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Evans, Brown enter race for Council chair

Anti-gay candidate runs in at-large contest

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D.C. City Council member Jack Evans, seen here at an event celebrating the passage of same-sex marriage, is running for the Council chairman’s seat. He will run against Council member Kwame Brown. (DC Agenda photo by Michael Key)

D.C. City Council members Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) and Kwame Brown (D-At Large) have announced they are candidates for the Council chairman’s seat, creating another citywide contest where LGBT voters must choose between friends.

Evans and Brown entered the Council chairman race after the current chairman, Democrat Vincent Gray, declared his candidacy for mayor, challenging Mayor Adrian Fenty’s bid for a second term in September’s Democratic primary.

Much as they did with the mayor’s race, most gay Democratic activists have said they are not ready to take sides in the Council chair contest, expressing an interest in seeing the LGBT-friendly candidates for mayor and Council chair speak out on both gay and non-gay issues.

However, Evans’ strong support for LGBT rights extends over 20 years in his role as the Council’s most senior member. His longer record on LGBT issues is expected to give him an edge over Brown for the gay vote — at least in some parts of the city.

“We have a process for endorsing candidates and we’re going to follow that process,” said Jeffrey Richardson, president of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s largest LGBT political group.

In a timetable approved earlier this year, the club will hold an endorsement meeting June 14 for Democratic mayoral candidates, who will be invited to speak and answer questions from club members. The club is scheduled to vote on an endorsement after the candidates speak.

Stein Club officials scheduled a similar endorsement meeting July 12 for Democratic candidates running for the Council chairman seat as well as one of two at-large Council seats up for grabs, in which gay Democratic activist Clark Ray is challenging pro-gay Democratic incumbent Phil Mendelson.

City Council insiders have said Mendelson is considering running for the Council chairman seat now that Gray is giving it up to run for mayor. But unlike Evans and Brown, Mendelson remained silent this week on his intentions, leading some City Hall observers to speculate that he has decided to run once again for his at-large post.

A decision by Mendelson to give up his at-large seat to run for Council chairman was expected to greatly boost Ray’s chance of becoming the Council’s third openly gay member. Gay Council incumbents David Catania (I-At Large) and Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) are also up for re-election this year.

Meanwhile, in a little noticed development, gay rights opponent Richard Urban, who has testified repeatedly in favor of a ballot measure to kill the city’s same-sex marriage law, filed papers to run as an independent candidate for an at-large Council seat.

Under the city’s unusual election rule governing the Council’s at-large seats, Urban would be competing for the seat held by Catania, the author and lead advocate for the gay marriage law.

The city’s election law, which Congress wrote at the time it approved the city’s home rule charter in the early 1970s, requires at least one of the two at-large seats up for election this year to go to a non-majority party candidate. Since Democrats make up the majority party, only one of the two seats can go to a Democrat and both, theoretically, can go to a non-Democrat.

So far, Mendelson and Ray are the only Democrats competing for the Democratic nomination for the majority party seat. The Washington City Paper reported this week that Kelvin Robinson, who served as chief of staff to former Mayor Anthony Williams, is strongly considering entering the Democratic primary contest against Mendelson and Ray. Robinson is believed to share Williams’ strong views in support of LGBT rights, including same-sex marriage.

Most political observers consider Mendelson the strong favorite to win the nomination and the general election should he decide to stay in the race, with the gay vote expected to split between Ray and Mendelson. Mendelson, a longtime supporter of LGBT rights, is credited with shepherding Catania’s same-sex marriage bill through the Council in his role as chair of the committee with jurisdiction over the bill.

Urban’s candidacy, while considered a long shot, could potentially galvanize voters who oppose gay marriage, possibly turning Catania’s re-election bid into a surrogate referendum on marriage. Catania, however, could benefit from yet another independent candidate who also opposes same-sex marriage, Rev. Anthony Motley, who has been campaigning for the so-called non-Democratic at-large seat since June.

Unlike Urban, Motley has expressed support for LGBT rights in all areas other than marriage, saying he supports civil unions instead of same-sex marriage. Urban’s candidacy could potentially split the anti-same-sex marriage vote, strengthening Catania’s chances of winning the second, non-Democratic at-large seat.

