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Why I support Muriel Bowser for mayor

From ethics to access, Democratic candidate is D.C.’s best bet

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

Muriel Bowser has said she is committed to hiring a cabinet that will function under strict ethics rules. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

As an out and proud gay man, the choice to support someone other than the gay man running for D.C. mayor was not a decision made lightly. It was, however, made easier because of the many values shared with his Democratic opponent.

Not since 1994 has there been a real contested mayoral election in the District of Columbia. At that time, my support went to Carol Schwartz and I helped write her platform. This time after looking closely at the candidates my vote will go to Muriel Bowser on Nov. 4. She is the right person to be mayor at this time in the District’s history.

Many friends ask what difference it makes. Isn’t politics just a dirty business? My response to that is a resounding no. Because of the work of good public servants, and many deeply committed activists in our community, the District has continued to move forward and improve. We are headed in the right direction since Anthony Williams was elected mayor in 1998. Williams upgraded city services, bringing agency operations into the technological age. Adrian Fenty built on what Williams did and moved education reform to the front burner.

Mayor Gray built on what Williams and Fenty began and rebuilt our reserve fund to record levels. His administration, with Chancellor Kaya Henderson, has made good progress in continuing education reform and our students have shown marked progress. Gray focused on rebuilding local education opportunities for students with disabilities. Today the District is in the best financial condition it has seen. Services are being delivered on time and efficiently. Our streets are clean and business is booming. People continue to move into the District at the rate of about 1,000 a month and we are on everyone’s top-10 list — from ‘hippest’ city to the best place for college grads to move to healthiest city to best sustainable energy plans, to name just a few.

So what we need in our next mayor is someone who will work to continue the progress we have made, provide stability, have a commitment to running an ethical government and ensure that all our neighbors can share in the District’s progress. What we don’t need is someone who castigates people in public hearings or grabs a quick headline, often without follow through. We need someone who understands how to work with all people, whether or not they agree with her; someone who after four years in the mayor’s office will be able to say, “We have continued to build our city and now it works better for everyone.” That candidate is Muriel Bowser.

Muriel understands our city as only a fifth generation Washingtonian can. She knows it still doesn’t work for everyone and grabbing headlines with a public hearing isn’t always the best way to help. Sometimes it’s working behind the scenes and getting government to work the way it is supposed to for the people. There are parts of our city that have been left out of the economic boom and many people still feel marginalized. In our booming metropolis there are people who are starving and homeless; many are illiterate. We need a mayor who will do the hard work and get government to focus on them — a mayor who has lived her entire life in the District supporting the principles of sharing and community involvement and who understands we can make a difference by bringing people together. That is Muriel Bowser.

The principles of community involvement and participation she lives were ingrained in Muriel by parents who believed in them and the principles of the Democratic Party. Her parents taught her to believe in equality for all; that working people deserve a chance to get ahead and earn their way into the middle class. That everyone should have a chance for the American dream and to reach their full potential, whatever that is. They taught her unions were there to help protect workers’ rights and that we all owe something to the community for what we are given.

She understood early that the principles espoused by the Republican Party weren’t hers,  unlike her opponent, David Catania, who apparently only understood that when it became personal. As an adult and a Republican elected official he proudly called himself a ‘maverick’ and supported George W. Bush for president. The term didn’t describe someone being ‘independent,’ rather it meant he was in lock-step with the Republican Party raising more than $150,000 to help bring us the Bush/Cheney years.

I met Muriel when she first ran for Council and found out how smart, committed to public service and improving people’s lives she is. She has shown the depth of her understanding of government and our city. She knows how difficult it is to bring people together. She worked to pass the first real ethics bill in the Council when five of her colleagues introduced their own bills. It isn’t like passing a bill that most of your colleagues sign onto before hearings are even held as her opponent often did. She has the ability to work with communities across our city who don’t always agree on the right way to govern or even what they want from government. It means not working with developers on a plan and then bringing it to communities to endorse but rather doing what she is doing at the Walter Reed site in Ward 4 and setting up an advisory committee to see what neighbors want and then taking that to developers to see who could deliver it.

It is working from the bottom up, not the top down like David Catania likes to do. What he did with his recent education bills when he paid a law firm with money he raised from rich friends to write bills and then went to the community for comments. Chastising many in the process, including the chancellor, who suggested it would have been prudent to come to them before writing the legislation. But that wasn’t the way to grab a headline and not the way Catania likes to work.

When Muriel was elected to the Council she understood it was officially a part-time job but she took it as full time. Her achievements may not have had her author as many bills as her opponent but she achieved the goal of making government work more efficiently for her constituents and they rewarded her by re-electing her twice. Catania took the part-time part of his Council job seriously and has earned in the neighborhood of $2 million working for law firms and even a business that contracts with the District while serving as a Council member. He has always had more than one boss while working for the people of the District while Muriel’s only bosses are the people who elect her.

Recently, when workers from a local construction company, Baker D.C., approached the Council to ask it to sign a letter to their company asking them to meet and negotiate with workers, Catania was the only Council member who refused to sign. It was a stark reminder of where Catania really stands on issues. As reported in the Washington Post, “Catania has had a long relationship with the construction industry, most prominently by working as a vice president for non-union electrical contractor M.C. Dean until 2012. His political campaigns have enjoyed the support of firms active with Associated Builders and Contractors, a trade group that has opposed ‘project labor agreements’ and other union-friendly measures.”

When questioned about not signing the letter Catania said, “I didn’t see the evidence of management frustrating the rights of workers.” So Catania took management’s side, which seems to be what his natural Republican tendencies dictate. He has also voted against sick leave for workers.

