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It’s official: Mizeur announces run for Md. governor

Democrat would become country’s first openly gay state executive

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Heather Mizeur, gay news, Washington Blade, Maryland House of Delegates, Baltimore Pride Parade
Heather Mizeur, gay news, Washington Blade, Maryland House of Delegates, Baltimore Pride Parade

Maryland state Del. Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery Co.) (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Maryland state Del. Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery County) has formally announced her 2014 gubernatorial campaign.

“I’m running for governor because I love this state and I see limitless possibilities on what we can accomplish together,” she told the Washington Blade in an interview before she officially declared her candidacy in an e-mail to supporters. Mizeur cited economic development, protecting the state’s environment and improving the quality of Maryland’s public schools and health care system as among her top campaign issues. “There are great challenges facing us and also incredible opportunities.”

Mizeur, 40, has represented the 20th House District that includes Takoma Park and Silver Spring in the General Assembly since 2006.

The former Democratic National Committee member worked on now Secretary of State John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign. Mizeur in 2008 endorsed President Obama’s election campaign after her consideration of him or then-New York Sen. Hillary Clinton received national attention.

Mizeur would make history as Maryland’s first female governor and the country’s first openly LGBT governor if voters elect her in 2014.

“Diversity is enormously important,” she told the Blade. “Not simply to have a gay governor, but to have a governor who can represent the voices of people in communities that have not always had a voice in the process.”

Mizeur added her approach to governing the state and her vision for Maryland is “about bringing people together and making everyone a stakeholder and creating solutions to the issues” it faces.

Brown, Gansler have fundraising advantage

Mizeur will face off against Lieutenant Gov. Anthony Brown, who last month unveiled Howard County Executive Ken Ulman as his running mate. Attorney General Doug Gansler is expected to officially declare his candidacy to succeed Gov. Martin O’Malley in 2014 later this year, while Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger is also considered a potential candidate.

Harford County Executive David Craig, state Del. Ron George (R-Anne Arundel County,) 2012 U.S. Senate candidate Brian Vaeth and Frederick County Board of Commissioners President Blaine Young have also officially declared their candidacy on the Republican side.

Craig on Tuesday unveiled state Del. Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio (R-Talbot County) as his running mate.

Former Republican National Committee Chair Michael Steele, who was Maryland’s lieutenant governor from 2003-2007, said last month during an interview with MSNBC’s Chuck Todd he is “looking at” entering the race. Former 2010 congressional candidate Charles Lollar is among the other Republicans who are rumored to be considering their own gubernatorial bids.

EMILY’s List and the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund are expected to back Mizeur’s campaign, but campaign finance reports indicate both Brown and Gansler have a significant fundraising advantage.

Mizeur reported in a campaign finance report she filed in January that she raised $244,089.40 between Jan. 12, 2012, and January 9 of this year. Brown said he raised $1,247,811.80 in cash and in-kind donations during the same period, while Gansler netted $1,236,284.96.

Mizeur declined to disclose to the Blade the amount of money she has raised since the last campaign finance report she filed in January.

She again stressed she feels she is the best person to succeed O’Malley in Annapolis in 2014.

“I’m not going to go into office playing it safe for four years so that I can assure myself of re-election,” Mizeur said. “The bold, aggressive, visionary ideas that I’m laying out in the course of the campaign is the action agenda for my term as governor.”

Mizeur defends role she played to advance marriage bill

Rev. Delman Coates of Mt. Ennon Baptist Church in Prince George’s County and other LGBT rights advocates have applauded Mizeur for the role she played in the passage of Maryland’s same-sex marriage referendum last November in spite of Marylanders for Marriage Equality Campaign Manager Josh Levin’s suggestion that she could have done more to support the effort.

Mizeur pointed out to the Blade during an exclusive interview last fall during which she announced she was considering a run for governor that she took part in fundraising events and testified in support of the bill. The Montgomery County Democrat, who married her wife, Deborah Mizeur, during a 2005 ceremony along the Chesapeake Bay and again in California before voters in 2008 approved Proposition 8 that banned gay nuptials in the state, also gave an emotional speech on the floor of the House of Delegates before it passed the same-sex marriage bill in 2012.

