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Baltimore could get its first openly gay Council member

Kelly Cross enters race from 12th District

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Kelly Cross, gay news, Washington Blade
Kelly Cross, gay news, Washington Blade

Kelly Cross is hoping to become Baltimore’s first openly gay Council member. (Photo courtesy of Cross)

In 2007, Fred Mason III announced his candidacy for Baltimore’s 11th Council District. Had he succeeded in the Democratic primary and won the general election, he would have been the first openly gay person to be elected to the Council. Jason Curtis, another gay man, made a similar bid in 2011 for the 12th District but also came up short.

On Jan. 29, a day before his 37th birthday, Kelly Cross, who is also gay, filed to enter the Democratic primary in the 12th. In a district that for years has been represented by Carl Stokes, Cross will have plenty of company as no fewer than six other Democrats are currently vying for the seat in the primary as well as one Republican and one Green Party candidate. Stokes is leaving his Council seat to run for mayor.

Cross was raised in a working-class family in West Virginia. He earned admission to Princeton University and followed his undergraduate education with a law degree from the University of Virginia. After living in Washington, D.C., and Europe, Cross and his husband, Mateusz Rozanski, decided in 2010 to make Baltimore their home.

Baltimore’s 12th Council District is a jagged swath of territory that runs north and south through the city. It touches such diverse neighborhoods as Waverly, Cold Spring-Homestead-Montebello, Old Goucher, Station North, Broadway East, Barclay, Oliver, Charles Village, South Clifton Park and Jonestown.

In announcing his bid, Cross notes that “the 12th District is home to some of the most important cultural, institutional and infrastructure assets in the United States.” Included in this district are Johns Hopkins Hospital and Medical School, Maryland Institute College of Art, the historic neighborhoods of Oldtown and Mount Vernon, and “the CSX and Amtrak lines that provide the transportation backbone of the Northeast.”

“I’m running for this seat because I love Baltimore,” Cross told the Blade. “It pains me to see that with all the amazing assets we have — some of the most beautiful architecture in America, world-class institutions and museums, prime location and a diverse economy — the city still struggles.”

Cross and Rozanski reside in the Old Goucher neighborhood. He has been active in local politics as a board member of the Charles Village Civic Association and currently as president of the Old Goucher Community Association.

“As a community association president for the last several years, I’ve seen that our city government is not forward-looking and proactive,” said Cross. “City government has been incredibly reactive, seeking short-term fixes without advancing Baltimore as a whole. I’m running because I want to be one of several new voices on City Council who will alter that dynamic.”

During the campaign, Cross will present how transit and education can be improved, how to create jobs, and restore the dignity of Baltimore, which he refers to as “one of America’s first, and greatest, cities.” He intends to discuss how these goals can be achieved without making bad decisions between higher taxes and fewer services.

However, he distinguishes himself from the other candidates not so much by issues but more in experience and vision.

“From my work in the private sector — both domestically and abroad — to my work as a community activist, I understand that Baltimore must do a better job of opening itself back up; of inviting resources and residents back to the city,” Cross said. “I recognize that we have to deal with issues like grinding poverty, poor education systems, violence in our streets. But we need to do so in a holistic way, in a way that makes Baltimore a magnet for talent and investment again.”

Cross also believes that City Hall needs to work diligently to make Baltimore a more open and accepting place for its LGBT residents. “We need to recruit and encourage more small LGBT businesses, and reestablish centers of LGBT life throughout the city,” he said.

“My neighborhood, Old Goucher, has one of the highest concentrations of transgender women of color in the country, and I’ve seen firsthand many of the struggles these women endure. The city can do more to be inclusive and supportive of the incredible LGBT diversity Baltimore has.

“Finally, we definitely need City Hall to take Baltimore’s HIV crisis seriously. While Leana Wen and the Health Department have made great strides, I have not seen the City Council openly acknowledge the havoc HIV is wreaking on the city.”

But can Cross make history and succeed in this election as an openly gay man where others before him have not?

“I believe times and attitudes have shifted from previous election cycles,” he said. “It’s worth noting that gay candidates who have run for City Council in the past have done fairly well in their districts. But I think that in the age of marriage equality and more general acceptance of gay lives, a broader constituency of people is ready to accept an openly gay candidate.”

We’ll find out on primary day, April 26.

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Comings & Goings

Conner promoted to manager of Scott Circle Communications

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Robert Conner

The Comings & Goings column is about sharing the professional successes of our community. We want to recognize those landing new jobs, new clients for their business, joining boards of organizations and other achievements. Please share your successes with us at: [email protected].

Congratulations to Robert Conner, promoted to manager of Scott Circle Communications. On his promotion Conner said, “I’m proud to be promoted to manager of Scott Circle Communications. Our clients are all mission-driven. I am fortunate to use my expertise to help clients communicate complex and urgent information to the public in order to help people learn about new research relating to their health, and the society around them. As an activist fighting for equality and LGBTQ causes, my daily work at Scott Circle Communications aligns with my overarching life goal of using communication to benefit the greater good by writing clearly to bridge misunderstandings.” 

Conner previously worked at SKDKnickerbocker in D.C. Prior to that he had been an intern in the office of Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.).  He has had a number of speaking engagements with the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) and received a bronze Bulldog Award for Best Media Relations Campaign 2022. He served as chair of the volunteer engagement committee of the Human Rights Campaign in Greater Philadelphia.

Conner earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, Pa.

Congratulations also to Christopher Rudolf who joined Atlantic Shores Sotheby’s International Realty in Ocean City, Md. Rudolph is a licensed Realtor in Maryland and Delaware specializing in the beaches and coastal areas of Worcester County, Md., and Sussex County, Del. He said, “I have been assisting buyers and sellers of real estate in our area since 2015. I thoroughly enjoy helping people achieve their dreams of coastal property ownership. The Maryland/Delaware seashore is a very cool place that I like to call home, and teaching people about the history and attractions of the region is a lifelong passion of mine.”  

