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Gay candidate elected president of D.C. Young Democrats

Toby Quaranta ran as outsider against ‘inbreeding, conflicts of interest’

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Toby Quaranta, gay news, gay politics dc

Openly gay Democratic activist Toby Quaranta — former field organizer for the Human Rights Campaign — beat Brandon Todd to become President of the DC Young Democrats by a vote of 80 to 54. (Courtesy photo)

Running as an insurgent against an opponent who was part of a nine-candidate slate, gay Democratic activist Toby Quaranta won election on Saturday, May 5, as president of the Young Democrats of the District of Columbia.

Quaranta, 28, is an account executive with a company that provides election related services to Democratic members of Congress and former field organizer for the Human Rights Campaign. He beat Brandon Todd by a vote of 80 to 54.

Todd is operations managers for the re-election campaign of D.C. Council member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) and a former member of Bowser’s Council staff.

“I’m honored and humbled,” Quaranta said in a statement. “I thank all of my supporters and I thank everyone who came out and participated in the election. I look forward to bringing together folks from all 8 wards and working with all Young Democrats in D.C. to re-elect the president,” he said.

The Young Democrats of D.C. and similar groups in other states are recognized as official arms of the D.C. and state Democratic Parties. Most state parties, including D.C.’s Democratic State Committee, include leaders of the Young Democrats as members of party committees.

Quaranta ran in an election in which eight other candidates who won election to officer and board positions for Young Democrats of D.C., including three vice presidents, each backed Todd over him as part of a slate. Seven of the eight candidates ran unopposed.

The election was held between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. on a Saturday morning at the J.W. Marriott Hotel in downtown D.C. Quaranta expressed concern that holding an election on a Saturday morning at a time when many of the city’s college students were busy preparing for final exams would make it difficult for his student supporters to turn out.

But when the voting started it became clear that Quaranta, who bills himself as a skilled political organizer, turned out more supporters than Todd.

His supporters said they were hopeful that the other officers and board members would work with Quaranta as a team to move the organization forward following a decision last year by the national group, Young Democrats of America, to revoke the D.C. group’s charter and declare invalid the election of all of its officers.

Rod Snyder, president of Young Democrats of American, presided over the election on Saturday. Snyder told the Blade YDA revoked its recognition of the D.C. Young Democrats due to “improprieties” related to its officer and board election in April 2011. He said YDA acted after investigating a complaint that the D.C. group did not follow its own constitution and bylaws in carrying out the 2011 election.

Snyder said YDA also reviewed an allegation made by the United States Attorney’s Office that the D.C. Young Democrats’ former president in 2008 allegedly helped former D.C. City Council member Harry Thomas (D-Ward 5) launder money by accepting a $100,000 wire payment to the D.C. Young Democrats’ account.

The former D.C. Young Democrats president, Ayawana Chase, worked on Thomas’s Council staff at the time. Thomas resigned from his Council seat earlier this year after he pleaded guilty to a felony embezzlement charge. He was sentenced to 38 months in jail last week.

According to information released by the U.S. Attorney’s office, Thomas arranged for Chase to disburse the $100,000 to another organization, which paid for a “51st State Inaugural Ball” in 2009.

While making it clear that he was not linking Todd to the Thomas scandal, Quaranta issued a statement in the days prior to the D.C. Young Democrats election that Todd’s affiliation with Council member Bowser would create a conflict of interest if he were elected president of the Young Democrats of D.C.

Quaranta said Todd would be beholden to Bowser if the organization considered taking a position on a matter before the Council.

“Last year’s laundering of city funds through the D.C. Young Democrats on behalf of Harry Thomas Junior was a direct result of the conflicts of interest that arise when a Council member’s staffer does double-duty as a DCYD party officer,” Quaranta said.

“This isn’t about my opponent – this is about a broader culture of corruption that undermines our pursuit of home rule and is an embarrassment to our city and to the Democratic Party,” he said in a campaign email. “There is simply too much inbreeding and too many conflicts of interest. It’s time for new leadership.”

Todd disputed Quaranta’s claim that he would have a conflict of interest due to his role on Bowser’s campaign staff or if he were to return to Bowser’s Council staff, calling the claim “absurd.”

“I would have a board of directors, other officers,” he said. “Everything has to be voted on by the board, by the membership. Everything that happens with the Young Democrats if I’m elected will be very open and very transparent.”

Among other things, Quaranta said he would push to have Young Democrats of D.C. organize a “massive” contingent of volunteers to work on President Obama’s re-election campaign in Virginia, where a close race is predicted between the president and presumed Republican nominee Mitt Romney.

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Peter Rosenstein

    May 7, 2012 at 10:09 am

    Coongratulations to Toby. It will be great to see an active Young Democrats organization in the District of Columbia.

