catania’s seat depending on who else enters the race between now and the June cut-off date for an independent candidate.
In recent years, Democrats with widespread name recognition have switched their party registration from Democrat to independent to run for one of the two at-large Council seats reserved for a non-Democrat. As of this week, no independent candidate has filed papers to run for the seat in November.
Unlike other parts of the country, the D.C. Republican Party has embraced LGBT rights and supports the city’s same-sex marriage law.
In the D.C. primary races for Democratic Party positions, veteran gay rights advocate and Ward 8 civic leader Phil Pannell is running for the post of Alternate National Committeeman as part of a slate of candidates called D.C. Ready for Hillary. Lesbian activist Courtney Snowden is running on the same slate for the position of Alternate National Committee Woman.
Pannell and Snowden joined forces with former D.C. Council Chair Arrington Dixon and longtime Democratic Party activist Mary Eva Candon, who are running for National Committeeman and National Committee Woman respectively. All four positions are linked to the Democratic National Committee.
According to Pannell, the slate’s primary mission is to build support for a run for president by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
In other races, seven out LGBT candidates, including Beninda, are running for Democratic State Committee seats on an insurgent slate called The Rent is Too Darn High.
In a statement released earlier this month, leaders of the 30-candidate slate made it clear that the candidates are dissatisfied with the current State Committee leadership team headed by D.C. Council member Anita Bonds (D-At-Large), who serves as chair of the State Committee.
“The Committee’s recent history is riddled with mismanagement of elections, lack of transparency, and now wrestles with the perception of being complicit with scandal and corruption,” the statement says.
The LGBT candidates on the slate and the seats they are running for are Gregory Cendana (At-Large seat); Edgardo Ed Guerrero (At-Large seat); Beninda (At-Large seat); Nikisha Carpenter (At-Large seat); Jessica ‘Jess’ Pierce (Ward 4 seat); Tamara Angela Ferrell (Ward 4 seat); and Andy Litsky (Ward 6 seat).
Cendana is among the leaders of the slate.
Gay Democratic activist Bill O’Field, who serves as treasurer of the State Committee, is running for re-election to a Ward 1 State Committee seat. O’Field is not running on a slate but he is widely known to be part of the State Committee faction supportive of Bonds.
Also running as Bonds supporters are gay Democratic activists Ron Collins and David Meadows. Collins, an incumbent, is running for re-election to a Ward 6 seat on the committee. Meadows is also running for a Ward 6 seat on the State Committee.
O’Field and Meadows, who works as communications director for Bond’s City Council office, have praised her leadership on the State Committee and on the Council, saying she is a strong supporter of LGBT equality and has a long record of support for city residents facing economic hardship.