D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and six members of the City Council who are running for re-election in the city’s June 19 Democratic primary have highlighted their strong records of support on LGBT issues in an election where nearly all of their opponents also expressed support for LGBT rights.
LGBT rights advocates have said that D.C.’s longstanding status as a city in which all serious candidates for public office are supportive of LGBT equality has prompted many LGBT voters to look to non-LGBT issues to help them decide which candidates to back.
In the Ward 1 Council race, gay Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner and law librarian Kent Boese is one of three candidates challenging incumbent Democrat Brianne Nadeau, who has been a loyal ally of the LGBT community since winning election to the Council four years ago.
Boese, who has worked on a wide range of issues impacting Ward 1 in his role as an ANC commissioner, has argued that he would be the best to represent all of the ward’s residents, including LGBT residents. He has criticized Nadeau for not retaining the level of constituent services maintained by her predecessor on the Council, the late Jim Graham who was gay.
Nadeau defeated Graham in the 2014 Democratic primary following a series of allegations that Graham violated city ethics rules, which Graham strongly denied. Nadeau disputes claims she has fallen short on constituent services.
Boese has received endorsements from the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s largest local LGBT political organization, and the LGBT Victory Fund, a national group that provides financial and logistical support for LGBT candidates it deems viable and qualified for public office.
Nadeau has pointed to her strong record of support on LGBT issues and has said her record on other issues, such as addressing homelessness, affordable housing, and tenants’ rights, among other issues, has benefited the ward’s LGBT residents.
The Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, a nonpartisan group that rates candidates based on LGBT and some non-LGBT issues, gave Nadeau a +9.5 rating on a scale of -10, the worst possible rating, to +10, the highest possible rating. The group gave Boese a rating of +9, saying both he and Nadeau showed an excellent understanding and knowledge on the issues it deems important in their responses to GLAA’s candidate questionnaire.
In a statement accompanying its ratings, GLAA said Nadeau’s slightly higher score was based on her record and accomplishments in office, a factor that the group acknowledges gives an advantage to incumbents.
Boese, meanwhile, is one of nine openly gay or lesbian candidates on the ballot in the June 19 primary, but most observers say he is the only one with a shot at winning election to a governmental office.
Among the nine candidates, five gay men and one lesbian are running for seats on the D.C. Democratic State Committee, which serves as the governing body for the city’s Democratic Party. One of them is veteran gay rights and Ward 8 activist Philip Pannell.
Gay Libertarian Party candidate Martin Moulton is running unopposed for his party’s nomination for mayor. Gay Libertarian activist Bruce Majors is also running unopposed in the primary for his party’s nomination for the city’s congressional delegate seat held by Democrat Eleanor Holmes Norton. Norton, who’s facing token opposition in the primary, is considered the overwhelming favorite to win re-election in the November general election. The Stein Club voted by acclamation to endorse her re-election bid.
Moulton received more votes than President Donald Trump when he ran for the congressional delegate seat in D.C.’s November 2016 general election, although he lost to Norton by a lopsided margin.
Bowser, who many LGBT activists consider one of the city’s most LGBT supportive mayors, has received high ratings in public opinion polls among all city voters. She is considered the odds on favorite to beat lesser-known challengers James Butler and Ernest Johnson in the June 19 Democratic primary.
Her LGBT supporters note that she has appointed more than a dozen LGBT people to high-level positions in her administration, including cabinet level posts, more so, they say, than any previous D.C. mayor.
In a city where 76 percent of registered voters are Democrats, Bowser and the Democratic Council candidates who win in the primary next week are expected to easily win in the general election in November.
However, political observers say three of the Council’s Democratic incumbents, including Nadeau, are facing competitive challenges in the primary. In addition to Boese, Democratic contenders Lori Parker, a former Superior Court judge, and community activist and progressive stalwart Sheika Reid, are running spirited races for the Ward 1 seat. Observers say Nadeau has the advantage in facing three challengers who could divide the opposition vote to enable her to win the race.
Although Parker and Reid have expressed support for LGBT rights, GLAA assigned Parker a rating of +1.5, saying her responses to the group’s questionnaire lacked specificity on some issues and were at odds with GLAA’s positions on other issues. The group gave Reid a “0” rating for not returning the questionnaire.
The latest candidate filings with the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance show that Nadeau has a commanding lead in money raised for her campaign. As of June 10, she had raised $243,935 compared to $80,620 raised by Boese. The finance reports show that Reid raised $71,455 and Parker raised $60,306.
While Nadeau’s report shows that all of the money she raised came from individuals and businesses, the reports filed by Boese, Reid, and Parker show part of the money they raised came from loans from themselves. Boese loaned his campaign $10,000, Reid gave her campaign a loan of $17,900, and Parker loaned her campaign $20,000, according to their respective finance reports.
