Gay Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette announced late Wednesday that he has decided not to run this year for the U.S. House seat being vacated by Rep. James Moran (D-Va.).
Fisette was among about a dozen prominent Northern Virginia politicians, including gay State Sen. Adam Ebbin, mentioned by political observers as potential candidates to run in the June 10 Democratic primary to seek the nomination for Moran’s seat in the 8th Congressional District.
The overwhelmingly Democratic district includes parts of Arlington and Fairfax counties and most of the City of Alexandria. The winner of the primary is expected to easily win the general election in November.
“Many friends and colleagues have asked of my interest in running for this seat and have encouraged me to run,” Fisette said in a statement. “While appreciative of those comments, I have decided that I will not seek this position,” he said.
“One reason for my decision is the contrast between the dysfunctional climate on Capitol Hill and the can-do atmosphere in Arlington,” Fisette said. “The state of politics at the national level is disheartening, with the outsized influence of shrill, well-financed forces and the disintegration of sincere efforts to forge compromise, respect one’s colleagues and realize the potential of government to make people’s lives better.”
Fisette became the first known openly gay elected official in Virginia in 1997 when he won election to an at-large seat on the five-member Arlington Board, which serves as the county’s governing body. He has won re-election four times since then by wide margins, with his latest electoral victory last year.
Although Ebbin has yet to make an official announcement, a prominent gay Democratic activist in Arlington has said “the word is out” that Ebbin plans to run for the congressional seat.
Ebbin became the first out gay to win election to the Virginia General Assembly in 2003 when he won his race for a seat in the House of Delegates. He won election to the State Senate in 2011 in a district that covers most of the territory of the 8th Congressional District.
In a related development, the Washington Post reported that Del. Patrick Hope (D-Arlington) planned to announce on Thursday he was forming an exploratory committee to assess whether to run for the 8th District congressional seat. Businessman and former Navy fighter pilot Bruce Shuttleworth announced his candidacy for the congressional seat last week. Both are Democrats who have expressed strong support for LGBT rights as have all of the Democrats thought to be considering running for Moran’s seat.
In his statement saying he isn’t running, Fisette added, “There are many qualified Democrats who could represent the Eighth District very capably. I will work with our party’s nominee to secure a victory in the November election and keep the Eighth District in the progressive ranks.”
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Anacostia group honors LGBTQ advocate Pannell for 30 years of service
Oct. 5 celebration set for Ward 8 Sycamore & Oak retail village
The Anacostia Coordinating Council (ACC), an advocacy organization for D.C.’s Anacostia neighborhood and surrounding areas east of the Anacostia River, is holding a celebration honoring LGBTQ rights and Anacostia community activist Phillip Pannell for his 30 years of service with the ACC.
The event was scheduled to take place from 6-8 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 5, at the recently opened Sycamore & Oak retail village mall on the St. Elizabeth’s East Campus in Southeast D.C.
Pannell, 73, serves as the ACC executive director, a position he has held since 1995. He has been a member of the Anacostia-based nonprofit organization’s staff since 1993.
A longtime advocate for LGBTQ rights, Pannell has been credited with persuading many of D.C.’s LGBTQ organizations to reach out to LGBTQ residents who live in Wards 7 and 8 east of the Anacostia River.
He has also been credited with persuading African-American organizations, including organizers of the annual Martin Luther King Jr. memorial celebrations, to include and welcome LGBTQ people to their events.
“Join us for an evening of food, fun, and surprises,” an announcement of the event released by the ACC says.
ACC spokesperson Lamont Mitchell told the Washington Blade several community leaders and public officials who have known Pannell during his many years of D.C. community involvement were expected to speak at the Oct. 5 celebration. Among the expected speakers, Mitchell said, was former D.C. Mayor Sharon Pratt.
According to the announcement, the event is free and open to the public, but organizers requested that people register in advance at tinyurl.com/Pannell35.
The ACC event honoring Pannell was to take place about a month after the D.C. newspaper Washington Informer published a detailed article profiling Pannell’s career as a community activist and advocate for several important local causes and issues, including D.C. statehood.
“D.C. statehood is not just a political issue, it is also a civil and human rights issue because if D.C. were a state, we would be a state with the highest percentage of African Americans, basically a majority, minority state,” the Informer quoted Pannell as saying. “That’s one of the reasons a lot of right-wing Republicans don’t want to see D.C. become a state because we are going to elect progressive, Black Democratic senators,” Pannell told the Informer.
