March 21, 2014 at 12:00 pm EDT | by guest columnist
Time for LGBT Dems to take broader view
Tommy Wells, 2013 Capital Pride Parade, gay news, Washington Blade

D.C. Council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)


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.

  • I agree that while GLBT issues are important, they are NOT the ONLY consideration to be made when screening and endorsing candidates for elected office. Gertrude Stein in Washington D.C. is a Stonewall Democrats affiliate of ours. Stonewall Democrats of Dallas has endorsed straight candidates over gay ones when the former is more qualified for the position or we feel they are the better candidate overall. We do not automatically endorse the gay candidate in any particular race contrary to what many people might think. Certainly if they are a member of the Community – that is a definitive positive during the screening process, but it's not the only thing we consider.
    Jay Narey
    Stonewall Democrats of Dallas

  • LGBT Democratic groups serve an important purpose in vetting candidates on LGBT issues. Beyond that, however, they have little unique to offer LGBT voters. To the extent that LGBT Democratic groups take positions on non-LGBT issues, they have no greater insight or relevance than any other Democratic voice as to those issues, and there is little reason to assess those issues through the lens of sexual orientation and gender identity unless there is some demonstrable connection between an issue and those traits.

  • To be more specific, assessing the whole Thompson question does not strike me as an LGBT issue. LGBT Democrats are not required, because of our sexuality or gender, to take one or another view of it. Nor does an LGBT voice deserve more consideration than a non-LGBT voice in discussing it.

    Posted by Will Sommer on Mar. 21, 2014

    “The poll asked a question that echoed Gray’s rhetorical one at last week’s State of the District address: Who do you believe, Gray or Thompson? It found 48 percent of respondents believed Thompson’s version of the 2010 campaign was more accurate than Gray’s, compared to just 24 percent who believed Gray more than Thompson.”
    If this is what Mayor Shadow’s supporters think, imagine what the rest of the country will think of Vince Gray– as well as the voters of DC who kept him in office?

    The embarrassment and distraction Gray’s corruption and lies will bring to our city and the local Democratic Party for four years can only slow or block LGBT civil rights progress in DC.

    No good Democrat should be helping a lying and corrupt mayor of a great city. It is Obama, Eric Holder and Ron Machen Democrats should be holding in high esteem, not the lying corruption of Vince Gray.

    District Firefighters (IAFF, 36) and the DC Police Union BOTH support Tommy Wells for Mayor. So does the DC Chapter of N.O.W. and Greater Greater Washington.

    Only one candidate in this primary never took money or benefitted from Jeffrey Thompson. ONLY ONE. Tommy Wells. Tommy Wells has taken NO corporate money, NO PAC money, NO special interest money.

    Clean, ethical government always matters to any cause.

  • Wells is a weak candidate. He has no backbone and is a running solely on anti-corruption. He never talks about anything else and that’s not enough. The reason the police and fire unions support him is because of $$$. Just ask any of the rank and file. Wells has a poor public safety record and that’s why I cannot support him. I’m still undecided between the remaining major candidates, including Catania.

  • Let’s get real here. The only way that a white Democrat is going to win the Mayoral primary in DC is if no black candidate is on the ballot or that there are so many black Democrats running that the voting block fractures.

  • Wells has a poor public safety record and that’s why I cannot support him. -Jay
    I’m curious. What’s your specific take on that?

    The Wells/J-PS Committee handling of the Human Right Watch “damning” report of MPD sex assault coverups was pretty disappointing.

    “youtube DC police fail rape victims”

    Likely the same thing is going on with anti-LGBT violent hate crimes. MPD is withholding (covering up, really) just basic case status info (date, street, open or closed, no. of arrests) so victims and crime scene area neighbors can’t do an ONLINE LOOK-UP to see if any perpetrators have been arrested for the hate crimes.

    J-PS’ C&M report claiming “flawed” methodology appeared more like kick-the-can-down-the-road/ issue obfuscation and coverup for Chiefs. Seriously “flawed” Council oversight of MPD, IMO.

  • If you’re going to speak about Mayor Gray please have all the facts. The Mayor is innocent until proven guilty. There is no proof of what Thompson said. If there was truth to it, why haven’t charges been filed?

  • “The Mayor is innocent until proven guilty.”
    That’s right. And Mayor Crooked is unquestionably guilty of running an ethically questionable administration, as well as coming to power under a criminally run campaign in which EIGHT of his political operatives are unquestionably guilty.

    The candidate is always where the buck stops. Understandably, Mayor Crooked wants to shirk that responsibility too. DC Democrats should not let Mayor Crooked further sully the party and our city. Gray should resign now so we can at least salvage some portion of a clean election for 2014’s cycle.

  • @ Jason. Here are the facts as it relates to the 2014 DC Mayoral race. Thompson testified in a court of law under oath subject to the penalty of perjury and implicated the Mayor. Mayor Gray testifies in the court of public opinion proclaiming his innocence subject only to the penalty of hubris.

    The US Attorney who has more knowledge than anyone regarding the situation has publicly endorsed “Uncle Earl’s” version over that of the Mayor. That should be enough of an “indictment” for any Democrat who is not interested in a “Mayor Catania” to vote for one of the other democratic contenders in the April 1st primary.

    The best thing that can happen for DC is that Gray loses the primary and resolves his legal problems as a private citizen. Serving as Mayor is a privilege not a right. If he wanted a second term he should have put this mess behind him two years ago when he was afforded the chance. He gambled and he lost. No reason to take the reputation of the city down with him.

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