Many believe the two most important positions in the mayor’s cabinet are that of police chief and schools chancellor. Muriel has made a commitment to retain those currently in the jobs — Cathy Lanier at the MPD and Kaya Henderson at DCPS. She has spoken with them, asked them to stay and they have agreed to do so and work with her. If we are to continue to move forward on school reform, which is one of the main planks of Muriel’s platform, she understands that stability and continuity at DCPS are crucial. She also understands that people in different parts of the District view our police differently and is committed to working with Chief Lanier to have every resident in this city trust in the MPD. On the other hand, Catania has not said if he would reappoint either of them.

What we don’t need is a wholesale shake-up of government. The worst thing is leaving people and businesses with a feeling of instability. Whether it is the business community, parents, or those 1,000 people a month moving here, they want to know that the progress we have made will continue at a reliable and steady pace. Muriel has said she isn’t afraid to shake things up when that is the only way to make progress and in the case of Fire/EMS she is committed to doing that. But she has also spoken out about the progress we have made under Mayors Anthony Williams, Adrian Fenty and Vincent Gray and is committed to continuing that progress in an orderly and efficient way.

With Muriel we get a mayor who is ethically beyond reproach even though Catania will try anything to get you to believe otherwise. After 16 years on the Council, Catania is as tied to the power structure in the District as anyone else in office.

An example of Catania being comfortable with businesses being involved in local politics and making contributions to impact voting outcomes occurred during the time he worked for an M.C. Dean subsidiary — the same M.C. Dean that paid him $240,000 a year until he left that job when considering a run for mayor. A letter in the Loudoun Times and a column in the Washington Post outlined the following, “From 2005 to 2011 he worked as in-house Counsel for their subsidiary OpenBand, LLC, which operates broadband communications networks. At the time his Chief of staff also took a job with OpenBand, LLC. Both were there when M.C. Dean, of which OpenBand, LLC is a subsidiary, and its executives gave more than $35,000 in contributions to candidates vying for seats on the Loudoun Board of Supervisors according to Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP) records. Records show that tens of thousands more have gone to General Assembly candidates and political action committees, supporting candidates who could vote on contracts for either M.C. Dean or OpenBand, LLC.”

Then the Washington City Paper in 2008 reported that while Catania was on the D.C. Council and working quietly to help Patrick Mara defeat fellow Council member Carol Schwartz, (full disclosure: I supported Mara), “his employer was also raising money for Patrick Mara and was one of the prime funders of the Citizens for Empowerment PAC that sent out Schwartz attack mailers.”

When Catania doubled his salary at M.C. Dean in 2011 one of the first things he had to do after taking that job was to recuse himself from the vote on the Electrician’s Equality Act of 2011 passed by the D.C. Council when he should have been able to speak out on the bill and cast a vote to represent the constituents that elected him. This is a clear example of why having an outside job, especially with a company that has a contract with the District, is wrong.

Muriel is committed to hiring a cabinet that will function under strict ethics rules and will issue an executive order to see that all city workers understand their roles and pledge to serve the people ethically.

With Muriel we get a mayor who can work with the people in every ward and who respects everyone. She won’t denigrate or talk down to those who may disagree with her. We need a mayor who understands both the old and new Washington and has the ability to bring them together. Muriel Bowser will be that mayor.

Then there are both the tangibles and intangibles that come with electing a Democrat. While it isn’t my main reason for supporting Muriel it definitely went into my decision process. At a recent fundraiser for John Tierney (D-Mass.) my good friend, former Congressman Barney Frank said it best, “Being a Democrat means standing for something.” It means working for and with people. It means working toward immigration reform; LGBT civil and human rights; and the right for women to have equal pay, full equality and control of their own bodies. It means supporting workers and unions and building the middle class. It means demanding that all people have the right to vote. While clearly not all these issues are directly related to running the District government, having a Democrat as the mayor of our nation’s capital says to people in no uncertain terms, these are the things the people of the District stand for. It also calls into question which principles of the Democratic Party David Catania is so uncomfortable with. A recent Washington Post column reported that when asked why he became an independent and not a Democrat after leaving the Republican Party, he responded, “I have been in one bad marriage and I’m not about to jump into another.”

There is another way in which electing Bowser could benefit our city and the nation. Many believe in 2016 we will elect our first woman president, a Democrat, Hillary Rodham Clinton. To the District it could mean that our next mayor, Bowser, can play a direct role in making that happen. She will be a super-delegate to the Democratic National Convention and can cast her vote for Hillary. As a young woman she will be able to speak out not only for equality in our city, but for making the nation a place where everyone has an equal chance to get ahead. Muriel Bowser will have access to power and the better ability to make the case for the people of the District for independence. She will work closely with our champion on the Hill, Democrat Eleanor Holmes Norton, to move the issues of the District forward. Muriel will have access that no Republican or independent could ever have.

For so many reasons I urge everyone to cast their ballot for Muriel Bowser for mayor on Nov. 4.

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19 Comments

19 Comments

  1. Lane Hudson

    September 10, 2014 at 7:08 pm

    Peter, you should disclose that you have supported David both politically and financially in the past several times while you engage in bashing him. How do you frame that with what you are saying now?

    • CBS

      September 11, 2014 at 5:18 pm

      Doesn’t that make his choice more credible?

      • Lane Hudson

        September 11, 2014 at 10:45 pm

        I could call his credibility into question. If he supported Catania in the past, but now he is awful, then what does it say about his past judgment?

        • Washington Wilona

          September 15, 2014 at 2:32 am

          It says he can vote for whomevver he chooses! That’s what it says. Everybody isn’t voting for Catania because you and other gays think HE DID ALL THOSE ACCOMPLISHMENTS alone????He didn’t. Or or because he’s gay! But that’s not my issue with him.

