July 22, 2010 at 8:33 am EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Victory Fund backs Ray’s D.C. Council bid

The Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, a national group that helps elect LGBT candidates to public office, has endorsed gay D.C. City Council candidate Clark Ray.

Ray, former director of the city’s Department of Parks & Recreation, is challenging incumbent Phil Mendelson in the Sept. 14 Democratic primary. Many political observers believe Ray has an uphill fight against Mendelson, a longtime supporter of LGBT rights who has held the seat for nearly 12 years.

The Victory Fund’s decision to endorse Ray, announced Tuesday, is considered significant because it limits its endorsements to “viable” candidates capable of running a professional campaign, who are raising sufficient money to be competitive and have a reasonable chance of winning.

“I’m honored to receive the endorsement of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund,” Ray said in a statement. “The Victory Fund’s candidate evaluation process was rigorous, and we’re proud to have made the grade.”

Among other things, the Victory Fund raises money for its endorsed candidates through a national network of donors who are committed to helping elect qualified LGBT candidates.

Victory Fund spokesperson Dennis Dison said the group also has endorsed gay D.C. City Council incumbents Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) and David Catania (I-At Large), who are running for re-election.

Ray’s campaign received a setback earlier this month when the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s largest LGBT political group, endorsed Mendelson. Club members backing Mendelson said Ray is qualified to hold public office, but they believe it would be wrong to turn against an incumbent who has championed LGBT causes.

Ray said the Victory Fund endorsement comes as his campaign gears up for the remaining four weeks leading up to the primary.

“The Victory Fund endorsement comes just as we’re feeling great momentum — 10 new field workers hired, thousands of yard signs distributed, community leader endorsements from Anacostia to Georgetown, and increasing attention from observers citywide,” he said.

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

  • The Victory Fund should have stayed out of this race. Phil Mendelson gets everything done that the LGBT community wants, not just because he is good on the issues but because he has the institutional connections to make things happen. DC has the strongest protections for gay couples having children in the entire country, something achieved in the face of resistance from the DC Office of the Attorney General. Without the full commitment of Phil and his staff, this never would have happened. Clark Ray may be a good candidate, but not for a seat held by Mendelson. What would the VIctory Fund have done if a gay candidate ran against Ted Kennedy? Phil is as good at the DC Council level – on gay issues and others – as Kennedy was in the Semate. We need Phil in office. That’s why I support his reelection.

    • I strongly agree with Nancy! And I’ll go further. The campaign for Ray has been appalling from the outset. We were all supposed to hear that Ray is gay and just run and vote Mendelson out of office based on sexual orientation. We are so far beyond the time when the Council was exclusively straight and this kind of campaign might–might–have had some justification. We have happily outgrown the rigid identity politics that this campaign represents. I’m delighted that Getrude Stein didn’t fall for it. On the other hand, my respect for the Victory Fund has taken a major hit.

  • Phil Mendelson has been a leader and a champion on behalf of the lgbt community in virtually every legislative battle of the past 12 years. He is easily one of the most accomplished members of the City Council, was the central architect of the marriage equality victory, and has earned our support for re-election over and over. I understand and appreciate the Victory Funds’ focus on electing openly lgbt candidates, but in this case, their endorsement of Mendelson’s opponent is counterproductive to the interests of our community.

  • Amen to what Nancy and Deacon said. The LGBT community has no better champion on the D.C. Council, including the openly gay members. Figure it out, folks: we need our straight allies, and it makes no sense whatsoever for us to reward Phil Mendelson’s superb leadership on our behalf by kicking him to the curb.

  • Rick, Deacon, Nancy:

    You postings are immature and you act like spoiled sports.

    This is an endorsement Mr. Ray should be proud of and embraced by the LGBT community as a victory (no pun intended).

    Please, take your marbles and go home, because really, you are all very childish.

    Congrats Mr. Ray on a great endorsement!

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