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Graham to run for fifth term

Gay D.C. Council member announces re-election bid



Jim Graham, Washington, D.C., gay news, Washington Blade
Jim Graham, Washington, D.C., gay news, Washington Blade

Gay D.C. Councilmember Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) announced his re-election bid on Bruce DePuyt’s show Monday. (Washington Blade file photo by Jeff Surprenant)

Gay D.C. Councilmember Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) announced on Monday that he will run in the April 1, 2014 Democratic primary for a fifth term in office.

Graham made the announcement on the News Channel 8 TV program Bruce DePuyt Live a little more than a month after he formed an exploratory committee to help him decide whether or not to run for re-election.

In a statement released at the time of the announcement, Graham said that in discussions with Ward 1 residents he was reminded of the major economic development he helped bring about in all parts of the ward and his work in making sure the development benefited the residents. He also pointed to his constituent service work that he noted has been praised as among the best on the Council.

“It came down to, Jim, do you want to serve another four years? Graham told DePuyt. “Is this really something you want to do? Do you want to be of service? And the answer I came up with is yes.”

As of Dec. 6, three others had filed papers to run in the Democratic primary for the Ward 1 Council seat, according to a candidate list provided by the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics. All candidates must submit the required number of petition signatures by Jan. 2 to qualify for placement on the ballot.

The three running against Graham are longtime community activist and former Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Bryan Weaver; public relations consultant and community activist Brianne Nadeau; and Carnegie Mellon University professor Beverly Wheeler, who is a former chief of staff for D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large) before Mendelson became chair.

Graham, 68, has been among the Council’s strongest advocates for LGBT rights and people with HIV/AIDS. Prior to winning election to the Council, Graham served for more than 15 years as executive director of the Whitman-Walker Clinic, the city’s largest private, non-profit organization providing services to people with HIV/AIDS.

Graham’s three opponents have expressed support for LGBT equality.

Weaver, who ran and lost to Graham in the 2010 Democratic primary, has been the most outspoken this year among the three candidates challenging Graham on the issue of ethics. In a statement released Monday immediately after Graham announced he was running for re-election Weaver raised the issue of the Council’s decision in February of this year to reprimand Graham over an allegation that he improperly intervened in the negotiating process for a city contract with a developer.

“The Councilmember’s decision to seek re-election reflects just how out of touch he has become about the importance of the public’s trust in our government,” Weaver said.

The Council voted 11-2 to issue the reprimand after the city’s newly created independent ethics board ruled that Graham, while not violating any law, breached a code of ethics as a Council member by intervening in the contract process.

Graham has strongly disputed the claim that he acted improperly. He has said he favored one developer over another for a Metro-related project in his ward based on the belief that the company he favored was better qualified to do the work.

Political observers have said the reprimand by his Council colleagues and the ethics board ruling would likely make the outcome of Graham’s re-election closer than it has been in Graham’s four previous elections, in which he won by significant margins. In the 2010 general election, Graham won with 81 percent of the vote.

Ward 1 ANC Commissioner Marc Morgan, who ran against Graham as a Republican in the 2010 general election, said Graham remains highly popular among many Ward 1 residents based on his years of constituent service work in support of many of the ward’s diverse neighborhoods.

“In trying to put political bias aside, I must admit I’m a fan of Jim Graham,” Morgan told the Blade. “I can tell you that in my area the residents are extremely satisfied with him.”

The Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s largest LGBT political organization, has endorsed Graham in each of his past races for the Ward 1 Council seat. But this time Weaver, who is viewed as a longtime friend of the LGBT community, is expected to compete for the Stein Club endorsement.

Stein Club officials said they have yet to develop a timetable for making endorsements in the April 1 primary, but said an endorsement meeting and forum for Council candidates would likely take place in February or March.



Comings & Goings

McCarty named director of partnerships at Universe



Steven McCarty

The Comings & Goings column is about sharing the professional successes of our community. We want to recognize those landing new jobs, new clients for their business, joining boards of organizations and other achievements. Please share your successes with us at: [email protected].

Congratulations to Steven McCarty on his new position with Universe, as Director of Partnerships. Universe supports movement organizations, labor unions, and Democratic campaigns, with the software they need to win. On accepting the new position he said, “I’m most excited to take my years of campaign and technology experience to down-ballot Democrats across the country as we fight to preserve our Democracy this election cycle.” 

Prior to this, McCarty was Business Development + Partnerships Lead, at STAC labs (State Technology Acceleration Collaborative), where he spearheaded strategic business development initiatives, expanding STAC labs’ partner network by 400% with the launch of the Progressive Tech Index and doubling DemLaunch user base from four to 11 states within a year. Prior to that he was president at The Kiwanis Club of Washington, D.C.; Senior Customer Success Manager at Crowdskout; Vice President at Circle K International, Indianapolis, Ind.; and a summer fellow at Michigan State AFL-CIO, Lansing, Mich. 

He has done a lot of volunteer work, including being an elected Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner for ANC 2G04, representing Blagden Alley, Naylor Court, and Shepherd Court. He received a Youth Champion Award for outstanding support to LGBTQ Youth, from SMYAL; and was named a Kiwanis Member of the Year, Kiwanis Club of Washington, D.C.

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District of Columbia

Cherry Fund files lawsuit  against Republiq Hall

LGBTQ nonprofit says breach of contract led to $137,000 in lost revenue



Cherry Fund claims Republiq Hall canceled a contract for one of its popular events. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Cherry Fund, the D.C.-based nonprofit organization that has raised money for HIV/AIDS, mental health, and LGBTQ organizations for the past 27 years, filed a lawsuit in D.C. Superior Court on May 31 charging Republiq Hall, a large entertainment venue in Northeast D.C, with abruptly and improperly cancelling Cherry Fund’s reservation to rent the hall for an April 6 event expected to draw 2,000 paid guests.

