D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser received loud applause and multiple requests to have her picture taken with members of Log Cabin Republicans of the District of Columbia during her appearance Wednesday night as an invited guest speaker at the organization’s regularly scheduled July meeting.
About 50 members of the group attended the meeting, held in an upstairs room at the Exiles bar and restaurant at 1610 U St., N.W.
“It’s really wonderful to be here with you tonight,” said Bowser, a Democrat. “I want to thank all of you for inviting me to come and chat tonight. And I come with great news,” she said. “Our city is doing well. It’s doing super well actually.”
In her 15-minute talk before taking questions for another 30 minutes the mayor noted that D.C. has had a surplus budget for more than 20 consecutive years and has an excellent bond rating by Wall Street – all attributes, she said, that the Republican Party has considered important.
Pointing out that the Republican Party has also long pushed for autonomy and more decision making by states and local governments rather than the federal government, she called on Log Cabin members to become actively involved in pushing for D.C. statehood.
“You like local government, right?” said Bowser. “We’re local government. We’re as local as it gets. And we love to say if we pay taxes we should have representation.”
She was referring to D.C.’s lack of voting representation in Congress and the quest by statehood advocates to make D.C. the nation’s 51st state with two U.S. senators and a voting member of the House of Representatives.
Among those who had questions for Bowser at the meeting were Gregory Angelo, the national Log Cabin Republicans’ current president, Patrick Sammon, one of the national group’s past presidents, and D.C. Log Cabin President Chris Allen. They and other members raised a wide range of issues, including the city’s booming real estate market and the shortage of low income housing, whether a height restriction on D.C. buildings put in place by Congress should be removed, and the impact on the city by the problems faced by the Metro transit system.
Bowser said she welcomes input from Republicans on all those issues. But on the matter of the Trump administration, the mayor appeared to refrain from the strong criticism she has expressed for the new administration in appearances before other groups, including other LGBT organizations.
“I get asked a lot about what it’s like to be mayor of Washington, D.C. in the Trump administration,” she said. “The truth is the president – this one or Obama – they’re not usually our issue in Washington, D.C. It’s the Congress that we have a lot more interactions with and the potential to have a lot more conflicts with,” said Bowser.
“So I call on all Washingtonians to help me in building those relationships and identifying where there is really a critical issue because there will be one,” she said.
“I’ve been very clear about what my job is as mayor,” she continued. “Number one is to protect and preserve the values that are important to us as D.C. residents – inclusivity, diversity, religious freedom, access to health care, making sure women and girls have the same opportunities as everyone else, and advancing our cause as Americans so that we as taxpayers in this city are treated in the exact same way as taxpayers in the 50 states.”
The Blade asked Bowser after her talk whether she was concerned that local Democratic Party activists, including some LGBT Democrats, might be upset that she spoke before a Republican group.
“No, that never crossed my mind actually,” Bowser said. “I think we know in our city we work hand in hand with the D.C. Republican Party. We agree on some issues. We don’t agree on others,” she said. “But we share the value that we want a real one city and I want their participation.”
Allen, the D.C. Log Cabin president, said the group reached out to Bowser in the spirit of bipartisanship.
“Our group has been very open to having bipartisan talks, especially in D.C. where we don’t have representatives on the Council anymore,” he said. “So we were thrilled that the mayor took time out of her schedule to speak to us. And I think she addressed a lot of our members’ questions very well. I think they’re satisfied with the answers that she gave.”
Allen said D.C. Log Cabin has not taken a position on D.C. statehood.
National Log Cabin President Angelo said he, too, was pleased with Bowser’s appearance at the meeting.
“One of the things that I think stood out to me tonight was there are places where we can find common ground,” Angelo told the Blade. “There are places where we can agree. There are different political philosophies that we bring to the table from our respective party affiliations.”
Added Angelo, “Especially when you get to governance on a municipal level and a hyper local level anyone who does not engage with their elected officials because of their political affiliation is doing themselves a disservice.”
According to the D.C. Board of Elections, as of Dec. 31, 2016, 76 percent of the city’s registered voters were Democrats compared to 6.2 percent who identified as Republicans and 16.5 percent who registered with no party affiliation. Members of the city’s Statehood Green Party comprised 0.75 percent of registered voters.