In addition to opposing same-sex marriage and calling for a voter initiative to overturn the same-sex marriage law, Urban has campaigned against including gay-related content in the D.C. public school system’s sex education curriculum. He has also emerged as one of the city’s strongest advocates of abstinence until marriage as the main method of preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS. He’s expressed strong opposition to the city’s current policy of distributing free condoms to all groups considered at high risk for HIV, including high school students.

On his campaign web site, Urban lists at the top of his platform a call for “marriage defined as the union of one man and one woman only.” In a position paper on the city’s public schools curriculum, he calls for eliminating all references to sexual orientation and gender identity from school sex education courses — components of the curriculum that LGBT activists lobbied to put in place.

Urban, who is white, is expected to reach out to socially conservative black voters in wards 7 and 8, as well as in other parts of the city, who have expressed strong opposition to gay marriage.

Under the city’s election law, the two at-large seats are awarded to the two candidates — regardless of their party affiliation — who receive the highest vote counts in the general election in November.

Catania enjoys widespread support among voters across the city on a wide range of issues, and he’s considered the strong favorite to retain the non-Democratic seat. But Urban’s status as the first full-fledged anti-gay candidate to run for a City Council seat in many years is expected to put to the test the strength of a vocal group of socially conservative ministers who have vowed to push for the defeat of Council members who voted for the gay marriage bill.

Numbers filed with the city’s Office of Campaign Finance, however, show Urban had raised just $570 for his campaign as of the reporting period ending March 10, an amount that would lead most political observers to conclude he has yet to become a serious candidate.

Catania, by comparison, raised slightly more than $134,000 as of the same reporting period, according to records.

Each of the remaining Council members up for re-election this year have strong records of support for LGBT rights and each voted for the same-sex marriage bill. They include Graham (D-Ward 1), Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3), Harry Thomas (D-Ward 5) and Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6).

So far, each of the four is considered favorites to win re-election, although Graham and Thomas face candidates who could wage a competitive race. Gay marriage opponents in Ward 5 vowed to target Thomas for defeat. The views on same-sex marriage among three of the four candidates running against Thomas could not be immediately determined.

One of Thomas’s challengers, gay Republican Timothy Day, said he supports same-sex marriage and would run against Thomas on non-gay issues.

Among the few gay Democratic activists who have taken sides in the mayor’s race, most emerged as supporters of Gray, including two of the 12 openly gay members of the D.C. Democratic State Committee, the governing body of the city’s Democratic Party. Five of the gays on the committee said they would remain neutral in the race for the time being. Among the gay State Committee members remaining neutral is Stein Club Vice President Sheila Alexander-Reid, a prominent Fenty backer in 2006. Gay State Committee member Stephen Gorman did not respond to a call seeking his position on the mayor’s race.

But three prominent gay civic leaders this week said they enthusiastically support Fenty’s re-election, based on his approach to gay and non-gay issues. The three are Alex Padro, an elected Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner from the Shaw area; Scott Rogerson, president of the French Street Neighborhood Association in the Logan Circle area; and Martin Moulton, president of the Convention Center Community Association, which represents the neighborhood surrounding the D.C. Convention Center.

All three said Fenty’s administration took important steps to improve their respective neighborhoods. When asked whether they agreed with Fenty critics, including some in the gay community, that have described the mayor as aloof and not directly engaging community groups and rarely attending gay events, the three did not dispute that criticism but noted that the mayor’s personality didn’t bother them.

“I don’t have to have my mayor be touchy feely to make me happy,” Rogerson said. “I want him to be an effective mayor, keep the budget in line, and get projects done. I don’t need the warm hug, I need results, and he has produced results.”

Gay backers of Vincent Gray, including gay Democratic activist Lane Hudson, have said Fenty’s aloofness and failure to speak out publicly on issues like anti-gay hate crimes have prevented his administration from having a greater impact on such issues.

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Comings & Goings

Peter Chandler named executive director of Internet Works

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Peter Chandler

The Comings & Goings column is about sharing the professional successes of our community. We want to recognize those landing new jobs, new clients for their business, joining boards of organizations and other achievements. Please share your successes with us at: [email protected].

