In its first round of endorsements in the city’s June 19 Democratic primary, Trans United Fund, a D.C.-based, transgender-led political action committee, raised eyebrows among some LGBT activists last week when it endorsed opponents of D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson and At-Large Council member Anita Bonds.
Mendelson and Bonds have been longtime supporters of LGBT rights and a number of prominent transgender activists have expressed support for Bonds.
In a statement released on May 3, Trans United Fund announced it has endorsed progressive first-time candidate Ed Lazere for Council Chair and community activist Jeremiah Lowery for an at-large Council seat held by Bonds. Lazere and Lowery have also expressed strong support for LGBT rights.
But the statement makes it clear that the trans PAC based its decision to endorse Lazere and Lowery on a wide range of issues in addition to LGBT rights. The group also noted in its statement that Mendelson and Bonds did not return a questionnaire it sent to candidates running in the primary.
“In recent years, Trans United Fund has worked to support and elect progressive trans candidates and allies to office who share a vision of racial and economic justice and center the issues that most directly impact many trans communities,” the group’s statement says.
“On the one hand are Ed Lazere and Jeremiah Lowery, who want to ensure D.C. is a safe place where not just trans communities but people of color, immigrants, LGBTQ folks, low-income families, longtime residents, and workers can live and thrive,” said Trans United Fund co-founder Hayden Mora.
“Council Chair Mendelson and Councilmember Bonds, on the other hand, have presided over skyrocketing housing and childcare costs,” Mora said. “They have both been in a position to address D.C.’s affordable housing crisis, as Council Chair and Housing Committee Chair, respectively, but neither has seen fit to treat this issue with the urgency it requires.”
Mora said Lazere and Lowery “represent a transformative vision” that includes, among other positions, support for decriminalization of sex work that trans women often are forced to engage in for economic survival. Mendelson has spoken out against a sex worker decriminalization bill introduced last year by Council member David Grosso (I-At-Large). Grosso is not up for re-election this year.
Janis Davis, Bonds’ campaign chairperson, released a statement to the Washington Blade in response to Trans United Fund’s statement and endorsement of Lowery.
“Councilmember Anita Bonds has a documented history of advancing LGBTQ rights, has a 100 percent pro-LGBTQ voting record and has broad support from across the community,” Davis said in her statement.
“While she wishes Trans United PAC success, we must point out that this national organization has never had a presence in local DC affairs and their own FEC records show they have neither raised nor expended any funds since their inception but now suddenly, it has been renewed by the same people who are actively involved with and who have donated to Anita Bonds’ opponent – disingenuous,” Davis said.
Mendelson released a statement to the Blade that also takes exception to Trans United Fund’s statement and endorsement of Lazere.
“The Trans United statement of endorsement is remarkable for how little it says about LGBT issues, let alone Trans issues,” Mendelson said. “On the other hand, my record on equality, especially on LGBT issues, is unsurpassed by any sitting Councilmember, and I have been at the forefront of every LGBT legislative victory for the last two decades,” he said.
The Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s largest local LGBT political group, last month was unable to make an endorsement in the at-large Council race in which Lowery, Bonds and two other candidates are competing. Although Bonds received the most votes on a second ballot, no candidate received a required 60 percent of the vote from club members to capture the endorsement.
The Stein Club is scheduled to vote on endorsements for the Council Chair seat and mayoral race at an endorsement forum scheduled for May 15.