        • brians ions

          September 16, 2014 at 12:14 pm

          “She also understands that people in different parts of the District view our police differently and is committed to working with Chief Lanier to have every resident in this city trust in the MPD. ”
          -Peter Rosenstein
          =============================
          Speaking of Peter’s judgment…
           
          Citing Bowser as being “committed to work with Chief Lanier” is more akin to a threat to LGBTs’ (and the whole city’s) public safety than a campaign promise.
           
          Also, apparently, Peter thinks DC’s chief of police is the boss of all of us, including our DC Mayor and Council. Peter needs a basic civics lesson in the pecking order of public servants of free people.
           
          Moreover, regarding LGBT issues, does Peter forget that one of Chief Lanier’s first initiatives in 2007 when hired by Bowser’s crony mentor, Adrian Fenty, was to try to abolish MPD’s award-winning Community Policing example, the Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit (GLLU/”glue”)? For seven years since then, we have read news of many repeated attempts by Lanier and Groomes to weaken, attrit and reassign GLLU cops to non-GLLU activities.
           
          That was the same Adrian Fenty, BTW, who paid a lot of lip service to LGBT affairs, but never even consulted with now-Bowser supporter Chris Dyer after Fenty appointed him director of DC’s Office of GLBT Affairs.
           
          Then there is Lanier’s penchant for crime stats half truths. For all of her time as police chief, Lanier has steadfastly refused to report the number of anti-LGBT hate crimes that have been closed with an arrest. Why? The number would reveal how many violent anti-LGBT hate crimes Lanier’s MPD has failed to solve.
           
          Seriously, why would any savvy LGBTQ voter in DC want Lanier — with her long anti-LGBT record — reappointed by Bowser to continue the degrading and anti-LGBT politicization of MPD?

  2. Surely U Jest

    September 10, 2014 at 7:33 pm

    By now, every Blade reader knows that Peter Rosenstein has a high level of contempt for David Catania. It pretty much makes up the bulk of every piece he writes regarding the upcoming Mayoral campaign. How difficult is it to put together a a thousand plus words on why Bowser should be elected on her merits and capabilities alone without bashing Catania? Apparently, very. This editorial is neither surprising nor does it make a compelling case for electing Bowser as much as it pleads with readers to not elect a meanie like David Catania. Perhaps Rosenstein needed to atone for his January 2014 Blade editorial going all in for Vince Gray, dismissing Bowser and the other democrat mayoral candidates as wannabes, when he opined: “None of the mayor’s challengers has the administrative background to indicate they could administer the city government. At most they have run small office staffs and in one case run a small chain of restaurants, which is very different from administering a city with a budget of more than $10 billion.” So where’d Bowser gain this critical experience in 8 months Peter? The management office of Park Southern?

  3. Steve Clark

    September 11, 2014 at 2:54 am

    How very disappointing to see Peter treat Blade readers with such contempt by opening his screed with a lie.

    We all know that Peter hasn't made any careful choice in this race. As a longtime pitchman for the Democratic Party, Peter has been prepared to shill for its nominee since before the nominee was even selected. Behind all the rote talking points, Peter's only real message here is that [Fill in the Blank] would be a Democratic mayor. Had the Party gone to the National Zoo and nominated a wallaby, Peter would be here now hawking the managerial magnificence of marsupials. It's what partisan pitchmen do.

    So let's not take Peter's snake oil too seriously here. Had the primary been won by the candidate he really wanted, Peter would be here shilling for Vincent Gray. Or had it been won by Jack Evans, Peter would be shilling for him instead. If Tommy Wells had prevailed? Peter would be devout Wellsman. Indeed, consider this: Had David Catania himself entered and won the Democratic primary, Peter would be here right now shilling for Catania. The digs would suddenly be virtues. So it is with partisan pitchmen.

    But since it wasn't Gray or Catania but Bowser who happened to win the primary, Peter is here to shill for her, as if a bare plurality in a low-turnout primary is some kind of Excalibur. But Peter's sales pitch is way too stark. Does he think that relentlessly promoting one candidate while relentlessly deriding the other reflects a painstaking choice? When literally the only positive thing one can say about Catania is that he's gay, it's pretty clear that one isn't making any real choice at all. One is just spinning for the Party.

    How Log Cabin of Peter.

    • Surely U Jest

      September 11, 2014 at 2:40 pm

      You make an excellent point Steve. It would be disingenuous of Mr. Rosenstein to suggest that he would not have supported any of the possible democratic nominees regardless of the outcome of the primary as he has pretty much chastised DC’s LGBT electorate for even considering the candidacy of David Catania. He will however, try to deflect accusations of partisanship with tales of how he supported the republican Mayoral nominee, Carol Schwartz, back in 1994 as evidence of his open-mindedness. Yet what he generally fails to mention when recounting that story is that the Democratic nominee that year was the convicted felon — Marion Barry. What we have here is an op-ed author who other than under extreme duress promotes party. It renders his pieces meaningless other than as fuel for the likeminded. The Blade needs to put Rosenstein on the bench for this election and get someone to make the case for Bowser without mentioning Catania and likewise for Catania without mentioning Bowser. Discuss their positions, tangible accomplishments, recount their years on Council matching actions with words. Emotion based pieces like the one Rosenstein wrote take very little effort and just fill column inches.

