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Orange wins race for at-large Council seat

Mara, Weaver capture ‘gay’ precincts



Vincent Orange (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Democrat Vincent Orange won the race for an at-large D.C. Council seat in the city’s special election on Tuesday, defeating eight rivals, including interim Democratic Council member Sekou Biddle, who received the backing of most LGBT leaders.

In a development that suggests rank-and-file LGBT voters may have rejected the advice of gay leaders, Biddle lost by lopsided margins to pro-gay Republican Patrick Mara in seven of the city’s 14 precincts identified as having high concentrations of LGBT residents.

Pro-gay Democratic candidate Bryan Weaver trounced Biddle in another five of those precincts in neighborhoods in Ward 1, which is Weaver’s home base. Orange won in the remaining two precincts —  in Anacostia and the Southwest Waterfront — which are believed to have a significant number of black LGBT residents.

Gay activist Bob Summersgill, a former president of the Gay & Lesbian Activists Alliance, said the small voter turnout in the election of slightly more than 12 percent of the city’s registered voters makes it difficult to draw conclusions about the LGBT vote.

“With a dismally low turnout, I don’t think there was a gay bloc of voters,” he said. “Most of the candidates were lackluster on our issues and were closely grouped in the mediocre range.”

Summersgill was referring to GLAA’s ratings of the candidates.

Robert Turner, president of Log Cabin Republicans of D.C., which endorsed Mara, disagreed with Summersgill’s assessment. He said Mara’s strong showing in precincts with high concentrations of LGBT residents show that they are not permanently tied to Democratic candidates.

“When presented with a viable alternative, our community is not monolithic,” he said.

Final but unofficial returns released Tuesday night by the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics show Orange receiving 28 percent of the vote. Mara came in second with 26 percent. Biddle came in third with 20 percent, with Weaver coming in fourth place with 13 percent.

Democrat Joshua Lopez, who also expressed strong support on LGBT issues, received 7 percent. The remaining four candidates — Democrats Tom Brown and Dorothy Douglas; Statehood Green Party candidate Alan Page; and independent Arkan Haile — received a combined total of less than 5 percent.

Orange, who came out against same-sex marriage when he ran for mayor in 2006, reversed his position on the issue last year, saying he now supports the city’s marriage equality law. He pointed to what he called his strong pro-LGBT record during his tenure as a Ward 5 Council member from 1997 to 2007 on LGBT issues other than marriage equality.

In the weeks leading up to the election, Orange campaigned in many of the city’s gay bars. He received applause when he spoke earlier this month to a crowd attending a drag show at the Southwest gay nightclub Ziegfeld’s. Last week he hosted a meet-and-greet reception at the gay sports bar Nellie’s on U Street, N.W.

A number of LGBT activists backed his candidacy, including veteran gay Democratic and Ward 8 civic activist Phil Pannell, who was trailing in his own race on Tuesday for a Ward 8 school board seat.

Biddle received the endorsement of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s largest LGBT political group, and was backed by most of the city’s prominent LGBT activist leaders. He spoke out in support of LGBT-related issues in the city’s public schools during his tenure as a Ward 4 school board member.

He also received endorsements from Mayor Vincent Gray, Council Chair Kwame Brown, and seven other Council members, including gay Council member David Catania (I-At-Large).

Some political observers said Biddle, who had the reputation of a good-government reformist and progressive candidate, suffered when Gray and Brown came under scrutiny over allegations of cronyism and abuse of government perks.

Gray became embroiled over allegations that a few of his high-level appointees hired family members to high-paying city jobs and that one of his top officials hired a former mayoral candidate to a high paying city job as a quid pro quo for helping Gray in the mayoral race.

Brown came under criticism for arranging for the city to purchase two “fully loaded” Lincoln SUVs for his use as Council chair. He later announced he would seek to return the vehicles after expressions of outrage poured in from constituents and media commentators.

With that as a backdrop, many voters – both gay and straight – may have perceived Biddle as the candidate of the entrenched political establishment at a time when city residents were becoming impatient with “business as usual” by city government leaders, according to City Hall observers.

In January, the D.C. Democratic State Committee voted to appoint Biddle as the interim at-large Council member to temporarily hold the seat vacated by Democrat Kwame Brown, who won election last November as Council chair.

