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Bowser is right not to prematurely debate Catania

Once field is set, there will be time for a face-off

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Muriel Bowser, gay news, Washington Blade
Muriel Bowser, gay news, Washington Blade

Democratic mayoral nominee Muriel Bowser (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Ever since Democratic mayoral nominee Muriel Bowser won the primary, her presumed opponent, Council member David Catania, has been attacking her credibility.  One of Catania’s most consistent attacks is that Bowser is afraid to debate him.  However, upon further examination, there is simply no credence to this statement.  Bowser’s decision not to prematurely debate Catania is astute because he is not officially a candidate in the race.

To that end, neither is former Council member Carol Schwartz, but she has not made any premature requests to debate Bowser. However, Schwartz’s announced candidacy does show what a slippery slope it would be to have mayoral debates before all of the candidates qualify for the ballot. In addition to Catania and Schwartz, there are four additional candidates who picked up petitions to run for mayor as independents. They are: James Caviness, Nestor Djonkam, Michael Green and Frank Sewell. Should these candidates also be given the opportunity to prematurely debate Bowser, who has already earned her spot on the ballot by winning the Democratic primary?  What about Libertarian Party nominee Bruce Majors and Statehood Green Party nominee Faith, who have already earned their way onto the ballot by winning their party primary? Why should Catania be given priority over these primary victors?

Waiting until Catania is officially a mayoral candidate may seem like a technicality, but it is much more than that. Catania, and the other five announced independent candidates, may decide not to run for mayor. I will concede that if Catania continues with his mayoral run that I do not foresee him having a problem obtaining the requisite amount of petition signatures to get on the ballot.

However, when Catania first started demanding that Bowser debate him shortly after she won the April 1 Democratic primary, there was still plenty of time for him to use the debate as a barometer for his chances of prevailing against Bowser in the general election. In an ideal scenario for Catania, an early debate would give him the opportunity to gauge what impact, if any, a potentially strong performance would have on his poll numbers.  If he then decides that he is unlikely to prevail in the mayoral race, he would still have the opportunity to run for re-election for his at-large Council seat. It is not Bowser’s job to help Catania make that decision by giving him additional insight into the race.

The D.C. Board of Elections made mayoral petitions available on June 13 and the required signatures are due on Aug. 6. According to the DCBOE website, “Beginning on the third (3rd) day after filing, for a period of ten (10) days, the Board makes available for public inspection photo copies of the candidates’ petitions. During this challenge period, any registered voter may review the petition copies. If he or she believes that a candidate did not meet the minimum requirements, the registered voter may file a ‘CHALLENGE’ detailing the petition’s defects.” Thus, the challenge period will begin on Aug. 9 and will end on Aug. 19. The DCBOE will then rule on the validity of the challenges. So, we will not know which candidates qualify for the ballot until late August.

If the reason for holding debates is truly about ensuring that the electorate is well-informed on where the candidates stand on issues impacting the District, then holding the debates in September and October, after most residents have returned from their summer vacations, makes more sense.

Thus, Bowser’s decision not to prematurely debate Catania has nothing to do with fear, as alleged. Rather, it is a logical decision not to participate in an activity that will only benefit her potential opponents and will have no impact in helping the public make an informed decision in November.

While Catania’s campaign is trying to falsely portray Bowser as inexperienced and delude the public into thinking that this will be a close race, there is no evidence to suggest that it will. Voters should take time during this pre-debate period to research and get to know the mayoral candidates who prevailed in their party primaries, as well as their announced independent challengers. Once the field is set, there will be plenty of time to attend debates and make a final decision.

Lateefah Williams’ biweekly column, ‘Life in the Intersection,’ focuses on the intersection of race, gender and sexual orientation. She is a former president of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club. Reach her at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @lateefahwms.

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Peter D. Rosenstein

    June 18, 2014 at 3:08 pm

    While this analysis will most likely be attacked by Catania supporters it is a careful and realistic portrayal of the facts. Bowser has made the correct decision in waiting until all candidates are confirmed to be on the ballot before participating in a debate. That has not stopped her from canvassing and speaking to groups across the District as she has done for over a year.

