September 17, 2014 at 6:30 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Catania, Mendelson, Snowden receive top GLAA ratings
David Catania, qualified, gay news, Washington Blade

David Catania received a top rating from the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance in their latest ratings. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

D.C. Council member and mayoral candidate David Catania (I-At-Large) received a +10 rating on LGBT-related issues from the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, the highest possible score under GLAA’s rating system.

GLAA, which released its ratings on Wednesday, gave Council member and mayoral candidate Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) a +9 rating and former Council member and mayoral contender Carol Schwarz, who’s also running as an independent, a +8.5 rating. Bowser and Schwarz are considered Catania’s main rivals in the mayor’s race.

The LGBT activist group has been rating candidates for public office in the District since the 1970s. It bases its ratings on candidates’ responses to a detailed questionnaire and their past record on LGBT-related issues. The rating system consists of a scale of +10, the highest possible rating, to -10, the lowest score that’s usually given to candidates opposed to and hostile toward LGBT rights.

GLAA assigns an automatic “0” rating to candidates who don’t return the questionnaire and whose record on LGBT issues is unknown to the group.

Catania “submitted a strong questionnaire and has an extensive record of advancing LGBT issues,” GLAA said in a statement that accompanied the ratings.

In addition to Catania, GLAA awarded a +10 rating on Wednesday to City Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large) and independent at-large Council candidate Courtney Snowden, an out lesbian.

Mendelson has been a longtime supporter of LGBT rights and has been credited with shepherding the city’s marriage equality bill and other LGBT-related bills through the Council’s approval process.

Snowden, a public relations executive who formerly worked for three national LGBT rights organizations, is one of 15 candidates competing for two at-large Council seats up for grabs this year in a hotly contested race.

LGBT activists note that 2015 could become the first year since 1996 that an out gay person isn’t on the Council if Snowden doesn’t win her race for one of the two at-large Council seats.

Catania, who’s gay, is giving up his Council seat to run for mayor. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), the other out gay member of the Council, lost his re-election bid in the April Democratic primary. Catania and Graham’s Council terms end on Jan. 1, 2015.

Among Snowden’s 14 rivals, GLAA gave independent candidate Graylan Scott Hagler a +9 rating and Democrat-turned-independent Eliza Silverman a +8. Silverman received strong support from LGBT activists when she ran for an at-large Council seat two years ago.

Incumbent Council member Anita Bonds (D-At-Large) received a +6 rating from GLAA, just behind independent rival Robert White, who received a +7.5.

Bonds received the endorsement of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s largest LGBT political organization. Most political observers expect her to win her re-election bid for one of the two at-large seats by a wide margin.

Under the city’s election law, a Democrat is only eligible for one of the two at-large seats up for election this year. Voters have the option of voting for any two of the 15 candidates on the ballot, and two non-Democrats could theoretically win election to the seats, although that has never happened in the 40 years since Congress granted D.C. its local home rule government.

Out gay Republican Marc Morgan, who’s also running for one of the at-large Council seats, received a +2 GLAA rating. GLAA said Morgan didn’t return the questionnaire but was given credit for supporting LGBT equality through his past work with LGBT rights groups in Ohio and Arizona.

Morgan told the Washington Blade he never received the questionnaire. He said he contacted GLAA on Wednesday and made arrangements to obtain it and quickly return it, with the possibility of GLAA adjusting his rating based on his questionnaire responses.

GLAA’s statement accompanying the rating issued on Wednesday says Morgan lost points because of his past support “for the campaigns of anti-gay politicians John Boehner, Robert Ehrlich and Laura Knapereck.”

GLAA this year kept to its longstanding policy of not rating candidate for the city’s congressional delegate seat or the “shadow” House and Senate seats.

GLAA President Rick Rosendall said the group also determined this year it didn’t have the resources to issue ratings for candidates running for the newly created elected position of D.C. attorney general.

“We decided to focus our limited volunteer resources on the races for Mayor and Council,” Rosendall told the Blade. “Instead, we have invited AG candidates to submit statements on LGBT issues, which we will publish on our blog and website and share with our email announcement list,” said Rosendall.

In the mayor’s race, GLAA gave out gay Libertarian Party candidate Bruce Majors a + 2 rating, saying “his and his party’s ideological distrust of government is at odds with policies and reforms favored by GLAA.”

Majors has accused GLAA in the past of being biased against the Libertarian Party’s positions on government that he says would be beneficial to LGBT people.

GLAA gave Statehood-Green Party mayoral candidate Faith a +3.5 rating, saying she expressed support on the questionnaire for all of the positions deemed important by GLAA but “showed a weak understanding of the issues and a weak record.”