Lateefah Williams, president of the Stein Club, said she doesn’t believe “rank and file” LGBT voters rejected the recommendations of the LGBT activist leaders who backed Biddle.

“The turnout in this election was too low to use it as a barometer to assess the impact of the endorsement of LGBT activists, including the Stein Club,” she said. “In the last Democratic primary, which for D.C.’s purposes is the election, eight of the nine Stein-endorsed candidates prevailed. So that indicates that the unique circumstances surrounding this race had a huge impact on the results.”

Like other activists commenting on Tuesday’s election, Williams said Biddle most likely was “a casualty of the prevailing sentiment against many of our locally elected officials.”

Biddle, Orange, Weaver and Mara each spoke out in support of LGBT and AIDS-related issues during the campaign. So did most of the other five candidates in the race; no one spoke against LGBT rights.

Similar to the city’s Democratic primary election last year in which Gray defeated former Mayor Adrian Fenty, voters in Tuesday’s special D.C. Council election appear to have divided along racial lines.

Mara, who is white, won by a significant margin in the majority white Wards 2, 3 and 6. Weaver, who is also white, won by a large margin in Ward 1, in which whites have a slight majority.

Orange, who is black, won by lopsided margins in majority black Wards 4, 5, 7, and 8.

All but one of the LGBT-oriented precincts are in majority white Wards 1, 2 and 6. Activists familiar with demographic trends in the city’s LGBT community point out that black LGBT residents tend to be dispersed throughout the city as well as within the majority black wards, making it difficult to accurately determine how they vote.

Precinct 112 in Anacostia is believed to have a high concentration of black gays living in various high-rise apartment buildings. Precinct 127, located in the Southwest Waterfront neighborhood, is believed to have a significant number of black LGBT professionals, many of whom reportedly work in nearby federal government offices.

Orange won Precinct 112 with 58 percent of the vote, with Biddle coming in second with just 17 percent. Mara received 4 percent and Weaver received 2 percent.

The vote breakdown in Precinct 127 was closer, with Orange winning with 31 percent and Biddle finishing second with 27 percent. Mara finished third in the precinct with 21 percent and Weaver received 10 percent.

Following is the vote breakdown of the leading four candidates in the race in other precincts with high concentrations of LGBT residents. Percentages are rounded:

• Precinct 14 (Dupont Circle): Mara, 50 percent; Weaver, 21 percent; Biddle, 18 percent; Orange, 4 percent.

• Precinct 15 (Dupont Circle): Mara, 39 percent; Weaver 25 percent; 21 percent; Orange, 5 percent.

• Precinct 16 (Logan Circle): Mara, 46 percent; Weaver 18 percent; Biddle, 14 percent; Orange, 8 percent.

• Precinct 17 (Logan Circle): Mara, 41 percent; Biddle, 19 percent; Weaver, 18 percent; Orange, 13 percent.

• Precinct 18 (Shaw): Mara, 25 percent (94 votes); Orange, 25 percent (91 votes); Weaver, 23 percent; Biddle, 16 percent.

• Precinct 22 (14th and U Street, N.W. corridor): Weaver, 33 percent; Mara, 32 percent; Biddle, 19 percent; Orange, 10 percent.

• Precinct 23 (U Street-Columbia Heights): Weaver, 35 percent; Mara, 20 percent; Biddle, 15 percent; Orange, 12 percent.

• Precinct 24 (Adams Morgan): Weaver, 43 percent; Mara, 21 percent; Biddle, 17 percent; Orange, 11 percent.

• Precinct 25 (Adams Morgan): Weaver, 41 percent; Mara, 33 percent; Biddle, 15 percent; Orange, 4 percent.

• Precinct 36 (Columbia Heights): Weaver, 36 percent; Mara, 18 percent (69 votes); Orange, 18 percent (69 votes); Biddle, 14 percent.

• Precinct 89 (Capitol Hill): Mara, 55 percent; Biddle, 16 percent (104 votes); Weaver, 16 percent, 103 votes); Lopez, 7 percent; Orange, 4 percent.

• Precinct 90 (Capitol Hill): Mara, 45 percent; Lopez, 18 percent (55 votes); Weaver, 18 percent (53 votes); Biddle, 14 percent; Orange, 5 percent.

