By PAUL COOPER
At the recent Gertrude Stein Democratic Club mayoral forum, candidates and members focused exclusively on which candidate had the most impressive record on LGBT rights. That’s all good, but it misses the point. The questions for LGBT Democrats this year isn’t just which mayor would be best for the LGBT community; it’s also which mayor would be best for Democrats.
The good news is that every Democrat on the mayoral ballot says the right things about LGBT issues. Not every candidate has the kind of record that deserves our trust (or our votes), but at least they are all mouthing the right words.
LGBT Democrats should think beyond the specific needs our community as well; as Democrats, we should care deeply about good government and clean elections. We’re the party that believes government has a useful and positive role to play in reducing income inequality, increasing economic opportunity and helping build a diverse and welcoming community. If government is corrupt, and elections are frauds, then support for the programs we value will wither accordingly.
So D.C. Democrats should be particularly alarmed at the steady drumbeat of official corruption we’ve seen over the past year. Last week, disgraced businessman Jeffrey Thompson named Mayor Gray as his accomplice in a scheme to defraud voters and buy the last mayoral election. This follows guilty pleas by three members of the Council, and by numerous aides. The U.S. Attorney promises that the corruption he’s uncovered is just “the tip of the iceberg.”
Over the years, the Thompson network reached throughout D.C.’s government. All but one member of the Council – including mayoral candidates Muriel Bowser and Jack Evans – accepted money from Thompson.
D.C.’s political system is gripped by a culture of corruption. We’ve seen the worst offenders hauled off to jail, or about to go.
Even worse, a good deal of the corrupt and unethical behavior that goes on every day in D.C. is still legal. That’s because the politicians – again Bowser and Evans included – have blocked tough new ethics laws from being enacted, and have slowed the creation of an independent attorney general’s office that could root out corruption.
LGBT Democrats must get behind a candidate we can trust to be a staunch defender of LGBT rights, and who will fight the pay-to-play system that corrupts our government.
In both regards, Tommy Wells is right for the job. The nonpartisan Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance gave Wells the highest score of any mayoral challenger, commending him for his “excellent voting record” and deep understanding of LGBT issues. In contrast to Wells’s near-perfect 9.5, Muriel Bowser scored just 5.5 out of 10 points.
We know that Tommy Wells will fight for clean elections and good government; he’s based his entire campaign on it. He’s the only elected running for mayor who hasn’t accepted a dime from Jeffrey Thompson. He’s called for public financing of elections, and he’s fought for tough election reforms.
And Tommy isn’t just talking: He’s the only candidate running for mayor who’s refusing corporate donations, PAC money and special interest dollars that have polluted our elections.
Tommy hits all the other progressive issues correctly too. He’s widely known as an advocate for public transportation, which led to his endorsement by the popular blog Greater Greater Washington. He’s fought for women’s rights and equality, which led him to be endorsed by the National Organization for Women. Wells was the author of the pro-environment Bag Law, a higher minimum wage and the newly passed decriminalization of marijuana.
Thanks to the work of so many before us, LGBT Democrats now have the privilege of looking beyond the narrow needs of just our own community. When we vote in the primary, my husband and I will be supporting a candidate who can be trusted to fight for LGBT rights and end pay-to-play corruption. For both reasons, Tommy Wells will be our choice.