May 7, 2012 at 9:11 am EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Gay candidate elected president of D.C. Young Democrats

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.

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

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Congratulations, Toby! I look forward to spirited debates.

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