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  1. Tom

    April 27, 2011 at 8:57 am

    Thank you, Lou, for pointing out that our community strongly contributed to Mara’s near-win over Orange. It is apparent to this “rank-and-file” gay voter that our “leaders” have little influence or sway inside the community anymore and are largely party hacks.

  2. Peter Rosenstein

    April 27, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    Lou thanks for the good column. What it does show is that endorsements without a lot shoeleather behind them don’t guarentee a candidate a win. Unfortunately for Sekou Biddle there wasn’t much work done for him by some who endorsed him, both activists and politicians, and to make matters worse the Biddle campaign turned down some offers of help as well.

    I for one congratulate Patrick Mara for how well he did. Patrick is a good campaigner. The LGBT community will now have to work closely with Vincent Orange to be sure that he keeps his promises of support to the community in the long run.

  3. Frankie James

    April 27, 2011 at 2:09 pm

    It also shows we are not so easily lead by the “leaders.”

    Get out in the streets – gay voting clubs – and talk to the people.

    Your endorsement was wrong.

  4. Rick Rosendall

    April 27, 2011 at 4:33 pm

    The embarrasingly low turnout says much more about voter indifference, and the generally lackluster choices, than it does about a rejection of the views of political groups. Peter was right that Biddle’s GOTV effort was dismal. Orange’s seat will be up in 2012, and the results based on 12 percent of voters showing up will scare away nobody. As for Patrick Mara, good for him for doing as well as he did, but it’s unlikely he’ll have another chance as golden as this special election was. Unlike former Republican councilmember Carol Schwartz, Patrick has done little to separate himself from the national GOP. To make matters worse, the DC GOP made nutjob Florida Congressman Allen West the keynoter for its annual dinner–as if they were channeling the Illinois GOP’s 2004 decision to nominate Alan Keyes for the Senate. I would love to see a more serious effort to elect someone from a minority party, rather than just have Democrats pretending to be Independents. David Catania, of course, is no Democrat. He was Republican before he was effectively driven out of the party. Next year, the Democratic nominee is going to be elected to the Council seat. As for now, Orange’s first act as councilmember-elect was to complain about the small office space he will inherit from Biddle. Well, next year he won’t be able to run as an anti-incumbent.

  5. StanJames

    April 27, 2011 at 7:21 pm

    AS long as he is and stays pro gay, I’m not going to be involved. Can you immagien that monstrosity Jackson winning? the worst of the worst of homophobes, who make a fabulous living preaching hate. almost certainly he’s no different then ted haggard, and all the others

  6. Robert Turner

    April 27, 2011 at 9:58 pm

    Lou, to echo Peter’s comment, thanks for the great article. It was a good assessment of the election.

    Rick, you seem to be stuck on stupid. Mara was not running on a national platform. He has always indicated that he was socially moderate. Demanding that he justify the Paul Ryan budget or a particular tax break or piece of Congressional legislation is counter-productive.

    And for the record, Mara’s obvious commitment to local LGBT issues is in stark contrast with the national party. As I’ve said on these pages and others, he was the only candidate in the race who testified in favor of bringing marriage equality to the District. Where was your candidate?

  7. chris

    April 28, 2011 at 3:33 am

    Actually it looked the way it was excpected. Most whites went for Mara regardless of him being a republican and African Americans went for Orange with the rest getting the “IN BETWEENS” if you will. It look like it was along racial lines as usual.

