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.