The event was to be one of several circuit dance parties that Cherry Fund produces as part of its annual Cherry weekend in April, which has raised several million dollars for LGBTQ related organizations since the Cherry weekend  events began in 1996.  

The lawsuit, which charges Republiq Hall with breach of contract, says the contract signed by the two parties in January called for Cherry Fund to pay Republiq Hall an initial deposit of $3,500 on Jan. 10, 2024, to be applied to a nonrefundable rental fee totaling $7,000 for the one-time use of the space on April 6.

Republiq Hall is located in a large former warehouse building at 2122 24th Place, N.E., near the intersection of Bladensburg Road and New York Avenue. 

According to the lawsuit, under the contract, Cherry Fund “was responsible for promoting the event, booking talent, and managing ticket sales,” with Cherry Fund to “retain all door fee revenues and a percentage of the net bar sales.”

The lawsuit states, “On February 28, after Plaintiff had already begun promoting the event and booking talent, the Defendant unilaterally and without just cause demanded an additional $9,000 from the Plaintiff. When the Plaintiff refused to pay the additional amount, the Defendant cancelled the reservation.”

 As a result of Republiq Hall’s action, the lawsuit states, Cherry Fund was “forced to book an alternative venue with significantly less capacity, resulting in substantial financial losses.” 

It says as a direct result of the alleged breach of contract, Cherry Fund “suffered financial damages in the amount of $130,000 in lost door fees and $7,000 in a lost percentage of the net bar sales that were estimated to be collected on the date of the event.”

A spokesperson for Republiq Hall did not respond to a phone message from the Washington Blade requesting a comment and a response to the lawsuit’s allegations.

Court records show that Superior Court Judge Juliet J. McKenna, who is presiding over the case, scheduled an initial hearing for the case on Sept. 6. McKenna issued an order providing guidance for how a civil litigation case should proceed that includes a requirement that Republiq Hall must file a response to the lawsuit within 21 days of being officially served a copy of the lawsuit complaint.

Sean Morris, the Cherry Fund president, issued a statement expressing disappointment over the developments leading to the lawsuit.

“Our organization, powered by volunteer efforts, relies on our annual event to fundraise for local non-profits,” he said. “This abrupt and unforeseen demand, and subsequent cancellation, has severely affected our ability to support vital community programs focused on HIV/AIDS, mental health, and LGBTQ+ advocacy,” Morris says in his statement.

The lawsuit concludes by stating, “The Plaintiff, the Cherry Fund, respectfully requests the following relief: Direct compensatory damages for the lost benefits it was entitled to under the terms of the contract; Restitution for the benefits retained by the Defendant in unjust enrichment; Reasonable attorney fees and costs of this action; and Any other relief this court deems just and proper.”

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Silver Spring Pride sign rebuilt in memory of beloved neighbor

GoFundMe campaign has raised more than $4,000



Tony Brown's neighbors help repaint the Pride sign his late partner created in their Silver Spring, Md., neighborhood. (Photo courtesy of Molly Chehak)

Residents of Silver Spring’s Rosemary Hills neighborhood have come together to rebuild a Pride sign. 

The sign was constructed in June 2020, and was meant to stay in place throughout Pride Month. Neighborhood residents, however, requested it stay up past its intended month-long display, and has remained in place for more than four years. 

The sign spelling LOVE is at the neighborhood’s entrance between Sundale and Richmond Streets. It was made from plywood and the O was painted in the colors of the Pride flag.

“We wanted to take it down, but we just felt it was not ours anymore and belonged to the neighborhood.” Tony Brown told the Washington Blade during a telephone interview. “It was a positive thing for the neighborhood and began to take on a life of its own.” 

Brown and his partner, Mike Heffner, designed the sign and said the Black Lives Matter movement inspired them to create it as a strong symbol of an accepting community.

The sign was vandalized numerous times last fall, resulting in neighborhood residents taking turns repairing it. Brown and his partner could not do the repairs themselves because Heffner was fighting Stage 4 lung cancer.

Heffner passed away on Oct. 6, 2023.

A GoFundMe page was set up to help raise funds for the replacement Pride sign, and it has raised more than $4,000. The replacement sign is more permanent and made of metal.

“I can’t speak for the neighborhood overall, but people who knew Mike I think are happy that we were able to honor his memory with this sign because this sign is so him,” Molly Chehak, a friend who lives next door to Brown, told the Blade. “He (Heffner) was an outgoing super social (person) who just made you feel good the way this sign does. It’s a perfect tribute to him.” 

Chehak and other neighbors created the GoFundMe account.

Heffner’s family and his neighbors are still working to rebuild the Pride sign. It has become a memorial to Heffner.

“We wanted to do one that was clearly a Pride reference,” said Brown, noting the L is a fully painted Pride flag that spirals across the entire letter. 

“For the O we wanted to do something reminiscent of times in the past, a throwback to the 60’s and 70’s so it’s a hippie montage of flowers and butterflies,” he said. 

Brown described the V as being colorful, nonbinary people hugging each other with the idea that love is more than what one may see. 

“During COVID, he had started painting rocks and putting kind and fun messages on them leaving them around places as sort of a pay it forward Karma and so the E is basically that stylized writing and to embrace a bunch of ways we embrace love,” he said. 

The final letter had the phrase “love is love” written repeatedly in various handwritings to pay homage to Heffner and what he did for his neighborhood during the pandemic. Brown’s four daughters — one of whom is a professional artist — and their friends designed it.

The landscape around the sign has also been transformed with rocks that honors Heffner’s love for Rosemary Hills and his passion for rocks.

Chehak also said Heffner always wanted a bench, and neighbors are looking to install one soon next to the Pride sign.

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