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Dismay, disinterest win D.C. mayoral primary

Record low turnout signifies voter dissatisfaction with local candidates

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disinterest, gay news, Washington Blade, primary
disinterest, gay news, Washington Blade, primary

Slightly less than 25 percent, political party-registered voters eligible to cast ballots in the city’s April 1 partisan primary election did so.

Dismay and disinterest won the day in D.C.’s primary election by a record-setting margin. Similar to the mayoral contest determining the overwhelmingly dominant Democratic Party’s nominee for mayor, it wasn’t even close.

Voters didn’t much like their choices.

Had they been sufficiently motivated to breeze through one of the 143 precinct locations, they would have discovered more poll workers than the sparse turnout of voters at most moments during the 13-hour ordeal. Despite it taking nearly five hours for the startlingly and chronically dysfunctional D.C. Board of Elections to complete its preliminary tally after the polls closed, voter dissatisfaction with their ballot box options had long been apparent.

Barely one-in-four, slightly less than 25 percent, political party-registered voters eligible to cast ballots in the city’s April 1 partisan primary election did so. In 2010, the participation rate was 37 percent, with 137,586 voting – including nearly 134,000 in the Democratic primary. According to unofficial returns, this year’s totals won’t crack six digits as far fewer than 100,000 of the 369,035 primary-eligible registrants showed up at the polls.

Never before in the city’s electoral history have so few chosen to vote in a mayoral primary. Throughout the day and across the city it was evident that voter turnout would produce a jaw-dropping paucity of votes.

It was the first time turnout has ever been lower than the prior nadir of 32 percent in 1998. Pending the final tally, it is likely that the actual raw number voting will exceed only that of 1986 – when there were one-third fewer eligible voters among a much-smaller District population.

Indications of a looming electoral debacle were evident when early voting poll numbers were announced last weekend. The two-week-long opportunity to vote in advance enticed approximately 37 percent fewer to do so than in the previous mayoral primary, despite an expanded number of voting locations and no notable differential in the number of party-aligned partisans. In 2010, more than 22,000 party-registered voters cast ballots in advance of primary election day. This year only slightly more than 14,000 were reported.

These substantial declines had been forecast by the campaign manager for incumbent Mayor Vincent Gray, who was defeated for Democratic Party re-nomination in a wide margin loss to D.C. Council member Muriel Bowser. Accuracy in that prognostication, however, was small comfort in light of the drubbing Gray experienced and his nine-month lame duck tenure ahead.

The real reason for the plummeting participation is apparent. Conjecture that a much earlier primary date – moved up sooner-than-required from the traditional September date in order to comply with federal voting rules designed to better accommodate overseas voters and deployed military personnel – was the cause of the embarrassing lack of engagement misses the mark.

Too many voters believed the incumbent had won election in 2010 by deception and cheating, the “too green” leading alternative failed to instill confidence she was either experienced enough or adequately prepared to take the helm, and the rapidly fading also-ran competitors weren’t worth the effort.

More than that, though, was a thing worse.

When both Bowser and Gray came to realize that their battle would be predominantly waged in targeted areas of the city’s eastern portion, all pretense of running genuinely citywide campaigns ceased in the final weeks. Whole swaths of the city began to feel more like observers than stakeholders.

Bowser’s theme of “All Eight Wards” and Gray’s hackneyed “One City” slogan became self-parodies. When Gray paraded around select neighborhoods with former mayor Marion Barry and countenanced the Council member’s unique brand of racially tinged commentary it was simply too much for too many, including supporters. Bowser seemed to always be nearby, as if the rest of the city mattered little. Both candidates failed to inspire or excite voters, depressing turnout and heightening disgust.

Responsibility for the desultory result lies with them. The response from the voters of the city could not have been more crystal clear.

Mark Lee is a long-time entrepreneur and community business advocate. Follow on Twitter: @MarkLeeDC. Reach him at [email protected].

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Chris

    April 3, 2014 at 12:51 am

    After reading this article.to seems that you have a problem with the ‘BLACK’ candidates? Considering the city is predominately African American. It is about ALL OF DC. Not just business entrepreneurs and the LGBTQ Community! You might as well have said I wish Evans, or Wells won.

  2. SassyinDC

    April 3, 2014 at 8:54 pm

    My husband and I live in Hillcrest in Ward 7 (1/2 block from Grey) and will be voting for CATANIA in November. Go, David!

  3. brian

    April 5, 2014 at 7:48 am

    Chris, after reading your comments, it seems you have a problem with “WHITE” candidates, huh? Considering the city is about 35% non-Hispanic Caucasian and has not had a Caucasian mayor in the last 50 years or so, what’s your problem with minority Caucasians running for mayor?

    And what have you got against buttered popcorn? Variety is the spice of life, aint it? Let’s watch the rest of the show. Maybe Catania will surprise you.