  2. Steve Field

    June 18, 2014 at 10:07 pm

    The intellectual gymnastics required to accept the arguments made by Ms. Williams and Mr. Rosenstein are mind-boggling. To suggest that a man who has served nearly two decades on the city council, organized a significant grassroots volunteer base and amassed a half-million dollars in fundraising could simply "decide not to run" is absurd. That voters should take this "pre-debate" period to research the candidates on their own? Hogwash. What better way to learn about candidates than to hear directly from them in a debate forum?

    This is a stall tactic by the Bowser campaign to avoid a public discussion with Mr. Catania about the future of our city, pure and simple. What is she hiding from?

  3. Bruce Majors

    June 19, 2014 at 7:37 am

    Whether they debate formally or not it would be interesting if they could articulate any policy ideas and contrast them with those of their opponents. Is there any significant difference between them?

  4. I'm Just Sayin'

    June 19, 2014 at 7:26 pm

    I believe it was you Ms. Williams who started off your March 12, 2014 Washington Blade op-ed with “Now that Council member David Catania (I-At Large) is running for mayor….” So all of a sudden you’re not so sure?

  5. sean reidy

    June 20, 2014 at 2:37 am

    I appreciate the effort it took to stretch “I’m not going to debate because he isn’t yet official” into a whole article. But the word allotment may have been better spent listing specific qualifications and accomplishments worthy of a mayoral candidate for a major US city. Why? Because after taking some “time during this pre-debate period to research and get to know the mayoral candidates”, this voter has come up wanting regarding Bowsers record. What specific, significant, achievements can Bowser point to that are a direct result of either her work or leadership? What demonstrable benefit has DC gained from her service that warrants my vote to elevate her to mayor?

    For example, one of Bowsers accomplishments per her site: being listed in Washingtonian as one of 2013’s women to watch. This is an accomplishment? Really? Calling a list of memberships “accomplishments” is also weak. Similarly, you don’t get credit for a growth spell just for sitting on the counsel while is was happening. How do we know you effected this growth in any way? Exactly what legislation or measures did you take to enable growth or housing development or new businesses opening? Her resume is full of implications, but lacking specifics.

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Opinions

Should we be scared of Omicron?

A reminder to stay vigilant against latest mutation

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It’s Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend when I sit down to write this column. The craziness in the world continues but other than the scare of the new COVID mutation, which has been named Omicron, there isn’t one headline to grab attention. Instead, there are many, including some manufactured by the news media to gain viewers or sell papers. Some like the car rampaging through the Christmas parade is frightening but incidents like this seem to be happening all too often.  

The stock market went down 1,000 points on Friday because market players freaked out about the new COVID mutation coming out of South Africa. However that didn’t seem to stop people from spending their money on Black Friday. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) was again on the attack this time against fellow Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) accusing her of being a Muslim terrorist. She apologized, or pretended to, but again the Republican leadership wouldn’t condemn her statements. These things seemed to be grist for the news media with no one else unfortunately really voicing concern. 

Boebert’s comments were taken as old hat. They are disgusting, offensive, and dangerous, but as long as her constituents reelect her we will have to live with them. She is joined by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.),  Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.), and Paul Gosar  (R-Wyo.) who represent the worst in Congress and the worst of the American people. Yet again until their constituents throw them out we have to live with their stupidity and the absurdity of their being where they are. 

The new COVID mutation out of South Africa is potentially a game changer. But it will be important for scientists to look at this carefully to determine how quickly it spreads and whether or not the current vaccines will offer any protection against it. Countries around the world, including the United States, have quickly instituted travel bans for South Africans and those in countries surrounding it. The World Health Organization at this time has suggested this should not be done as it will have limited impact on its spreading and could have severe and detrimental economic impact on countries whose people are being banned. One thing we must learn from this is how important it is to ensure everyone all over the world has access to vaccines as we know the more people who are inoculated the harder it is for the virus to mutate. It is not time to panic yet and by Sunday there was some reporting this new mutation may not be any more difficult to deal with than the current ones and not lead to any more severe illness. The takeaway from all this is we need to keep vigilant, get vaccinated and get booster shots, and make sure we vaccinate our children. Continue to wear masks indoors and wash our hands. 

