October 28, 2010 at 3:01 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Gay candidates poised for victory in local races

D.C.’s two gay Council members — David Catania (I-At-Large) and Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) — are considered strong favorites to win re-election, and the number of out gay or lesbian members of the Maryland Legislature is expected to increase from four to seven in Tuesday’s election.

In Virginia, most political observers expect Arlington’s lesbian school board member, Sally Baird, to win a second term on Tuesday in her role as the only out gay or lesbian candidate on the Virginia ballot this year.

“We feel really excited about increasing our numbers in the legislature, not only lesbian and gay members but other members who are supportive on our issues, including marriage equality,” said Morgan Meneses-Sheets, executive director of Equality Maryland, a statewide LGBT group.

Meneses-Sheets noted that the four lesbian or gay incumbent legislators and three challengers who won nomination in the Democratic primary on Sept. 14 are running in strong Democratic districts and are expected to win in the general election Tuesday.

One of the challengers, Mary Washington, is poised to become Maryland’s first out black lesbian to win election to the state legislature and just the second black lesbian to win a state legislature seat nationwide.

Lesbian Democrat Simone Bell became the first to capture that distinction last year when she won a seat in the Georgia House of Representatives from Atlanta.

The incumbent gay or lesbian lawmakers expected to win re-election to the Maryland Legislature on Tuesday include Sen. Richard Madaleno (District 18 in Montgomery County); Del. Maggie McIntosh (District 43 in Baltimore); Del. Heather Mizeur (District 20 in parts of Silver Spring and Takoma Park); and Del. Anne Kaiser (District 14 in parts of Silver Spring, Olney and Damascus). All four are Democrats.

The three Democratic challengers include Washington, who is running in the same House of Delegates District as McIntosh. Most districts in the Maryland Legislature include one senator and three delegate seats, with voters authorized to cast one vote for a senator and three votes for House of Delegates members.

The other challengers include gay Anne Arundel County Assistant State’s Attorney Luke Clippinger, who is running for a House of Delegates seat in District 46, which includes south and southeast Baltimore, including parts of Federal Hill, Fell’s Point and Patterson Park.

Lesbian teacher and National Education Association Foundation official Bonnie Cullison is running for a House of Delegates seat in District 19, which includes the Montgomery County jurisdictions of Gaithersburg, Aspen Hill, Wheaton and Olney.

Another gay challenger in Maryland, consultant Byron Macfarlane, is running for the state post of Register of Wills in Howard County. Macfarlane is a member of the Howard County Democratic Committee and is running against a Republican incumbent, Kay Hartleb. His prospects of winning are less certain, according to Howard County political observers.

In D.C., Catania and Graham have longstanding community ties to a broad constituency and are expected to beat their lesser-known incumbents. They also have strong records on LGBT rights, with Catania writing and Graham co-introducing the same-sex marriage law that the Council passed last December. The two have been endorsed by the Washington Post.

Both received +10 ratings from the Gay & Lesbian Activists Alliance, the group’s top rating on a scale ranging from -10 to +10.

Graham is being challenged by gay Republican activist Marc Morgan, who has expressed strong support for LGBT issues, including the city’s same-sex marriage equality law. Morgan received a +6.5 rating from GLAA.

Catania is running in a four-candidate race where two at-large seats are lumped together in the same contest under the city’s election law. Also running for re-election to one of the two seats is Council member Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large), who has a strong record in support of LGBT rights. Mendelson played a lead role in advancing the same-sex marriage law in his position as chair of the Council’s Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary.

The two are being challenged in the race by Statehood Green Party candidate David Schwartzman, who received a +6 GLAA rating, and independent candidate Richard Urban, who received a -3.5 GLAA rating score. Urban is a vocal opponent of same-sex marriage equality and is aligned with Bishop Harry Jackson and other gay rights opponents who favor a ballot measure calling for repeal of the same-sex marriage law.

City election rules allow voters to cast ballots for two candidates in the four-candidate race. The candidates with the highest two vote counts win the race.

The fourth out gay candidate running in D.C.’s general election this year is Republican Tim Day, an accountant who is challenging Council member Harry Thomas (D-Ward 5).

Day created a stir two weeks ago when he released records from the IRS and D.C.’s office of corporations showing that a constituent services group for which Thomas has raised money as a non-profit organization did not have an IRS tax exemption. Day also produced city records showing the group has lost its status as a D.C. corporation, prompting Day to accuse Thomas of operating a “fake organization” and a political “slush fund.”

Thomas denied the allegations, saying Day was seeking to turn the matter into a publicity stunt to help his flagging election campaign, where Thomas is considered the odds-on favorite to win. According to Thomas, he never promoted his Team Thomas/SwingAway charitable group as having an IRS non-profit status.

But the Washington Post, which has disagreed with Thomas’ positions on other issues, cited questions about the group as being among its reasons for endorsing Day for the Council seat.

“Mr. Day, an accountant with a record of community service, impresses us with his devotion to the ward and his pragmatic ideas about how to solve some of its more persistent problems,” the Post wrote in its endorsement. The Post endorsement didn’t identify Day as a gay candidate.

GLAA gave Day a +1.5 rating, saying he did not clearly show evidence of involvement in LGBT-related issues. The group noted it docked points from him after he stated on a GLAA candidate questionnaire that he supported an amendment by Council member Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7) seeking to weaken the same-sex marriage law by allowing businesses and non-religious organizations to refuse to provide services related to same-sex weddings if the businesses or groups had objections to gay unions.

Day told the Blade this week that he misinterpreted GLAA’s question about Alexander’s amendment, which lost in a committee vote. He said he would never support an effort to deny services to same-sex couples and should have stated in the questionnaire that he strongly opposed such an amendment.

Thomas voted for the same-sex marriage law and stated on his GLAA questionnaire response that he also opposed the Alexander amendment.

In other D.C. races, all of the remaining Democratic nominees, including mayoral candidate Vincent Gray, City Council Chair candidate Kwame Brown, and D.C. Congressional Del. Eleanor Homes Norton are considered strong favorites to win their respective races. All are supporters of LGBT rights and same-sex marriage equality.

In addition, the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club has identified at least 27 gay or lesbian candidates running for Advisory Neighborhood Commission seats. About half are running unopposed.

Those facing opponents include Ramon Estrada of ANC District 2B09 in Dupont Circle, who is being challenged by attorney and community activist Sunit Talapatra; and Bob Siegel of 6DO7 (Washington Nationals Stadium area), who faces a challenge by neighborhood newcomer and urban design specialist David Garber.

Go here to see the gay ANC candidates.

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

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