  4. Mark Young

    April 7, 2014 at 9:14 pm

    Good call, Mark. Well done.

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The future of lesbian bars

Resolve to support our queer spaces in 2022

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lockdown zone, gay news, Washington Blade

This New Year, I hope you wish for more lesbian bars across the country. The story of lesbian bars in the U.S. has been slightly tragic of late: as of January 2021, there were only 15 clubs or bars dedicated to queer women across the country. 

That’s right—only 15. Across all 50 states. 

In Washington, D.C., my hometown, A League of Her Own stands out as the only lesbian bar in the city, dedicated to queer women. Located in Adams Morgan, A League of Her Own, also known as ALOHO, is a small mecca for queer ladies to pass through, socialize, and flirt. ALOHO is a chic gathering point for all queer folk, with posters of softball players dotting the walls and gender neutral signs lying about. 

Several years ago, another lesbian bar called Phase 1 existed in Southeast, where queer women could slam eight balls in pool games and engage in raunchy yet ever-so-hot jello wrestling competitions. 

Unfortunately, Phase 1 shut its doors in 2016. 

So what explains the closure of so many lesbian bars, while bars for gay men continue to flourish? Perhaps many queer women view gay bars as a space for their own as well, whereas gay men view lesbian bars as less of a place for them to socialize. 

Either way, we need to give support to lesbian bars now more than ever. Tokens of support can take many forms. 

For one, make sure to socialize in spaces dedicated to queer ladies. There are three lesbian bars in New York City: Cubbyhole (281 W. 12th St.), Gingers in Brooklyn (363 5th Ave.), and Henrietta Hudson (438 Hudson St.). Next time you visit the Big Apple, make sure to give these three spots some love. Maybe drag your experimenting bi friend to these locations. Or your pansexual roommate. 

Back in D.C., you can buy unisex shirts in A League of Her Own’s merchandise store, available online. 

Proceeds will go toward funding the bar, and making sure it stays afloat, especially during this COVID economy. 

Most of all, I hope you encourage your queer lady friends to keep on frequenting queer lady destinations. After all, there is only one thing that will keep lesbian bars afloat—and that is attendance. 

I, for one, will be frequenting many lesbian destinations this new year.  

Isaac Amend is a Yale graduate and participated in National Geographic’s ‘Gender Revolution’ documentary. He also is a member of the LGBT Democrats of Virginia, and contributes regularly to the Blade. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @isaacamend.

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Breaking barriers as an out trans ‘Jeopardy’ champion

Amy Schneider’s run inspires us all

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Amy Schneider (Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Television)

“When was the last time anybody said ‘wow!’” a friend asked me.

I couldn’t remember the last time anyone I know (including me) had any “Wow!” moments. Until I heard about trans woman and software engineering manager Amy Schneider’s 29-game winning streak on “Jeopardy.”

You wouldn’t think anything could dispel our COVID exhaustion and political divisiveness. Yet, news about a champion on “Jeopardy,” a quiz show that has been on TV since 1964, has broken through our gloom.

In our culture, there are few things that everyone loves. But, “Jeopardy” is beloved by many, from theater geeks to 80-year-old sports nuts. A progressive friend was over the moon when his brother was a “Jeopardy” contestant. A buddy, a hetero (non-Trump) Republican, is a “Jeopardy” fanatic and a gay librarian pal is a “Jeopardy” freak.

Many of us daydream about being on “Jeopardy.” But we know that we wouldn’t have a chance on this legendary quiz show with its deceptively simple format: You give the answer to the (often incredibly hard) clues in the form of a question. You have to have a strategic military commander’s and a world-class athlete’s coordination: so you can press the buzzer to answer the clue.

The game’s categories run the gamut from opera to mountain ranges. Most of us, mere mortals, would be lucky to know even one category in the first round of the game. Let alone in the “Double Jeopardy” round or the “Final Jeopardy” clue. I might jump on clues about Katharine Hepburn movies or M&Ms. But that would be it for me.

It’s exciting to watch a “Jeopardy” contestant become a long-running champion. You marvel at the player’s intelligence, endurance, and nerve. It’s thrilling when the contestant on a winning-streak is part of your community.

Many of us LGBTQ “Jeopardy” fans are thrilled by Schneider’s record-setting winning streak. As I write this, Schneider has won more than $1 million in 29 games of “Jeopardy.” She is the fifth millionaire in “Jeopardy” history, and only the fourth player to reach this milestone in the regular season. She has won more than any other female “Jeopardy” contestant.

Schneider, like so many of us, doesn’t want to be defined by her gender identity or sexuality. Schneider’s life is multi-faceted; she has many interests. Schneider lives with her girlfriend Genevieve. They have a cat named Meep.

Yet, Schneider doesn’t want to hide that she’s trans. On “Jeopardy,” Schneider brilliantly dealt with this dilemma. She didn’t make a big deal about being out. She just wore the trans Pride flag pin.