Now the other interesting stories last weekend were about what will happen in the Senate in the weeks leading up to the Christmas holidays. Remember the House of Representatives passed President Biden’s Build Back Better bill as a reconciliation measure, which means it can pass the Senate with a simple majority. That would mean every Democratic senator and the vice president. The focus is on two senators: Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Sinema (D-Ariz.). In reality we need to look at a number of others who will fight to either take out or put something into the bill the House passed. It is clear it will not pass in the current form and then it has to go back to the House again. 

Another issue that will be taken up is the debt ceiling. It may be a little easier than thought because as recently reported, “After taking a hard line and refusing to negotiate with Democrats during the last standoff over the debt limit, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is quietly looking for a way to get the issue resolved without another high-profile battle.” Then there is the budget and since none is passed Congress will have to pass another continuing resolution since the one they passed in September expires on Dec. 3. 

So for the next few weeks there will be a focus on the Senate to see what they do and how obstructionist Republicans want to be. Seems while things change, they somehow remain the same.

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

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It doesn’t take a miracle

Hanukkah a time for LGBTQ Jews to celebrate full identity

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(Public domain photo)

For Jews around the world, Sunday night marked the beginning of Hanukkah. The story of Hanukkah celebrates the liberation of Jerusalem by the Maccabees, a small and poorly armed group of Jews who took on, and defeated, one of the world’s most powerful armies. 

Upon entering Jerusalem, the Maccabees saw that there was only enough oil to light the Temple’s eternal flame for one night. But the oil lasted eight nights — enough time for new oil to be prepared. The eternal flame remained lit, and light triumphed over darkness.

The story of Hanukkah was a miracle. While we celebrate and commemorate that miracle, we should also remember that it doesn’t take a miracle for one person to make a difference. 

The entire world is shaking beneath our feet. The climate is in crisis and our planet is in danger. A viral contagion has claimed the lives of millions, and there’s no clear end in sight. Creeping authoritarianism threatens the entire world, including here at home.

Sometimes it seems like it will take a miracle to solve even one of these problems. The reason these problems seem so overwhelming is because they are — no one person can fix it themselves.

Here in the LGBTQ community, we have made enormous strides, and we ought to be proud of them. But there is so much more work to be done.

Not everyone in our community is treated equally, and not everyone has the same access to opportunity. Black, brown and trans LGBTQ people face systemic and structural disadvantages and discrimination and are at increased risk of violence and suicide. It must stop.

These are big problems too, and the LGBTQ people as a collective can help make the changes we need so that light triumphs over darkness. But it doesn’t take a miracle for individuals to light the spark.

Our movement is being held back by the creeping and dangerous narrative that insists that we choose between our identities instead of embracing all of them. 

The presentation of this false choice has fallen especially hard on LGBTQ Jews, many of whom feel a genuine connection to and support for Israel. They feel marginalized when asked to sideline their identity by being told that the world’s only Jewish state shouldn’t even have a place on the map. And they feel attacked when asked about the Israeli government’s policies during a conflict, as if they have some obligation to condemn them and take a stand simply because of their faith.

One of the ways we can shine our light is to fight for an LGBTQ community that is truly inclusive.

This holiday season, pledge to celebrate all aspects of your identity and the rights of LGBTQ people to define their own identities and choose their own paths. If you feel the pressure to keep any part of your identity in the closet, stand up to it and refuse to choose. 

In the face of enormous challenges that require collective action, we must not give up on our power as individuals to do what’s right. It doesn’t take a miracle to do that.

The tradition of lighting the menorah each night represents ensuring the continuity of that eternal flame. One of the reasons the Hanukkah menorah is displayed prominently in the windows of homes and in public squares is because the light isn’t meant to be confined to the Jewish home. The light is for everyone — and a reminder that we can share it with the world every day to try to make it better.