  2. SPGorm

    May 8, 2012 at 6:51 am

    We need a fair and balanced way of giving credit where it is really due, Mr. Rosenstein. I can’t say anything about the last couple of years, but DC Young Democrats have been active for a very long time especially during the same sex marriage effort. Just ask the then DC YDs Jeff Richardson, Nick McCoy, Tim Mahoney et al. They didn’t talk about how effective they were or tell Lou Chibbaro at the the Blade about how hard they worked. They were perhaps the biggest part of the team that worked the city (outside the Dupont Circle gaytto) and develop real and genuine city community wide support that gave 11 City Council members cover in getting the legislation passed. DC YDs walked it – in all Wards including Ward 2. I was there. I saw them. And Congratulations to Mr. Quaranta.

  3. brian

    May 8, 2012 at 2:07 pm

    Terrific report. And congratulations, Mr. Quaranta!

    The culture of corruption emanating from Ward 5 Dem *party bosses* has long been an embarrassment for all of DC Dems. It infects and influences the highest levels of DC’s State Democratic organization. They’ve even bragged at local Ward 5 Dems meetings how much Ward 5 influences the State organization’s top leadership.

    As to not following their own constitution and bylaws– especially regarding nominations and special issue elections meetings notifications/ announcements– those kind of dirty tricks have been standard operating procedure for many years at Ward 5 Dems. Regular meeting turnout manipulation/ new voters suppression is often S.O.P. as well. Participation of LGBT rank-and-file Dems in the ward’s party activities is particularly discouraged.

    Stein Dems is an outstanding, but highly focused party organization. However, Stein does not, nor can not speak to all the concerns of LGBT voters at the ward levels. However, DC State Democratic Party bosses seem to think Stein Dems is THE closet to which the participation and concerns of all of DC’s rank-and-file LGBT Dems must be relegated.

    It is good to see DC Young Dems reject the cronyism and corruption which has besmirched all Democrats– here in Ward 5 and citywide. It is good to see the Blade report in detail on it, too.

  4. Robert Turner

    May 9, 2012 at 2:43 pm

    Congratulations, Toby! I look forward to spirited debates.

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Missing gay man found ‘alive and well’

Police say Richard ‘Rick’ Woods found in good health

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Richard G. ‘Rick’ Woods, a 65-year-old gay man, was found alive and well.

D.C. police announced on Friday that Richard G. ‘Rick’ Woods, a 65-year-old gay man who police said was reported missing and last seen on July 14, has been located. But the announcement doesn’t provide information on where he was found or why he went missing.

Friends who know Woods say he operated for many years an antique wood furniture restoration business in various locations in D.C. The most recent location of his business, friends said, was in Georgetown a short distance from where police said he was last seen on the 1600 block of Wisconsin Avenue, N.W.

“MPD does not publicly disclose the circumstances surrounding a missing person and how they are found, however we do release their flyer as well as a notification when they are located,” said D.C. police spokesperson Brianna Burch. “Mr. Woods was found in good health,” Burch told the Blade.

Police sought help from the public in their initial announcement that Woods was missing. The announcement said he was reported missing to police on Friday, July 23.

Logan Circle Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner and LGBTQ rights advocate John Fanning, who said he has been friends with Woods for many years, said he was delighted to hear Woods was found in good condition.

“Rick is known by many in our community,” Fanning told the Blade at the time Woods was reported missing. Fanning said he and others who know Woods stand ready to provide support for him should he be in need of such support.

The Blade couldn’t immediately reach Woods for comment.

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Some D.C. gay bars to require proof of COVID vaccination

Action prompted by mayor’s order reinstating masks indoors

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Adams Morgan’s A League of Her Own is among the area queer bars requiring proof of vaccination for entry.

At least four D.C. gay bars announced this week on social media that they will require patrons to show proof that they have been vaccinated for COVID-19 as a condition for being admitted to the bars.

They include the Logan Circle area gay bars Number Nine and Trade, which are operated by the same co-owners, and the Adams Morgan gay sports bars Pitchers and A League of Her Own, which are also operated by the same owner and share the same building.

The four bars, which also offer dining service, announced their proof of vaccination requirement shortly after D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser on Thursday issued a new order reinstating the city’s requirement that facial masks be worn inside all businesses and other public establishments.

The mayor’s order applies to all vaccinated and unvaccinated people over the age of two. It was scheduled to take effect 5 a.m. Saturday, July 31.

At a July 29 news conference, Bowser pointed to a new U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance issued two days earlier recommending that fully vaccinated people resume wearing masks indoors in places where transmission of the coronavirus is considered “substantial” or “high.”

The mayor said that, at the advice of her public health experts, she decided to issue the new order to help curtail the rising number of COVID cases in D.C. over the past month or more due to the rapid spread of the virus’s delta variant, which is surging throughout the nation. Like other parts of the country, Bowser and D.C. Department of Health Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbit said people who are unvaccinated in D.C. make up nearly all of the newly infected cases.

“I know D.C. residents have been very closely following the public health guidelines, and they will embrace this,” Bowser said in referring to the new mask requirement.

The four-page order released by the mayor’s office, similar to the city’s earlier mask requirements, allows indoor patrons of restaurants and bars to remove their masks while “actively” eating or drinking.