Mizeur also noted she and the other seven openly gay Maryland lawmakers remained focused on the same-sex marriage effort throughout the 2012 legislative session.

“Each of us was working hard in our own way,” Mizeur told the Blade last fall. “My entire public schedule was Question 6-related for months.”

Mizeur said she also worked “very closely” with Gender Rights Maryland Executive Director Dana Beyer earlier this year to advance a bill that would have banned anti-transgender discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodation.

The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee in March narrowly struck down the measure.

Mizeur pointed to both the same-sex marriage and trans rights bills as examples of her “ability to work with my colleagues” to “push through some pretty big efforts.”

“I will continue to build on those relationships in order to get other priority issues pushed through the General Assembly,” she said

Beyer, who supports Mizeur, on Tuesday described the Montgomery County Democrat as “a force to be reckoned with.”

“History can be made,” Beyer told the Blade. “Identity politics aside, Heather does her job really well.”

While not explicitly endorsing Mizeur’s campaign, Equality Maryland PAC Chair Tim Williams welcomed her candidacy and other out Marylanders who have decided to seek office in 2014.

“The presence of at least one openly gay candidate in the governor’s race, as well as the many LGBT individuals and allies who are running for other state and local offices, is an indication of how far we have come as a state and a nation,” Williams said in a statement to the Blade.

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District of Columbia

Capital Stonewall Democrats backs Robert White over Bowser

LGBTQ group endorses Erin Palmer over incumbent Mendelson

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Council member Robert White won the backing of Capital Stonewall Democrats in his bid for mayor over incumbent Muriel Bowser. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Capital Stonewall Democrats, the city’s largest local LGBTQ political group, announced on May 17 that it has selected D.C. Council member Robert White (D-At-Large) over incumbent Mayor Muriel Bowser and political newcomer Erin Palmer over D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson as its endorsed candidates in the city’s June 21 Democratic primary.

With Bowser and Mendelson as well as White having longstanding records of support for LGBTQ rights and Palmer expressing strong support for the LGBTQ community, local observers say the LGBTQ Democratic group’s 163 voting members appear to have based their endorsement decisions on other pressing issues facing the city rather than only LGBTQ specific issues.

In other races, Capital Stonewall Democrats, formerly known as the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, which was founded in 1976, voted to endorse incumbent Ward 1 Council member Brianne Nadeau over gay former D.C. police officer Salah Czapary and community activist Sabel Harris who are running against Nadeau.

In the Ward 5 Council race, the group has endorsed gay D.C. Board of Education member Zachary Parker in a five-candidate contest for the seat being vacated by incumbent Council member Kenyan McDuffie, who ran unsuccessfully for the office of D.C. Attorney General.

The group has also endorsed Council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), who is running unopposed in the primary; D.C. Congressional Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), who’s favored to win re-election against two lesser-known opponents; and D.C. shadow U.S. Rep. Oye Owolewa, who’s also favored over a lesser known opponent.

Capital Stonewall Democrats announced it did not make an endorsement in the Ward 3 and At-Large D.C. Council races and in the D.C. Attorney General race because no candidate received a required 60 percent of the vote under the group’s longstanding rules for endorsements.

By not endorsing in the At-Large race, the group passed over incumbent At-Large Council member Anita Bonds, a longtime supporter of LGBTQ issues. Bonds is being challenged by Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Lisa Gore, former D.C. shadow House member Nate Fleming, and former D.C. Council staffer Dexter Williams.

In the hotly contested Ward 3 Council race, nine candidates are competing for the seat being vacated by incumbent Mary Cheh, another longtime LGBTQ rights supporter.

In the race for attorney general, three prominent local attorneys — Brian Schwalb, Ryan Jones, and Bruce Spiva — are competing for the AG position being vacated by incumbent Karl Racine, who chose not to run for re-election.

