March 26, 2014 at 12:00 pm EST | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Gray, Bowser in tight race
Vincent Gray, Muriel Bowser, mayor, race, gay news, Washington Blade

Mayor Vincent Gray and Council member Muriel Bowser lead a field of candidates seeking the Democratic nomination in next week’s primary. (Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

Supporters of Mayor Vincent Gray (D) and his main rival, City Council member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), were making a final appeal to LGBT voters for support this week just days before the city’s April 1 Democratic primary.

Two polls released on Tuesday and a separate poll released one week earlier each show Gray and Bowser in a statistical tie and far ahead of the other six mayoral candidates.

Bowser’s dramatic rise in the polls over the past month has prompted her campaign to step up its effort to urge supporters of the other candidates — especially Council members Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) and Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) — to switch their backing to Bowser.

Although most observers believe the LGBT vote will be divided among several candidates, some activists say LGBT voters could be a deciding factor in the race if they coalesce behind either Gray or Bowser.

One of the polls released this week by the Washington Post shows Bowser with 30 percent support from a sample of likely voters, with Gray receiving 27 percent. An NBC4/Marist poll also released on Tuesday shows Bowser with 28 percent and Gray with 26 percent.

The poll released one week earlier and commissioned by WAMU Radio and the Washington City Paper showed Gray and Bowser each receiving 27 percent. All three polls show that Gray’s support has largely remained at the same level it was more than two months ago while Bowser’s support has risen by more than 10 points.

According to the NBC4/Marist poll released on Tuesday, among likely Democratic voters, Council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) was in third place with 11 percent; Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) was in fourth place with 9 percent; and Busboys and Poets Restaurant owner and progressive activist Andy Shallal and Council member Vincent Orange (D-At-Large) each had 4 percent.

Attorney and former State Department official Reta Jo Lewis had 2 percent and businessman Carlos Allen had less than 1 percent. Fifteen percent of the respondents were undecided. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.7 percent.

“The latest polls are showing what we knew all along — that this is a two-candidate race,” said gay activist and businessman Everett Hamilton, who’s supporting Bowser. “All the candidates are great on our issues and we are really fortunate to have an embarrassment of riches among the candidates,” he said.

“So this election is really not about whether someone will be good on LGBT issues,” Hamilton said. “It’s about things that need to be better in this city.”

Transgender activist Jeri Hughes, who supports Gray, said she was troubled that some opponents of Gray are arguing that people shouldn’t vote for him because of the pending criminal investigation into an illegal shadow campaign on the mayor’s behalf in 2010.

At least four people associated with Gray’s 2010 election campaign, including businessman Jeffrey Thompson, have pleaded guilty to criminal charges related to the raising of more than $660,000 in illegal campaign funds. But despite statements by U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen that more is to come in his ongoing investigation, which began four years ago, no charges have been filed against Gray, who strongly denies any involvement in illegal campaign activities.

“I don’t think the people moving toward Bowser are LGBT people for the most part,” Hughes said. “This is due to allegations against the mayor. Nothing has been proven. I’m very disappointed that so many people are buying into innuendo,” she said.

“I can’t turn away my support because of innuendo,” said Hughes. “I believe the mayor is of the utmost integrity and most people I know in the LGBT community share this view.”

Hughes and Lane Hudson, a local gay Democratic activist who founded an independent LGBT group supporting Gray called Gray Pride, are among a number of activists who consider Gray’s record on LGBT issues to be the strongest in the nation for a big city mayor.

Transgender activists have described as groundbreaking a first-of-its-kind city job training program initiated by Gray aimed at low-income transgender residents, who often face prejudice and discrimination when seeking employment. Also considered groundbreaking by activists was the mayor’s recent directive requiring health insurance companies doing business in the city to cover gender reassignment surgery and other procedures deemed medically necessary for transgender people in the process of transitioning.

“It will be a close race,” Hudson said. “The turnout will be crucial. The more activist types are favoring Gray,” he said. “I feel he is getting around half to a majority of LGBT votes.”

Hudson said he doesn’t think a significant number of LGBT voters have dropped their support for Gray over the 2010 campaign finance allegations. He said that since the start of the campaign late last year he expected the LGBT vote to split along the lines it did in 2010 when LGBT people divided their vote between Gray and then Mayor Adrian Fenty.

Evans and Wells supporters, meanwhile, questioned whether the latest polls accurately reflect the view of the people who will actually turn out to vote. They urged supporters to remain loyal to their respective candidate in a hotly contested election with an outcome that seasoned political observers, including LGBT advocates, said was unpredictable, in part, because the voter turnout is expected to be at an all-time low.

