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Mendelson, Orange win Stein Club endorsement

Group also backs two gay candidates for school board

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Lateefah Williams, Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, Washington Blade, gay news, Human Rights Campaign

Gertrude Stein Democratic Club (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s largest LGBT political group, voted by acclamation Tuesday night to endorse D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large) for the post of City Council Chair.

At an endorsement forum held at the Metropolitan Community Church of Washington, the club also endorsed Council member Vincent Orange (D-At-Large) in his bid for re-election, D.C. “shadow” Sen. Michael D. Brown, and five candidates running for the D.C. State Board of Education, including gay education board candidates Phil Pannell and Jack Jacobson.

“It’s especially a pleasure for me to be here tonight because of the work I’ve done over the last several years to finally bring marriage equality to the District,” Mendelson told the gathering minutes before Stein members voted to endorse him.

As chair of the Council committee that had jurisdiction over 2009 legislation calling for legalizing same-sex marriage in D.C., Mendelson played a key role in shepherding the bill to passage, working closely with gay Council member David Catania (I-At-Large), who introduced the marriage equality bill.

Mendelson, a longtime supporter of LGBT rights, emerged as the lead candidate for Council chair when the post became vacant earlier this year following the abrupt resignation of Democrat Kwame Brown, who was indicted on corruption-related charges.

Phil Mendelson, D.C. Council, Washington Blade, gay news

D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large) (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Mendelson is being challenged by Democrat Calvin Gurley in a special election for the Council chair post set to take place on Nov. 6, the same day as the city’s regularly scheduled general election. Gurley didn’t attend the Stein forum, although a supporter placed his name in nomination.

Stein members voted Tuesday night against endorsing Council members Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7) and Marion Barry (D-Ward 8), who are considered strong favorites to win re-election on Nov. 6. Both voted against the same-sex marriage law, becoming the only two of the 13 Council members to oppose the measure.

Although Alexander and Barry have supported the LGBT community on other issues, Stein members said the two Council members’ opposition to the marriage equality bill prompted a majority of the membership to oppose endorsing them.

The club voted by a margin of 66 percent to 34 percent against endorsing Alexander and a margin of 69 percent to 31 percent against endorsing Barry, according to results announced by Stein Club President Lateefah Williams.

In the school board contests, Stein members voted to endorse Pannell for the Ward 8 seat over incumbent Trayon “Tray” White. Pannell, a longtime Stein Club member, has been a community activist in Ward 8 for more than 25 years.

Jacobson, a Dupont Circle Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner, is running unopposed for the Board of Education seat representing Ward 2. Similar to Pannell, he is a Stein Club member and community activist.

In response to questions from club members, Pannell and Jacobson said they would work hard for public school programs aimed at curtailing anti-LGBT bullying and other challenges faced by LGBT youth.

The club also endorsed at-large Board of Education candidate Mary Lord, who was praised by several club members as a “champion” for LGBT-related issues during her tenure as a Ward 2 school board member. Lord chose to run for the at-large seat rather than run for re-election to the Ward 2 seat, clearing the way for Jacobson to run unopposed for the Ward 2 seat.

Her opponent in the at-large race, Marvin Tucker, expressed support for LGBT-related issues, saying he would be an advocate for all students, “gay or straight.”

In other school board contests, the Stein Club voted Tuesday night to endorse D. Kamili Anderson for the Ward 4 seat and Karen Williams for the Ward 7 seat over rivals Villareal Johnson and Dorothy Douglas.

During the forum, each of the school board candidates in attendance said they would support condom distribution in city high schools as an AIDS prevention measure and sex education classes that discuss LGBT-related issues.

The Stein Club’s endorsement of Orange came seven months after the club didn’t make an endorsement for the at-large race in the city’s Democratic primary. At that time, Orange and his main rival, Sekou Biddle, split the vote among club members and neither obtained a required 60 percent margin needed to win an endorsement.

Vincent Orange, D.C. Council, Washington Blade, gay news

Council member Vincent Orange (D-At-Large) (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Williams said the club’s endorsement of Orange clears the way for the club to consider making an endorsement of a non-Democratic candidate running for one of the two at-large seats at play in the Nov. 6 election.

Under the city’s election law, only one of the two at-large Council seats up for election this year can be held by a Democrat. With Democrat Orange nominated for re-election to one of the seats, Council member Michael A. Brown (I-At-Large) is running for re-election for the so-called “non-Democratic” seat.

