Lesbian activist and public affairs lobbyist Courtney Snowden announced on Monday that she is running as an independent for the at-large D.C. Council seat being vacated by gay Council member David Catania (I-At-Large), who’s running for mayor.
“This city is, and has always been, full of promise and opportunity,” Snowden said in a statement. “I’m running because I want to give all of the District’s residents an independent voice, not beholden to party politics, but willing to stand up for progressive values.”
Her announcement that she’s running as an independent comes just over two months after she won election in the city’s April 1 primary as Alternate National Committeewoman to the Democratic National Committee. Her change in party registration from Democrat to independent requires her to resign from the committeewoman’s post.
“I share the values and vision of the Democratic Party, and in fact, have built my professional life on its principles,” she said in an open letter to D.C. Council member Anita Bonds (D-At-Large), who also serves as chair of the D.C. Democratic Party.
“I am committed to the Democratic principles on which I ran in April, and I have been honored to serve as the Alternate National Committeewoman, even if only briefly,” she said in the letter.
Snowden becomes the 12th independent to enter the at-large Council race. Like her, nearly all of the others changed their party registration from Democrat to independent to run for a seat that is reserved for a non-majority party candidate under a provision of the City Charter approved by Congress in the 1970s as part of the city’s limited home rule government.
Since Democrats hold a nine-to-one majority among D.C. registered voters, one of two at-large Council seats up for election this year must go to a non-Democrat. Bonds, who holds the “Democratic” seat, is expected to easily win re-election in November.
In the battle for the second seat, Snowden will also be competing with gay Republican nominee Marc Morgan, an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner from Adams Morgan, as well as Libertarian and Statehood Green Party candidates. She will also be competing with fellow Democrat-turned-independent Elissa Silverman, who received strong LGBT community support when she ran unsuccessfully for the same Council seat as a Democrat in an April 2013 special election.
Also running as an independent is D.C. restaurant owner Khalid Pitts, who received the endorsement of Joe Solmonese, longtime gay rights advocate and former president of the Human Rights Campaign, where Snowden worked from 2002-2003.
For the past 10 years, Snowden has worked as a lobbyist and public policy strategist representing corporate and non-profit clients for The Raben Group, a public relations and communications firm. The firm was founded by gay attorney Robert Raben, who served as an assistant U.S. attorney general in the Clinton administration.
Prior to joining the Raben Group, Snowden served as a senior lobbyist for the National Parent and Teacher Association. Prior to that she worked in various policy positions for the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), HRC, and Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) before Baldwin won election as the nation’s first openly gay U.S. senator.
Snowden, a lifelong D.C. resident, is the second known lesbian to run for a seat on the Council. In 1998, lesbian activist Sabrina Sojourner ran unsuccessfully for an at-large Council seat in the Democratic primary. She finished in sixth place in a 10-candidate race, receiving 12 percent of the vote.