      • JUST SAY NO TO CATANIA

        September 15, 2014 at 3:04 am

        Y’all queens are out to lunch without a sandwich! Ya’ll are shilling for Catania because He’s GAY and He’s WHITE! PERIOD! We get it your tired of Democrats running DC or Black ones anyway. But you all will be the first one in line to vote for Hillary Clinton. Peter can say what he wants at least he’s openly honest about who he supports Dems shrill or not. Well why hasn’t this glorious Councilman AT LARGE done anything about affordable housing? Because the tea leaves just spilled tea about folks in SE are being given vouchers to move to Charles Cty MD (Waldorf) for affordable housing. MARYLAND why not DC? Well all these accomplishments this seems to be one HE HAS FAILED and always did. That’s why he makes those damn deals with developers ahhh good ol’ Gentrification.The working class who are still the majority voters in the city and NOT the LGBTQ Community will not appreciate this once they all find out. Also he trashed Gray over the ‘alleged’ misdoings that this FAILURE of an Atty General has not brought charges and more than likely won’t that has helped David a lot in this case! And as far as this independent crap, he is only that because of the GOP’s ignorance to acceptance of SSM. Not to anything else so he still very much have conservative principles. NO MA’AM as the Mayor he would definitely look out for ther gays and that Gentrification crowd but that other crowd if they’re passing vouchers to go to Maryland????? HMMMMMMMM Nah I’ll pass on Catania!

        • Lane Hudson

          September 15, 2014 at 9:51 am

          Addressing the affordable housing issue you bring up. Muriel Bowser chairs the committee responsible for affordable housing issues. It is she that has dropped the ball and done nothing to help. In fact, she has stood in the way of progress by refusing to allow affordable housing in a neighborhood in Ward 4. Not to mention by trying to protect her political supporters who ran Park Southern, where $1.6 Million has gone missing, Bowser has put over 300 low income housing units at risk.

          Meanwhile, David intervened to save around 300 low income housing units near Chinatown when a developer was trying to hose the residents.

          • JUST SAY NO TO CATANIA

            September 15, 2014 at 6:50 pm

            And as for the vouchers??? You didn’t address that. No where in my post I said I supported Muriel but I don’t support David! AND THAT IS MY CHOICE! So why are you coming at me attacking Muriel? LOL

        • Dave Edmondson

          September 15, 2014 at 7:31 pm

          Yes, those queens are shilling for David Catania just because he’s gay and he’s white, period, which is why Bruce Majors gets so much press.

          • Surely U Jest

            September 16, 2014 at 8:20 am

            Queen? Hardly, but thanks for the compliment. You miss the point Mr. Edmondson. The Editorial is titled: “Why I Support Murial Bowser for Mayor” yet it’s essentially a screed on why Peter Rosenstein does not support David Catania for Mayor. If Rosenstein can’t opine on topic, then the Blade needs to find someone who can, if it plans to continue filling space with political commentary related to the upcoming DC city elections. Thus far, Rosenstein has shown himself incapable of keeping his emotions in check long enough to do justice to his avowed choice for Mayor let alone serve the needs of Blade readers.

          • Dave Edmondson

            September 16, 2014 at 2:17 pm

            Surely U Jest:

            It is not I who have missed the point. If you go back and read through the comments, you’ll see the one to which I responded.

  4. JUST SAY NO TO MURIEL

    September 11, 2014 at 12:28 am

    I think it’s time for Peter Rosenstein to retire. He either has Alzheimer’s or Amnesia.

    Here is he wrote about Muriel less than 8 months ago: “None of the mayor’s challengers has the administrative background to indicate they could administer the city government. At most they have run small office staffs and in one case run a small chain of restaurants, which is very different from administering a city with a budget of more than $10 billion” (See for yourself @ http://www.washingtonblade.com/2014/01/29/support-vincent-gray-mayor/)

  5. kjnisamutt

    September 12, 2014 at 3:16 pm

    I sincerely hope that between now and election day, Rosenstein can come up with various other topics to discuss other than Muriel Bowser.

    Since I’ve decided I like none of the people running for mayor, I most likely will write in someone I think is worthwhile. (Yeah, it’s a throw-away; but I cannot in good conscience support any of the official candidates.)

  6. David Krohne

    October 10, 2014 at 12:33 am

    My dog has more sense than Rosentstein.

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What do the gays do about Facebook?

We are hopelessly hooked on dangerous social media

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Let me just put all my cards on the table — I enjoy Facebook. I get a lot out of it. Instagram, not so much. But I think that’s more of a generational thing. But after recent events, I just feel a little icky about it all. I mean, don’t you? 

After the damning and didn’t-we-know-all-along Senate testimony by former Facebook employee Frances Haugen, being on Facebook just seems, well, a little gross. Yes, I know the irony that I am criticizing Facebook via a column that will ultimately be shared on Facebook, so don’t bother pointing that out. 

The long and short of it — evidence shows that Facebook is lying to us all about making any real progress against hate speech, violence, and the spread of misinformation. And aren’t those all red flags for the queer community? Essentially, Facebook isn’t just harmful to the self, but to whole groups and even societies. The parallels between this and the queer community are obvious ones. Again, aren’t our physical safety and overall wellbeing fairly paramount issues for the queer community? 

Take this one point for example: the evidence of harm to ourselves by ourselves. According to the documents Haugen supplied, Facebook’s sister company Instagram essentially makes 13.5% of teen girls have thoughts of suicide. Have there been any thoughts on how social media might be impacting LGBT teens? According to the Trevor Project’s 2020 study, 15% of LGBT teens attempted suicide in the past year. Forty percent had thoughts about it. Both numbers are staggeringly high on their own and also staggeringly higher than for their straight counterparts. I would like to know what role social media plays in this. But, like Haugen’s Senate testimony, I think we all know the answer to that already. What with bullying and the spread of hate speech, it simply can’t be good. 

