The Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s largest local LGBT political group, departed from its usual practice of backing only Democrats on Monday night by endorsing independent David Grosso for re-election to his at-large D.C. City Council seat.
Grosso, who has a strong record of support for LGBT rights, holds one of two at-large Council seats up for election this year that must go to a non-Democrat under election rules established by Congress in the city’s Home Rule Charter.
In a vote by acclamation, the club also endorsed Democrat Robert White, who’s running for the other at-large Council seat on the ballot in Nov. 8 city elections. White, who also has a strong record of support on LGBT issues, became the Democratic nominee for the seat after defeating incumbent Council member Vincent Orange in the city’s Democratic primary in June.
In another departure from its usual practice of endorsing Democrats, Stein Club members voted by acclamation Monday night to endorse four nonpartisan candidates for the D.C. State Board of Education, including gay Board of Education President Jack Jacobson.
Jacobson first won election to a four-year term on the board in 2012 as its Ward 2 representative. In January 2015 and again in January 2016 Jacobson’s colleagues on the nine-member board voted to elect him as board president for successive one-year terms.
The other school board candidates endorsed by the club were incumbent at-large member Mary Lord; incumbent Ward 7 member Karen Williams, whom fellow board members twice elected as vice president at the time Jacobson was elected president; and Ward 8 candidate Markus Batchelor.
Lord has been an outspoken LGBT rights ally on the board since winning election to her at-large seat in 2012. Williams and Batchelor have also expressed strong support on LGBT issues related to the city’s public schools.
“They are four good, strong candidates,” said Stein Club President Earl Fowlkes in describing the school board candidate endorsed by the club. “They have done some fantastic work, especially for LGBTQ students.”
Batchelor, 23, is challenging incumbent Tierra Jolly for the Ward 8 seat. Jolly, a high school teacher, won election to the seat in a special election in 2014 when the seat became vacant after then school board member Trayon White resigned to take a job in the city government.
In June, White defeated incumbent Ward 8 Council member LaRuby May, who was backed by Mayor Muriel Bowser, in the Democratic primary in an upset victory that political observers view as a rebellion against the ward’s established political order.
White has endorsed Batchelor in a development that some observers say could open the way for Batchelor to pull off his own upset victory over Jolly, who’s considered the frontrunner in the race.
When she announced in March that she would run for re-election, Jolly received endorsements from May, Grosso and Ward 2 D.C. Council member Jack Evans, according to the Washington Afro American.
Supporters describe Batchelor as a youth prodigy who has been active in city politics since he was 15 years old. He served as a youth mayor in 2009 as part of the Mayor’s Youth Leadership Institute. He served as interim chairperson of the Ward 8 Democrats in 2013 and won election in 2014 as an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner in the ward’s Congress Heights section where he lives.
Batchelor, along with Jacobson, Lord, Williams and Grosso, spoke at the Stein Club meeting and answered questions from members prior to the endorsement vote. White didn’t attend the meeting.
“We have a large and growing LGBT community in Ward 8 and definitely LGBT students that we have to serve and I will be more than happy to serve,” Batchelor told the Washington Blade after the Stein Club meeting. “On the school board I am definitely going to be a champion for making sure that all of our students feel safe and accepted in the classroom and in the school.”
In addition to endorsing White for one of the two at-large Council seats in the November election, the club voted to endorse him for the appointment to the seat later this month by the D.C. Democratic State Committee. Orange resigned from the seat on Aug. 15 to start his new job as president and CEO of the D.C. Chamber of Commerce.
The Democratic State Committee, under city election rules, is authorized to choose a temporary replacement for Orange until the newly elected Council member takes office on Jan. 1, 2017. White’s supporters have urged the State Committee to name him to the interim Council position since he is considered the overwhelming favorite to win election to the seat in November.
Jacobson, the city’s only openly gay elected official in a position other than ANC commissioner, is being challenged for his Ward 2 school board seat by former U.S. Department of Homeland Security official Carrie Bachner. Bachner currently serves as CEO of the Bachner Group, a legislative consulting firm specializing in security-related issues, according to her LinkedIn page.
Jacobson told the Stein Club meeting on Monday that he hopes to continue his work on behalf of improving schools and educational opportunities for students in all parts of the city. He noted that he played an active role in helping to develop revised health education standards for the city’s public and charter schools, which, among other things, call for teaching about LGBT related issues.
The Stein Club earlier this year voted to endorse for re-election D.C. Congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.); shadow U.S. Rep. Franklin Garcia (D-D.C.); Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2); and Council member Brandon Todd (D-Ward 4); and former D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray (D), who’s running for the Ward 7 D.C. Council seat.
Norton is being challenged by gay Libertarian Party candidate Martin Moulton and Statehood Green Party candidate Natale Stracuzzi. She’s is a longtime LGBT rights supporter who is considered the favorite to win re-election.