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Gay incumbents face opposition in ANC races

Crime, parking, nightlife issues dominate contests for unpaid posts

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Editor’s note: Some minor changes were made to this story after it was posted as the Blade’s Lou Chibbaro heard from additional sources. The changes are in bold.

At least 29 gay or lesbian candidates are running for Advisory Neighborhood Commission seats in the city’s Nov. 2 election, and some who have served as commissioners for multiple terms are facing strong opposition.

Most observers familiar with ANC races say issues like trash collection, street crime, parking, and liquor license applications for restaurants or bars rather than LGBT rights dominate ANC elections.

Among the gay commissioners facing opposition this year is Dupont Circle Commissioner Ramon Estrada, who is being challenged by attorney Sunit Talapatra, who says Estrada’s opposition to various development projects along the 14th and U Street, N.W. corridor don’t represent the views of the majority of those living in Single Member District 2B09.

Estrada did not return a call seeking comment.

Four other gay commissioners in the Dupont Circle ANC are running unopposed in their re-election bids.

In the section of Ward 6 near the Washington Nationals Stadium, gay longtime Commissioner Bob Siegel, who represents SMD 6D07, is being challenged by urban design advocate David Garber, who says Siegel has not been aggressive enough in monitoring the rapidly changing area surrounding the new stadium.

Siegel disputes that claim, saying Garber has only been to one ANC 6D meeting in the three months he has lived in ANC 6D07. He says Garber doesn’t have the familiarity of the longtime residents in an area where new high-rise condominiums and upscale rental apartments are rapidly replacing the warehouses and auto repair garages that once dominated the neighborhood. Garber told the Blade he moved into the district in July but has familiarized himself with the important issues facing the neighborhood.

Siegel received a setback last month when popular Ward 6 Council member Tommy Wells endorsed Garber.

Congress created the ANCs in the early 1970s when it wrote and approved the city’s Home Rule Charter. In what was then considered a new means of advancing grassroots participatory democracy, the city’s congressional overseers designated 37 Advisory Neighborhood Commissions to represent neighborhoods throughout the city and subdivided them into 286 Single Member Districts.

Each district includes approximately 2,000 residents and is represented by a single commissioner elected to a two-year term. Commissioners are unpaid and their role is limited to advising the city government on a wide range of policy matters. The Home Rule Charter instructs city officials to give “great weight” to the recommendations of the ANCs.

In Ward 5, gay incumbent Barrie Daneker, who represents SMD 5C07 in the city’s Bloomingdale neighborhood, is facing a challenge from attorney James Fournier. Fournier states on his campaign website that Daneker didn’t adequately reach out to his constituents over a controversial liquor license application in the district and has not adequately handled a controversial proposal to develop the site of the city’s former water filtration plant near North Capital Street and Michigan Avenue.

Daneker said he has a two-term record of working closely with constituents and soliciting their views on a wide range of issues, including the water filtration site and the liquor license flap. He told members of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club Monday night his outspoken support for the city’s same-sex marriage equality law was controversial in a ward where many residents strongly opposed the law.

Ward 5 Council member Harry Thomas Jr., who angered many of his constituents by voting for the marriage bill, endorsed Daneker’s ANC re-election bid. Thomas won the Democratic nomination for his own seat by winning the primary in September by a comfortable margin despite organized opposition led by same-sex marriage opponents.

Daneker said some of that same opposition may be seeking to oust him from office in the ANC race.

Fournier could not be immediately reached.

In the Estrada-Talapatra race in Dupont Circle, Talapatra, who is straight, is being backed by gay civic activist and former Dupont Circle Civic Association President Joel Lawson.

Lawson and gay D.C. nightlife advocate Mark Lee have raised concerns in the past about Estrada’s tactics in opposing the liquor license of the Cada Vez restaurant, which hosted a weekly gay Latino dance party called Fuego. Estrada and others living near 15th and U St., N.W., where Cada Vez was located, complained that it appeared to be operating as a nightclub disguised as a restaurant, placing it in violation of the terms of its liquor license.