And that’s just the issue of self-harm. What about the other issues of hate speech and misinformation? Yes, the queer community has enjoyed greater social acceptance in America. But that is by no means universal. Take the plight of trans teens, last year one of the far right’s go-to punching bags and boogey men — this time for the non-issue of high school sports. Talk about the spread of misinformation. I could enlighten us all by doing a deep dive on the right’s social presence, spreading their general talking points on the trans community, but such an exercise would be both stomach churning and time consuming. 

As for queer adults, I’m not sure if things can be much better. You sometimes hear that life is just high school with money. To that I would add: then gay men can be at times that mean group of eighth grade girls. Yes, it’s true. We can be pretty damn ugly to one another. Facebook and Instagram clearly aren’t helping any of this. But can we let it go? Aren’t we all hooked? Sometimes you’ll hear when someone snaps a picture of a group event or party, post it on Facebook ‘or it didn’t happen.’ Granted you don’t hear this much anymore as so many folks, especially younger gays, have drifted off to other platforms, but honestly is there much of a difference? And to post it or it didn’t happen? Who is that for but those who weren’t there?

Who knows what will happen? I mean, what with octogenarian superstars Sens. Chuck Grassley and Diane Feinstein on this, I’m sure meaningful reform and oversight are just over the horizon. Maybe it’s time we start policing ourselves? Demanding better from our community on social media first? I’m wondering what that might look like. Until then, I guess we’ll just keep scrolling, like we have been doing. Over and over and over. 

Brock Thompson is a D.C.-based writer. He contributes regularly to the Blade.

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McAuliffe YES, Trump NO, for governor of Va.

Youngkin is a stand-in for disgraced former president

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Terry McAuliffe, Equality Virginia, gay news, Washington Blade
(Washington Blade file photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Vote Terry McAuliffe for governor of Virginia because he will be a great governor. Reality is the alternative is Donald Trump who may be calling himself Glenn Youngkin in Virginia, but don’t be fooled, Youngkin is only a stand-in for Trump.

Virginians know and respect McAuliffe. He was a successful governor in his first term and is a decent and honorable man. Had Virginia law allowed him to run for a second consecutive term he would have won easily. He has a stellar record of moving the state forward on equal justice and equal opportunity, civil rights, women’s rights, and LGBTQ rights. 

The first executive order McAuliffe issued upon taking office in 2014 banned anti-LGBTQ discrimination against state employees. He vetoed religious freedom bills, created Virginia’s LGBTQ tourism board, and became the first Virginia governor to declare June as Pride month. He was the first governor of a southern state to officiate a same-sex wedding.

He recently said, “As governor, I will fight my heart out to make Virginia the most open, welcoming and inclusive state in the nation, and break down the disparities that LGBTQ communities, and particularly communities of color, face in education, health care, the economy and more. Together, we’ll move Virginia forward into a better, brighter future for all.”

When it comes to women’s rights McAuliffe staved off attacks by extreme Republicans who controlled the Virginia Legislature during his tenure. He fought for women’s health care rights and fought to keep open every women’s health clinic in the state. He vetoed legislation that would have harmed women, including a bill that would have defunded Planned Parenthood in Virginia. 

On civil rights he said one of his proudest accomplishments was being able to reverse a racist Jim Crow law disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of Virginians. McAuliffe restored the right to vote to more than 200,000 Virginians with felony convictions allowing them to fully participate in democracy after serving their time.

He was good for business and during his term as governor had a record of bringing more than 200,000 good paying jobs to the state and oversaw a lowered unemployment rate and an increase in personal income of over 13 percent. McAuliffe understands early investments in the state’s infrastructure helps the state to be a national leader in clean energy. 

These and so many other positive reasons are why Virginians should vote for Terry McAuliffe. 

But there are also many reasons to vote against Trump stand-in, Glenn ‘Trump’ Youngkin. The first is Trump saying, “he has my complete and total endorsement!” 

Youngkin continues to spread the Trump lie by still fighting the 2020 election and calling for an audit of Virginia election machines. He regularly speaks out of both sides of his mouth. He got caught on tape behind closed doors telling donors he won’t “go squishy” on banning abortion and defunding Planned Parenthood. He added, “As a campaign topic, sadly, that in fact won’t win my independent votes that I have to get.” Then he is still casting doubts on the COVID vaccine. He claims he is telling people to get vaccinated against COVID and then is recorded telling others it is their choice. He is against mandating vaccines for teachers and healthcare workers. His ads feature a teacher, who is a Trumper, endorsing his education program (a disaster) but who is opposed to mandating vaccines for teachers. They feature healthcare workers endorsing him who are against a vaccine mandate for healthcare workers.  Youngkin is trying to buy the Virginia election saying he would raise $75 million but most from his own vast fortune, actually trying to buy it for Trump. 

Virginia Democrats and right-thinking independents and Republicans must come out in large numbers to repudiate Donald Trump once-and-for-all by casting their votes for Terry McAuliffe. 

Let’s hope Trump voters in Virginia stay home this year. But McAuliffe can’t count on that to win. It will take Democrats in huge numbers to give McAuliffe the same big win Joe Biden had over Trump in Virginia in 2020. If that happens Democrats will also keep the House of Delegates and win the other statewide races. 

Remember, when you vote for McAuliffe you vote for the man named “Public Official of the Year” by Governing magazine in his last term. Virginians should give him a well-deserved second term.

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

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Blogging my first overseas vacation since COVID

Chronicling life aboard Celebrity APEX

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I will be blogging a number of times during my two-week transatlantic cruise and sharing my thoughts and experiences. 

