The Gertrude Stein Democratic Club voted Monday night to endorse gay Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Kent Boese over incumbent Brianne Nadeau for the Ward 1 D.C. Council seat in the city’s June 19 Democratic primary.
By unanimous voice vote, the club also endorsed Ward 3 Council member Mary Cheh, a longtime LGBT rights supporter who is running unopposed in the Democratic primary.
In the race for the Democratic nomination for one of two at-large D.C. Council seats, the club will not make an endorsement because none of the candidates, including incumbent at-large Council member Anita Bonds, received a required 60 percent of the vote needed for an endorsement under the Stein Club’s rules.
Boese’s victory over Nadeau by a margin of 31 votes to 8 votes surprised some observers who noted that Nadeau has been a strong supporter of LGBT rights during her first term in office. Some club members wondered why more of her LGBT supporters in the ward didn’t turn out to vote for her.
Boese, who’s a member of the Stein Club, the city’s largest local LGBT political group, told club members that in addition to his experience working on a wide range of city issues as an ANC member, his status as a gay man gives him a greater insight into issues of concern to LGBT residents of the ward and the city as a whole.
“As the only LGBT candidate in this race I understand nuances that the others may not,” he said.
The vote came during the first of two candidate endorsement forums the Stein Club has planned for the city’s Democratic primary. It was held in a meeting hall at Kelsey Temple Church of God on Park Road, N.W. in the heart of the city’s Columbia Heights neighborhood in Ward 1.
In addition of Boese and Nadeau, two other Democrats challenging Nadeau in the primary — Lori Parker and Sheika Reid — attended and spoke at Monday night’s forum. All four of the Ward 1 candidates expressed strong support for LGBT rights. Reid received 3 votes and Parker received 2 votes among club members in the Ward 1 race.
Also expressing strong support for LGBT issues were Bonds and three Democratic candidates challenging Bonds for the at-large Council seat in the June 19 primary – Marcus Goodwin, Aaron Holmes, and Jeremiah Lowery.
The outcome of the vote by Stein Club members in the at-large race also surprised some observers. Bonds, a longtime LGBT rights supporter who was considered the favorite to win the club’s endorsement, and Goodwin each received 14 votes. Lowery received 5 votes, Holmes received 4 votes, and the category of “no endorsement” received one vote.
In accordance with club rules, members approved a motion to hold a runoff vote between Bonds and Goodwin as the top two vote getters. In that second round of voting Bonds received 12 votes and Goodwin received eight votes. Four members voted for “no endorsement.”
But Bonds fell short of receiving the club’s endorsement because the club’s rules require a 60 percent or greater vote total in order to win an endorsement. The outcome means the club will not make an endorsement for one of the two at-large D.C. Council seats up for election this year.
If it chooses to do so, the club can make an endorsement of a candidate running for the second at-large seat, which cannot go to a Democrat under the city’s Home Rule Charter approved by Congress. In that race, lesbian restaurant owner Dione Reeder is running as an independent against incumbent at-large Council member Elissa Silverman, who’s also an independent.
Reeder attended Monday night’s Stein Club endorsement forum, saying she attends as many of the city’s election forums as time permits. She said she would also seek the club’s endorsement when it considers candidates running in the general election later this year.
During a question and answer period, nearly all of the candidates said they thought one of the biggest concerns for LGBT people in the city was the same as that for the public at large – the skyrocketing cost of housing that is forcing many longtime city residents to leave the city. The candidates also cited the threat of anti-LGBT violence as another key issue they would work to address.
The Stein Club has scheduled its second endorsement forum for May 15 in which it will consider endorsements for mayor, City Council chair, the Ward 5 and Ward 6 Council seats, the city’s congressional delegate seat currently held by Eleanor Holmes Norton, and the “shadow” House and one of two “shadow” Senate seats up for election.
Stein Club President Earl Fowlkes told the Washington Blade after Monday night’s forum that club members’ strong support for Boese over Nadeau and their unexpectedly strong support for political newcomer Marcus Goodwin in the at-large Council race may be due to changing demographics among the city’s voters.
“The political climate is changing in D.C.,” he said. “We have a lot of new people moving in and their expectations of City Council members are different. And I think both candidates who are incumbents have to spend a lot more time educating new voters and younger people about their records,” Fowlkes said.
Trayon White ‘anti-Semitic’ allegations surface
During the round of questioning from club members, each of the candidates in the Ward 1 and at-large Council races was asked about the controversy surrounding D.C. Council member Trayon White (D-Ward 8).
The controversy first surfaced last month after the Washington Post published stories reporting that White had stated on social media that the Rothschilds, a Jewish banking family in Europe, controlled the weather and had influence over the U.S. government and the World Bank. White issued an apology after prominent Jewish community leaders expressed concern that those views were part of longstanding anti-Semitic and fake conspiracy theories.
The controversy appeared to be fading until the Post reported on Friday that White used his Council constituent services fund to make a $500 donation in January to a Nation of Islam conference in Chicago in which Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan made remarks disparaging of Jews and transgender people.
Each of the Council candidates that spoke at Monday’s Stein Club forum responded to the questions by saying White made a mistake in using constituent services funds to make his donation to the Nation of Islam. Each also called on White to request a refund of the donation.
Nadeau reiterated her earlier statement calling on the Council to vote to reprimand White for his donation to the Nation of Islam. Bonds called for White to seek a refund of his donation but said she was undecided over whether the Council should reprimand White.
Fowlkes said he believes Farrakhan is both anti-Semitic and a homophobe, but he said he doesn’t think White or all members of the Nation of Islam should be held responsible for what Farrakhan says or does any more than all Catholics should be held responsible for what a Pope says.
He said he thinks White made a mistake in making the donation with constituent funds to the Nation of Islam conference in January.
White, who won election to the Council in 2016, has expressed support for LGBT rights in his responses to the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance’s candidate questionnaire at the time White ran for his Council seat in 2016. White has also signed on as a co-sponsor to a bill introduced last year by Nadeau that would require the city’s motor vehicles department to allow people to choose the category of “non-binary” in describing their gender on a driver’s license rather than having to choose their gender as either male or female.