November 2, 2016 at 2:39 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
LGBT allies favored to win D.C. races
Vincent Gray, gay news, Washington Blade

Former Mayor Vince Gray is favored to win election to his old City Council seat from Ward 7 next week. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Former D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray is at the top of a list of 10 LGBT-supportive candidates expected to win their races for seats on the City Council and the D.C. State Board of Education in the Nov. 8 city election.

With Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton considered the overwhelming favorite to beat Republican Donald Trump, Libertarian Gary Johnson, and Green Party candidate Jill Stein in the city’s presidential race, most of D.C.’s political establishment has focused on the D.C. Council and school board races.

Many LGBT activists consider Gray, who is running for the Ward 7 Council seat he held before becoming mayor, the most LGBT-supportive politician ever elected to public office in the city.

Other LGBT-supportive candidates considered strong favorites to win election or re-election next Tuesday include Council members David Grosso (I-At-Large), Robert White (D-At-Large), Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), Brandon Todd (D-Ward 4), and Trayon White (D-Ward 8).

“If anything, the D.C. Council will be even more reliably pro-LGBT starting in January, with Vince Gray returning and Robert White already there,” said Rick Rosendall, president of the non-partisan Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance.

Robert White defeated incumbent Council member Vincent Orange (D-At-Large) in the city’s Democratic primary in June. He was appointed by the city’s Democratic State Committee as interim Council member for the seat in September after Orange resigned to take a job as head of the D.C. Chamber of Commerce.

The interim position ends on Jan. 1, 2017 when the winner of one of two at-large seats on the ballot on Nov. 8 takes office. Most political pundits predict Robert White will be one of the winners.

But he and Grosso are being challenged for the two seats by Statehood Green Party candidate G. Lee Aikin, Republican Carolina Celnik, Libertarian Party candidate Matthew Klokel, and independent John C. Cheeks.

Under the city’s election law, voters are allowed to cast two votes in the at-large race with the highest two vote-getters declared the winners.

Aikin and Celnik have expressed support for LGBT rights, with Aikin the most outspoken on those issues besides Grosso and Robert White. Celnik received the endorsement of the D.C. Log Cabin Republicans.

Klokel and Cheeks received a “0” rating from the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance because they did not return a questionnaire asking about their views on LGBT issues and neither has a known public record on LGBT matters.

Grosso received a +10 GLAA rating, the highest possible rating on a scale of -10 to +10. Robert White received a +8.5 GLAA rating, and Aikin received a +7.5 compared to Celnik, who received a +1.5.

Aikin said she has interacted with members of the LGBT community since the 1980s when she worked as a counselor and nutritionist assisting people with HIV/AIDS. She said her commitment to LGBT equality is unwavering and as a Council member she would be the most effective in safeguarding LGBT equality.

“I think outside the box and I do things outside the box,” she said.

GLAA also gave Gray and Evans a +10 rating. Todd and Trayon White, who are running unopposed, received GLAA ratings of +5 and +4 respectively.

In races for the D.C. State Board of Education, Board President Jack Jacobson, the city’s highest-ranking openly gay elected official, is running unopposed for his seat representing Ward 2. Activists have called Jacobson one of the board’s strongest allies on LGBT issues.

Other LGBT-supportive school board members considered the front runners in their respective races are Mary Lord, who currently holds the board’s at-large seat; Lannette Woodruff, who’s running unopposed for re-election to the Ward 4 seat; and Karen Williams, who’s running for re-election to the Ward 7 seat.

In the Ward 8 school board race, the Stein Club has endorsed challenger Markus Batchelor over incumbent Tierra Jolly and challenger Shakira Hemphill. Batchelor, who expressed strong support for LGBT rights, is considered the underdog in the race behind Jolly, who Ward 8 observers believe is the frontrunner.

In a separate race, the city’s shadow U.S. Representative, Democrat Franklin Garcia, is running unopposed for re-election. He has been an outspoken supporter of LGBT rights.

He has joined nearly all other candidates running for local office in the city’s election on Nov. 8 in supporting an advisory referendum calling for D.C. statehood. The referendum asks voters to vote “yes” or “no” on whether the mayor and City Council should petition Congress next year to admit D.C. as the nation’s 51st state.

Meanwhile, in the race for the city’s nonvoting delegate seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, gay Libertarian Party activist Martin Moulton is challenging 13-term incumbent Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.).

Norton, who is considered one of the city’s most popular elected officials, has been a longtime supporter of the LGBT community. LGBT activists have long praised her for speaking out forcefully on the House floor for LGBT rights, including marriage equality.

Moulton and Statehood Green Party candidate Natale Lino Stracuzzi, who is also running against Norton, are considered long-shot contenders with little chance of beating Norton.

But Moulton says he’s running to give city residents, including LGBT residents, a chance to pick someone to represent them in Congress with a far different approach than Norton.

He has criticized Norton, among other things, for not effectively pushing for D.C. statehood with Republicans and Libertarians. He said Norton also has unnecessarily alienated Republicans on D.C. statehood by pushing for overly restrictive legislation to regulate gun ownership.

In an announcement last week, Moulton said he was proud to have received the endorsement of gun rights advocate Dick Heller, whose lawsuit against the city resulted in a Supreme Court decision striking down part of D.C.’s gun control law as unconstitutional.

“Although I am not personally a firearm owner or enthusiast, I recognize that law-abiding citizens – whether they are lesbians and gays whose very existence was once marginalized, demonized and criminalized in the District – or local business owners and lawful private citizens who simply seek to own firearms for self-defense – don’t need government officials using us as pawns in their polarizing distractions from solving critical issues,” Moulton said in a statement.

Some have speculated that Moulton could receive far more votes than third party candidates normally receive through a “coattail” effect from Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson, whose name will appear at the top of the D.C. ballot in the presidential election.

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

1 Comment
  • In 2012 the Libertarian candidate for Delegate (me) got 6% of the vote when Gary Johnson received only 1% running for President. So it isn’t clear a “coattail effect” is a bigger issue in D.C. than the unpopularity of Eleanor Holmes Norton with a large number of unrepresented D.C. voters, or the fact that Hillary Clinton is nowhere nearly as popular in D.C. as Barack Obama was.

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