The first thing I found is boarding during a pandemic is a little different. People were given specific boarding times yet most arrived at the port when it was convenient for them as many had early check-out times from their hotel or Airbnb in Barcelona. Celebrity didn’t turn anyone away. There was no Wi-fi at the entrance to the terminal so things got a little complicated as many had the information needed on their iPhone Celebrity app. It worked out and when you got inside to the counter they shared a Wi-fi connection. 

I knew in advance from a Facebook connection, some childhood friends whom I hadn’t seen in 21 years were going to be onboard. We ended up arriving at the terminal at the same time and caught up for the next hour and a half as we progressed through the boarding process. We all had to take a Covid test and only those with negative results could board. Of the approximately 1,300 people boarding, less than half the possible number for a full ship, I didn’t hear of anyone getting a positive result. 

When my negative result came back I was allowed to board and went to find my stateroom on deck 11. The key was at the door with all my information on it. Celebrity was doing everything to limit crew-to-passenger contact. We were asked to keep masks on in all indoor spaces except when eating or drinking, which on a cruise is often, and the crew are all wearing masks. Luggage was delivered to the door. 

Shortly after entering my beautiful stateroom there was a knock at the door and my stateroom attendant, Lenie, had come to introduce herself. She didn’t come in but explained how I could reach her anytime and for safety she would only come into the room when I was out. We chatted for a few minutes and I found out she was from the Philippines, had three children, and had worked for Celebrity for 20 years. She was both charming and efficient. 

I then took a walk around the ship and was duly impressed. It is beautiful. I walked through the huge buffet where people were happily eating lunch and saw instead of serving yourself there were servers behind each station filling people’s plates. All passengers had on their masks when getting food, as did the crew serving them. It made for a very safe feeling. 

Instead of a group muster each passenger was asked to go to their assigned muster station where you were met by staff who explained emergency procedures. You also had to look at a video on the Celebrity app and were then logged in and confirmed you had done so. All efficiently and safely done. 

Then I headed to the sail-away party my travel agent, and friends, Scott Moster and his husband Dustin, were hosting in the Iconic suite. The suite has everything from a peloton cycle to a hot tub for eight. It is incredible. I had the chance to catch up with old friends I had sailed with before the pandemic. Then it was a quick tour of the spa and gym open twenty-four hours a day. A way to assuage guilt over all the food and drink. Then back to the stateroom to finish unpacking and change for dinner with good friends in one of the specialty restaurants, EDEN. That meant long pants and a shirt with a collar. That’s as formal as required on this cruise. 

The food was superb and we got to meet the chef, Nicholas. An interesting guy who I will interview during the cruise. The menu was a combination of fresh fish, lobster, to filet mignon, all interestingly prepared. 

After dinner it was a stop at the Martini bar where a large group of LGBTQ friends had gathered along with some who would become friends. I was surprised when a guy came over and gave me a hug. I didn’t recognize him with his mask on but turned out he was another friend from my past I hadn’t seen in years. It is clearly a small world and the gay world seems even smaller. 

Finally headed to my stateroom around midnight, where turndown service had been done, to get some sleep and prepare for day two, and our first stop, Alicante.  

Day two and three on the Celebrity APEX

Time flies when on a cruise; maybe it’s the endless food and drink. All passengers received a letter in their room telling us we would need to report for a Covid test on day 5 the first at-sea day before we get to the Canary Islands. I pre-scheduled mine just before what I planned as my first hour at the gym. I expect to go to the gym on all sea days and there will be eight of those.

Each morning I have had coffee, a bagel and orange juice delivered to the stateroom.  I always miss that knock on the door each morning when I am home but then I would miss my daily coffee at Java House so I guess it’s OK. 

On day two we stopped at our first port, Alicante, on Spain’s Costa Blanca. I was truly surprised at how beautiful the city is. I joined friends for what turned out to be a three and a half hour walk as we were allowed off the ship on our own without booking a tour. We visited churches and the main market in town. We strolled along the beach and the harbor with great walking and bicycle paths. Alicante is a wonderful mix of old-world charm and modern amenities. One friend ventured up to the castle, Castillo de Santa Barbara, but since the elevator (the easy way up) wasn’t working and it’s a very long, steep climb up the mountain I passed. We arrived back at the ship around 1 p.m. and headed to the Mast bar on deck 14 for burgers and fries. Then some time back in the stateroom before heading to the martini bar for a drink and then to the beautiful APEX theater to see the Shamrock Tenors, four Irish performers who are not only talented but cute to boot. 

We decided to try one of the regular restaurants, those not needing reservations and chose Normandy. The food was good and I had shrimp cocktail, rigatoni, and cherries jubilee for dessert. 

After dinner it was up to the Rooftop Garden for ‘Silent Disco’. That is where you get a set of headphones with a few channels of disco music, and you dance to the music only you can hear. It’s really fun but by 11:30 my knees gave out and it was off to bed. 

Day three dawned nice and sunny and we were docked in Cartagena, located in the autonomous of the region of Murcia. I had an 8:45 excursion and again had breakfast delivered to the room. We were instructed to head to the theater to meet the tour group and sign in for our ‘Journey to Murcia’. Murcia is a city in south-eastern Spain, the capital and most populous city of the Autonomous Community of the Region of Murcia, and the seventh largest city in the country, with a population of 447,182. It is about a forty-minute drive from the port. It is a fascinating city with an incredible history from the Romans to and Moorish influence. There is a beautiful cathedral, isn’t there one in every Spanish city? This being a national holiday in Spain most of the shops were closed saving some on the tour a lot of money. We strolled around the city with our guide giving us a running commentary on its history for about an hour and a half. She was a little hard to understand because not only did she have a heavy accent but she spoke really fast. But it was still fun and we did learn a lot. We made a second stop outside the city at another church where a wedding was being officiated. The bride was beautiful. Then we headed back to the ship for an early departure. Our tour was the last onboard and we sailed not more than thirty minutes after we got there. 