Congratulations to Peter Chandler on being named executive director of Internet Works. Since 2020, Internet Works has worked to ensure the voice of small and medium-sized online platforms is included in policy discussions typically targeted at the largest companies.

Laura Bisesto, chair of the board, said “We’re thrilled that Peter Chandler has joined as Internet Works’ Executive Director. The tech policy space is constantly changing, especially around intermediary liability, and as we work to ensure small and medium-sized tech companies are included in the policy debates lawmakers are having around the country, Peter was a natural fit for us.”

Chandler has 30 years of campaign, political, legislative, and advocacy experience at the state and federal levels. He previously served as Senior Vice President of Federal Policy and Government Relations at TechNet. During his time at the association, Peter was named a “Top Lobbyist” by The Hill newspaper. Prior to that he served as chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) and U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine). Chandler has also consulted and trained numerous political and advocacy groups, including the ACLU, the Gay and Lesbian Victory Institute, and the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee in 1998. In 2020, he was elected to the board of the National LGBTQ Task Force.

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District of Columbia

New D.C. walking tour highlights LGBTQ history

Zach Patalingjug launched company in June in time for Pride Month

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Zach Patalingjug leads his Beyond the Closet: The Persecution and Liberation of the LGBTQ Community in Washington, D.C., tour on July 13, 2024. (Washington Blade photo by Sean Koperek)

Want to learn more about the city’s LGBTQ history while seeing some of the sights? Beyond the Landmarks’ Beyond the Closet: The Persecution and Liberation of the LGBTQ Community in Washington, D.C., tour could be just the choice.

Zach Patalingjug launched the company in June, and offers walks that highlights some of Washington’s LGBTQ history.

The LGBTQ-specific tour starts with him emailing each person on the route with a meet-up location and some advice for the tour itself. His business last month saw a lot of tourists participate in his tour — in part because of Pride Month, and Patalinjug is hoping to keep the momentum. 

Patalingjug, who is from California, has traveled to more than half of the country’s states and has traveled abroad numerous times to sightsee and absorb cultures. He told the Washington Blade he became inspired to create his company after reading James Kirchick’s “Secret City: The Hidden History of Gay Washington.”

Patalingjug spent a year researching his tour. He utilized the D.C. Central Library, where its fourth floor is dedicated entirely to the city’s history.

“I wanted to create a company that really explores the hidden gems, the lesser known history of Washington, D.C., to get the experiences that are truly authentic, and to tell stories that you don’t hear on most sightseeing tours,” he told the Washington Blade. 

The tours are between two to three hours long, depending on the group’s speed.

They officially start at 9:30 a.m., but Patalingjug recommends participants arrive 10 minutes earlier.

Each group meets in Farragut Square, directly outside of the Farragut West Metro station. The tour begins there and proceeds to Lafayette Square, where Patalingjug discusses the White House, the Hay-Adams Hotel, the former Lambda Rising bookstore, the Human Rights Campaign, the now-closed Chicken Hut near the White House, and myriad other locations. 

The tour ends in Dupont Circle.

Human Rights Campaign headquarters (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Patalingjug’s tour is more than a walk — each one is themed with topics that include “service, persecution, and liberation.

“Countless folks within the LGBTQ community have served and continue to serve the federal government,” he told the Blade.

He noted many of the people the tour highlights worked for the federal government before they lost their careers because they were outed or caught with a same-sex partner during the so-called “Lavender Scare.”

Then-Secretary of State John Kerry shortly before he stepped down in 2017 formally apologized to State Department personnel who were fired under the directive that then-President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued in 1953. President Joe Biden last year issued a formal proclamation on the policy’s 70th anniversary.

“For so many members of the LGBTQI+ community, hate, discrimination, and isolation throughout our country’s history have denied them the full promise of America,” Biden said. “The ‘Lavender Scare’ epitomized — and institutionalized — this injustice.”

Patalingjug’s tour highlights Frank Kameny, founder of the Mattachine Society of Washington, the city’s first politically active LGBTQ rights group that organized one of the country’s first gay rights protest that took place in front of the White House in 1965.