Independent mayoral candidate Nestor Djonkam received a “0” rating for not returning a questionnaire. The group said he had no information about his record on LGBT issues.

For the D.C. Council Chair race, GLAA issued a +3 rating for Statehood-Green Party candidate G. Lee Aikin and a “0” rating for the three remaining candidates, who didn’t turn in a questionnaire and whose record on LGBT rights was unknown to the group. The three are John C. Cheeks, Independent; Kris Hammond, Republican; and Kyle Walker, Libertarian.

In a development likely to surprise some political observers, GLAA gave a “0” rating to independent at-large Council candidates Khalid Pitts, who has been endorsement by former Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese; and Kishan Putta, a Dupont Circle Advisory Neighborhood Commission member who has worked closely with gay members of the ANC on various issues.

Following are GLAA’s ratings for the remainder of the at-large and ward Council races:

At-Large Race: Brian Hart, Independent, +5; Eugene Puryear, State-Hood Green, +4.5; Wendell Felder, Independent, +3; Michael D. Brown, Independent, +2; Calvin Gurley, Independent, +1; Eric J. Jones, Independent, 0; Frederick Steiner, Libertarian, 0.

Ward 1 Council: Brianne K. Nadeau, Democrat, +5; Ernest E. Johnson, Independent, +1.5; John Vaught LaBeaume, Libertarian, 0.

Ward 3 Council: Mary Cheh (incumbent), Democrat, +8.5; Ryan Sabot, Libertarian, 0.

Ward 5: Kenyan McDuffie (Incumbent), Democrat, +4.5; Preston Cornish, Libertarian, 0.

Ward 6: Charles Allen, Democrat, +8.5; Pranav Badhwar, Libertarian, +2.

A detailed breakdown of GLAA’s ratings and links to the candidates’ questionnaire responses can be reached here.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

  • In fairness to the many candidates "who didn’t turn in a questionnaire," most of us never received the questionnaire. Many of the independent candidates and all of the major party candidates who were appointed after the April 1 primary never had an opportunity. My understanding is that GLAA is giving such candidates an opportunity to contribute after the fact, but this news cycle will be past.

    As an aside, Democrat Phil Mendelson and I agree on LGBTQ issues– I wish this bipartisan consensus existed at the national level.

    Kris Hammond
    Candidate for D.C. Council Chairman

  • Mr. Hammond is incorrect in saying that “many independent candidates” never received a GLAA questionnaire. We sent questionnaires to all independent candidates listed with the Board of Elections. Most responded to us. In our ratings meeting for the general election cycle, we were focused on independent candidates, having dealt with the major party candidates (Democratic, Libertarian, Statehood-Green, Republican) in the primary. Muriel Bowser, as the Democratic nominee for Mayor, chose to submit a new response, so we evaluated that as well.

    The fact that some party candidates were recruited after the primary was something we initially overlooked. We have since reached out to everyone on the ballot that we haven’t heard from and invited them to respond. As to the news cycle being over, there are plenty more news cycles, and we will announce our ratings to the same member list and the same press list, as well as post the ratings on our website and include them in our planned ratings ad (which is still several weeks away). The handful of candidates being rated late have a better chance of receiving bloggers’ attention than had they gotten lost in the crowd of the first story. And I will tweet a link to each new questionnaire as we receive it. Surely this is more than fair on the part of volunteer activists.

    As for At-Large Republican candidate Marc Morgan, I tried more than once to reach him during the primary season, and sent him the same email I sent other primary candidates. He has since told me that he intentionally waited for the general election, which is fine but is not GLAA’s doing. As for Independent At-Large candidates Khalid Pitts and Kishan Putta, we sent them the same invitation we sent other independent candidates. We have since received a response from Pitts, which we are evaluating. We would welcome a response from Putta as well, which we have communicated by (another) email.

    GLAA is non-partisan and does not make endorsements in partisan races. We rate candidates based on their records and answers on our issues. Our questions are drawn from our policy brief, which was published in two formats on our website at glaa dot org on January 3, and which was provided to candidates along with the questionnaire–thus making the questionnaire an open-book test. We go through this process for the purpose of educating both candidates and the public, as well as being a resource for reporters, legislative staff, opinion makers, and other activists on LGBT issues. We appreciate the interest.

    Rick Rosendall, President, GLAA

  • Hi Rick,

    I’m sorry if you thought I was trying to exaggerate anything, that was not my intention. All I know is that several of the candidates (whether appointed by parties after the primary or “independent” candidates) did not receive questionnaires. Thus, the reader of the article might believe that we simply failed to respond to the questionnaire. I was trying to clarify the article on that point.

    Kris Hammond
    Candidate for D.C. Council Chairman

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