Then it was off to the captain’s reception. I had the chance to chat a few moments with the Captain Panagiotis Skylogiannis, who is as charming as are most Greek men. We also met the rest of the senior crew who run the ship. Many said they would be more than happy to sit and get a cup of coffee with me during our at-sea days so I can interview and write about them.

Then it was back to my stateroom again to prepare for another tough night of food and drinking. We went to see Andrew Derbyshire in the theater for the 7:30 show and then to dinner at Cyprus.   After dinner Celebrity hosted the first LGBTQ+ event of the cruise at the EDEN bar. A large crowd showed up, not all gay but they all knew where the fun people would be. The entertainers all showed up there as including the Shamrock Tenors, four talented Irish guys and Andrew Derbyshire, a British actor and singer. We chatted and I will meet him for coffee to do a column on him. 

Then about midnight it was back to the stateroom for what some of my friends on board called an early night. Morning would have us docking in Cadiz and we had a private tour planned for over 20 of the people who had booked the trip with Scott Moster, travel agent extraordinaire, taking us to the city of Seville.  

Days four and five on the Celebrity APEX

Day four dawned warm and partially sunny as we docked in the port of Cadiz. This was the day we had our private tour of Sevilla planned. The itinerary had been set by two of my friends, Rob Robertson and his husband Carlos Taylor. Carlos lived for a time in Sevilla as a child and has a big family still here. Celebrity, by agreement with our travel agent Scott Moster, made the planned itinerary a formally sponsored tour. 

At 8:45 our group of mostly gay and lesbian travelers left the ship for the hour and forty-five-minute bus ride to Sevilla. Our guide described the city and gave us its history as we traveled to our destination. Scott also had the foresight  to bring along a few bottles of champagne and orange juice and we were treated to mimosas along the way. 

Once in Sevilla were met by a second guide and given electronic devices and earphones so we could follow along as we took a two hour walk to see the sights which included the incredible Plaza de España in the Parque de María Luisa. It was built in 1928 for the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929. It is a landmark example of Regionalism Architecture, mixing elements of the Baroque Revival, Renaissance Revival and Moorish Revival styles of Spanish architecture. Plaza de España has been used as a backdrop in a number of films including Starwars. It is very impressive. 

From there we headed to the Royal Palace and its beautiful gardens and then it was off to the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See, better known as, Seville Cathedral. It was registered in 1987 by UNESCO as a world heritage site along with the adjoining Alcazar complex. It is the fourth largest church in the world as well as the largest Gothic church and is particularly ornate with over forty-five individual chapels and two huge organs. Christopher Columbus and his son Diego are buried in the cathedral. 

Because we spent so much time at these sites we were very late for lunch at the restaurant Carlos had chosen; one owned by friends of his family. They welcomed us with charcuterie and cheese plates, wine, beer and sangria. However, the rest of lunch ended up as takeout as we were really late and our ship was scheduled to leave port at 4:45 and we had been told to be on board no later than 4:30. We double-timed it back to our bus and headed for the port. All went well until we hit a traffic jam and sat for about fifteen minutes. It was increasingly clear we wouldn’t be on-time. Our guide was getting nervous and he called the ship and someone erroneously told him they would sail without us. 

Meanwhile our trusty travel agent Scott was on the phone with his Celebrity contact who confirmed as this was an official tour they couldn’t leave without us. Once again we were the last people up the gangway and about five minutes after the last person was onboard the engines started up. The Captain had made an announcement to all the reason they may be leaving late was us. After that excitement it was a great evening with dinner at Cyprus and then a show. The hard life onboard ship continued.

Day five was our first sea-day. No tours and no rushing. For me it was early morning writing and coffee delivered to the room. Then my required covid test and off to the gym. The half hour on the Lifecyle was easy because I was looking out at the sea. The gym isn’t large and because of covid you could only use every other machine. But with only half the number of passengers on board that worked. The gym is open twenty-four hours a day. After my workout I met friends at the buffet for a lite lunch because of course it was crucial to gain back the few calories I may have lost working out. Then it was a lazy day, the kind I love when cruising. I had arranged coffee with Andrew Derbyshire, one of the talented entertainers onboard, to interview him for a column I will write. He is a really nice guy who will be getting off the ship in the Canary Islands; not being an American citizen, he wouldn’t be allowed into the US even though fully vaccinated until November 8th and we dock on October 24th. 

Evening began with a Celebrity scheduled  LGBTQ+ happy hour and then a nice dinner at the Rooftop Garden, another of the specialty restaurants. Then on to The Club, one of the entertainment venues, to hear Andrew sing. He had the whole room up and dancing, even me.  All-in-all another great day onboard Celebrity APEX.

Day Six begins my sea-days on the Celebrity APEX

I woke on day six to a hazy sky and our ship heading to dock in Tenerife. I had been there before and was sad that we were not going to be allowed to head out on our own. There were a number of tours scheduled but I decided to stay on the ship. It was a wonderful lazy day of writing, the gym, and just finding a nice place to sit and read. First though I would have a long lunch with Cheryl and Jeff in the Café, which is the buffet. They are my childhood friends who are onboard. We exchanged old pictures from our iPhones and talked about people we grew up with.  

The EDGE series of Celebrity ships, which includes the EDGE, the APEX which I am on, and the upcoming BEYOND scheduled to make its inaugural sail next April, have what is called the Magic Carpet. It is a lounge that can be moved up and down on the side of the ship. On day six it was on deck 14 and it was the perfect place to sit and read. This would be my life for the next seven days at sea. It is the part of the cruise I like the best.

