By BARBARA HELMICK
As a resident of Ward One for close to 35 years and as a political activist since 1971, a public endorsement is something I take very seriously. I thought long and hard about this year’s Council race and feel confident the right choice for Ward One Council is Brianne Nadeau.
Coming to D.C. and coming out coincided for me in the late 1970s. How exciting to stumble upon a street fair that turned out to be Gay Pride, and how shocking to see standing on a crate speaking to the crowd, the mayor! It was a time of ‘firsts’ – such things as the first presidential candidate to use the phrase ‘gays and lesbians’ in his stump speeches in 1984 was huge; Jesse Jackson went on to win nearly 20 percent of the popular vote.
In the late 1980s, the Gertrude Stein Club encouraged members to run for ANC positions to increase our visibility and political clout. It was a great strategy so I took up the call and served two terms in Adams Morgan. And by 1998, it indeed was a critical milestone for our community to elect an out gay Democratic man to the D.C. Council.
I share all this to show how far we have come, how strong our movement is and how now it is important to want more than just a seat at the table. The Victory Fund does not share their reasons for sitting out endorsements; it is notable that it has not endorsed Jim Graham this time.
Brianne Nadeau is a strong ally and when on the Council intends to be a champion. Her stunning near endorsement by the Stein Club, garnering more votes than incumbent Graham, demonstrates her passion to represent us is clear. She has garnered an impressive number of endorsements from community groups, local newspapers, the Washington Post, current and former Council members. She can win.
As an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner she established a record of collaboration with community organizations. Brianne’s priorities are strengthening our schools and the students, specifically LGBTQ students through partnerships with organizations like SMYAL to foster and support the next generation of LGBT academics and leaders. She has a record of supporting small businesses, increasing affordable housing and public safety — all issues that are important to our community. In candidate forums she demonstrates her no-nonsense approach to politics and her studied grasp of issues key to our community and our city.
Brianne will bring a fresh new energy that the Council disparately needs. Graham’s own hesitation to run, setting up an odd exploratory committee last year was a strong signal that it was time for change. Sadly, he is plagued by scandal; he is only the second Council member in history to be reprimanded by his colleagues (by a vote of 11-2).
This isn’t the first time I’ve had to decide between backing a civil rights activist or go with someone new. When Jim first ran, he challenged Frank Smith who in the early 1960s registered voters in some of the most dangerous counties in Mississippi. He also lived in tents with Mississippi sharecroppers who had been evicted from their homes when they requested a pay raise; they were targets of violence yet persevered and established one of the few black cooperative communities in Mississippi — Strike City.
When Jim challenged Frank Smith, he often drawled that 16 years was a long time to serve. Maybe too long. I thought Jim was right then and, now that Jim has served 16 years, I think it is apt today. Sometimes after so long, some politicians become more of the system than of themselves.
Finally, I am so super pumped to support an out feminist! Brianne proudly displays her endorsements from the Women’s Campaign Fund and Emily’s List.
From a black Civil Rights activist, to a gay rights activist, to a feminist leader – this is a great arc of progressive history. I encourage you to vote for Brianne Nadeau in the April 1 primary.
Barbara Helmick is a former ANC commissioner representing Adams Morgan, a former Democratic State Committee Ward One representative, one of the longest continuous members of the Stein Democratic Club and a community organizer.