In an action that angered gay activists, Estrada and his domestic partner confronted the gay patrons of the Fuego dance party with video and still cameras, videotaping and photographing them as they entered and left the premises. Estrada said the action was needed to submit evidence to the city liquor board that Cada Vez was violating its liquor license by operating as a nightclub. But gay activists said the videotaping intimidated many Latino gays, some of whom feared they would be outed.

“Although Ramon is gay and I am a straight ally, I remain disturbed by the insensitivity Ramon’s demonstrated in sanctioning the videotaping of young LGBT patrons entering a club a couple years ago,” Talapatra told the Blade. “What home situations were those young kids returning to? Although businesses should abide by the conditions of their liquor licenses, of course, it is important not to embroil innocent patrons in any alleged dispute,” he said.

Another seven of the gay or lesbian ANC incumbents are facing opposition, but most are expected to win re-election to their respective seats.

Stein Club President Jeffrey Richardson said the club’s bylaws prevent it from endorsing ANC candidates because ANCs were created as non-partisan positions and the club doesn’t endorse non-Democrats. But Richardson said the club would send a list of the gay or “LGBT supportive” ANC candidates to its members to help them make “an informed decision” on which ANC candidates to support.

(Photo: Stein Club president Jeffrey Richardson; Blade file photo)

Following is a list the ANC candidates, both incumbents and challengers, who identified themselves as gay or lesbian to Stein Club members:

Juan Lopez, SMD 1B07, incumbent (South Columbia Heights)

Bill O’Field , SMD 1C02, (Kalorama Triangle)

Mike Feldstein, SMD 2B01, incumbent/unopposed (Dupont Circle)

Jack Jacobson, 2B04, incumbent/unopposed (Dupont Circle)

Victory Wexler, 2B05, incumbent/unopposed (Dupont Circle)

Mike Silverstein, 2B06, incumbent/unopposed (Dupont Circle)

Phil Carney, 2B07, incumbent/unopposed (Dupont Circle)

Ramon Estrada, 2B09, incumbent (Dupont Circle)

Alexander ‘Alex’ Padro, 2C01, incumbent/unopposed (Shaw)

Michael Benardo, 2F05, incumbent (Logan Circle)

Lee Brian Reba, 3C01, incumbent/unopposed (Woodley Park/Zoo)

Tom Smith, 3D02, incumbent/unopposed (Upper Northwest)

Bob Summersgill, 3F07, unopposed (North Cleveland Park/Van Ness)

Michael Yates, 4C01, incumbent/unopposed (Upper Northwest)

Joseph Martin, 4C09, incumbent/unopposed (Petworth)

Thalia Wiggins, 5B06, incumbent (Northeast)

Mary Lois Farmer-Allen, 5C06, incumbent (Northeast)

Barrie Daneker, 5C07, incumbent (Bloomingdale)

Neil Click, 6B08, incumbent (Capitol Hill)

Michael Patterson, 6B09, incumbent (Capitol Hill/Barney Circle)

Larry Frankel, 6B10 (RFK Stadium area)

Brian Cox, 6C05 (North Capitol Hill/H St., N.E. corridor)

Andy Litsky, 6D04, incumbent/unopposed (Southwest Waterfront)

Roger Moffatt, 6D05, incumbent (Southwest Waterfront)

Robert ‘Bob’ Siegel, 6D07, incumbent (Nationals Stadium area)

Zina Williams, 7B02, incumbent/unopposed (Naylor Rd., S.E. area)

Catherine Woods, 7C03, incumbent (Fitch Pl., N.E. area)

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District of Columbia

Four LGBTQ candidates running for delegate to Democratic National Convention from D.C.

Thirty-two candidates competing for 13 elected delegate positions in April 20 party caucus

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From left, candidates include John Fanning, Jimmie Williams, Monika Nemeth and David Meadows. (Photos courtesy of the D.C. Democratic Party)

Four LGBTQ Democratic Party activists are running for election as delegates from D.C. to the Democratic National Convention at an April 20 local Democratic Party caucus election in which all D.C. voters who are registered as Democrats will be eligible to vote.

