June 13, 2012 at 3:25 pm EST | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Mendelson elected interim Council Chair

Phil Mendelson (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Members of the D.C. City Council on Wednesday elected fellow Council member Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large) as interim chair of the Council until a special election to fill the chairperson’s seat on a permanent basis is held in November.

Mendelson, who played a lead role in the Council’s 2009 approval of the city’s same-sex marriage law, has said he will run in the special election to become the Council’s permanent chair.

The Council’s selection of Mendelson for the interim post came after Council member Kwame Brown (D-At-Large) resigned as the chairman last week, one day after pleading guilty to felony bank fraud.

At its special meeting Wednesday, the Council also voted to elect Council member Michael Brown (I-At-Large) as interim Council President Pro Tempore, a mostly ceremonial position that places Brown third in line to become mayor in the event that Mayor Vincent Gray should resign.

As interim Council Chair, Mendelson is second in line to become mayor.

Michael Brown, like Mendelson, has been a longtime strong supporter of LGBT rights.

The Council picked Michael Brown over Council member Vincent Orange (D-At-Large), who entered the race for the President Prop Tempore post, by a vote of 8 to 4. Orange initially said he would challenge Mendelson for the interim Council chair position, but on Wednesday he chose to compete for the President Prop Tempore position instead.

Mendelson, meanwhile, will remain as chair of the Council’s Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department and which has monitored the police response to anti-LGBT hate crimes. He will also assume the chairmanship of the Council’s Committee of the Whole, which traditionally is headed by the Council chair.

LGBT political activists have joined others in the community in watching with great interest whether an ongoing federal investigation into alleged illegal campaign practices in Gray’s 2010 mayor election campaign will implicate Gray, who has denied any wrong-doing. Two high-level officials in the Gray campaign have pleaded guilty in recent weeks to campaign related violations.

City Hall observers expect other Council member and non-Council members to run in the special election for the Council chair post, most of whom are likely to be supporters of the LGBT community.

Similar to past elections, LGBT advocates may be forced to choose among friends in determining who to endorse in the special election. The Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s largest LGBT political group, and Log Cabin Republicans of D.C., a gay GOP group, are expected to become engaged in the special election.

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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