Scott and Dustin invited us all to a sail-away party in their suite at 4:30 and we watched as our ship sailed out of Tenerife for the seven-day crossing to Ft. Lauderdale. Lazy days and fun nights ahead for all of us. On this day Celebrity had scheduled two LGBTQ+ events, one a meet and greet at 6 pm and a second LGBTQ+ PRIDE event at 10:30. Between the two there was a show in the Theater, UPTOWN, three talented young men dancing and singing to Motown and other music from groups who had sung in the famous New York,  Apollo theater. Then dinner at the Steak House, another specialty restaurant. 

At the evening LGBTQ+ event we met some of the new cast members of the shows replacing those who had to leave the ship in Tenerife.  I ran into another person on the ship I first met years ago in DC, Tareq Salahi, known at the time as part of the couple who crashed a White House dinner. His first wife was on the very short-lived series ‘The Housewives of Washington, DC. 

On day seven I woke up to a hazy day at sea, calm waters which we can only hope will be replicated for our whole Atlantic crossing. I started my day going to a talk given by Melinda Bates, who had written a book on the Clinton Administration where she served eight years in the visitor’s office of the White House. I had met her on a previous cruise and had lunch with her so really went just to say hello.  Then it was going to be what I looked forward to; gym, writing, reading, eating and drinking, and just being lazy in luxurious surroundings with fun people. What more can anyone ask for.

Seven Sea-days on Celebrity APEX

The sea-days on Celebrity APEX have been as wonderful as I anticipated. The knock on the door every morning at 7:30 a.m. with my coffee delivered by a smiling, at least his eyes are as he is wearing a mask, room service waiter. Then a couple of hours doing the second edit of the book I am writing. Somehow being at sea has given me the head space I needed to get back to it. Then off to the gym.

Despite the apparent incompetence of the Celebrity PR agency, I did get the chance to meet the Captain on the second day of my cruise and he agreed to sit down for a short interview. He is a charming and totally open guy willing to talk about his life. I will be doing a column on the interview shortly after I am off the ship. 

He even agreed to set up a tour of the bridge for me and friends Rob and Carlos. It was arranged by Icaro, the concierge, a charming Brazilian. We were met outside the bridge by security and wanded down. The bridge is larger than I thought it would be and the very nice 2nd mate Alex, took time to give us a detailed explanation of how they steer this beautiful ship. In some ways it looks like a little more complicated video game. But then those playing video games aren’t responsible for the lives of a crew of 1,250 and nearly 3000 passengers when the ship is full.

The days at sea pass quickly, which is sometimes surprising when you are really doing nothing but being lazy and figuring out what beautiful venue to go to for your next meal or a drink. The Martini Bar or Café Al Bacio are some of the great places to drink and relax on the ship. 

Our ever-attentive travel agent Scott and his husband Dustin hosted another party in their suite, the Iconic Suite, and I met some people I hadn’t yet seen in the past days onboard. Some of them signing up with Scott to go on next year’s October 29th APEX transatlantic cruise out of Rome. I am one of them and have even given a deposit for the October 30th 2023 transatlantic cruise on The BEYOND, Celebrity’s newest ship which will set sail on its first cruise in April of 2022. It is amazing how addictive cruising can be but I guess if you need to have an addiction this isn’t a bad one to have.

The Iconic suite is located in what is called the ‘Retreat’ on the ship. It is the more expensive suites and villas with their own restaurant, sun deck, bar and pool. While I can’t afford to book a stateroom in the Retreat I am lucky some of my friends can. They have invited me to join them there occasionally for a drink and dinner. 

Reality is the rest of the ship is just as beautiful and on this cruise, which sailed with less than 50% capacity, it is especially nice. The five specialty restaurants are fun to go to and the regular dining rooms are great. In all of them you can have filet mignon or lobster, among a wide variety of choices. One  restaurant a little different is The Petit Chef. There you have a show play out on your table and plate from cameras above showing the preparation of each course on your empty plate. Immediately after the show for each course your food is presented looking exactly like the filmed version. It is a fun two-hour dinner with everyone in the restaurant eating the same food at the same time.

The talent in the APEX theater, The CLUB and other venues including EDEN has been incredible and the entertainers are happy to mingle with the guests, which has been fun. We have seen shows with talent like Andrew Derbyshire, The Shamrock Tenors, UPTOWN, Three DIVAS, and the performers in Caravan, among others. I will be writing a column on Andrew Derbyshire after the cruise. All-in-all one couldn’t ask for more. 

On board you often feel you have escaped the world and the daily news cycle. Occasionally it does raise its head as they have BBC, MSNBC and Fox News on shipboard TV. Every once in a while, someone starts talking politics to me as they know I write about it in the Washington Blade. One of our group told me about lying on a lounge in the sun next to two women talking about how they hate Biden who isn’t the real president. So even here you can’t totally get away from stupid. Then we heard every Senate Republican voted against allowing debate on the Voting Rights Act. Depressing to say the least, disgusting in fact. 

But since we can’t do anything about it at the moment it’s back to enjoying yourself; eating and drinking without guilt. I know the people I am traveling with will go home after our two-week respite and continue to fight for equality and our Democracy. I am truly fortunate to be traveling with such a great group of people. 

I hope you enjoyed hearing about some of my time on the ship and I will be doing some additional columns once I am back on dry land which will be in two days. Even great times have to end. I wholeheartedly recommend a cruise on the Celebrity APEX to anyone who enjoys travel.

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

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