Political observers say D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large), a longtime supporter of LGBT rights who’s running for his sixth term on the Council, is also facing a competitive challenge by community activist Ed Lazere. The Stein Club endorsed Mendelson and GLAA gave him a +9.5 rating. But in a development that surprised some LGBT activists, The Trans United Fund, a political action committee that backs candidates it deems supportive on issues of importance to the transgender community, endorsed Lazere. Lazere has also received the backing of a number of progressive groups despite Mendelson’s reputation as being one of the Council’s most progressive members.
In the city’s at-large Council race, Democratic incumbent Anita Bonds, also a longtime supporter of LGBT rights, received a +10 rating from GLAA. Yet in another development that surprised activists, Bonds was unable to win an endorsement from the Stein Club. One of two Democrats challenging her in the primary, Jeramiah Lowery, received enough votes from Stein Club members to prevent her from receiving a required 60 percent vote to win the endorsement, even though she received the most votes.
Lowery also won the endorsement of the Trans United Fund. And in another unexpected development, the Washington Post endorsed the other Democrat running against Bonds, Marcus Goodwin.
Lowery received a +7 GLAA rating. GLAA gave Goodwin a “0” rating because he did not return the GLAA questionnaire. Goodwin told the Washington Blade he’s a strong supporter of LGBT rights and planned to return the questionnaire before the election.
Similar to Nadeau, some political observers say Bonds also has the advantage of having two opponents who could split the opposition vote to help her win the primary.
Among the other Council races, Ward 3 incumbent Mary Cheh (D), a longtime LGBT rights supporter, is running unopposed in the primary. She won the Stein Club endorsement and received a +10 rating from GLAA.
Ward 5 incumbent and LGBT rights supporter Kenyan McDuffie (D) won the Stein Club endorsement and received a +8 rating from GLAA. Each of four lesser known Democrats running against McDuffie in the primary – Gayle Hall Carley, Nestor Djonkam, LaMonica Jeffrey, and Bradley Thomas – received a “0” rating from GLAA for not returning the questionnaire.
In the Ward 6 Council race, incumbent Charles Allen (D) won the Stein Club endorsement and received a GLAA rating of +10. His Democratic opponent in the primary, community activist Lisa Hunter received a +6.5 GLAA rating.
In other races on the primary ballot, incumbent D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine (D), an LGBT rights supporert who won the endorsement of the Stein Club, is running unopposed in the primary. GLAA doesn’t rate candidates other than those running for mayor or D.C. Council.
The Stein Club also endorsed longtime LGBT rights supporter Franklin Garcia (D), who’s running unopposed for re-election to the city’s “shadow” seat to the U.S. House of Representatives, a post created to lobby for D.C. statehood that has no congressional voting rights.
And in yet another development that surprised some LGBT activists, the Stein Club voted to endorse challenger Andria Thomas over D.C. shadow Senate incumbent Michael D. Brown, a longtime LGBT rights supporter. Thomas, who also expressed strong support for LGBT equality, lined up enough club members to back her in the endorsement vote.
In addition to Moulton and Majors, the only other Libertarian Party candidate running in that party’s primary for public office is Denise Hicks, who’s running unopposed for an at-large D.C. Council seat. She received a “0” rating from GLAA for not returning the questionnaire.
Republican Michael Bekesha, who’s running unopposed for his party’s nomination for the Ward 6 Council seat, was endorsed by the D.C. Log Cabin Republicans. He received a “0” rating from GLAA for not returning the group’s questionnaire but told the Blade he’s a strong supporter of LGBT rights and plans to turn in the questionnaire in time for the general election.
Among the Statehood Green Party candidates running in their party’s primary, mayoral candidate Ann Wicox received 0.5 GLAA rating. The group said she failed to return the questionnaire but was given a half point for expressing support on LGBT issues in the past.
Statehood Green candidate David Schwartzman, who’s running in the primary for an at-large Council seat, received a +7.5 GLAA rating. Joyce Robinson-Paul, a Statehood Green candidate running in the primary for the Ward 5 Council seat, received a “0” GLAA rating for not returning the questionnaire.
Among the gays and lesbian running for seats on the D.C. Democratic State Committee, veteran gay rights advocate and Ward 8 community activist Philip Pannell is running for an at-large seat on the 54-member committee. The other gay candidates include John Fanning and John Lazar, who are running in a three-candidate race for two Ward 2 male seats on the committee; lesbian Democratic activist Audrey Alvarado, is running for one of the Ward 4 female seats up for election; and gay Democratic activists David Meadows and Franco Ciammachilli are running in a four-candidate race for two male seats on the committee from Ward 6. Meadows is a former president of the Stein Club.