March 6, 2012 at 12:58 pm EST | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Gay delegate candidate finishes ahead of Barry, has highest vote count
Gregory Cendana, gay news, gay politics dc

Openly gay Gregory Cendana emerged as the top vote getter, Tuesday, in the District's selection of delegates to the Democratic National Convention. (Courtesy photo)

An openly gay labor official who emerged as a dark horse candidate finished ahead of D.C. Council member and former mayor Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) to capture the first-place position in the city’s March 3 Democratic caucus to select delegates to the Democratic National Convention.

Gregory Cendana, executive director of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, an arm of the AFL-CIO, received 187 votes compared to 138 votes for Barry among male candidates running in one of two districts created for electing convention delegates.

D.C. Democratic Party spokesperson Bill O’Field said party officials Monday night completed the final vote count for the caucus. An earlier count on Saturday showed Cendana ahead but by a closer margin.

Joining Cendana as winners for an Obama delegate position were lesbian Democratic activist Lateefah Williams, president of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s largest LGBT political organization; and Jeffrey Richardson, former Stein Club president and director of the Mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs.

The local Democratic Party divided the city into two voting districts for purposes of electing 13 delegates and one alternate delegate among the city’s registered Democrats. Under party rules, four male and three female delegate positions were allocated to District 1 along with one female alternate delegate slot.

In District 2, three male delegate positions and four female delegate positions were created. Eighty-nine people competed for the delegate and alternate positions.

In the District 1 male contest, Cendana finished first, with Barry coming in second. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) was in 3rd place, behind Barry, with 134 votes. Richardson came in 4th place with 108 votes.

Just behind Richardson in 5th place was David Meadows, a former Stein Club president and staff member for D.C. Council member Michael Brown (I-At-Large). Meadows, who received 105 votes, lost his bid for a delegate seat because only four male delegate slots were available in District 1.

In the District 1 female category, Williams, the current Stein Club president, finished in second place, with 115 votes, wining one of the three delegate positions available for women in the district by a comfortable margin. She finished 9 votes behind first-place winner Suisan Meehan.

Cendana’s strong showing and lead over both Barry and Evans has raised eyebrows among the city’s political establishment. Some local Democratic Party activists criticized Barry and Evans for running in the caucus, saying they should have allowed grassroots party activists to fill the delegate positions at the caucus.

The critics noted that more than a dozen additional delegates will be selected to represent D.C. at the Democratic Convention by the D.C. Democratic State Committee and by the Democratic National Committee in the coming months.

“Tonight’s results reflect the power of the grassroots,” Cendana said in a statement released on Saturday. “This kind of energy is what powered Barack Obama four years ago – we were inspired then, and we are inspired now as this small movement for big change continues.”

Although Cendana’s supporters say he was helped by votes from LGBT Democrats, they acknowledge that he benefited greatly by the city’s organized labor activists, who reportedly helped turn out the “labor” vote for him. But political insiders also credit Cendana with organizing a highly effective campaign for the delegate post.

Eight more LGBT candidates competing in the caucus for delegate positions finished further down in the vote totals and did not emerge as winners when the final tally was completed.

Here are their names and vote totals:

District 1:

Alexander Padro—70 votes

Adam Bink—35 votes

Kevin Scott Carroll—10 votes

Jonathan Degner—5 votes

District 2:

Alexandra Beninda—82 votes

Sterling Washington—23 votes

Aadit Dubale—4 votes

Phillip Skillman—3 votes

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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