The Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s largest LGBT local political group, voted Tuesday night to endorse the re-election campaigns of Mayor Muriel Bowser, City Council Chair Phil Mendelson, and D.C. Congressional Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton.
In addition to backing Bowser, Mendelson, and Norton, the club endorsed five other candidates running in the city’s June 19 Democratic primary, all but one of whom are incumbents, at a candidates forum held at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Southwest D.C.
The other endorsees were D.C. Council members Charles Allen (D-Ward 6) and Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5); D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine (D); D.C. Shadow Representative Franklin Garcia (D); and D.C. Shadow Senate candidate Andria Thomas (D).
Thomas’s endorsement was one of the few surprises of the evening. Stein members chose her over Shadow Senate incumbent Michael Brown, a longtime supporter of LGBT rights, by a vote of 14 to 6.
Thomas, similar to all of the candidates that appeared at the Stein Club forum, expressed strong support for LGBT rights.
As has been the case in virtually all recent local D.C. elections, all serious candidates running for public office support LGBT rights. Nearly all incumbents, including Bowser and Mendelson, have records of support for LGBT issues during their years in office.
“I think it’s amazing that year after year the Stein endorsement means something and the LGBT vote means something to Democrats running in this city,” said Stein Club President Earl Fowlkes after the forum. “And I think we continue to show that we’re a force to be reckoned with and you need our votes to win,” Fowlkes said.
Bowser is being challenged in the primary by two political newcomers, James Butler and Ernest Johnson. Neither showed up at the endorsement forum and the club to endorsed Bowser by unanimous voice vote.
If Bowser wins the primary as expected, one of her opponents in the November general election will be gay Libertarian Party activist Martin Moulton, who’s running unopposed in his party’s primary on June 19.
Among the challengers that did participate in Tuesday’s forum was Ed Lazere, the longtime leader of the D.C.-based Fiscal Policy Institute, who is running against Mendelson. Lazere, who has the backing of some LGBT activists, described himself as significantly more progressive than Mendelson, who he said hasn’t been addressing issues such as the city’s affordable housing crisis aggressively enough. Among other things, he said he supports legislation backed by many LGBT activists to decriminalize sex work in the city while Mendelson opposes such legislation.
Mendelson disputed claims that he isn’t progressive, pointing to his years of support for progressive causes, including marriage equality for same-sex couples and other LGBT-related legislation.
“I am a progressive and have been a progressive before being a progressive was cool,” Mendelson told the gathering during a question and answer period.
Mendelson won the endorsement by a vote of 16 to 6, with two club members voting for “no endorsement.”
Community activist Lisa Hunter, who is challenging Allen for the Ward 6 Council seat in the primary, said she is more progressive than Allen, who she said has not been forceful enough in addressing issues such as affordable housing. Hunter said she too supports decriminalization of sex work in the city.
Allen chairs the Council committee that will be deliberating over a sex worker decriminalization bill introduced last year by Council member David Grosso (I-At-Large). He told the Blade the committee would carefully examine the pros and cons of the proposed legislation.
He told the Stein forum that his record on LGBT-related legislation was especially strong, earning him the status of a “committed and dedicated ally” on those issues.
The club endorsed Allen over Hunter by a vote of 18 to 5.
Club members voted to endorse McDuffie, another longtime LGBT rights supporter, for re-election to the Ward 5 Council seat by unanimous voice vote. McDuffie is being challenged by four opponents in the primary, but none showed up for the Stein Club forum.
Racine, the city’s Attorney General, and Shadow House member Garcia are running for re-election unopposed. Stein Club members voted to endorse them also by unanimous voice vote.
Also winning the club’s endorsement by unanimous voice vote was Norton, whom LGBT activists consider to be one of the leading champions of LGBT equality in Congress in her role as the city’s nonvoting delegate to the House.
Norton is being challenged in the primary by political newcomer Kim Ford, who did not attend the Stein Club forum. If Norton wins the primary as expected one of her opponents in the general election will be another gay Libertarian Party activist, Bruce Majors, who has challenged Norton unsuccessfully in past elections.
At an earlier endorsement meeting on April 23, the Stein Club endorsed gay Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner and law librarian Kent Boese over incumbent Brianne Nadeau for the Ward 1 Council seat. At the same meeting the club endorsed by unanimous voice vote Council member Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3), who’s running unopposed in the primary.
In an action that surprised some political observers, the club was unable to make an endorsement at the April 23 meeting for the at-large Council seat held by incumbent Anita Bonds, a Democrat who’s also a longtime LGBT rights supporter. Bonds received the most votes but fell short of receiving a 60 percent vote margin required for an endorsement under the club’s rules.
Fowlkes said the Stein Club is considering holding one more endorsement forum for the general election in the fall for the at-large Council seat that cannot be held by a Democrat under the city’s election law. Among those running for that seat as an independent is lesbian businesswoman and restaurant owner Dionne Reeder.
Although Reeder is eligible to win either of the two at-large Council seats up for election this year, most political observers consider her to be the lead challenger of incumbent at-large Council member Elissa Silverman, who’s also an independent and LGBT rights supporter.
Under the city’s election law, all candidates for the two at-large seats are placed on the same ballot in the general election in November, and the highest two vote getters are declared the winners. Bonds supporters point out that the Democratic candidate for one of the two seats has emerged as the winner in every election since the city’s home rule government created by Congress took effect in 1974.