  8. Rick Rosendall

    April 29, 2011 at 3:08 pm

    Mr. Turner, if you are going to hurl insults, you should find something more plausible than “stupid.” I am used to attacks from partisans who reflexively treat any criticism of their candidate as proof that the critic is a standard party hack himself; there is a good deal of evidence, however, that I personally and GLAA organizationally are not in that category. I voted for Biddle as an alternative to Orange, whom I criticized on GLAA’s blog even after his victory (something you seldom see from party hacks), but my fairly blistering criticism of Biddle’s recent letter to Sen. Harry Reid on school vouchers hardly squares with the notion that I viewed him with rose-colored glasses:
    Patrick Mara is a pleasant and energetic fellow who reached out constructively to me after earnting a mediocre rating from GLAA, instead of attacking as the Republican Ward 5 Council candidate did last year. So I give him credit for that. But I would like to see him show more independence from the national party. For example, Mara (like some Democrats including Kwame Brown) supports the congressional imposition of vouchers on the District. That’s not the same as supporting vouchers but respecting the local government’s decision against them. And I didn’t see him criticizing Congress for interfering with the District’s choices on how to spend its local tax dollars, or criticizing the DC GOP for inviting right-wing nutjob Rep. Allen West as keynoter for its annual dinner. When Patrick defeated Carol Schwartz in 2008, one of the big issues in that primary was Carol’s support for a bill guaranteeing a few days of sick leave for workers. Unforgiveable heresy! Please.

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Real Estate

Investing in real estate: What you need to know

From REITs to flips, tips for getting started



In many cases, buying or selling a home is a very personal experience. Many people buy a home with the intention of living there – making memories, building a family, becoming part of a community. The same is true of sellers. Selling a home, in many cases, is simultaneously difficult and exciting – it means the ending of one chapter and the beginning of another. While the majority of buying and selling experiences may be personal – increasingly, others in the market are interested in real estate not just to find a home, but also to make a great investment.

In our current market, it’s easy to see why real estate can often end up being quite a profitable investment. In 2021, sellers often saw huge profits on the sale of real estate – but even in years where profits aren’t quite as significant as this year, real estate has often proven to be a sound and reliable long-term investment strategy. Real estate investments can add diversification to your portfolio, and a very successful venture, particularly if you buy and sell when the circumstances are right.

Over the last several years, many gay neighborhoods around the country have shown steady appreciation, leading investors, and particularly LGBTQ investors, to consider whether the time is right to consider adding real estate to their investment portfolio. For those considering real estate as an investment strategy, here are a few helpful tips:

• Consider REITs: For those just getting started with real estate investment, Real Estate Investment Trusts, or “REITs” for short, might be a good option. These provide the opportunity to invest in real estate without owning the physical real estate yourself. They are often compared to mutual funds, and you invest in a company, a REIT, which owns commercial real estate like office buildings, apartments, hotels, and retail spaces. Generally, REITs pay high dividends, which make them a popular investment in retirement, as well as for investors not wanting to own one particular piece of property.

• Consider investing in rental properties: Rental income can often be a steady, reliable source of income if you do your due diligence researching the property itself, the surrounding neighborhood, and the potential community of renters. While maintaining a rental property will certainly require some investment of time and energy on your part, it can be a profitable long-term investment and one that is appealing to many people.

• Put your skills to work: If you have a skill set that includes being able to renovate and upgrade homes – or if you know a trusted person or team of people who does, flipping a home that could use some renovation can be quite a profitable investment indeed. Getting a home that could use some extra TLC at a good price and updating it can result in a sales price that is significantly higher than the purchase price. This can certainly be a very good investment – and a fulfilling project too.

• Be willing to listen and learn: When trying something new, it is almost always helpful to talk to those with experience in that area. Investing in real estate is no different. Having a mentor who can give you some tips and advice from their own experience is invaluable.

• Get to know the neighborhood: When making any real estate decision, whether you’re going to live in a home yourself or purchase property for investment purposes, knowing the neighborhood and community you’re interested in is important. A key part of that will be finding a real estate agent who knows and loves the community that you’re interested in, and who understands the market in that area. This can make all the difference between a smooth and successful process, and a stressful one.

(At, we are dedicated to our mission of connecting LGBTQ home buyers and sellers with talented, knowledgeable, and experienced real estate agents across the country who can help them to achieve their real estate goals. Whether you’re interested in buying or selling a home that you live in personally, or buying and selling for investment purposes, we can connect you with an agent who knows and loves the community, and who can help you achieve your goals. Contact us at any time. We look forward to helping you soon.)

Jeff Hammerberg is founding CEO of Hammerberg & Associates, Inc. Reach him at
303-378-5526 or [email protected].

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Bistro du Jour transports you from Wharf to Seine

New casually sophisticated restaurant a welcoming, inclusive space



The owners of Bistro du Jour say, ‘Our restaurants are intended to be welcoming to all guests of all backgrounds, beliefs and demographics.’ (Photo by Rey Lopez courtesy Bistro du Jour)

Delights run morning to night at The Wharf’s new Bistro du Jour, a casually sophisticated French outpost sliding into a prime waterfront space.