In addition to real estate in the warm months, Rudolf works part-time as a manager at The Kite Loft of Ocean City. He was appointed to the Ocean City Board of Zoning Appeals in 2013 by Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan, and recently was elected chair of the board.  

He earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from Salisbury University in Maryland.  

Christopher Rudolf
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Maryland

Lesbian candidate trails by just 17 votes in Hyattsville Council race

Election board mum on whether all ballots are counted

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Lisbeth Melendez Rivera (Photo courtesy of the Melendez Rivera Campaign)

Lesbian activist and diversity consultant Lisbeth Melendez Rivera was behind her closet rival by just 17 votes on Tuesday night in a three-candidate special election to fill a vacant seat on the Hyattsville, Md., City Council.

In what it said were the unofficial results of the special election, the Hyattsville Board of Supervisors of Elections posted on its website that candidate Emily Strab had 280 votes, Melendez Rivera had 263 votes, and candidate Kelly Burello had 152 votes. Three votes were cast for write-in candidates, the election night posting said.

“Results are unofficial until certified by the Board of Supervisors of Election,” the posting said. The certification was scheduled to take place at 1 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 6.

The online posting of the results did not say whether there were any outstanding votes from absentee or mail-in ballots. A spokesperson for the election board couldn’t immediately be reached Tuesday night or Wednesday morning.

The Ward 2 seat on the 10-member Hyattsville Council in the Prince George’s County suburban city became vacant when the incumbent Council member, Robert Croslin, won election as mayor.

Melendez Rivera currently operates BQN Consulting, a firm she created to provide support services related to organizing, training and capacity building, according to the firm’s website. The website says that from 2014 to 2017 she served as Director of Latinx & Catholic Initiatives for the Human Rights Campaign, the D.C.-based national LGBTQ advocacy organization.

“I congratulated Emily,” Melendez Rivera told the Washington Blade Wednesday morning.

 “Have I said this is the end? No, because I want to wait until tomorrow at 1 to see the outcome,” she said.

“What I know is everything that was available to them was counted as of 9:30 last night,” she said, referring to the election board. “There is a process today. They will do a last check of the mail to see if anything was postmarked before 8 p.m. last night,” Melendez Rivera said in referring to possible additional mail-in ballots.

Melendez Rivera said she portrayed herself as the most progressive of the three candidates running for the nonpartisan City Council seat in a city that many consider to be one of the most progressive jurisdictions in the Washington metro area. Residents starting at age 16 and non-citizen immigrants are allowed to vote in local elections.

Like Melendez Rivera, Strab, a former teacher and school administrator, and Burello, who has worked as a workplace diversity trainer, each expressed support for Hyattsville’s diverse population, including racial minorities and immigrants.

The 698 total votes cast in the special election as of Tuesday night is considered a low turnout in the Ward 2 election district, which has a little over 2,000 registered voters.

This story will be updated when new information becomes available.

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District of Columbia

Gay ANC commissioner nominated for director of D.C. Office of ANCs

Confirmation hearing set for Oct. 12

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Ward 1 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Kent Boese (Photo courtesy of Boese)

D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large) on Sept. 19 introduced a resolution nominating gay law librarian and Ward 1 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Kent Boese to become executive director of the D.C. Office of Advisory Neighborhood Commissions.

The ANC Office director, who is nominated and confirmed by the Council, oversees the operations of the city’s 40 ANCs, which consist of nearly 300 commissioners representing single member ANC districts located in neighborhoods throughout each of the city’s eight wards.

Boese currently represents ANC Single Member District 1A08 in Ward 1.

Shawn Hilgendorf, staff director of the D.C. Council Committee on Government Operations and Facilities, which has jurisdiction over the Office of ANCs, said Mendelson nominated Boese for the Executive Director’s position after the committee earlier this year accepted applications for the position and “interviewed a number of candidates.”

The Council’s Committee of the Whole, which is chaired by Mendelson, is scheduled to hold a confirmation hearing for Boese on Oct. 12, Hilgendorf said. The committee consists of all 13 members of the Council. If it approves Boese’s nomination, as expected, the full Council is expected to then take a final vote on the resolution calling for Boese’s appointment.

Boese is a former president of the D.C. Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s largest local LGBTQ political group, which has since changed its name to the Capital Stonewall Democrats. In 2018, Boese ran unsuccessfully as a candidate for the Ward 1 D.C. Council seat in the Democratic primary.

A resumé for Boese submitted to the Council at the time of his nomination says he has worked since August 2008 as a law librarian, manager of technical services, and manager of library services for the D.C. law firm Wiley Rein.

“I’m honored & humbled by the confidence & support I’ve received from Chairman Mendelson during the selection process for a new Director of OANC,” Boese wrote in a Twitter posting. “I’m excited to leverage my ANC experience & relationships to build stronger supports & new services for ANCs across DC.”

Created under the city’s Home Rule Charter in the 1970s, ANCs serve as non-partisan, unpaid bodies that advise city government agencies on a variety of issues impacting neighborhoods, including zoning, trash collection, liquor license approval, and public safety. Although D.C. government agencies make the final decisions on these issues, they are required to give “great weight” to the recommendations of the ANCs.   

ANC commissioners are elected to two-year terms by the approximately 2,000 people who live in their Single Member Districts.

The director of the ANC Office oversees the administrative affairs, including the budgets, for all of the ANCs. The position became vacant last year when its longtime director Gottlieb Simon resigned. The Council appointed Schannette Grant as interim executive director while it conducted its search for a permanent director.

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