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Pannell loses bid for D.C. school board seat

Grosso beats Brown in at-large Council race

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Phil Pannell, gay news, Washington Blade
Phillip Pannell, gay news, Washington Blade

Longtime LGBT activist Phil Pannell again fell short in his bid for a seat on the school board. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Veteran gay and Ward 8 community activist Phil Pannell lost his bid for a Ward 8 seat on the D.C. State Board of Education for the second year in a row on Tuesday, finishing far behind incumbent school board member Trayon “Tray” White.

Final but unofficial returns from the D.C. Board of Elections show White captured 72.5 percent of the vote, with Pannell receiving 27.1 percent.

Pannell lost to White in a special election last year by fewer than 200 votes. Ward 8 gay Democratic activist Bradley Lewis, a Pannell supporter, said Pannell faced a greater challenge this year because White had the benefit of incumbency.

Lewis said White also benefited from the support of Ward 8 Council member and former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, who is highly popular in the ward. Barry breezed to re-election on Tuesday, trouncing challenger Jauhar Abraham by an 87 percent to 12 percent margin.

In a separate school board race, gay Dupont Circle ANC Commissioner Jack Jacobson won election to the board’s Ward 2 seat. Jacobson ran unopposed.

In a development expected by most political observers, acting Council member Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large) won his race to become Council Chair in a special election. Mendelson, who had been serving as acting chair, beat Democratic challenger Calvin Gurley by a 75.5 percent to 27.3 percent margin.

Mendelson is a longtime supporter of LGBT rights and played a key role in helping to pass the city’s same-sex marriage law as chair of the committee with jurisdiction over the law.

In the hotly contested race for the at-large D.C. Council seat reserved for a non-Democratic candidate, challenger David Grosso beat incumbent Michael A. Brown. Both are independents. With 100 percent of the city’s 142 precincts counted, Grosso received 20.8 percent of the vote; Brown received 15 percent of the vote.

Both candidates are strong supporters of LGBT rights and campaigned aggressively for the LGBT vote. Most political observers say Brown lost due to voter concern about a series of personal and campaign financial problems that surfaced over the past several years

The two were competing in a seven-candidate race for two at-large seats up for grabs this year. Under the city’s election law, the candidates finishing in first and second place win the seats. Incumbent Council member Vincent Orange, a Democrat, won re-election to the other seat, capturing 37.4 percent of the vote.

Republican Mary Brooks Beatty received 7 percent of the vote, independent candidates A.J. Cooper and Leon Swain each received 6.6 percent, and Statehood Green Party candidate Ann Wilcox received 5.8 percent.

Council members Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) and Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), who are also strong supporters of LGBT rights, won re-election unopposed.

Council member Yvette Alexander (D-Ward) beat Republican challenger Ron Moten by a margin of 86.7 percent to 12.3 percent.

In other D.C. races, Democratic Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton won re-election with 88.7 percent of the vote, defeating gay Libertarian Party candidate Bruce Majors, who received 5.8 percent of the vote, and Statehood Green Party candidate Natale Stracuzzi, who received 4.7 percent.

Norton, a longtime strong supporter on LGBT issues, received the endorsement of the Stein Club. Major, who has also been a longtime gay activist, was endorsed by the gay conservative group GOProud.

D.C. shadow Senator Michael D. Brown and shadow House candidate Nate Bennett-Fleming, who also received the Stein Club’s endorsement, won their races by lopsided margins.

LGBT supportive at-large school board candidate Mary Lord and Ward 7 school board candidate 
Karen Williams, who also expressed support on LGBT rights, won their respective races by comfortable margins.

Sixteen of 21 openly gay candidates known to the Blade who ran for seats on the city’s Advisory Neighborhood Commissions on Tuesday either won their races or were ahead of their opponents, according to final but unofficial returns reported by the city’s election board. Ten of them ran unopposed.

Gay Democratic activist John Fanning was leading opponent Joel Heisey by 299 votes to 285 votes in ANC District 2F03 in the Logan Circle area.

In the hotly contested race for ANC 6E02, located in the Shaw-Mt. Vernon Square area, gay incumbent Kevin Chapple was leading rival Leroy Thorpe, a longtime opponent of LGBT rights, by just one vote with 274 votes to Thorpe’s 273 votes. Gay candidate Martin Moulton had 124 votes and a fourth candidate for the district, Eugene Simms, received 118 votes.