Courtesy of gay-owned KNEAD Hospitality + Design, this new restaurant flaunts a menu born from a Seine-side bistro, serving coffee in the morning hours to Champagne in the evening. Its all-day culinary oeuvre begins with coffee (from La Colombe) and omelettes, and ends with items like a towering and meaty bi-patty cheeseburger L’Americain.

Taking over the sweet spot vacated by Dolcezza, Bistro du Jour is a sister to Mi Vida and The Grill, KNEAD group’s two other Southwest waterfront locales. The group also runs several other formal and large-format restaurants they have populated across the city.

Why bring French to the Wharf?

“We have been here for almost four years and we knew what the area was missing and acted on it,” says one of the co-owners, Jason Berry. “We wanted something where people could come in at all hours of the day and find something they wanted, from coffee and pastry to a full-on sit down at night.”

The Bistro opens at 7:30 a.m. serving that local La Colombe coffee, plus flaky, buttery pastries from KNEAD’s partner Mah-Ze-Dahr Bakery. Breakfast service starts at 8 a.m. with brioche doughnuts, quiches, a “massive” Belgian waffle, and French toast topped with a blueberry compote and sweetened whipped cream.

Executive Chef Treveen Dove – transferred after three years at another KNEAD spot, Succotash Prime) – oversees the offerings, a tour of the “greatest hits” of a typical Parisian bistro.

“Oeufs Sur Le Plat is to die for, with the griddled buttered bread topped with a sunny side up egg, sautéed mushrooms and a Mornay sauce… It’s so rich and delicious.”

By 11 a.m., the Bistro transitions to other traditional French fare, like French onion soup, tuna Niçoise salad, steak frites, mussels in a white wine and garlic butter, and a croque madame sandwich dripping with gruyere and creamy Bechamel. One unique offering is whipped brown butter with radishes and crostinis. There are also gougeres, warm cheese puffs shot through with gruyere.

Come 4 p.m., the dinner menu fills out even more, with additional dinner items confit de canard (duck leg with green lentils and red wine shallots); and a robust, earthy coq au vin (braised chicken with bacon, mushrooms and mashed potatoes); and a lamb shepherd’s pie with mashed potatoes that would be at home on a French Alps farm.

Due to space limitations, the Bistro lacks a sit-down bar. Yet beverage director Darlin Kulla, who has been a part of the KNEAD family for more than four years, has put together a focused menu of six craft cocktails. You’ll find not only a French 75 (gin, lemon verbena, lemon, bubbles), but also a Manhattan and a “Champs Elysees” with cognac, chartreuse, lemon, and bitters.

The bar itself carries only one brand of each liquor: one gin, rum, and vodka. “ If you want vodka, you’re having Grey Goose,” notes Reg with a smile.

Given the cuisine, there is a considerable French wine list topping 60 bottles, leaning heavily on Champagne and sparkling wine. There are almost 20 red, white, rose, and Champagne options by the glass and carafe, as well. The bar rounds out its stock with French aperitifs and bottled beer.

Notably, the majority of the restaurant’s seating is situated on the building’s exterior, in a newly constructed all-season patio enclosure with almost 70 seats. The owners designed the space to maximize waterfront views, capacity, and flexibility. During warmer days, the Potomac breeze is welcome to flutter around coffee-sippers; in the colder months, the windows roll down for a fully enclosed and conditioned space. The patio’s banquettes arrived directly from France, and twinkling strung lights sway from the ceiling.

The interior is done up in Mediterranean greens, pinks, and creams. Big windows welcome in daytime natural light, but allow for a dim, mood-lit atmosphere in the evening. Traditional bentwood bistro chairs dot the space and antique-style tin tiles reflect a classic Parisian flair. Over at the bar, the glassware display was created from a single panel of antiqued brass. At the rear, a daytime counter offers coffee, pastries, and drinks.

As Bistro du Jour’s owners are both gay men, they note that, “Our restaurants are intended to be welcoming to all guests of all backgrounds, beliefs and demographics. We cater to everyone, which is the only way to lead a hospitality organization.”

