May 16, 2012 at 7:38 am EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
McDuffie wins Ward 5 Council race

Democrat Kenyan McDuffie, a civil rights attorney who received the endorsement of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s largest LGBT political group, won a decisive victory on Tuesday in an 11-candidate race for the Ward 5 seat on the D.C. City Council.

The seat became vacant earlier this year when incumbent Democrat Harry Thomas Jr. resigned shortly after being indicted for embezzling city funds. He pleaded guilty to the charge and was sentenced to 38 months in jail.

Gay Republican candidate Tim Day, an accountant who is credited with raising questions about Thomas’s financial dealings that prompted authorities to open an investigation that led to Thomas’s indictment, came in fourth place. Day received the endorsement of the gay group Log Cabin Republicans of Washington.

Ward 5 political observers say McDuffie pulled together a broad coalition of supporters from all parts of the ward, including the Brookland, Bloomingdale, and Eckington neighborhoods believed to be home to large numbers of LGBT residents.

“Ward 5 has united behind Kenyan McDuffie, and that’s a good thing,” said Bloomingdale resident Barry Daneker, the Stein Club’s treasurer and vice chair of the Ward 5 Democratic Committee.

“This shows that Kenyan reached out to all the different factions that make up Ward 5,” Daneker said. “Ward 5 is changing and he did his best appeal to everyone.”

McDuffie told members of the Stein Club at an endorsement meeting in April that he is a strong supporter of LGBT equality, including the city’s same-sex marriage law.

According to final but unofficial results released Tuesday night by the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics, McDuffie received 4,085 votes or 44.5 percent, more than double the 1,850 votes or 20.2 percent received by his closest rival, Democrat Delano Hunter.

Hunter drew criticism from gay activists in 2010 when he ran against Thomas for the Ward 5 Council seat and said he would support a voter referendum to decide whether the city’s same-sex marriage law should be retained or repealed. At the time he accepted campaign contributions from the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage, which strongly opposed the same-sex marriage law. Earlier this year, Hunter told the Blade he changed his mind and supports the marriage equality law.

Democrat Frank Wilds came in third place, with 1,380 votes or 14.8 percent.

In his fourth place finish, Day received 490 votes or 5.3 percent.

Day beat Democratic attorney Ron Magnus, a longtime supporter of LGBT rights, who came in fifth place with 379 votes or 4.1 percent.

Of the remaining candidates, Democrat Shelly Gardner received 241 votes (2.6 percent); Democrat Kathy Henderson, 228 votes (2.5 percent); Democrat Drew Hubbard, 199 votes (2.2 percent); Democrat Rae Zapata, 182 votes (1.9 percent); Ruth Marshall 63 votes (0.7 percent);and independent John Cheeks, 38 votes (0.4 percent).

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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