The manager of D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray’s just-announced re-election campaign called Gray’s record on LGBT issues “rock solid” and said the campaign will be open to an ongoing, “two-way dialogue” with LGBT people throughout the city.
Chuck Thies, a longtime D.C. political consultant who Gray picked to lead his 2014 campaign, told the Blade he believes LGBT people understand that Gray’s longtime support for their rights and dignity is based on the mayor’s deeply held beliefs that are not motivated by politics.
“So will there be a focused outreach to the LGBT community? Absolutely,” Thies said. “And I think it will not just be outreach. I’m expecting a two-way dialogue.”
Gray’s announcement on Monday that he plans to run for a second term came in the form of an open letter to D.C. voters, which he released as he and Thies visited the offices of the Board of Elections and Ethics to register Gray as a candidate. The two also picked up petitions to obtain the 2,000 signatures from registered Democrats needed for Gray to run in the April 1, 2014 Democratic primary. The deadline for filing the petitions is Jan. 2.
Gray became the 11th candidate to enter the Democratic primary contest at a time when four members of the D.C. City Council, a restaurant owner-political activist and five lesser-known candidates have vowed to challenge his record, among other things, on grounds of ethics and political corruption.
Similar to political activists across the city, several LGBT activists told the Blade that despite Gray’s solid record on LGBT issues they are reluctant to support the mayor’s re-election bid out of concern that he might be implicated in a two-and-a-half year ongoing investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s office into Gray’s 2010 election campaign.
Four people associated with the 2010 Gray campaign have pleaded guilty to felony charges stemming from allegations that they helped operate a secret “shadow” campaign that raised $655,000 without reporting the existence of those funds in violation of campaign reporting laws.
Gray has said he knew nothing about the shadow campaign or alleged illegal activity by some of his campaign aides.
Among those considered his main rivals are D.C. Council members Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) and Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6). Also entering the race last month was Council member Vincent Orange (D-At-Large), who ran and lost his bid for mayor in 2006 to former Mayor Adrian Fenty.
Political observers say Wells and Andy Shallal, owner of the local restaurant chain Busboys and Poets who has been a longtime advocate for progressive causes, could attract support from progressive voters because of their outspoken calls for campaign finance reform and stronger ethics-in-government laws.
Veteran D.C. gay activist Bob Summersgill, a Ward 3 ANC commissioner and former president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, is among the LGBT activists that supported Gray in 2010 but aren’t supporting him now. Summersgill said he’s backing Wells for mayor.
“All of the major candidates have excellent records on LGBT issues,” Summersgill said in response to a Blade survey of the city’s LGBT activist leaders. “I have largely looked at other issues in deciding who to support.”
Summersgill and Deacon Maccubbin, owner of the now closed Lambda Rising bookstore and a longtime Democratic Party supporter, said they are backing Wells, among other things, because he has taken the lead in speaking out against political corruption and pushing for campaign finance and ethics reforms.
Other prominent LGBT activists who backed Gray in 2010 said they remain strong supporters of Gray and plan to work to help the mayor win election to a second term.
“I’ve been waiting to see what the mayor was going to do,” said gay Democratic activist Lane Hudson. “Now that he’s announced he will seek re-election I am 110 percent in support of that.”
Hudson added, “I think he’s probably the most competent mayor we have ever had. He understands the D.C. government better than anyone that I know. He has been accessible and he’s a hard worker.”
On LGBT issues, Hudson said of Gray, “There’s never been anyone who’s had a better record on LGBT issues in D.C. politics.”
Others backing Gray are D.C. transgender activists Jeri Hughes and Alexandra Beninda, who called Gray the nation’s most supportive mayor on transgender issues.
Hudson, Hughes and Beninda each said the fact that Gray has not been implicated in wrongdoing related to his 2010 mayoral campaign leads them to believe Gray’s long-stated assertion that the wrongdoing took place without his knowledge or approval.
Barrie Daneker, treasurer of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s largest LGBT political group, and John Fanning, a Ward 2 gay civic activist, are among a sizable number of LGBT activists backing Evans. The two note that Evans’ strong support for LGBT rights dates back to the beginning of his tenure as a Council member 20 years ago.
Christopher Dyer, the gay Democratic activist who served as director of the city’s Office of GLBT Affairs under Mayor Fenty, is among the LGBT advocates backing Bowser’s mayoral bid.
Veteran gay activist A. Billy S. Jones-Hennin is among those who remain undecided in the mayoral race.
“I believe Gray has done a credible job as mayor,” Jones-Hennin told the Blade, “however, the cloud of his 2010 election woes is still lingering. I’m impressed by the campaign of Bowser.”
One of the lesser-known mayoral candidates, Reta Jo Lewis, a former State Department official, has said she is a strong supporter of LGBT rights.
The positions on LGBT-related issues among the remaining candidates that took out petitions to get on the Democratic primary ballot for mayor couldn’t immediately be obtained. They include Christian Carter, Michael Green, Frank Sewell and Octavia Wells.