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Council candidates compete for LGBT vote

Wooing crowds at Town, Nellie’s and Ziegfeld’s as low turnout expected next week



From left, Mara, Orange and Biddle. (Blade photos by Michael Key)

At least four of the nine candidates running in the April 26 special election for an at-large D.C. City Council seat are aggressively courting LGBT voters in a race that political observers say is highly unpredictable.

With special elections known for yielding a low voter turnout, LGBT voters could be the deciding force in the election if they coalesce behind one candidate, according to activists following the race.

Many of the city’s LGBT activists are supporting Democrat Sekou Biddle, a former Ward 4 school board member who won an interim appointment to the at-large Council seat in January. Biddle has expressed strong support for LGBT rights.

But Democrat Vincent Orange, a former Ward 5 Council member, and Republican Patrick Mara, a Ward 1 school board member, have surprised some LGBT activists by recruiting prominent LGBT supporters and by waging active campaigns targeting the LGBT community.

In the Ward 8 race for a vacant seat on the city’s Board of Education, veteran gay Democratic and Ward 8 civic activist Phil Pannell is leading a field of nine candidates in money raised and spent, according to a campaign finance report he filed on April 18, the last report to be filed before the April 26 election.

Pannell has been an outspoken advocate for LGBT rights, including same-sex marriage, in a ward where the majority black population is known to be more conservative on social issues. The Ward 8 Council member, former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, was one of just two of the city’s 13 Council members who voted against the same-sex marriage bill that the Council approved in December 2009.

“I’m running on a platform that supports the very best in public education for all of our youth, including LGBT youth,” Pannell said last month after receiving the endorsement of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s largest LGBT political organization.

He is the only gay candidate running in the April 26 election, which was called to fill two school board seats – one in Ward 8 and another in Ward 4 – in addition to the at-large Council seat.

His campaign finance report shows he has raised $21,307 as of April 18, with $17,225 coming from a personal loan he made to his campaign. The report shows Pannell spent $10,672 on campaign-related activities as of April 18.

Pannell’s closet rival in the money department is LGBT supportive D.C. home rule advocate Eugene Dewitt Kinlow, who raised $11,133 and spent $3,000 as of April 18. Pannell had $9,471 in cash on hand for the remaining week of the campaign, his finance report shows, compared to Kinlow, who had $7,633 in cash on hand.

The at-large Council seat became vacant after Democrat Kwame Brown, who held the seat, won election last year as D.C. Council Chair. The city’s Democratic State Committee appointed Biddle to fill the seat on an interim basis in January until a “permanent” Council member was chosen in the April special election.

Since the at-large Council seat held by Brown was scheduled to come up for election in 2012, the winner of the special election on April 26 must also stand for re-election in 2012.

Orange has raised more than $261,000 in campaign funds as of April 18, the last required campaign finance reporting period before the election. Biddle’s April 18 finance report shows he has raised just over $175,000 for his campaign, putting him in second place in money raised. Mara’s report shows him in third place in the money department, with $60,559 raised.

Many of the city’s political pundits believe Orange and Biddle are the frontrunners in the race, with Orange having the advantage in funds raised as well as an endorsement by the city’s influential municipal employees union. Biddle has been endorsed by Mayor Vincent Gray, City Council Chair Kwame Brown, and several other Council members, including gay Council member David Catania (I-At-Large).

Mara received the endorsement of the Washington Post, which billed him as a needed independent voice in a city government dominated by Democrats. The Post backing is expected to give his campaign a boost in Wards 2, 3 and 6, where voter turnout is often higher than in the other wards.

Orange came out against same-sex marriage when he ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2006. Earlier this year, he announced he had changed his position on the issue and now fully supports the right of gays and lesbians to marry under the city’s same-sex marriage law. He also pointed to what he called his long record of support on other LGBT issues during his tenure as a Ward 5 Council member.

Mara emerged as an early supporter of same-sex marriage when he ran unsuccessfully for a City Council seat in 2008. He has billed himself as a “fiscally responsible and socially progressive” Republican who strongly supports LGBT equality. He notes in his campaign literature that he was the only one of the nine candidates now running for the at-large seat who testified in favor of same-sex marriage when the same-sex marriage bill came up for a hearing before the City Council in 2009.

Biddle has said he spoke out in support of the same-sex marriage law when it was pending before the Council. He notes that he was an advocate for LGBT youth related issues during his tenure as a school board member.

Ward 1 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Bryan Weaver, a Democrat, has also spoken out in support of LGBT issues at candidate forums across the city. He, too, spoke out in support of the same-sex marriage law and backed an ANC resolution endorsing the proposed law as it was pending before the Council.

Biddle’s gay supporters, including leaders of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s largest LGBT political group that has endorsed Biddle, say they believe Biddle will capture the lion’s share of the LGBT vote. They acknowledge, though, that other candidates are challenging Biddle for the gay vote and could capture some of that vote.