All at-large candidates, regardless of party affiliation, will appear on the same ballot, with voters given the option of voting for two candidates. The two with the highest vote count are declared the winners.

Although it’s possible that Orange could lose his seat if two of the non-Democrats receive more votes than he does, that outcome has never occurred since Congress put in place the city’s current home rule government in 1974 due to the overwhelming Democratic majority among the city’s voters.

Brown, a longtime supporter of LGBT rights, and independent candidate David Grosso, who has expressed strong support on LGBT issues, are campaigning aggressively for LGBT votes. Both are expected to push hard for the Stein Club’s endorsement.

Williams said she expects the club to hold an endorsement forum for the non-Democratic at-large seat in about two weeks.

Independent candidates Leon Swain and A.J. Cooper and Statehood Green Party candidate Ann Wilcox, who are also running for one of the at-large seats, are also expected to compete for the Stein endorsement. Also running for one of the seats is Republican Mary Beatty, who has been endorsed by Log Cabin Republicans of D.C.

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Gay attorney’s plans to run for Del. Senate foiled by redistricting

Activists say move will ‘dilute’ LGBTQ vote

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Mitch Crane, gay news, Washington Blade
Gay Democratic activist Mitch Crane. (Photo courtesy Crane)

Plans by Delaware gay attorney and Democratic Party activist Mitch Crane to run for a seat in the Delaware State Senate in a district that included areas surrounding the town of Lewes, where Crane lives, and Rehoboth Beach ended abruptly this week when state officials approved a redistricting plan that removes Crane’s residence from the district.

The seat for which Crane planned to run is in Delaware’s 6th Senate District which, in addition to Lewes and Rehoboth, includes the towns of Dewey Beach, Harbeson, Milton, and surrounding areas, according to the state Senate’s website. 

The seat is currently held by Ernesto “Ernie” Lopez, a moderate Republican who became the first Hispanic American elected to the Delaware Senate in 2012. Lopez announced in July that he would not seek re-election in 2022. 

The redistricting plan, which was approved by leaders of the Democratic-controlled Delaware General Assembly, places the section of the Lewes postal district where Crane lives into the 19th Senate District. Crane said that district is in a heavily Republican and conservative part of the state dominated by supporters of President Donald Trump who remain Trump supporters.

Under Delaware law, changes in the district lines of state Senate and House districts, which takes place every 10 years following the U.S. Census count, are decided by the Delaware General Assembly, which is the state legislative body.

Crane told the Washington Blade that neither he nor any other Democrat would have a realistic chance of winning the State Senate seat next year in the 19th District.

“Jesus could not win in that district if he was a Democrat,” said Crane.

Crane said a Democratic candidate could win next year in the reconfigured 6th Senate District now that incumbent Lopez will not be seeking re-election.

The Cape Gazette, the Delaware newspaper, reported in an Oct. 22 story that Crane was one of at least two witnesses that testified at a two-day virtual hearing held Oct. 18-19 by a State Senate committee, that the proposed redistricting would dilute the LGBTQ vote in the 6th District and the draft proposal should be changed.

 “The proposed lines remove a significant percentage of the LGBTQ residents from the current 6th District where most of such residents of southern Delaware live and place them in the 19th District which has a smaller such population,” the Cape Gazette quoted Crane telling the committee. “By doing so, it dilutes the impact of the gay community which shares political beliefs,” the newspaper quoted him as saying.

“The proposed lines dilute the voting power of the LGBTQ community in addition to others who respect diversity,” the Cape Gazette quoted 6th District resident Sandy Spence as telling the committee. 

In an Oct. 10 email sent to potential supporters before the redistricting plan was approved, Crane said he believes he has the experience and record that make him a strong candidate for the state Senate seat. He is a former chair of the Sussex County Democratic Party, where Rehoboth and Lewes are located; and he currently serves as an adjunct professor at Delaware State University’s graduate school, where he teaches American Governance and Administration.

He is a past president of the Delaware Stonewall PAC, a statewide LGBTQ advocacy group, and he’s the state’s former Deputy Insurance Commissioner.

 “I intend to focus on smart growth in Sussex County; work on the problems of homelessness and the need for affordable housing; and assuring that this district receives its fair portion of tax dollars,” he said in his Oct. 10 email message announcing his candidacy.

Crane said he posted a Facebook message on Oct. 26 informing supporters that the redrawn district lines removed him from the district, and he is no longer a candidate.

