The Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, D.C.’s largest LGBT political group, held its annual election of officers Monday night at a meeting where members celebrated the Democratic Party’s electoral victories last week, especially the party’s success in Virginia.
“It was one of the most positive meetings we’ve had because we had so much election success,” said Stein Club President Earl Fowlkes in referring to the Democrats’ wins in the Virginia legislative races.
Among them was the election of Democrat Danica Roem as the first out transgender woman to win election and be seated in a state legislature. Roem won handily in her race for a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates district in Prince William County, defeating longtime anti-LGBT incumbent Bob Marshall.
Stein Club members on Monday night voted to re-elect Fowlkes as club president. The club election came a little over two weeks after the Democratic National Committee’s LGBT Caucus also voted to re-elect Fowlkes as caucus chair during the DNC’s annual fall meeting in Las Vegas.
Club members elected London Swift as Vice President for Administration; transgender activist Monika Nemeth as Secretary; Sharon Burk as Vice President for Legislative and Political Affairs; and Alex Morash as Treasurer.
Nemeth is running in a special election on Nov. 21 for a vacant seat on Advisory Neighborhood Commission 3F in the area of Connecticut Avenue and Van Ness Street, N.W. If she wins the two-candidate race she would become the city’s first out transgender elected official.
Fowlkes said Stein Club members were among a large contingent of LGBT people from D.C. that worked as volunteers for the campaigns of candidates running in Virginia in last week’s election.
In response to a question from the Washington Blade, Fowlkes said he did not believe the controversy triggered by the release of a book by former DNC Interim Chair Donna Brazile shortly before last week’s election had an impact on the election.
Brazile’s book, among other things, provides an insiders’ account of the intra-party tension in the 2016 Democratic primary campaigns between Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders. Brazile’s account appears to side with many of Sanders’s supporters, who claim the DNC improperly supported the Clinton campaign for the party’s presidential nomination when it should have remained neutral.
Some have predicted the book would reopen wounds among Clinton and Sanders supporters and divide the party at a time when it needs to redouble its efforts for the 2018 congressional midterm elections. Fowlkes disputes those predictions.
“You know, all politics is local,” he said. “And the fact is people who were voting last week in Virginia and in New Jersey and other places around the country, they weren’t thinking about Donna Brazile or her book because it’s not relevant to their lives,” he said.
“People voted for the issues that were important to them,” said Fowlkes. “It was transportation in Virginia, access to healthcare, access to pre-K schools and taxes. Those are the things that people were dealing with.”
Added Fowlkes: “Donna Brazile, that’s for people who have a lot of time on their hands. The average voter doesn’t care about Donna Brazile or what she is saying about the Clintons. It’s not important. It’s not relevant.”
Fowlkes said he, like all Democrats, would have liked the outcome of the 2016 presidential election to be different than what it was.
“People can be upset about that but there is nothing we can do to undo that,” he said. “It’s done. We have to move towards 2018. The election is over. It’s been over for a year. And if people are still dwelling on that they probably need to get a little therapy.”
Among those who attended Monday night’s Stein Club meeting were two gay men and a lesbian who are running for seats next year on the D.C. City Council. Lesbian businesswoman and community organizer Dionne Bussey-Reeder is running as an independent for one of two at-large Council seats currently held by incumbents Anita Bonds (D) and Elissa Silverman (I).
Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Kent Boese and civic activist Jamie Sycamore are running as Democrats for the Ward 1 Council seat held by incumbent Brianne Nadeau.
Fowlkes said he expects the club to begin its process for making endorsements of City Council and mayoral candidates in late March or early April ahead of the city’s Democratic primary in June.