Rick Rosendall, vice president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, said that similar to nearly all D.C. elections since the early1980s, virtually all candidates running for public office in the District express support for LGBT equality. According to Rosendall, D.C.’s LGBT community – unlike other cities and states – has the luxury of setting a higher standard for selecting candidates based on their knowledge, understanding and sophistication on specific LGBT and AIDS-related issues.

“It’s not a matter of just saying I support you,” he said. “It’s a matter of demonstrating an understanding of the issues and showing what they will do to address them.”

GLAA, a nonpartisan organization, has rated candidates on LGBT and AIDS-related issues, along with some broader issues, since the group was founded in 1971. Based on candidate responses to a questionnaire and their record on LGBT-related issues, the group assigns them a score ranging from +10, the highest possible rating, and -10, the lowest rating.

In the at-large Council race set to be decided on April 26, GLAA gave Biddle and Weaver a +5.5, the highest rating among the nine candidates in the race.

Mara and Statehood Green Party candidate Alan Page received a +4. Orange received a +3.5 and Joshua Lopez, a Ward 1 Democrat and aide to former Mayor Adrian Fenty, received a +2.5.

Each of the candidates expressed support for all of the LGBT issues and positions raised by GLAA on the group’s questionnaire, including strong support for the city law that legalized same-sex marriage.

The remaining three candidates in the at-large race – Democrats Tom Brown and Dorothy Douglas and independent Arkan Haile – did not return the GLAA questionnaire and had no record on LGBT issues known to GLAA, prompting the group to give the three a “0” rating.

In addition to Kinlow, four other candidates running against Pannell in the Ward 8 school board race expressed general support for LGBT rights and pledged to back policies supportive of LGBT youth attending the city’s public school system during a candidate forum sponsored by the Stein Club. The five are Sandra Williams, Tijwanna Phillips, Larry Pretlow II, and Cardell Shelton.

The other three candidates in the Ward 8 race – Trayon White, R. Joyce Scott and Anthony Muhammad – did not attend the Stein Club forum and have not publicly disclosed their positions on LGBT issues.

Biddle, Mara and Orange have been the most visible of the nine candidates running for the at-large seat in the LGBT community during the past two weeks. Biddle, among other things, hosted a “meet and greet” reception for the LGBT community at the gay nightclub Town last week.

With the assistance of Pannell, who is supporting him, Orange spent Saturday night, April 16, campaigning in several D.C. gay bars, including the Southwest D.C. nightclub Ziegfeld’s, where he spoke to the crowd. Another two Orange supporters, gay Democratic activists Barrie Daneker and Lee Brian Reba, organized an LGBT fundraiser for Orange scheduled for Thursday night at Nellie’s Sports Bar, a gay venue on U Street, N.W.

The Mara campaign, meanwhile, placed full-page ads promoting his campaign and outlining his support for LGBT issues in the Washington Blade during the past two weeks.

The April 26 special election is open to all registered D.C. voters of all party affiliations as well as to independent votes.



HME Consulting and Advocacy stands on frontline of LGBTQ policy

Heidi Ellis is a consultant who doesn’t take clients ‘not aligned with my mission’



‘Even though I am a private consultant … my work is very much mission driven,’ says Heidi Ellis. (Photo courtesy of Ellis)

September is here, which means Congress and the D.C. Council return from their August recess and life for consultant Heidi Ellis quickly gets busy. 

Her days are filled with negotiating with Council members, phone calls with clients, and policy planning for advocacy groups. The organizations she represents are looking to her to help them push policy and she hopes to guide them to victory. 

Ellis’s company, HME Consulting and Advocacy, came after years of working in the public and private sectors as a consultant. In 2019, Ellis decided to shift her focus to work that stood at the center of the intersections in which she lives. She sought to figure out how she could better serve her community as a Black queer Latino woman. Ellis recognized that there was a niche for mission-driven consulting in the District. 

“I was sought out and recruited by a lot of organizations that wanted me and I took a beat, because I was like ‘Do I want to go back into a machine where even if I do effect change, I have to answer to someone?’”she said, in reference to consulting agencies that were in pursuit of her talent. Ultimately, she decided against continuing her work under another company. “By doing what I do, I have much more flexibility for one to say ‘Yes’ but also to say ‘No’.”

Although Ellis has considered going back to working in the corporate space, she still loves the flexibility of being able to be nimble as a private consultant. 

Although Ellis doesn’t work entirely in the advocacy space, her consulting clients still align with her personal values. She joked that she differs strongly from the stereotypical money-driven D.C. consultant who sports Brooks Brothers suits on K Street. 

“Even though I am a private consultant … my work is very much mission driven,” she said. “I don’t take any clients that are not aligned with my mission.”

Her mission is simple, Ellis is “committed to elevating issues that sit at the nexus of education, mental health, LGBTQ+ individuals, and people of color.”