As long as we keep fighting for justice, we don’t need to perform miracles. But we do need to do our part so that light triumphs over darkness.

It is up to each of us to map out what we can contribute to create a truly inclusive LGBTQ community. This holiday season, be the light. If you can, donate to a group that helps lift LGBTQ youth in crisis. Volunteer your time to fight for the rights and the lives of trans people. And be kind to one another.

Whether you are Jewish, Christian, Muslim, or of no faith at all, take this opportunity to share your light with the world. It doesn’t take a miracle to do that.

Ethan Felson is the executive director of A Wider Bridge.

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Opinions

Trend of banning books threatens our freedom

‘History has taught you nothing if you think you can kill ideas’

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National Book Festival, gay news, Washington Blade

I knew Helen Keller was a DeafBlind activist. But, until recently, I didn’t know that some of her books were torched.

Nearly 90 years ago, in 1933 Germany, the Nazis added “How I Became a Socialist,” by Keller to a list of “degenerate” books. Keller’s book, along with works by authors from H.G. Wells to Einstein were burned. 

The Nazi book burnings were horrific, you might think, but what does this have to do with the queer community now?

I speak of this because a nano-sec of the news tells us that book censorship, if not from literal fires, but from the removal from school libraries, is alive and well. Nationwide, in small towns and suburbs, school boards, reacting to pressure from parents and politicians, are removing books from school libraries. Many of these books are by queer authors and feature LGBTQ+ characters.

Until recently, I didn’t worry that much about books being banned. My ears have pricked up, every year, in September when Banned Books Week is observed. Growing up, my parents instilled in me their belief that reading was one of life’s great pleasures as well as a chance to learn about new ideas – especially, those we disagreed with. The freedom to read what we choose is vital to democracy, my folks taught me. 

“I don’t care if it’s ‘Mein Kampf,’” my Dad who was Jewish told me, “I’ll defend to my death against its being banned.”

“Teachers should be allowed to teach it,” he added, “so kids can learn what a monster Hitler was.”

In this country, there have always been people who wanted to ban books from “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” by writer and abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe to gay poet Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl.”

In the 1920s, in the Scopes trial, a Tennessee science teacher was fined $100 for teaching evolution. (The law against teaching evolution in Tennessee was later repealed.)

But, these folks, generally, seemed to be on “the fringe” of society. We didn’t expect that book banning would be endorsed by mainstream politicians.

Until lately.

Take just one example of the uptake in book-banning: In September, the Blade reported, Fairfax County, Virginia public school officials said at a school board meeting that two books had been removed from school libraries to “reassess their suitability for high school students.”

Both books – “Lawn Boy” a novel by Jonathan Evison and “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by non-binary author Maia Koabe feature queer characters and themes, along with graphic descriptions of sex.

Opponents of the books say the books contain descriptions of pedophilia. But, many book reviewers and LGBTQ students as well as the American Library Association dispute this false claim.

The American Library Association honored both books with its Alex Award, the Associated Press reported. The award recognizes the year’s “10 books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults ages 12 through 18.”

Given how things have changed for us queers in recent years – from marriage equality to Pete Buttigieg running for president – it’s not surprising that there’s been a backlash. As part of the blowback, books by queer authors with LGBTQ+ characters have become a flashpoint in the culture wars.

As a writer, it’s easy for me to joke that book banning is fabulous for writers. Nothing improves sales more than censorship.

Yet, there’s nothing funny about this for queer youth. My friend Penny has a queer son. “LGBTQ kids need to read about people like themselves,” she told me. “It’s horrible if queer kids can’t find these books. They could become depressed or even suicidal.”

If we allow books to be banned, our freedom to think and learn will be erased.

“History has taught you nothing if you think you can kill ideas,” Keller wrote in a letter to students in Nazi Germany.

Anti-queer officials may remove LGBTQ books from school libraries. But, our thoughts will not be unshelved.

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

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