Gay Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Kent Boese announced on July 1 that he is running for the Ward 1 D.C. Council seat held by incumbent Council member Brianne Nadeau in the city’s 2018 Democratic primary.
Boese, 52, a law librarian, has served as chair of ANC 1A for the past four years and as its secretary for the previous three years. ANC 1A represents the neighborhoods of Columbia Heights, Park View, and Pleasant Plains, which are home to many of the city’s Latino immigrants and LGBT people among other constituency groups.
Boese’s announcement came two weeks after former D.C. Superior Court Magistrate Judge Lori E. Parker declared her candidacy for the Ward 1 Council seat.
In his announcement statement Boese said his experience on the ANC has prepared him to do a better job of supporting the needs of the ward’s diverse constituencies.
“Restoring Ward 1’s long legacy of providing excellent constituent services on issues large and small is one of my top priorities, and I will be the progressive advocate that maintains the rich diversity of our ward as our neighborhoods continue to grow and prosper,” he said.
“In addition to my commitment to unparalleled constituent services, as your next Council member I am also committed to continuing Ward 1’s tradition of inclusive community outreach, responsible progressive legislation, and being engaged, responsive in every neighborhood, a model which has serviced our communities so well in the past,” he said.
Although he didn’t say so directly, Boese appeared to be referring to the highly regarded constituent service work of the late Jim Graham, the gay former Ward 1 Council member who lost his race for a fifth term in office to Nadeau in 2014 after serving 16 years on the Council.
Most political observers say Graham’s strong record on constituent services and advocacy for progressive legislation was overshadowed in 2014 by allegations of ethics violations related to a Metro contract in which he favored one developer over another. Graham disputed the allegations, saying he was merely engaging in political “horse trading” for the best possible development project for the ward.
But Nadeau, who expressed strong support for LGBT rights, aggressively raised the ethics issue hanging over Graham’s head, persuading a solid majority of Ward 1 voters to side with her over Graham.
Graham died last month from complications associated with an intestinal infection. He was 71.
Although Boese and his supporters point out that Boese is knowledgeable on a wide range of issues facing Ward 1 and the city, he would become the Council’s only openly gay member if he were to win the primary and the general election next year for the Ward 1 seat.
Graham’s loss to Nadeau came in the same year that gay D.C. Council member David Catania (I-At-Large) gave up his Council seat in an unsuccessful race for mayor in 2014.
When asked by the Washington Blade if he feels he could do a better job on LGBT issues than Nadeau, Boese didn’t dispute Nadeau’s commitment to LGBT equality.
“I think there are probably a number of issues where we would see eye to eye,” he said. “But I do think that while it’s wonderful to have allies I think having strong allies is not always the same thing as having someone who has actually lived the life that you’re trying to fight for.”
He added, “And I think what makes a difference is on some issues it might be the difference of a supporter who cast the vote the right way and someone who might be willing to stick their neck out and fight for it.”
Boese’s announcement comes just under one year after another gay candidate who also had served as an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner, David Garber, lost his race for an at-large D.C. Council seat in the June 2016 Democratic primary by a lopsided margin.
Garber received 14.6 percent of the vote in his challenge to then-Council incumbent Vincent Orange, who received 37.4 percent of the vote. Another challenger, Robert White, who received support from many of the city’s LGBT rights advocates, won the race in an upset victory with 39.7 percent of the vote.
White, a former member of the staff of D.C. Congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, was better known among LGBT activists than Garber, who had not been active in local LGBT rights issues. But some LGBT activists said Garber made a mistake of not aggressively courting the LGBT vote, a development they said contributed to his poor showing among LGBT voters.
White, who aggressively courted the LGBT vote and received endorsements from key LGBT activists, won most of the city’s voter precincts with a large number of LGBT residents.
Boese, who married his longtime partner shortly after same-sex marriage became legal in D.C., said he would be a strong advocate for LGBT equality on the Council, saying more needs to be done to ensure the full rights of LGBT people, especially transgender people.
“We don’t want to get lazy and we don’t want to get comfortable just because we’ve gotten to a place where there were significant wins over the years,” he said in referring to LGBT rights. “We don’t want to assume that some of these things can’t be taken away.”
He said he plans to seek the endorsement of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, a national organization that raises money to support LGBT candidates running for public office.