The final outcome of the two races is expected to become known later this month when the election board counts absentee and provisional ballots.

Gay Georgetown University student Craig Cassey ran unopposed as a write-in candidate for ANC 2E04, a district located entirely on the Georgetown campus. Although he’s expected to emerge as the winner, the Board of Elections won’t be able to determine whether another write-in candidate received more votes than Cassey until all write-in votes are identified later this month. Election returns show that only 9 write-in votes were cast for the 2E04 seat.

The gay candidates who won their races are Marc Morgan, 1B01 (unopposed); Jimmy Rock, 1C08 (unopposed); Mike Feldstein, 2B01 (unopposed); Victor Wexler, 2B05 (unopposed); Mike Silverstein, 2B06 (unopposed); Walt Cain, 2F02; Chris Linn, 2F03 (unopposed); Matt Raymond, 2F07 (unopposed); Lee Brian Reba, 3C01 (unopposed); Bob Summersgill, 3F07 (unopposed); Andy Litsky, 6D04 (unopposed); Roger Moffatt, 6D05; Alex Padro, 6E01; Anthony Lorenzo, 8B04.

The gay candidates who lost their races were Erling ‘Erl’ Bailey, 1B12; Martin Espinoza, 2B04; and Chad Hrdina, 5E06.

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District of Columbia

Bowser: No credible threats to D.C. Pride events

Mayor spoke with the Blade after flag-raising ceremony at the Wilson Building

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D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser at the flag-raising of the Progress Pride flag at the Wilson Building in D.C. on June 1, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser on Thursday said authorities have not received any credible threats to upcoming Pride events.

“We don’t have any to report,” she told the Washington Blade.

“MPD is constantly working with all of our agencies to make sure we have safe special events and we’re going to keep going with our planning, like we do every year,” added Bowser. “There’s always a scan for any threats to the District.”

Bowser spoke with the Blade after she joined D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson, Council members Anita Bonds, Charles Allen, Kenyon McDuffie and Zachary Parker, D.C. Attorney General Brian Schwalb, D.C. Mayor’s LGBTQ Affairs Office Director Japer Bowles and other officials and activists in raising the Progress Pride flag in front of the Wilson Building.

The Blade last month reported D.C. police are investigating a bomb threat a Twitter user made against the annual District Pride concert that will take place at the Lincoln Theater on June 29. Bowles in a May 19 statement said his office reported the tweet, but further stressed that “no credible threat at this time has been made.”

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Maryland

Moore issues Pride month proclamation

Governor on May 3 signed Trans Health Equity Act

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Maryland Gov. Wes Moore (Public domain photo/Twitter)

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore on Thursday proclaimed June as Pride month in recognition of  “the contributions, resilience, courage and joy of LGBTQIA+ Marylanders,” according to a press release.

“In Maryland, we lead with love and inclusion. I want everyone in our LGBTQIA+ community to know that they deserve to be seen for who they are, and our administration will stand with them in the fight for equality and equity,” Moore said. “We need to elevate the stories, embrace the courage, and celebrate the humanity of our LGBTQIA+ community — and as long as I am governor, we will take the steps forward to protect and celebrate all Marylanders.”

Moore on March 31 became the first governor in Maryland history to recognize the Transgender Day of Visibility and last month he signed into law the Trans Health Equity Act into law, which requires Maryland Medicaid to provide coverage for gender-affirming care beginning next year.

“This month is a celebration of the beauty and uniqueness of the queer community, but it’s also a time to reaffirm our commitment to uplifting LGBTQIA+ Marylanders and continuing to fight against hatred, discrimination, and bigotry,” Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller said in the same press release that Moore’s office released. “LGBTQIA+ Marylanders deserve to be who they are, to live their pride — without fear or having to hide. This administration will always stand alongside and protect the rights of all Marylanders.”

