April 4, 2012 at 7:39 am EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Biddle wins ‘gay’ precincts, trails Orange in close race

Sekou Biddle meets with supporters in an election after party at D.C. Reynolds. (Blade photo by Michael Key)

Challenger Sekou Biddle beat incumbent D.C. Council member Vincent Orange in 12 of 14 voter precincts considered to have high concentrations of LGBT residents but was trailing Orange by 523 votes in a hotly contested at-large Council race considered too close to call Tuesday night.

Orange was leading with 39.8 percent of the vote compared to Biddle’s 38.8 percent in a Democratic primary election in which only 15.5 percent of registered Democrats turned out to vote.

Democratic contenders Peter Shapiro and E. Gail Anderson Holness received 10.5 percent and 7.3 percent respectively. Some of Biddle’s supporters in the LGBT community called the two “spoilers” for taking away votes that likely would have gone to Biddle and enabled him to win the race.

Officials with the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics said the final outcome of the race was not expected to be known until absentee and provisional ballots are counted on April 13.

Holness, while expressing general support on LGBT-related issues, alienated many of the city’s LGBT activists by calling for the city’s same-sex marriage law to go before voters in a referendum.

Biddle had the support of the largest number of LGBT activists, with Orange and Shapiro also lining up support in the LGBT community.

The Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s largest LGBT political group, did not endorse a candidate in the at-large race because club members were divided in their support between Biddle, Orange and Shapiro and none of the candidates could obtain a required 60 percent of the vote from the club’s membership to secure an endorsement.

Another four Council members running in the primary, including two who voted against the same-sex marriage law in 2009, easily won their races, enabling them to advance to the general election in November.

On the Republican side of the primary, gay Republican activist Robert Kabel, the current chair of the D.C. Republican Party, beat challenger Jordan Gehrke for the post of National Republican Committeeman.

Kabel, who couldn’t seek another term as party chair due to a term limit rule, will continue his tenure as a member of the Republican National Committee in his new role as committeeman. As chair of the D.C. Republican Party, Kabel also served on the RNC.

Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), one of the Council’s strongest supporters of LGBT rights, ran unopposed in Tuesday’s Democratic primary. Council member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), another strong supporter on LGBT issues, captured 65.4 percent of the vote in her primary contest against five challengers.

Council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8), who voted against the same-sex marriage law, captured 72.6 percent of the vote, trouncing four opponents who received a combined vote of 27 percent

In the Ward 7 Council race, incumbent Democrat Yvette Alexander, who also voted against the same-sex marriage law, won the primary with 42 percent of the vote. She ran against five challengers who split the remaining 58 percent of the Ward 7 Democratic vote.

The Stein Club endorsed challenger Tom Brown in the Ward 7 race, who received 22.5 percent of the vote. Club President Lateefah Williams was among the LGBT activists expressing concern that Alexander would clearly benefit from a divided opposition vote.

In other races, D.C. Congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat, ran unopposed in the primary. Incumbent D.C. shadow senator Michael D. Brown beat challenger Pete Ross by a margin of 58.5 percent to 25.1 percent.

Nate Bennett-Fleming (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Nate Bennett-Fleming, who received the Stein Club endorsement, ran unopposed for the shadow House seat. The so-called shadow posts were created by the city as unpaid advocates for D.C. statehood and voting rights in Congress.

On the Republican side of the primary, LGBT supportive candidate Ron Moten beat challenger Don Folden Sr. by a margin of 57.5 percent to 24.5 percent, capturing the GOP nomination in Ward 7. Moten received the endorsement of the D.C. Log Cabin Republicans, as did Kabel.

Moten has said he plans to wage a vigorous campaign against Alexander in the November general election.

But Alexander, along with all other Democrats running for Council seats, is considered the odds-on favorite to win in the general election in a city where registered Democrats far outnumber Republicans.

In the Statehood-Green Party primary, Ann Wilcox, an attorney who has represented the LGBT direct action group Get Equal, beat challenger G. Lee Aikin in the at-large Council race. Wilcox will run against either Orange or Biddle in the general election.

Statehood-Green candidate Natale Lino Stracuzzi ran unopposed for her party’s nomination for the congressional delegate seat, emerging as the only challenger to Norton in the November general election.

In the voter precincts considered to have large numbers of LGBT voters, Biddle beat Orange by lopsided margins in Precincts 14 and 15 (Dupont Circle); 16 and 17 (Logan Circle); 23 and 36 (Columbia Heights); 22 (U Street, N.W. corridor); 89 and 90 (Capitol Hill); 24 and 25 (Adams Morgan); and 127 (Southwest Waterfront).

Orange beat Biddle in Precinct 18 (Shaw) by a 190 to 130 vote margin. He also beat Biddle in Precinct 112 (Anacostia) by a margin of 236 votes to 57 votes. The two precincts, which are in majority black neighborhoods, are believed to have a large concentration of black LGBT voters.

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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