The protest highlighted the federal government’s discrimination against gays and lesbians. Kameny in 1957 lost his job as an astronomer in the Army Map Service because he was gay.

Frank Kameny Way in Dupont Circle is part of Zach Patalingjug’s Beyond the Closet: The Persecution and Liberation of the LGBTQ Community in Washington, D.C., tour (Washington Blade photo by Sean Koperek)

The tour also highlights Margaret “Midge” Costanza, an advisor to former President Jimmy Carter who invited members of the National Gay Task Force, which is now known as the National LGBTQ Task Force, to the White House in 1977.

“I’m just incredibly excited to be able to tell the authentic stories of people who lived through this period of history,” said Patalingjug.

Log onto Beyond the Landmarks’ website for more information.

Michael K. Lavers and Lou Chibbaro, Jr., contributed to this story.

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District of Columbia

Ruby Corado pleads guilty to wire fraud in plea agreement

Reduced charge says she stole at least $150,000 in COVID-relief funds

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Ruby Corado in El Salvador (Photo via Facebook)

Ruby Corado, the founder and executive director of the now-defunct LGBTQ community services organization Casa Ruby, pleaded guilty Wednesday, July 17, to a single charge of wire fraud as part of a plea bargain deal offered by prosecutors with the Office of the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia.

The charge to which she pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for D.C. says she diverted at least $150,000 “in taxpayer-backed emergency COVID relief funds to private off-shore bank accounts for her personal use,” according to a statement released by the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Court records show that U.S. District Court Judge Trevor N. McFadden, who is presiding over the case, has scheduled a sentencing hearing for Jan. 10, 2025.

Corado’s guilty plea came a little over six weeks after prosecutors on May 31 filed a one-count criminal information charge of wire fraud against her that replaced an earlier criminal complaint charging her with bank fraud, money laundering, monetary transactions in criminally derived proceeds, and failure to file a required report of a foreign bank account.

The earlier complaint was filed at the time the FBI arrested Corado on March 5 of this year at a hotel in Laurel, Md., shortly after she returned to the U.S. from El Salvador. The initial complaint, like the new criminal information that replaced it, accused Corado of diverting at least $150,000 of federal pandemic relief funds to her own bank accounts in El Salvador. The charges say the funds were intended for use by Casa Ruby to support indigent LGBTQ clients in need of housing and other support services.

At the request of Corado’s court-appointed attorney and against the wishes of federal prosecutors, who said Corado would be a flight risk, another judge agreed to release Corado into the custody of her niece in Rockville, Md., under a home detention order. The release order came seven days after Corado had been held in jail since the time of her arrest on March 5.

In addition to a prison sentence, the charge of wire fraud also includes a possible penalty of financial forfeiture for which Corado could be required to pay restitution to the government. The plea agreement filed in court includes this statement to Corado’s attorney: “Specifically, your client agrees to the entry of a forfeiture money judgment in an amount ordered by the Court, which is equal to the value of any property which constitutes or is derived from proceeds traceable to the offense in Count One of the Information in which your client is pleading guilty.”

However, legal observers have said that under a plea agreement like the one offered to Corado, prosecutors most likely will ask the judge for a lesser sentence. Corado’s attorney is also expected to point out that this is a nonviolent, first-time offense for Corado, which merits a lesser sentence.

Corado has denied wrongdoing in her operation of Casa Ruby in response to a separate civil complaint filed against her and Casa Ruby by the Office of the D.C. Attorney General. That complaint is still pending in D.C. Superior Court.

In its July 17 statement the U.S. Attorney’s office refers to court documents showing that Corado, “on behalf of Casa Ruby, received more than $1.3 million from the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program.” The statement adds, “Instead of using the funds as she promised, Corado stole at least $150,000 by transferring the money to bank accounts in El Salvador, which she hid from the IRS.”

The statement says that in 2022, “when financial irregularities at Casa Ruby became public, Corado sold her home in Prince George’s County and fled to El Salvador.” It says FBI agents arrested her at the hotel in Laurel, Md. on March 5 “after she unexpectedly returned to the United States.”

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