September 13, 2017 at 4:49 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Gay Democrat announces bid for local party post
Phil Pannell, gay news, Washington Blade

Phil Pannell is running for the D.C. Democratic Committeeman post.(Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Longtime gay Democratic activist Phil Pannell has announced he is a candidate for the position of D.C. Democratic Committeeman, which became open last month when former D.C. Council member Arrington Dixon, who held the position, resigned before the end of his term in 2018.

Pannell currently serves in the position of Alternate Democratic Committeeman. He points out in an open letter to members of the city’s Democratic State Committee, the governing body of the D.C. Democratic Party, that traditionally the Alternate Committeeman and Alternate Committeewoman have been named as the Committeeman or Committeewoman when their predecessor leaves the position before the end of their term.

But this year D.C. Council member Anita Bonds (D-At-Large), who serves as chair of the D.C. Democratic Party, moved to change the local party’s rules to end the tradition of the alternate committee person automatically becoming the full committeeman or committeewoman. Under Bonds’ proposal, which is expected to be approved by the State Committee next month, the full State Committee will vote to elect a new Committeeman or Committeewoman when an incumbent leaves office before their term expires.

Bonds told the Blade on Tuesday she introduced her proposal because the old system of replacing the committee person with the alternate committee person is in violation of rules set by the Democratic National Committee, on which the committee persons serve. She said her proposal is in no way aimed at preventing Pannell from replacing Dixon as the committee person, noting that she is a longtime supporter of the LGBT community and would welcome the selection of an LGBT person for the post through the new selection process.

But in his open letter to State Committee members, Pannell said the “real reason” Bonds was seeking the rules change was “that some of our members do not want to see me as the national committeeman and some other men want that position.”

Acknowledging that the rules change will be approved, Pannell said he will run in an election by State Committee members.

It couldn’t immediately be determined who will run against Pannell for the post.

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

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