A statement on the ACC’s website says Pannell has received more than 100 awards during his nearly four decades of work in D.C., including the 2011 U.S. President’s Call to Service Award and the 2012 D.C. Federation of Civic Associations award for Outstanding President of a Member Association.
Elected officials turn out for annual Equality NoVa Ice Cream Social
Northern Virginia LGBTQ group stresses ‘political awareness, education’
Four LGBTQ supportive members of the Virginia General Assembly and two candidates running for seats on the Arlington County Board were among more than 100 people who turned out on Sunday, Sept. 24, for the LGBTQ organization Equality NoVa’s annual Ice Cream Social.
The event was held at the Arlington, Va. home of Freddie Lutz, owner of the Arlington gay bar and restaurant Freddie’s Beach Bar, and Lutz’s husband, Johnny Cervantes.
Daniel Hays, president of Equality NoVa, told those attending the event in introductory remarks that Equality NoVa, which recently changed its name from the Arlington Gay and Lesbian Alliance (AGLA), was founded in 1981 and is the oldest continuously operating LGBTQ organization in Virginia.
In an announcement in April the group said the name change came after it had taken on for some time the activities and representation of the now-defunct LGBTQ groups in Alexandria and Fairfax counties and had expanded its operations to cover most if not all the regions known as Northern Virginia.
Hays noted that the group is a nonpartisan organization that doesn’t endorse candidates for public office but organizes educational and political awareness events and awareness campaigns on issues impacting LGBTQ people related to statewide and local government agencies and officials.
The elected officials attending the event were Virginia House of Delegates members Charniele Herring (D-Alexandria & Fairfax), Elizabeth Bennett-Parker (D-Alexandria & Arlington), and Vivian Watts (D-Fairfax).
Also attending was Virginia State Sen. Barbara Favola, a Democrat whose district includes parts of Arlington, Fairfax, and Loudoun Counties.
Joining the state lawmakers attending the Equality NoVa social were Arlington County Board candidates Maureen Coffey and Susan Cunningham and Arlington County School Board candidate Miranda Turner.
Many of those attending the event said they were rooting for the re-election of Herring, Bennett-Parker, Watts, and Favola in the upcoming Virginia elections in November. All members and candidates for the General Assembly will be on the ballot in an election that political observers say could decide which party controls both houses of the state legislature.
Currently, Democrats control the 40-member Virginia Senate by a margin of 22-18 seats. Republicans currently control the House of Delegates by a margin of 51 to 46 seats, with three vacancies in the 100-member House.
With Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) putting in place through executive action public school policies that LGBTQ activists consider hostile and discriminatory for transgender students, LGBTQ activists are hopeful that a Democratic takeover of the House of Delegates would result in a reversal of Youngkin’s school policy.
Some of the activists attending the Equality NoVa event said they were fearful that a Republican takeover of the state Senate and if Republicans retain control of the House of Delegates could result in the General Assembly approving the type of anti-LGBTQ legislation passed in Florida and other states.
Anti-transgender heckler interrupts Danica Roem during debate
Trans lawmaker is running for the Va. state Senate
An anti-transgender heckler interrupted Virginia state Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas) on Sept. 28 during a debate with her Republican opponent for the state Senate.
The woman heckled Roem during the Prince William Committee of 100-organized debate between her and Bill Woolf that took place at Metz Middle School in Manassas.
“Thank you for reminding me why I won three elections in this district in Prince William County, which is the most diverse county in all of Virginia and the 10th most nationally where we welcome everyone because of who they are, not despite it, no matter what you look like, where you come from how you worship, if you do, or who you love because you should be able to thrive here because of who you are, never despite it,” said Roem.
Audience members applauded Roem after she responded to the heckler who was eventually removed from the auditorium.
Roem in 2017 defeated then-state Del. Bob Marshall, a vocal LGBTQ rights opponent who co-wrote Virginia’s constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman that voters approved 11 years earlier. Roem subsequently became the first openly transgender person seated in a state legislature in the U.S.
Roem in 2019 became the first out trans state legislator to win re-election. Roem in May 2022 announced she is running to represent the newly redistricted Senate District 30, which includes western Prince William County and the cities of Manassas and Manassas Park.
Woolf during the Sept. 28 debate did not say whether he would support the repeal of the marriage amendment. Woolf also reiterated his support of a bill that would require school personnel to out trans students to their parents.