But some representatives of restaurants and bars have pointed out that other jurisdictions, including Maryland and Virginia, have followed the CDC’s initial policy of making mask wearing a recommendation rather than a requirement.

“Mayor Bowser’s announcement that nightlife hospitality patrons must wear a mask indoors when not ‘actively eating or drinking’ renders the reinstated mandate essentially unenforceable and results in the rule being reduced to a largely theatrical requirement,” said Mark Lee, director of the D.C. Nightlife Council, a local trade association representing bars, restaurants, nightclubs, and other nightlife related businesses.

“The greatest disappointment for many venue operators and staff, however, is that the mayor’s decision does not allow an option for establishments to admit only fully vaccinated patrons and be exempt from the mandate, as a number of other jurisdictions across the country have done,” Lee said.

John Guggenmos, co-owner of the bars Trade and Number Nine, told the Washington Blade he and his co-owners adopted the proof of vaccination policy as an added means of protecting the safety of both patrons and employees of the two bars.

“We’re hopeful that this will be in effect for just a few weeks or a month or two,” Guggenmos said. “Our patrons have always been very supportive,” he said in referring to the city’s public health directives last year and early this year in which masks were required up until May of this year.

Guggenmos said Trade and Number Nine will allow an alternative to the vaccination requirement if patrons provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test conducted within the previous three days of their admission to the bars.

In its social media postings, Pitchers and A League of Her Own said their proof of vaccination requirement was based on the concern for the health of their patrons and staff.

“We will require proof a COVID vaccination until further notice at Pitchers/ALOHO and masks per the mayor,” a Facebook posting says. “We take guidelines and the health of our patrons and staff very seriously. We will accept a picture or hard copy of your COVID vaccination card,” it says. “No exceptions, no arguing, no talking to the manager.”

Tammy Truong, owner of the gay bar Uproar Lounge at 639 Florida Ave., N.W., told the Blade the bar has no immediate plans to require proof of vaccination as a requirement for admission, but Uproar will fully comply with the mayor’s order requiring indoor masks.

Justin Parker, co-owner of the nearby gay bar The Dirty Goose at 913 U St., N.W., told the Blade he and his staff decided on Friday to also put in place a requirment that patrons show either proof of vaccination or proof of a negative COVID-19 test within the past five days. He said a 5-day window for the COVID test, which the CDC allows in some cases, was chosen rather than three a requirement to accomodate people who may not be able to get tested during weekends.

Owners of other D.C. gay bars couldn’t immeidately be reached. But the Blade could not find any announcements by the other gay bars as of Friday afternoon that they planed to put in place a proof of vaccination requiremenet. 

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Judge dismisses lawsuit against Va. school guidelines for transgender students

Christian Action Network and other conservative groups filed suit

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Connor Climo, gay news, Washington Blade

Lynchburg Circuit Court Judge J. Frederick Watson on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit that challenged the Virginia Department of Education’s model policies for transgender students that are to be implemented for the 2021-2022 school year.

The VDOE introduced the policies in March to better protect and affirm trans and non-binary students in schools, considering they are more likely to face discrimination and harassment from their peers and students. The directives would require Virginia schools to allow them to use school bathrooms and locker rooms that conform to their gender identity and pronouns and a name that reflects their gender identity.

Several conservative organizations, including the Christian Action Network, and families whose children attend Lynchburg public schools had sought to overturn the VDOE’s policies. The groups cited their need to protect their right to free speech and religion under the First Amendment.

Challenging the enactment of non-binary and trans-inclusive school policies in Virginia is not a new occurence. 

Tanner Cross, a Loudoun County teacher, was suspended in May after stating he would not use trans students’ preferred pronouns. Circuit Judge James E. Plowman, Jr., who invoked Pickering v. Board of Education,  a 1968 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of a teacher that stated they have the right to provide commentary on issues of public importance without being dismissed from their position, reinstated Cross after he filed a lawsuit,  

Equality Virginia on Tuesday a statement celebrated what they described as “a win for Virginia schools and students.”

“This ruling is important progress and emphasizes the continued need to protect transgender and non-binary youth in Virginia,” said Executive Director Vee Lamneck. “These policies will create safer classrooms and will reduce bullying, discrimination and harassment. It’s imperative school boards adopt these policies as soon as possible because the lives of transgender students are at risk.”

Equality Virginia, ACLU of Virginia, and more than 50 other organizations and school board leaders across the state filed an amicus brief earlier this month encouraging the court to deny the lawsuit.

The brief’s arguments included references to historic lawsuits like Brown v. Board of Education and Grimm v. Gloucester City School Board that specifically addressed inequalities in schools for minority students.

While Tuesday’s ruling is a win for LGBTQ rights advocates in education and their respective students, there still remains a final barrier to ensure that the VDOE’s policies are sanctioned in the fall. 

“The dismissal clears one statewide hurdle for the guidelines and limits future challenges,” reports the Virginian-Pilot newspaper. “But it leaves the fight to continue at local school boards, which are currently debating how or if to implement policies before the start of the school year.”

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