“When you’re part of a minority group in society,” they say, “the only way to lead your restaurants is as inclusive, welcoming, and hospitable leaders.”

Though smaller than their other ventures, a French bistro right on the teeming, pedestrian-heavy Wharf “was the perfect fit,” they say. 

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Real Estate

Dining without a dining room

Today’s hosts are likely more casual than in the past



The large formal dining room is a thing of the past. Here are some tips for a more modest Thanksgiving set up.

With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, you may be thinking about gathering your loved ones and kindred spirits to celebrate the positive things in your life, praise your higher power, pay homage to indigenous people, or just stuff your face and fall asleep in front of the television at the traditional Thanksgiving after-party: the football game.

Thinking back to my childhood, I remember the wonderful smells coming from the kitchen. The elegant table in the formal dining room was adorned with a crisp, white tablecloth, “the good china,” sterling silver place settings, a variety of serving dishes for the forthcoming bounty, and a cornucopia centerpiece containing dried fruits and vegetables.

My dad, Ozzie, would carve the turkey and my mom, Harriet, would bring out the pecan and mincemeat pies for dessert…wait a minute…did I really grow up in a 1950s sitcom? Yup, I did, although Ozzie was Don and Harriet was Grayce.

Sometimes we would visit my maternal grandparents in Maine, whose formal dining room was less so – an extended part of the living room in the 1940s version of an open floor plan in their three-bedroom apartment over the general store and gas station that my grandfather owned.

On occasion, we would go to Massachusetts to spend a day or two with my paternal grandmother and her extended clan. There was nothing “formal” about the dining room there. Dinner took place on a litany of card tables set up on the jalousied porch off the kitchen.

When dinner was over, my grandmother would rise from the head of the table and declare, “I made the dinner. Now you do the dishes.” My father and his sisters would scurry like baby chicks to adhere to her demand.

As I grew older, I rarely lived near family. Every so often, I would be invited to dinner as the obligatory guest – the girlfriend of whatever young man I was seeing at the time. Later, I would become part of the restaurant holiday dining crowd.

For several years, I had a standing date with a good friend for dinner and a movie on Thanksgiving Day. We would choose restaurants that advertised dishes like Lobster Thermador, Champagne Ravioli, or Boeuf Bourguignon, but would invariably select the traditional turkey dinner with dressing and all the trimmings from the prix fixe menu.

Fast-forward to 2020 and we may not have gathered at all, content to have Whole Foods or Door Dash deliver Thanksgiving dinner to be eaten in front of the television while watching Hallmark movies.

Now here we are. The formal dining room has gone the way of the good china and the sterling silver. For most of us, they are simply not necessities in our lives any longer. So how do you host a dinner party when there is no room specifically designated for dining?

First, you don’t need to purchase things you have no room to store later. Although “rent” can be a four-letter word to a real estate agent, a party rental company’s website allows you to select items online and have them delivered and removed at a fraction of the cost.

Are you trying to seat a large group for dinner? Let’s start with the premise that all your guests do not need to be at a banquet table. Consider having several tables for two or four placed around the room. It will give you the ambiance of your favorite bistro and still allow for conversation among your guests.

You can also rent folding chairs, linens, place settings, and stemware. Once your order arrives, just set the tables and add candles or your favorite centerpieces to complete a festive look.

If you have no room for a seated event, you can order standing cocktail tables. Your breakfast bar or kitchen counter will make a perfect buffet line.

Better yet, have an open house, inviting guests at slightly different times so you see everyone without feeling like you’re in the middle of a crowded concert.

Is your style even more casual? Rather than worrying about recycling plastic cups and sporks, pick up a bunch of Oftast dinner or dessert plates for 79 cents each at Ikea. Add a 6-pack of Svalka wine glasses and cutlery service for four from the Mopsig collection for $5 each. Pull out some pillows and eat while sitting cross-legged on the floor surrounded by family and friends.

Some of us may have trouble getting back up, but we’ll be in perfect position to fall asleep during the football game.

Valerie M. Blake is a licensed Associate Broker in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia with RLAH Real Estate. Call or text her at 202-246-8602, email her via, or follow her on Facebook at TheRealst8ofAffairs.

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