Three young activists who became members of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club for the first time within the past week won election Monday night to three of the club’s five officer positions, gaining control of the city’s largest LGBT political group.
In a development that stunned many of the club’s longtime members, gay political consultant Martin Garcia beat incumbent Stein Club President Lateefah Williams, an attorney, by a vote of 47 to 45.
Angela Peoples, former legislative director of the United States Student Association, and Vincent Villano, communications director for the National Center for Transgender Equality, beat club backed candidates Jon Mandel and Hassan Naveed for the offices of Vice President for Legislative and Political Affairs and Vice President for Administration respectively.
The vote came after close to 50 young LGBT activists, some of whom had never attended a Stein Club meeting before, filed into a meeting room at the John A. Wilson city hall building to cast their votes for the insurgent candidates.
“Getting this many folks in the room to have this debate – I think that’s the democratic process in action,” Garcia told the Blade after the winners were announced.
“I think we need to build upon what Gertrude Stein has done and bring folks into the fold and into this organization,” he said. “I think the energy around our candidacies did this.”
Garcia and his fellow insurgents chose not to run candidates against the club’s incumbent treasurer, Barrie Daneker, and secretary, Jimmie Luthuli, who ran for re-election unopposed.
It became clear during the brief speeches by the candidates on both sides that the new group shares the Stein Club’s loyalty to the Democratic Party and the club’s commitment to LGBT equality.
Garcia, Peoples, and Villano, however, told club members in opening remarks and in response to questions that their aim is to expand the diversity of the club’s membership and boost its organizational and fundraising capabilities.
Among the new members who joined to support the slate were Latino and Asian-American members of the LGBT community, including Gregory Cedana, who became the first out gay Asian-Pacific Islander community member to win election as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention earlier this year,
Gay Democratic and Ward 8 community activist Phil Pannell, a longtime Stein Club member, surprised some fellow members by placing Garcia’s name in nomination, indicating his support for the new slate.
Pannell said the club’s fundraising efforts haven’t been as aggressive as they could be and its support for his own candidacy for the Ward 8 school board seat in the November election was limited to an endorsement, with no effort to campaign for him.
Stein Club member and transgender activist Jeri Hughes expressed strong disappointment over the outcome of the club election, saying the new members should have worked with the current officers and members before running for office.
“Who are these people?” she said. “They come to one meeting and they take over the club?”
Veteran club member Barbara Helmick said she is hopeful that the new officers will do a good job in advancing the club’s objectives of advocating for LGBT rights.
“There was a brilliant organizing campaign to bring in some new people,” she told the Blade. “And they’ve got some good ideas. I think Lateefah has and the whole Stein board served honorably and well and had a fabulous year,” she said. “And now is the time to come together and build Stein and move into the future.”
Williams said she and the other club officers, after organizing numerous club endorsement forums and other club activities during the past year, responded to the challenge by the insurgent group by waging their own effort to win re-election.
Peoples beat Mandell for the vice president for legislative and political affairs post by a vote of 47 to 44. Villano beat Naveed for the post of vice president for administration by a vote of 48 to 41.
“We both organized,” Williams said. “You can see the race was incredibly close. It was almost equally split in terms of the support we both had.”
Garcia said he plans to work closely with the longtime members.
“I’m going to work my butt off to earn the respect and build relationships with the folks who have been here in the past,” he said. “And hopefully they won’t turn their back on the organization because I’m going to work diligently to make sure that Gertrude Stein is built and moves forward and it can be the best organization that I can make it.”