April 29, 2015 at 9:22 am EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Todd wins Ward 4 seat; May leads in Ward 8
Brandon Todd, gay news, Washington Blade

Brandon Todd, center, beat his closest rival by a margin of 42.4 percent to 21.6 percent. (Washington Blade photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.)

One of two candidates supported by most of the city’s prominent LGBT activists won his race for the Ward 4 City Council seat Tuesday night while the other held a narrow lead over her closest rival in the race for the Ward 8 Council seat.

Brandon Todd, a former City Council staffer, beat his closest rival by a margin of 42.4 percent to 21.6 percent in an 11-candidate race to capture the Ward 4 seat held by his political mentor, Mayor Muriel Bowser, before Bowser won election as mayor last year.

In the Ward 8 race, attorney and community activist LaRuby May was leading her closest rival, former school board member Trayon White, by 152 votes in a race that also consisted of 11 contenders. They were competing to succeed Council member and former mayor Marion Barry, who died in November.

White was among five candidates in the Ward 8 race that received a “0” rating from the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance on LGBT issues. GLAA rates candidates on a scale of -10, the worst possible score, to +10, the highest possible score.

GLAA said it gave White and the other four candidates a zero rating because they failed to return a candidate questionnaire on LGBT related issues and the group had no information about their positions on those issues.

White was also one of six candidates running for the Ward 8 seat that did not show up for a candidates’ forum on LGBT issues organized by the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s largest LGBT local political organization.

During his successful campaign in 2011 for a seat on the D.C. State Board of Education White expressed general support for LGBT-related school issues.

The D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics said the race between May and White was too close to call on Tuesday night. In a statement released on Wednesday, the board said there were 1,030 special ballots in Ward 8 that remained to be counted and 163 absentee ballots outstanding. A special ballot is cast by those who register the same day as the election. The outcome in Ward 8 will likely not be known before May 8.

Todd and May, who have expressed strong support for LGBT rights, were each endorsed by the Stein Club. They also had the backing of many of the city’s LGBT rights leaders, including most of the LGBT activists who supported Bowser’s campaign for mayor last year.

In a development that surprised some political observers, Marion Christopher Barry, the son of the former mayor and Council member, finished in fifth place in the Ward 8 Council race Tuesday night, with just 460 votes or 7.2 percent of the total.

Todd and May, who played prominent roles in Bowser’s 2014 mayoral campaign, received strong backing from Bowser in their respective Council races this year. Bowser’s citywide network of campaign supporters, including LGBT supporters, has been credited with helping Todd and May raise far more money for their campaigns than all of their rivals.

Several of the rival candidates accused Todd and May of having an unfair advantage through Bowser’s support, with some critics saying the two would be beholden to the mayor if elected to the Council.

Todd and May disputed those assertions. Supporters of the two, including their LGBT supporters, argued that Todd and May finished ahead of their rivals because they ran highly professional campaigns that included face-to-face visits with residents in all parts of their respective wards.

Veteran LGBT rights advocate and businessman Everett Hamilton, who served as a campaign adviser to Bowser as well as for Todd and May, noted that Todd served for seven years as then-Council member Bower’s constituent services director. Hamilton said that in performing constituent services work Todd became well known and well liked in Ward 4.

“He was out there every single day knocking on doors and talking to residents of Ward 4,” said Hamilton in discussing Todd’s campaign for the Ward 4 council seat this year. “This victory was not handed to him. He worked for it very hard every single day,” said Hamilton.

Hamilton and Darrin Glymph, an attorney and longtime LGBT rights advocate and Ward 4 resident, each said they are confident that Todd will be a strong ally for the LGBT community.

“If you ask any LGBT person in the ward, they know Brandon Todd,” Glymph told the Blade at Todd’s election night victory party. “He was responsive. He was the one who was responding to emails, to the listserv, to phone calls,” Glymph said in referring to Todd’s work as Bowser’s Ward 4 constituent director.

While stopping by Todd’s election night gathering to congratulate Todd, Bowser told the Blade she, too, credits Todd and May for finishing ahead of their rivals in Tuesday’s election because of their own skills and accomplishments.

“I think Brandon has tremendous experience and he far outpaced everybody in the field when it comes to delivering for Ward 4,” Bowser said. “And that’s why he won so convincingly.”

The mayor said there was a “strong field” of candidates in the Ward 8 race and she couldn’t predict how people would vote.

“And quite frankly LaRuby came from virtually having no name ID to being the leading candidate,” Bowser said. “So she’s run a hard race and she deserves to win. She has tremendous talent.”

Sheila Bunn, a former high level official in the administration of former Mayor Vincent Gray, finished third with 10.6 percent of the vote in the Ward 8 race. Voting rights advocate Eugene Kinlow finished fourth with 10.2 percent of the vote, just ahead of Barry, who received 7.2 percent. All three expressed strong support for LGBT issues.

In the Ward 4 contest, attorney and civic activist Renee Bowser, who is not related to Mayor Bowser, came in second with 21.6 percent behind Todd, who received 42.4 percent. Leon Andrews, an official with the National League of Cities, finished third with 15 percent. Civic activist Dwayne Toliver, who received a +7 GLAA rating, the highest rating in the Ward 4 race, finished fourth with 12 percent of the vote. All four candidates expressed strong support for LGBT equality during their appearance at the Stein Club forum.

The full vote counts for all candidates in the races in both wards can be seen 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

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