“The more marginalized you are, the more you suffer from the failures of policy and the gaps of service,” she said. 

As a consultant in the advocacy space, Ellis does the behind-the-scenes work for organizations to help correct these policy failures and close the gaps. Whether she is facilitating training for companies to better understand how to serve their LGBTQ communities, or she is on the frontline of education policy changes –– Ellis aims to only do work that she is passionate about.

She said that the balance of her combined passion and level-headedness help her to build trusting relationships with her clients and in the end, “Get stuff  done.”

Since starting her organization, some of her proudest work has been done with the DC LGBTQ+ Budget Coalition. The coalition is made up of more than 30 organizations that aim to advocate for investments and policy changes that affect LGBTQ lives. As a leader of this coalition, her services include policy support, facilitation, training, initiative development and organizational redesign. Since she began leading the coalition, they have raised more than $5 million of investments in LGBTQ programs.

Later this fall, she will work with the DC LGBTQ+ Budget Coalition along with the ANC Rainbow Caucus to convene the first LGBTQ+ Housing Summit from Nov. 29-30.

“The one thing we all recognize is that housing is the common denominator of every other social affliction facing LGBTQ communities,” she said.  

At the summit they will focus on the barriers within the current housing system and explore revitalized approaches to dealing with the current housing market. To pre-register for the event, visit the LGBTQ+ Housing Summit website.

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Comings & Goings

Former D.C. resident opens art gallery in San Francisco



Jonathan Carver Moore

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].

The Comings & Goings column also invites LGBTQ+ college students to share their successes with us. If you have been elected to a student government position, gotten an exciting internship, or are graduating and beginning your career with a great job, let us know so we can share your success.

Congratulations to Jonathan Carver Moore on opening his contemporary art gallery in San Francisco. The gallery specializes in working with emerging and established artists who are BIPOC, LGBTQ+ and women. As the only openly gay Black male-owned gallery in San Francisco, Moore is committed to amplifying the voices of the often-underrepresented artists through a Black queer lens. He said, “I want the gallery to be a place where the LGBTQ+ community and people of color walk inside and see themselves knowing that they belong. I want us to be able to collect work from and support underrepresented artists who are often overlooked, but add some much value to our culture.”

Moore is also the founder of ARTUCATED, a digital journal that helps share, spotlight, and educate people about marginalized artists. Previously he was director of Donor Relations, Partnerships & Programming Director with the Institute of Contemporary Art San Francisco. He was Communications Manager, Rosenberg Foundation; and Associate Director of Public Relations, Out & Equal, San Francisco Bay Area. 

Moore earned his bachelor’s in Sociology, Women’s Studies, from George Washington University in D.C.; and his master’s in Public Relations, Advertising and Applied Communications, also from George Washington University.

Congratulations also to Jim Bobick on having his paintings included in a permanent collection by Saks Fifth Avenue. He said, “I am thrilled Saks Fifth Avenue chose my art for its permanent collection. I have long been a customer of the store and an admirer of the fashion designers represented there. I am especially pleased to know my work is on public view in the Chevy Chase, Maryland store. Not only did I grow up in the area, for part of my education I attended art school nearby, where I had the good fortune of studying under the notable painter Allen Dester Carter of Washington, D.C., whose work is in the Smithsonian collection. My ties to the Washington area art scene and my love of Saks makes this professional moment especially important to me. I am grateful and honored the store chose my paintings for their collection.” 

He has had numerous exhibitions of his work, including: Gallery 101 Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (solo); Coral Springs Museum of Art, Coral Springs, Fla. (group); Studio B “Delicacies” Washington, D.C. (group); Columbia Art Center “Abstract Paintings” (solo); and Gallery 50 “Freestyle” (solo) Rehoboth Beach, Del. He has been written about in several publications including Michael Mills, Jim Bobick Creates Landscapes of the Mind at Gallery 101, New Times; Arterpillar South Florida Arts Blog; Stefan Braham, Eclectic Expressions, Coastal Style Magazine; Artist Looks Beyond the Temporal Beauty, Coast Press.

He earned his bachelor’s in Visual Arts, University of Maryland, College Park, Fine Art; and attended the Maryland College of Art and Design. 

Jim Bobick
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Arts & Entertainment

2023 Best of LGBTQ DC Readers’ Choice Award Finalist Voting

Vote for your favorite finalists through October 2nd!



It is time to celebrate the best of LGBTQ+ DC! You nominated and now we have our finalists. Vote for your favorites in our 2023 Best of LGBTQ DC categories through October 2nd. Our 2023 Best of LGBTQ DC will be announced at the Best of LGBTQ DC Awards Party on October 19th and our special issue will come out on Friday, October 20th.

Thank you to our sponsors: ABSOLUT, Heineken, PEPCO, Shakers, Infinite Legacy.



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