Capital Stonewall Democrats’ endorsements follow a series of five LGBTQ candidate forums the group held virtually in which most of the candidates running in the various races attended.
In the group’s mayoral form, Bowser was the only one of the four mayoral contenders that did not attend. Her supporters said she had a conflicting event organized by gay Democratic activist Kurt Vorndran that prevented her from attending the Stonewall event.

Those who attended the mayoral forum were Robert White, D.C. Council member and mayoral candidate Trayon White (D-Ward 8), and former attorney and community activist James Butler.
A detailed vote tally released by Capital Stonewall Democrats shows the vote count for each of the endorsed candidates as well as candidates in the races for which the group did not make an endorsement.

In the mayoral race, Robert White received 120 votes, or 74.5 percent. Bowser came in second place with 37 votes or 23.0 percent; Trayon White received just two votes or 1.2 percent, with Butler receiving just 1 vote at 0.6 percent. One vote was cast for no endorsement.

In the D.C. Council Chair race, Palmer received 89 votes or 60.1 percent, just surpassing the 60 percent threshold needed for an endorsement. Mendelson received 48 votes or 32.4 percent. Eleven votes were cast for no endorsement.

In the Ward 1 Council race, Nadeau received 100 votes or 69.4 percent compared to gay candidate Czapary, who came in second place with 23 votes or 16.0 percent. Candidate Sabel Harris came in third place with 9 votes or 6.3 percent, with a no endorsement selection receiving 12 votes or 8.3 percent.

In the Ward 5 contest, gay school board member Parker received 91 votes or 64.5 percent. Candidate Faith Hubbard came in second with 31 votes or 22.0 percent. The remaining candidates received fewer than 10 votes each, including former At-Large and former Ward 5 Council member Vincent Orange, who received 5 votes or 3.5 percent.

“Since Capital Stonewall Democrats has only 221 members, and only 163 bothered to vote, this is clearly not representative of the LGBTQ+ community in the District,” said gay Democratic activist Peter Rosenstein, who is supporting Bowser for mayor.

But longtime D.C. LGBTQ rights advocate A. Billy S. Jones-Hennin is among the local activists who view the Capital Stonewall Democrats’ endorsement of lesser-known challengers – most of whom have progressive, left-leaning views – as a reflection of changes in the demographics of the LGBTQ community and the Stonewall group’s members.

“At the forefront for voters is who they feel can address core problems like crime, open drug transactions, and increased homeless populations,” Jones-Hennin told the Blade. “Just asking voters for support based on their support of the LGBTQ+ community in the past does not cut it,” he said. “We are multi-faceted voters looking for new, more progressive and aggressive leadership.”

The Capital Stonewall Democrats list of endorsements as well as races with no endorsement can be viewed below:

• Mayor: Robert White, with 74.5% of the round one vote
• DC Attorney General: No Endorsement
• DC Council Chair: Erin Palmer, with 60.1% of the round one vote
• Ward 1 Council: Brianne K. Nadeau, with 69.4% of the round one vote
• Ward 3 Council: No Endorsement
• Ward 5 Council: Zachary Parker, with 64.5% of the round one vote
• Ward 6 Council: Charles Allen, with 83.2% of the round one vote
• At-Large Council: No Endorsement
• Delegate to U.S. House of Representatives: Eleanor Holmes Norton, with 69.7% of the round one vote
• U.S. Representative: Oye Owolewa, with 66.1% of the round one vote

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District of Columbia

Pannell resigns in protest from Ward 8 Council member’s LGBT Commission

Says Trayon White has no out member of his staff

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Phil Pannell resigned as a member of the Ward 8 LGBT Commission created by D.C. Council member Trayon White. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Longtime D.C. LGBTQ rights activist Phil Pannell announced on May 6 that he has resigned as a member of the Ward 8 LGBT Commission created by D.C. Council member Trayon White (D-Ward 8) on grounds that White does not have an LGBTQ person on his Council staff.