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MSNBC’s Capehart to host SMYAL’s Fall Brunch Nov. 6

Ashland Johnson to serve as keynote speaker

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Gay journalist Jonathan Capehart will host SMYAL’s Fall Brunch. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Pulitzer Prizing-winning gay journalist Jonathan Capehart, the anchor of MSNBC’s “Sunday Show with Jonathan Capehart,” will serve as host for the 24th Annual SMYAL Fall Brunch scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 6, at D.C.’s Marriott Marquis Hotel.

The annual Fall Brunch serves as one of the largest fundraising events for SMYAL, which advocates and provides services for LGBTQ youth in the D.C. metropolitan area. 

“Each year, a community of advocates, changemakers, and supporters comes together at the Fall Brunch to raise much-needed funds to support and expand critical programs and services for queer and trans youth in the DMV area,” a statement released by the organization says.

The statement says attorney and former Division I women’s collegiate basketball athlete Ashland Johnson will be the keynote speaker at the SMYAL Fall Brunch. Johnson founded the sports project called The Inclusion Playbook, which advocates for racial justice and LGBTQ inclusion in sports.

Other speakers include Zahra Wardrick, a SMYAL program participant and youth poet; and Leandra Nichola, a parent of attendees of Little SMYALs, a program that SMYAL says provides support for “the youngest members of the LGBTQ community” at ages 6-12. The SMYAL statement says Nichola is the owner and general manager of the Takoma Park, Md., based café, bar, retail, and bubble tea shop called Main Street Pearl.

According to the statement, the SMYAL Fall Brunch, including a planned silent auction, will be live streamed through SMYAL’s Facebook page for participants who may not be able to attend in person. For those attending the event in person, proof of COVID-19 vaccination will be required, and masks will also be required for all attendees when not actively eating or drinking, the statement says.

The statement says that for attendees and supporters, the Fall Brunch is “a community celebration of how your support has not only made it possible for SMYAL to continue to serve LGBTQ youth through these challenging times, it’s allowed our programs to grow and deepen.”

Adds the statement, “From affirming mental health support and housing to fostering community spaces and youth leadership training, we will continue to be there for queer and trans youth together.”

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McAuliffe: Youngkin ‘most homophobic’ candidate in Va. history

Former governor spoke with Blade on Oct. 21

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Terry McAuliffe (Photo courtesy of Terry McAuliffe for Governor)

Terry McAuliffe described Republican Glenn Youngkin as the “most homophobic” and most “anti-choice candidate” in Virginia history during an Oct. 21 telephone interview with the Washington Blade.

“I’m running against the most homophobic, anti-choice candidate in Virginia history,” said McAuliffe. “I ran against Ken Cuccinelli. That’s saying something.”

McAuliffe, a former chair of the Democratic National Committee, in 2013 defeated Cuccinelli, Virginia’s then-attorney general who vehemently opposed LGBTQ rights, in that year’s gubernatorial race. Youngkin, the former co-CEO of the Carlyle Group, a private equity firm, is running against McAuliffe in the race to succeed current Gov. Ralph Northam.

State Del. Hala Ayala (D-Prince William County) is running for lieutenant governor, while Attorney General Mark Herring is seeking re-election. They are running against Republicans Winsome Sears and Jason Miyares respectively.

The entire Virginia House of Delegates is also on the ballot on Nov. 2. The outcome of those races will determine whether Democrats maintain control of the chamber.

Youngkin remains opposed to marriage equality

The Associated Press a day after McAuliffe spoke with the Blade published an interview with Youngkin in which he reiterated his opposition to marriage equality, but stressed it is “legally acceptable” in Virginia and he would “support that” as governor.

The anti-LGBTQ Family Research Council, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has categorized as an extremist group, earlier this month endorsed Youngkin. The Human Rights Campaign and Equality Virginia’s political action committee are among the groups that have backed McAuliffe.

Youngkin earlier this year said he does not support allowing transgender children to play on sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity. Youngkin has also expressed support for Tanner Cross, a gym teacher at a Leesburg elementary school who was suspended in June after he spoke against the Virginia Department of Education guidelines that are designed to protect trans and non-binary students.

HRC in 2019 named the Carlyle Group as a “Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality” in its annual Corporate Equality Index. McAuliffe scoffed at this recognition.

“They should have checked with their co-CEO who’s against marriage equality,” he told the Blade. “That would have been the first place I would have gone to ask.”

‘I’ve always been out front fighting to protect everybody’

McAuliffe’s first executive order as governor after he took office in 2014 banned discrimination against LGBTQ state employees. He also vetoed several anti-LGBTQ religious freedom bills, created Virginia’s LGBTQ tourism board and became the state’s first governor to declare June Pride month.

