November 12, 2012 at 9:42 am EST | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Grosso beats Brown in ‘gay’ precincts
David Grosso, Washington D.C., Capital Pride, gay news, Washington Blade

David Grosso accomplished a rare feat in D.C. politics by unseating an incumbent last week. (Photo courtesy of Grosso for Council 2012)

Independent D.C. Council candidate David Grosso beat incumbent Council member Michael Brown (I-At-Large) on Nov. 6 in 15 out of 16 voter precincts with large numbers of LGBT residents.

According to final but unofficial returns from the D.C. Board of Elections, Grosso finished ahead of Brown in the so-called “gay” precincts by a significantly greater margin than Grosso bested Brown in the citywide vote.

Grosso surprised many political observers by accomplishing a rare feat in D.C. politics — unseating an incumbent Council member.

In the citywide vote, Grosso came in second place in a seven-candidate race with two at-large seats in play. Under the city’s election law, a Democratic candidate is eligible for only one of the seats.

Incumbent Democrat Vincent Orange won re-election by finishing first with 37.4 percent of the vote. Grosso finished second, with 20.8 percent, making him the winner of the second of the two seats. Brown came in third place, with 15.3 percent of the vote.

However, in 11 of the 16 precincts with high concentrations of LGBT voters Grosso came in first place. He finished second in another four of the “gay” precincts.

Brown came in second place in just one of the precincts with high concentrations of LGBT residents – Precinct 112, which is located in Anacostia.

Brown finished in sixth place in six of the precincts and finished third or lower in the remaining four.

In the citywide tally, Republican Mary Brooks Beatty finished fourth with 7 percent of the vote, independent candidates A.J. Cooper and Leon Swain tied for fifth place with each getting 6.6 percent, and Statehood Green Party candidate Ann Wilcox came in last place with 5.8 percent.

Although political insiders acknowledged that Brown was hurt by the latest in a series of personal financial problems, most pundits expected the otherwise popular Council member to survive his re-election bid.

D.C. Councilman Michael Brown (I-At-Large)

Michael Brown (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Brown has been a longtime strong supporter of LGBT rights, voting for virtually every LGBT supportive bill or amendment, including the city’s same-sex marriage bill that has come before the Council during his close to four-year tenure as a Council member.

Grosso has worked for pro-gay former Council member Sharon Ambrose (D-Ward 6) and for pro-gay Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.). He has expressed support for LGBT issues during the campaign. He and Brown also campaigned aggressively in the LGBT community.

Nearly all of the precincts with a high concentration of visible LGBT residents are in majority white sections of the city. Most of the majority white areas voted for Grosso and most of the majority black sections of the city voted for Brown and Orange over Grosso.

D.C. political consultant Chuck Theis, who has been a longtime observer of D.C. elections, said the parts of the city where Grosso finished ahead of Brown, including the gay precincts, are made up largely of liberal-progressive whites who voted overwhelmingly for President Obama’s re-election. Theis said these voters, who supported Brown four years ago, appear to have lost confidence in him due to the widely publicized reports of Brown’s financial problems, including Brown’s disclosure earlier this year that more than $100,000 in campaign funds were stolen by his campaign treasurer. The treasurer denied stealing the funds.

Most of the majority black sections of the city, especially in Wards 7 and 8, appear to have had less of a problem with Brown’s financial issues and view him as a strong supporter of the issues they deem important, such as affordable housing and efforts to curtail the high unemployment rate in the two wards.

“Michael Brown stepped into a perfect storm,” Theis told the Blade. “He had almost no money due to his missing campaign funds, and the missing funds became a scandal. This raised the issue of all his past financial problems.”

The unexpectedly strong campaign waged by Grosso, who attacked Brown on his financial problems, and the unusual at-large election system, in which voters are asked to select two candidates but close to half the voters select just one (the Democrat) – appear to have created an insurmountable problem for Brown, Theis said.

Following is a list of the 16 precincts with large concentrations of LGBT residents and the vote count, by percentage, as reported by the D.C. Board of Elections:

  • Precinct 14 (Dupont Circle): Grosso, 30.2; Orange, 23.5; Brown, 5.6
  • Precinct 15 (Dupont Circle): Grosso, 30.5; Orange, 21.9; Brown, 6.3
  • Precinct 16 (Logan Circle): Grosso, 30.8; Orange, 25.0; Brown, 8.9
  • Precinct 17 (Logan Circle): Orange, 28.8; Grosso, 26.5; Brown, 11.1
  • Precinct 141 (Logan Circle): Grosso, 29.4; Orange 24.3; Brown, 8.6
  • Precinct 22 (14th and U Street, N.W. area): Grosso, 29.4; Orange, 24.9; Brown, 10.2
  • Precinct 23 (Columbia Heights): Orange, 35.1; Grosso, 21.3; Brown, 13.1
  • Precinct 24 (Adams Morgan): Grosso, 30.1; Orange, 26.5; Brown, 9.9
  • Precinct 25 (Adams Morgan): Grosso, 33.1; Orange, 19.8; Brown, 8.8
  • Precinct 39 (Mt. Pleasant): Grosso, 30.8; Orange, 26.2; Brown, 11.3
  • Precinct 40 (Mt. Pleasant): Grosso, 33.4; Orange, 22.3; Brown, 9.1
  • Precinct 89 (Capitol Hill): Grosso, 41.3; Mary Brooks Beatty, 16.2; Orange, 13.7; Brown, 5.5
  • Precinct 90 (Capitol Hill): Grosso, 36.2; Orange 18.2; Brown, 5.0
  • Precinct 112 (Anacostia): Orange, 58.2; Brown, 23.8; Grosso, 4.8
  • Precinct 127 (Southwest Waterfront): Orange, 37.8; Grosso, 18.7; Brown, 16.4

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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