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District of Columbia

Point Foundation offers growing range of scholarships, support

‘Resources to succeed and thrive rather than just make it through’

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Celina Gerbic, a member of the Point Foundation’s board of directors, speaks at last year’s event. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Many in D.C. know the Point Foundation for its longstanding scholarship program and its popular Taste of Point fundraiser each spring. But the nonprofit is offering a growing range of services to its young scholars, including mental health resources and social media support.

This year’s Taste of Point brought mixologists, restaurateurs, and donors together on May 3 at Room and Board for the annual celebration. With a number of local businesses and organizations donating to the silent auction, the event both raised money for Point Foundation’s scholarships while recognizing scholarship recipients and program alumni.

Among the lineup of featured speakers was one of the foundation’s flagship scholarship recipients, Rio Dennis, a dual master’s and law candidate at Georgetown University.

“I applied for the Point Foundation Flagship Scholarship because I believed in its mission of helping LGBTQ+ students achieve their academic goals while also providing training and resources so we can become better leaders within the LGBTQ community during school and long term,” Dennis said in her speech. 

The Taste of Point celebration began in 2013, born from another event called the Cornerstone Reception. Originally planned as a normal fundraiser with hor d’oeuvres, the foundation transformed it into the current Taste of Point celebration that facilitates partnerships with new, local restaurants.

Some restaurants, like Compass Rose and Hank’s Oyster Bar, partnered with Point Foundation for their first celebration. They have been catering at the fundraiser ever since.

“It really gives you the sense of the amount of love and the amount of community that we have around the Point Foundation and mission,” said Celina Gerbic, a member on the foundation’s board of directors. “They really see, with hearing from the scholars, what the effects can be if we’re raising money for those scholarships and mentoring opportunities.”

The event also allows the foundation to showcase new offerings, such as the Community College Scholarship that was rolled out just before the pandemic in collaboration with Wells Fargo. The community college program gives scholars a financial scholarship each year of their community college experience as well as coaching and admissions counseling for students planning to transfer to a university. 

Meanwhile, the foundation is also expanding its new BIPOC scholarship, which announced its next round of recipients on May 22. The scholarship is currently supporting between 500 and 555 scholars across the country.

Omari Foote, one of the current BIPOC scholarship recipients, appreciates how the scholarship recognizes her as a Black queer student. She is even encouraging other queer students and friends to apply to receive similar assistance.

However, Point is even more than that, Dennis notes. 

Before the school year started, the Point Foundation sent Dennis and all of the new flagship scholars to Los Angeles for a leadership development conference. Scholars discussed how to become active leaders on campus, how to ask for certain resources, what is offered by their campuses, and what tutoring programs are available.

This year, Point also did a joint partnership with an online therapy program to offer discounted prices for all scholars. 

“I have anxiety and depression and I struggled a lot in undergrad with trying to balance that with my having to support myself financially,” Dennis said. “So I was definitely grateful that Georgetown did have a program that is specifically for people of color to get free therapy and Point definitely helped with… asking those questions because it is one of those programs that isn’t as well publicized.”

Point even provided Dennis with a mentor who was also a Point Scholar in law school. Meeting monthly on Zoom and texting all throughout the month, Dennis’s mentor provides academic support that helps her use the right resources and make decisions about her career.

Foote finds the scholarship unique in other ways as well. As a recipient of a handful of other scholarships outside of Point, Foote’s interactions with her scholarship programs mostly stop after they send instructions for writing donor thank you notes. But Point keeps reaching out to maintain a relationship with scholars long after that.

“They’ve reached out to me to spotlight me on Instagram,” Foote said. “They reached out to me even for this dinner, paying for my transportation to and from the dinner … It’s like they’re not just there to give you the money. They’re there to really help you navigate the college world and to be that caring supportive system that a lot of us just don’t have anymore now that we are living by ourselves.”

Last November, the foundation also held an Out in Higher Ed Week, wherein they teach scholars how to be LGBTQ+ advocates on campus. These resources help students navigate the ins and outs of discussing LGBTQ+ issues in university settings.

After graduation, Dennis has even thought about returning to the Point Foundation as a mentor to help future Black queer students, especially first generation law students, balance their mental health and financial situations.

“Point has connected me with fellow scholars who have become my friends. Point has provided me with resources and support to succeed and thrive rather than just make it through,” Dennis said. “I definitely plan on continuing to be involved with Point.”

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