McAuliffe noted to the Blade that he is also the first governor of a southern state to officiate a same-sex wedding. The lesbian couple whom he married has recently appeared in one of his campaign ads.

“I spent four years vetoing every single legislation Republicans brought forth and came across my desk that would have discriminated against the LGBTQ community,” said McAuliffe. “I’ve always been out front fighting to protect everybody.”

McAuliffe noted that CoStar, a D.C.-based commercial real estate company, moved more than 1,000 jobs to Richmond from Charlotte after then-North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory signed House Bill 2, which banned trans people from using public restrooms consistent with their gender identity and prohibited municipalities from enacting LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination measures. McAuliffe described HB 2 to the Blade as the “anti-gay bill.”

“There’s real consequences … to discriminatory actions and I will not tolerate any of it,” he said.

Former President Barack Obama campaigns with Terry McAuliffe in Richmond, Va., on Oct. 23, 2021. Obama is among the prominent Democrats who have traveled to Virginia in recent weeks to campaign on behalf of McAuliffe. (Photo courtesy of Terry McAuliffe for Governor)

McAuliffe last month said during his first debate against Youngkin that local school boards “should be making their own decisions” with regards to the implementation of the Virginia Department of Education guidelines for trans and non-binary students. McAuliffe during his second debate against Youngkin stressed “locals” should provide input on the policy, but added “the state will always issue guidance.”

McAuliffe told the Blade he has “been so offended about how many folks have tried to really demonize our children here in this state.” McAuliffe referenced children with “self-identity issues” during the interview, but he did not specifically cite those who identify as trans or non-binary.

“We’ve got to help our children … we got to help our children who are desperately in need today,” he said. “And we got to show them that we’ll be there for them, as I say, no matter how they identify or who they love.”

Youngkin on Saturday during a campaign event in Henrico County said he would ban the teaching of critical race theory in Virginia schools. McAuliffe criticized his opponent on this issue when he spoke with the Blade.

“Critical race theory is not taught in Virginia, nor has it ever been taught,” said McAuliffe. “These are dog whistles that are used, and especially in the CRT, it’s a racist dog whistle and it just fits into this whole pattern of using our children as political pawns and I hate it.”

Youngkin ‘would drive businesses out of’ Va.

McAuliffe has continued to portray Youngkin as an extremist on other issues that range from abortion and vaccine mandates as polls suggest the race between the two has grown tight. McAuliffe also continues to highlight former President Trump’s support of Youngkin.

McAuliffe told the Blade that Youngkin is “100 percent against abortion” and said his opponent would “bring those Texas-style type abortion” laws to Virginia.

The law, which bans almost all abortions in Texas and allows private citizens to sue doctors and anyone else who helps a woman obtain one, took effect last month. The U.S. Supreme Court on Nov. 1 will hear oral arguments in a case that challenges the law.

“We always knew that the Supreme Court would be a backstop on women’s rights issues: Roe v. Wade. That is gone. It’s over,” said McAuliffe. “Donald Trump’s Supreme Court is going to overrule the basic tenants of Roe v. Wade.”

McAuliffe added the Supreme Court “is going to allow these states to roll back women’s reproductive rights, so that’s no longer a talking point.”

“This is reality,” said McAuliffe. “Every woman in Virginia needs to understand it.”

Terry McAuliffe has said Glenn Youngkin poses a threat to abortion rights in Virginia. (Photo courtesy of Terry McAuliffe for Governor)

Youngkin, for his part, has said he would not have signed the Texas law.

Trump on Oct. 13 described Youngkin as a “great gentleman” when he called into the “Take Back Virginia Rally” in Henrico County that John Fredericks, host of “Outside the Beltway with John Fredericks” who co-chaired the former president’s 2016 campaign in Virginia, organized.

Participants recited the Pledge of Allegiance to an American flag that was present at the U.S. Capitol insurrection. Youngkin in a statement his campaign released said he “had no role” in the event and said it was “weird and wrong to pledge allegiance to a flag connected to January 6.”

“As I have said many times before, the violence that occurred on January 6 was sickening and wrong,” he said.

McAuliffe told the Blade that Youngkin would make Virginia “a dangerous place to live and work.”

“His governorship, if he were to be elected, would roll back individual liberties,” said McAuliffe. “He doesn’t support gay marriage, he is for eliminating abortion here in the commonwealth of Virginia and he will drive businesses out of our state and finally it is dangerous for people.”

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