The four LGBTQ candidates are among 32 candidates competing for just 13 elected delegate positions. D.C. will have a total of 51 delegates to the Democratic Convention, but the other 38 include elected officials and party leaders who are considered “automatic” or appointed delegates. The convention will be held in Chicago Aug. 19-23,

Under the delegate selection process put in place by the D.C. Democratic Party, six of the thirteen elected delegate positions will be elected by voters in a section of the city designated as District 1, which includes Wards 1,2, 6, and 8. The other seven elected delegates will be chosen by voters in District 2, which includes Wards 3, 4, 5, and 7.

The LGBTQ candidates include longtime gay Democratic activists David Meadows of Ward 6 and John Fanning of Ward 2 who are running in District 1. Transgender rights advocate and Democratic Party activist Monika Nemeth of Ward 3 and gay Democratic activist Jimmie Williams of Ward 7 are running in District  2.

All four of the LGBTQ candidates have been active members of the Capital Stonewall Democrats, one of D.C.’s largest LGBTQ political organizations. Nemeth and Meadows are past presidents of the organization. Williams has served as chair of the Ward 7 Democratic Committee and is a current member of the committee. Fanning has served as an elected member of the D.C. Democratic State Committee from Ward 2 and served as a delegate to the 2016 Democratic National Convention.

A total of 12 candidates are running in each of the two districts. Under party rules the highest six vote getters in District 1 and the highest 7 vote getters in District 2 will be declared the winners.

The Saturday, April 20 caucus election for the delegate candidates will take place at the Walter E. Washington D.C. Convention Center. An announcement by party officials says two voting sessions will take place, one from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and the other from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Aside from the elected delegates, two prominent D.C. LGBTQ Democratic leaders will be appointed as delegates to the 2024 Democratic National Convention in their role as members of the Democratic National Committee from D.C.

They are Claire Lucas, a highly acclaimed Democratic Party and LGBTQ rights advocate and party fundraiser; and Earl Fowlkes, one of the lead organizers of D.C.’s annual Black LGBTQ Pride celebration and former president of Capital Stonewall Democrats.

Lucas and Fowlkes and the four LGBTQ candidates running in the April 20 caucus election are committed to backing President Joe Biden as the Democratic nominee for re-election.

Statements from each of the candidates running for delegate in the April 20 caucus election, including the four LGBTQ candidates, can be accessed here: Candidates for Delegate | DC Democratic Party

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District of Columbia

HIPS D.C. launches ‘Harm Reduction’ vending machine program

LGBTQ supportive group says program aimed at ‘saving lives’ in response to overdose crisis

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HIPS official Alexandra Bradley, at right, provides information about the HIPS Harm Reduction Vending Machine at Whitman-Walker's Max Robinson Center as University of Maryland Professor Andrea Lopez, who is conducting a study of the vending machine program, stands beside a red syringe disposal bin that accompanies the vending machines. (Washington Blade photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.)

HIPS D.C., the LGBTQ supportive organization that provides support and services for drug users and sex workers, officially launched on April 5 a ‘Harm Reduction Vending Machine Pilot Program’ that it says will help save lives by providing free of charge harm reduction supplies for drug users in locations where there is a “higher than average” rate of overdose cases.

The announcement of the project was held outside the Whitman-Walker Health Max Robinson Center building at 1201 Sycamore Dr., S.E., next to where one of the first three HIPS vending machines is located.

Alexandra Bradley, HIPS’ Outreach and Community Engagement Manager, told a small gathering at the announcement event that among the supplies provided free of charge through the vending machines are naloxone, the life-saving nasal spray medication used to treat an opioid drug overdose; fentanyl test kits, syringes, and syringe wound care kits; drug snort kits, condoms, and other items, including  water bottles and snack food such as crackers and granola bars.

Bradley and other officials with HIPS and Whitman-Walker Health said they believe most people, when informed of the rationale behind the vending machines and other programs supporting drug users, will understand that the programs are not encouraging drug use.