A low turnout is expected, according to political observers, because voters are unaccustomed to having a primary – or any city election – in April. In a controversial action, the D.C. Council voted last year to move the primary from September to April 1.

In addition to Democratic candidates, gay Libertarian Party candidate Bruce Majors is running unopposed in his party’s mayoral primary on April 1, ensuring that he will be on the ballot in the November general election.

Also running unopposed in the April 1 primary is Statehood-Green Party candidate Faith, a former Broadway musician who has run for public office several times in the past.

At a campaign rally Monday night at the D.C. gay bar Number 9, Evans reminded the mostly gay crowd that he has been on the front lines in support of LGBT rights since he began his tenure on the Council in 1991 when he led the effort to repeal the city’s sodomy law. In his GLAA questionnaire response, Evans lists nearly two-dozen LGBT-related bills he has introduced, co-sponsored or supported that have passed since he became a Council member.

Jack Evans, Washington Blade, gay news

‘I’m the alternative that you need,’ said Jack Evans. ‘And I can win if you vote for me.’ (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Evans said he’s telling anyone who will listen – including LGBT voters – that he has a shot at winning if everyone familiar with his long record of accomplishment on a wide range of issues votes for him.

“What I’m saying to people is I’m the alternative that you need,” Evans said. “And I can win if you vote for me.”

All of the candidates except Allen have expressed strong support for LGBT rights, including marriage equality. Although Allen has expressed general support on LGBT issues during candidate forums, he received a “0” rating from the Gay & Lesbian Activists Alliance for failing to return a questionnaire asking about specific issues. The non-partisan GLAA rates on a scale of -10 to +10.

Gray received a +10, the highest possible rating from GLAA. He received 58 percent of the vote in the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club’s mayoral endorsement forum, falling four votes short of the 60 percent threshold needed for an endorsement under the club’s rules. With support from Stein Club members divided among the candidates, the club did not endorse anyone for mayor.

Wells received a +9.5 GLAA rating; Evans received a +9, Shallal received a +6, Bowser received a +5.5, Lewis received a +4.5, and Orange received a +3.

The mayoral candidates responding to the GLAA questionnaire each expressed support for a wide range of LGBT issues and initiatives proposed by the non-partisan GLAA. GLAA President Rick Rosendall noted that none of the mayoral candidates were designated as hostile or in opposition to a significant LGBT issue.

Wells supporters point to his role as chair of the Council’s Judiciary and Public Safety Committee, where he has pushed through a number of important LGBT-related bills, including a measure easing the ability of transgender people to obtain a new birth certificate to reflect their new gender. Wells has also monitored police handing of anti-LGBT hate crimes in a series of oversight hearings on the subject.

Orange supporters, including LGBT backers from his home base in Ward 5, note that, among other things, he helped push through legislation to create the city’s Office of GLBT Affairs and worked with gay Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) in securing Council passage of an amendment that added transgender people to the D.C. Human Rights Act’s prohibitions against discrimination.

In addition to being a longtime supporter of LGBT rights, Shallal said he regularly arranges for his Busboys and Poets restaurants to host and sponsor LGBT-related events, including “a monthly queer open series that encourages self-expression for the LGBT community.”

Lewis said that as a senior State Department official in the Obama administration, she backed then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s implementation of domestic partnership benefits and spousal privileges to same-sex partners of U.S. Foreign Service employees. “I was proud to have been a part of the administration that made it possible for landmark legislation like the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act to become law,” she said on her GLAA questionnaire response.

A breakdown of the GLAA rating scores for each of the candidates and their questionnaire responses can be accessed at

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

  • brian

    “One of the polls released this week by the Washington Post shows Bowser with 30 percent support from a sample of likely voters, with Gray receiving 27 percent. An NBC4/Marist poll also released on Tuesday shows Bowser with 28 percent and Gray with 26 percent.”
    Mayor Crooked’s Governance by PR Hype…

    I’m sure no math whiz. But doesn’t being stuck at 27 percent mean that roughly 73 percent are NOT supporting Mayor Crooked?

    “One City” was always just more PR hooey.

  • jeri hughes

    If Vincent Gray had decided not to run, I would have been hurt. We need him as our Mayor. But if he had, I would have voted for someone a lot more deserving and experienced like Tommy Wells or Jack Evans….even if it meant not winning.