“It was something that I wanted to get out there and to show my pride in while not making it the focus of what I was doing there,” Schneider told the New York Times. “Because I was just there to answer trivia questions and win money.”

As a cisgender lesbian, I can’t speak to how Schneider’s record-setting “Jeopardy” streak feels to transgender people.

But, as a trans ally, I’m cheering for Schneider. Kudos for her bravery! At a time when many states are passing anti-trans laws, it takes guts to be out on TV and the Internet.

Few things are as mainstream as “Jeopardy.” I bet that many “Jeopardy” viewers who are frightened at the idea of trans people, will become more comfortable with transgender people after watching Schneider on the popular quiz show. Because folks on TV come into our living and bedrooms and we feel as if we know them after watching them for a while.

“Amy looks like everybody else,” my neighbor said when I told her Schneider was trans. “She doesn’t act odd. She’s not strange.”

Transgender people encounter violence and discrimination in everything from housing to health care to employment.

I know Schneider’s “Jeopardy” triumph won’t end transphobia. But her winning streak will go a long way toward jumpstarting a change in hearts and minds.

Kathi Wolfe, a writer and a poet, is a regular contributor to the Blade.

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SCARY: Tucker Carlson now the conscience of GOP

Cruz bows down, kisses ring of Fox host

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Tucker Carlson (Screen capture via Fox on YouTube)

The Republican Party has sunk to a new low, hard to do, when a sleazebag like Tucker Carlson is now their conscience. Seeing Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) groveling before him is laughable, disgusting, and frightening all at the same time. 

As reported in Rolling Stone, Cruz said, “We are approaching a solemn anniversary this week. It is an anniversary of a violent terrorist attack on the Capitol where we saw the men and women of law enforcement demonstrate incredible courage, incredible bravery, risk their lives to defend the men and women who serve in this Capitol.” Then “Cruz was lambasted by Tucker Carlson that night, prompting him to hop on Carlson’s show Thursday and beg for forgiveness. “The way I phrased things yesterday, it was sloppy and it was frankly dumb,” Cruz said before Carlson cut him off and said he didn’t believe him. Cruz took it up a notch, stammering through an absurd bit about how he wasn’t talking about the “patriots across the country supporting President Trump,” only those who assaulted police officers, and that he’s always described anyone who assaults a cop as a terrorist.

Carlson has made a career of being a pompous commentator. Interestingly he worked at CNN, PBS, and MSNBC, before finally landing at Fox in 2009. According to his Wikipedia page he went to Trinity College where he earned a bachelor’s degree and Carlson’s Trinity yearbook describes him as a member of the “Dan White Society,” an apparent reference to the American political assassin who murdered San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk. After college, Carlson tried to join the CIA, but his application was denied, after which he decided to pursue a career in journalism with the encouragement of his father, who advised him that “they’ll take anybody.” Reading this clearly raised my opinion of the CIA and based on what we see in some media today I agree with Carlson’s father on his view of journalism. 

When you have a moment of silence in the House of Representatives to honor those who lost their lives on Jan. 6 and only two Republicans show up, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and her father Dick Cheney, the former vice president, one understands the influence Carlson has on the GOP. The rest were afraid of being criticized on-air by him or lambasted by Trump. 

Dick Cheney remarked on the GOP, “It’s not a leadership that resembles any of the folks I knew when I was here for 10 years.” He spoke to ABC News saying, “I’m deeply disappointed we don’t have better leadership in the Republican Party to restore the Constitution.” 

There is a leadership void in the Republican Party today. Their so-called leaders are afraid to say what they think if it differs in any way from Trumpism or Carlson’s view of the world, which requires total fealty to Trump. He found a home on Fox where he can lie with impunity and have millions believe his lies. 

President Biden said, in what many think was the best speech of his presidency so far, these people are “holding a dagger to the neck of democracy.” He went on to say, “For the first time in our history, a president not just lost an election, he tried to prevent the peaceful transfer of power as a violent mob breached the Capitol.” 

Tucker Carlson and his ilk have never bothered to answer a question the president threw at them, which is how they can accept all their down ballot victories, governors, and members of Congress, which occurred on the same ballots, cast by the same people, on the same day, as those for president. Of course, Carlson has no need to make sense, tell the truth, or speak rationally because of his platform on Fox, which doesn’t require that.

My question is whether Carlson is as dumb as he makes himself sound or is he brilliant and this is all a big act? Either way the acolytes that follow Trump don’t seem to care and are bowing down to Carlson’s big audience. It’s as if he can tell any Republican senator or congressperson, or Republican candidate for those jobs, to just ‘bend over and take it’ and they do. All we can do is mourn for the GOP of Lincoln and Eisenhower. Non-Trumpers will have to work hard and speak out if they ever want to resurrect a GOP that can be respected.

Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

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