Two gay Republicans have announced they’re running for seats on the D.C. City Council this fall, with one challenging veteran gay Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1).
Marc Morgan, who’s challenging Graham, and Timothy Day, who’s challenging Council member Harry Thomas (D-Ward 5), describe themselves as moderates with progressive views on social issues and moderate-to-conservative stands on economic matters.
Both men say they’re strong supporters of LGBT rights and would have voted for the city’s same-sex marriage law had they been on the Council when it passed, 11-2. The two also oppose holding a voter referendum or initiative on the gay marriage issue, saying the matter has been decided and the city should move on to other issues.
“I support it 100 percent,” said Day said when asked about the city’s same-sex marriage law. He added that he and his partner have been together for 10 years and he considers marriage equality a basic right.
Morgan noted his own role in working on campaigns in Arizona against two ballot measures seeking to ban gay marriage. Arizona voters defeated the first one held in 2006, marking the first time any gay marriage referendum or initiative in the U.S. was defeated. But voters reversed themselves in 2008 and passed a measure banning gay marriage in the state.
“We were hit by a tidal wave from Prop 8 in California and couldn’t compete with the fundraising from our opposition,” he said, referring to the California ballot measure that overturned the state’s same-sex marriage law in 2008.
Morgan and Day said they wouldn’t challenge Graham and Thomas on LGBT issues, and would instead focus on economic development and education, among other issues.
Graham, one of the Council’s most outspoken supporters of LGBT rights, has been highly popular in the ward and among LGBT voters. In 2006, he won the Democratic primary with 86 percent of the vote and the general election with 97 percent. Graham and Thomas also enjoy the support of many local LGBT activists.
Morgan worked for 15 years as a fundraiser for non-profit organizations addressing issues related to HIV/AIDS, animal welfare and the environment, according to his campaign biography. He currently works as deputy director of development for the Carbon War Room, a non-profit group that fights climate change. He said his top campaign issue is improved economic development in Ward 1, especially for small businesses.
Day, a native Ward 5 resident, is a small business owner whose company “focuses on aiding the non-profit community,” according to his campaign biography. He’s running to boost economic development in the ward and improve the city’s fight against HIV/AIDS. He has been elected twice as an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner in his ward.
Many local political observers said that the two men — like all GOP candidates — face an uphill battle in challenging Democratic incumbents in a city where Democrats outnumber Republicans by a nine-to-one margin.
Graham must win his party’s nomination in the September Democratic primary to compete against Morgan in the November general election. Most political observers expect Graham to win the primary, where he faces a challenge from former D.C. school board member Jeff Smith.
Smith is considered supportive of LGBT issues, but received a zero rating from the Gay & Lesbian Activists Alliance in his 2004 school board race because he failed to return a questionnaire and, at the time, his position on LGBT issues were unknown. The group automatically assigns such a rating to candidates that fail to return its questionnaire and whose record on LGBT issues cannot be determined. Its ratings are based both on record and questionnaire responses.
Thomas, who also has a strong record in support of LGBT issues, is facing at least three Democratic opponents in the September primary. His support and vote for the same-sex marriage bill was controversial in Ward 5, where some voters denounced Thomas for voting for the bill.
But similar to Ward 1, Ward 5 voters are overwhelmingly Democratic, making it difficult for a Republican to win there.
Although Republicans have won at-large seats on the Council, no Republican has won a ward Council seat since the city’s home rule government held its first Council election in 1974.