“People will use drugs,” Bradley said. “We want them to use them safely,” she added, with the hope that they will seek support to get off drugs. “We can’t help anybody if they are dead. We want to keep people safe,” Bradley said.

A statement released by HIPS says the vending machine pilot program is being funded by a grant from the D.C. Department of Health. It says anyone can access the machines free of charge by contacting HIPS through a phone number posted on the machines – 202-779-0486 – to obtain a four-digit participant code “that they will then punch in to use the machines.” It says that as of April 5, 150 individuals had already registered and enrolled in the program.

Bradley pointed out that registration is not required to obtain naloxone supplies, which can be obtained through a code number posted on the machines. She said each of the three machines are also accompanied by a metal disposal receptacle for safely placing used syringes.

“These machines have been placed in areas where there are higher concentrations of overdose deaths and/or underserved areas with high levels of need for access to services and supplies,” the HIPS statement says.

In addition to the HIPS vending machine at the site of Whitman-Walker’s Max Robinson Center, the second HIPS vending machine is located at The Michelle Obama Southeast Center of Bread for the City at 1700 Marion Barry Avenue, S.E., and the third one is located at Bread for the City’s Shaw neighborhood facility at 1525 7th Street, N.W.

The announcement of the vending machine harm reduction project comes at a time when many in the D.C. LGBTQ community have mourned the loss of beloved local LGBTQ members from a drug overdose, including accidental drug overdoses caused by contamination of their preferred drug such as cocaine with fentanyl.

Also speaking at the announcement event was Andrea Lopez, an Associate Professor at the University of Maryland’s Department of Anthropology, which she said is partnering with HIPS to conduct a  study of the vending machine pilot program and its impact as a public health project and the public health benefits of vending machines as an “intervention” in support of those in need.

Others who spoke at the event and provided details of the vending machine project were Cyndee Clay, the HIPS Executive Director; Starr O’Leary, the HIPS Community Outreach Coordinator;  and Jona Tanguay, an official with Whitman-Walker Health.

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Maryland

Md. lawmakers pass several LGBTQ rights bills during 2024 session

Senate committee failed to vote on HIV decriminalization bill

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(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Maryland lawmakers passed a number of LGBTQ rights bills during this year’s legislative session that ended on Monday.

House Bill 1397, which would strengthened the state’s nondiscrimination law that includes sexual orientation and gender identity, passed on Monday. 

The Freedom to Read Act, which, among other things, would “protect local library personnel from dismissal or disciplinary action for doing their jobs, in accordance with prescribed standards,” passed in the Maryland Senate on April 5. 

The state Senate on April 4 passed House Bill 602, which would bolster Maryland’s employment discrimination law. The Maryland House of Delegates on the same day approved a measure that would make Maryland a sanctuary state for transgender people and their health care providers.

FreeState Justice Policy Advocate and Legal Impact Coordinator Camila Reynolds-Dominguez in a statement notes lawmakers also “affirmed Maryland’s commitment to the federal Equal Rights Amendment” and “created much needed oversight for Maryland’s prison system.” 

She noted lawmakers “defeated a myriad of anti-trans bills and harmful amendments” during this year’s legislative session. Reynolds-Dominguez also criticized the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee over its failure to vote on a bill that would repeal the criminalization of people with HIV.

“This legislative session was monumental for LGBTQIA+ Marylanders,” she said. “While we are extremely disappointed that the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee did not bring an HIV criminalization repeal law to a vote for the second year in a row, there is much else to celebrate.”

“It is too apparent from the harmful comments and misinformation we heard during legislative debates that there is still so much work that must be done to change certain legislators’ anti-LGBTQIA+ biases,” added Reynolds-Dominguez. “Nonetheless, we’re also celebrating the overwhelming majority of our elected officials who are wonderful and supportive allies in the fight to make Maryland an inclusive state where everyone has dignity and equal rights no matter who they are or who they love. We would like to thank all the advocates, allies and activists who helped us achieve so many victories this session — none of this would be possible without dozens of people’s hard work, tireless effort and unwavering dedication.”

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