September 5, 2018 at 2:53 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Opponent drops challenge to petition signatures for lesbian D.C. Council candidate
Dionne Bussey-Reeder, gay news, Washington Blade

Dionne Reeder is a leading candidate for an At-Large Council seat. (Photo courtesy of Twitter)

A representative of D.C. Council candidate S. Kathryn Allen on Wednesday withdrew a challenge to the nominating petitions for lesbian businesswoman Dionne Reeder, who is considered one of Allen’s two leading opponents for an At-Large Council seat in the city’s Nov. 6 general election.

The challenge had been filed on Aug. 20 by Nona Richardson, whose company MitchRich Communications is serving as a paid consultant to the Allen campaign. It was filed on the same day that incumbent At-Large Council member Elissa Silverman filed a challenge to Allen’s nominating petitions.

All three are running as independents for an At-Large Council seat that under the city’s election law can only go to a non-Democrat. Democratic incumbent Anita Bonds holds the second At-Large seat up for election on Nov. 6 and is considered the strong favorite to win re-election.

Reeder, who has worked as the Ward 8 community representative to former D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams, Silverman, and Bonds have longstanding records of support for LGBT rights. Allen, the city’s former insurance commissioner, has expressed strong support for LGBT rights. She is being backed by Williams and gay former D.C. Council member David Catania.

Richardson didn’t respond to a call from the Washington Blade asking for details about why she initially believed Reeder’s petition signatures were sufficiently defective to knock Reeder off of the ballot.

Under rules established by the D.C. Board of Elections, the board doesn’t disclose the details of a challenge until it holds a preliminary and later a full hearing to assess the merits of a petition challenge.

The Board on Tuesday held preliminary or pre-hearing conferences for the challenges to both Reeder and Allen’s petitions. Reeder’s campaign manager, Alfreda Davis, told the Blade that the Board’s Registrar, who conducts the pre-hearing conferences, made a preliminary determination that Reeder had sufficient valid signatures on her petitions to be granted access to the ballot on Nov. 6.

“That’s really good news,” said Davis. Davis noted that under the election board’s rules, Richardson would have an opportunity at a full hearing scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 5, to contest the Registrar’s determination and seek a final ruling by the full three-member Board of Election sometime before Sept. 10.

But Reeder’s campaign announced that the Board of Election cancelled the Wednesday hearing after the Allen representative withdrew the challenge against Reeder’s petitions.

Allen, meanwhile, didn’t comment on what the election board Registrar’s preliminary assessment was regarding the challenge against her petitions. One source supportive of Allen said the Registrar had a preliminary finding that while many of her petition signatures were invalid a sufficient number appear to have survived the challenge to enable her to be placed on the November election ballot.

However, Silverman, who filed the challenge, issued a statement saying the preliminary review confirmed that 3,028 signatures submitted by the Allen campaign were invalid, leaving Allen with only 3,040 signatures as the Board begins its final assessment between this week and Sept. 10. All at-large candidates must have at least 3,000 valid petition signatures to be placed on the ballot.

Silverman said in her statement issued on Tuesday that many of the signatures the Registrar said were valid could still be disqualified on grounds that the petition circulators’ names allegedly were forged. Silverman noted that under the city’s election law, all signatures of petitions submitted by a disqualified circulator could be disqualified.

Political observers have said Reeder currently has a shot at beating Silverman in the general election and her chances of doing so would increase significantly if Allen were to be disqualified from the ballot.

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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