White’s office has said the Council member created the commission to “focus on the specific needs of this community” in his role as a supporter of LGBTQ equality.

“For me, this is a major issue of inclusion, affirmative action and diversity,” Pannell said in an email message announcing his resignation. “I as a Black Gay man cannot in good conscience continue to be a member of my Councilmember’s LGBT Commission when he has no one from my community on his staff,” Pannell’s announcement message continues.

“This is hypocritical at best and structurally homophobic at worst,” he said. “I deeply resent and refuse to be used as anyone’s homosexual prop for any purposes. Therefore, I resign from the commission effective immediately.”

In response to a request by the Washington Blade for comment on Pannell’s resignation, Julia Jessie, White’s director of communications, said White’s Council office “follows all legal HR procedures and hires based on experience and skillset.” Jessie added, “As an employer, we do not discriminate or consider a person’s race, color, religion, or sex, including sexual orientation or gender identity, when making decisions about employment qualifications.”

According to Jessie, “We do, however, harvest a safe and inclusionary work environment where employees who wish to voluntarily disclose their sexual orientation of gender identity feel comfortable doing so.”

White’s office released a statement from the Ward 8 LGBT Commission’s chair, Marvin ‘Rahim’ Briggs, saying the commission “regretfully accepts” Pannell’s resignation.

“The Commission will continue to focus on and address issues affecting Ward 8 LGBTQ,” Briggs says in the statement. “We’ll continue to organize to promote acceptance of LGBTQ community diversity and to foster respect and appreciation for each member of the community residing in Ward 8.”

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District of Columbia

Two gay candidates disqualified from D.C. primary ballot

Republican, Libertarian activists withdraw from races

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(Blade archive photo by Aram Vartian)

A member of the Capital Stonewall Democrats, D.C.’s largest LGBTQ local political group, mounted a successful challenge before the D.C. Board of Elections earlier this month that resulted in a gay Republican and a gay Libertarian Party activist withdrawing as candidates for public office in the city’s June 21 primary.

James Harnett, 24, a member of the Ward 2 Democratic Committee and a member of the staff of U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), filed challenges to the candidacy of gay Libertarian Party activist Bruce Majors, who was running unopposed in the June 21 primary for the office of both D.C. Delegate to the U.S. House and chair of the Libertarian Party of D.C.

The Board of Elections upheld Harnett’s challenge claiming that Majors failed to obtain a sufficient number of valid petition signatures needed to be placed on the ballot for both offices, according to elections board spokesperson Nicholas Jacobs. Majors withdrew his candidacy for both offices rather than contest the challenge.

The Board of Elections also upheld a challenge filed by Harnett against the candidacy of gay Republican and D.C. Log Cabin Republicans organization member Andrew Desser, who was running unopposed in the primary for the position of Ward 1 Chairperson of the D.C. Republican Committee.

Desser told the Blade he acknowledged that he fell short in obtaining the needed number of valid petition signatures and would not contest the challenge.

Harnett, who appeared to be acting on his own behalf and not representing the Capital Stonewall Democrats in his challenges to Majors and Desser before the election board, did not respond to the Blade’s request for comment.

Board of Elections records showed that he also successfully challenged six other candidates seeking ballot placement in the June 21 primary, one of whom, Lori Furstenberg, was running for mayor as a Republican and another, Corren Brown, was running for mayor as a Statehood-Green Party member.

The others Harnett mounted a successful challenge against were GOP candidates running for the Ward 2, Ward 4, and Ward 7 GOP Chairperson positions; and Leniqua ‘Dominique’ Jenkins, a Democrat running for the at-large D.C. Council seat, who was the only Democrat challenged by Harnett.

Harnett, a former ANC commissioner in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood, ran unsuccessfully in 2020 for the nonpartisan office of D.C. Board of Education for Ward 2. Among the candidates he ran against was gay education advocate Allister Chang, who won that race.

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