    Muriel Bowser is like a hang over from the Fenty administration…non-responsive, no-show Adrian Fenty. It was a wonder that we made any progress with him as Mayor, and Peter Nickles as AG. I remember. They tried to turn the clock back and diminish Title 4 Chapter 8 of the Human Rights Act, rather than comply in the DOC.

    And, oh… a poll from the WP disparaging the Mayor? who would ever believe that?

  • Chris

    Anybody but Catania! I’d roll with Muriel push came to shove. Jeri, I don’t think she would pull a Fenty. She seen how Fenty really lost ground with working class Black voters and was a one term Mayor. She wouldn’t take that chance!

  • brian

    “Wells has also monitored police handing of anti-LGBT hate crimes in a series of oversight hearings on the subject.”

    Avoiding another Mayor Crackhead, Mayor Crony or Mayor Crooked
    (And pondering one’s vote when the best isn’t on the ballot)

    You can tell a lot about how candidates will govern by the way they manage their campaigns. I doubt Wells’ people are ready for a citywide campaign.

    Also, at best, Wells punted on the Human Rights Watch report re. MPD coverups of sexual assaults. At worst, he helped bury using a time-honored “independent study.”

    The “pretty damning” report by Human Rights Watch mirrored reports we’ve heard regarding biased MPD responses to anti-LGBT hate crimes victims. So that Wells avoided that issue is a bad thing for anti-LGBT hate crimes victims too.

    Holding hearings pretending that one is conducting effective police oversight is not the same as REAL police oversight. Always getting a made-for-TV report from the foxes as to how the chickens are coming along, misses the problem entirely.

    Wells just hasn’t demonstrated an intellectual curiosity for the systemic problems at MPD that require full-time, and real independent oversight by Council –AND– OPC, which is the real cause of ongoing anti-LGBT police bias at MPD’s highest levels.

    But neither has GLAA and GLOV, for that matter.

    GLOV has some excuse, as their mission requires closely working with MPD. MPD has morphed into a partial POLITICAL wing of Mayor Crooked, so GLOV’s independent perspective is likely adversely affected– perhaps unavoidably– by that.

    Moreover, MPD’s ever-political chiefs likely exert some funding pressures over GLOV, as well– through its affiliated ‘parent’, The DC Center, and MPD’s common ties to its major donors.
    See MPD’s ties to ADL, for example …

    More importantly however, GLAA, has fallen into a noticeable DRIFT to partisanship– losing its venerable, longstanding credibility and independent political perspective– and perhaps endangering its advocacy mission.

    GLAA cannot maintain a strong, credible “scrupulously independent” non-partisan stance when its officers are PUBLICLY supporting/ endorsing, de facto, one candidate or another.

    On the POLICE Public Safety front, GLAA has done little to DETER anti-LGBT hate crimes and bring hate crimes perpetrators to justice. GLAA has done little or nothing to end MPD’s (and Gray’s/Lanier’s) hiding of minimal hate crimes case data from the public.

    Just as important, GLAA has done little or nothing to stop Gray’s/Lanier’s dilution/ destruction of GLLU’s core unit of MPD.

    GLAA’s (and its organizational partners’) response to Lanier’s dubiously-chosen Hate Crimes Assessment Task Force was disappointing. It was far too general and frankly, pretty lightweight as to specific recommendations for MPD reforms and oversight. It was also downright fawning of MPD’s leadership in spots.

    Once again, GLAA (and GLOV) appear to mistakenly blame MPD’s rank-and-file officers for anti-LGBT bias that MPD’s leadership actually encourages quietly through several biased/ discriminatory management practices (and which GLAA has repeatedly missed).

    Back to mayoral candidates… we’ve heard little or nothing from Bowser regarding the systemic MPD oversight reforms and strengthening the independent Office of Police Complaints (OPS). Like Fenty before her, she’s likely an empty suit on LGBT matters.

    On the ethics front, she was happy to take and report funds from Jeff Thompson. So that is very troubling. A return to Mayor Crony’s ways would be only slightly less onerous than a return to Mayor Crackhead– or being a smarter Mayor Crooked.

    Without tougher SPECIFICS as to what Bowser will do to bring anti-LGBT hate crimes perps to justice and provide permanent, independent oversight of MPD, there is no reason any LGBT voter should be supporting “just another Fenty” with slightly better LGBT lip service.

    Looking to November, maybe a vote for Gray (OMG! Say it aint so, Aunt B!) is really a smarter strategy for LGBT Dem voters.

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