May 18, 2020 at 1:29 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Stein Club unable to endorse in three key D.C. Council races
Stein endorsements, gay news, Washington Blade
The Stein Club’s members voted to endorse the re-election of D.C. Council member Vincent Gray (D-Ward 7). (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, D.C.’s largest local LGBTQ political group, was unable to reach a 60 percent threshold vote needed to make an endorsement in three key D.C. Council races, including the hotly contested Ward 2 race in which eight Democrats, including a gay candidate, are competing for the seat.

In an announcement released on Monday, the Stein Club said 320, or 76 percent, of its 419 eligible members voted in an online endorsement election held May 12-15.

The club’s members voted to endorse the re-election of D.C. Council members Robert White (D-At-Large) and Vincent Gray (D-Ward 7). White is running unopposed in the primary.

Club members also voted to endorse the re-election of D.C. Congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) and D.C. U.S. “shadow” Senator Paul Strauss (D). In addition, club members voted to endorse D.C. U.S. “shadow” Representative candidate Oye Owolewa (D). Norton, Straus, and Owolewa are also running unopposed in the June 2 primary.

White, Gray, Norton, and Strauss have longstanding records of support for LGBTQ rights, and political newcomer Owolewa expressed support for LGBTQ related issues during the Stein Club’s May 11 virtual candidate forum and endorsement meeting in which all but two of the 25 candidates running for the D.C. Council and congressional seats attended.

The Stein Club said in its announcement message on Monday that the club used a “contingent vote ranked-choice system” in its endorsement election process. According to the announcement, if no candidate received a 60 percent majority vote in the first round of voting the club calculated a second round “realignment” vote based on the second choice of club members who voted.

In the Ward 2 D.C. Council race, in which all Democratic candidates expressed strong support for LGBTQ rights, Foggy Bottom Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Patrick Kennedy came in first place in the first round of voting, with 88 votes (30.9%). Gay Logan Circle ANC Chairperson and longtime gay activist John Fanning finished second in the first round vote with 78 votes (27.4%).

Jack Evans, who resigned from the Ward 2 Council seat last year following ethics related allegations brought against him by his Council colleagues, finished third with 29 votes (10.2%).

The remaining Ward 2 Democratic candidates finished in this order: Former Obama administration official Jordan Grossman, 26 votes (9.1%); former Assistant D.C. Attorney General Brooke Pinto, 21 votes (8.4%); Georgetown area ANC member Kishan Putta, 22 votes (7.7%); community activist Yilin Zhang, 8 votes (2.8%); and community activist Daniel Hernandez, 4 votes (1.4%).

In the second round of voting, for which only the top two vote getters in the first round were eligible, Kennedy and Fanning each received 113 votes, or 39.6 percent, which was far short of the 60 percent vote tally needed for an endorsement under the Stein Club’s longstanding rules.

A spreadsheet released by the club showing the vote count for all candidates shows that in the Ward 2 race, six club members voted for “no endorsement” in the first round of voting, with 59 members or 20.7 percent voting for “no endorsement in the second round of voting. Thirty-five members cast a ballot to “abstain” from supporting any candidate in the Ward 2 race, according to the results released by the club.

In the Ward 7 D.C. Council contest, incumbent Vincent Gray, a former D.C. mayor with a strong record of support on LGBTQ issues, received 161 votes (63.2%) in the first round of voting, clinching the endorsement for him. Gay Ward 7 candidate Anthony Lorenzo Green, an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner, finished second with 55 votes or 21.6 percent. The four remaining Ward 7 candidates finished as follows: Veda Rasheed, 27 votes (20.l6%); Kelvin Brown, 8 votes (3.1%); Rebecca Morris, 0 votes (0%); and James Jennings, 0 votes (0%).

Four Stein members voted for “no endorsement” in the Ward 7 race and 65 members abstained from voting in that race.

In the Ward 8 Council race, incumbent Trayon White, who has expressed support for LGBTQ issues, came in first with 94 votes or 36.4 percent, falling short of the 60 percent threshold needed for an endorsement. White’s challengers finished in this order: Michael Austin, 80 votes (31.0%); Yaida Ford, 44 votes (17.1%); and Stuart Anderson, 20 votes (7.8%).

In what some have considered a surprise development, challenger Austin received 110 votes or 42.6 percent in the second round of voting in the Ward 8 contest, beating White, who received 105 votes or 40.7 percent. Austin nevertheless fell far short of the 60 percent needed for an endorsement. Sixty-two Stein members abstained from voting in the Ward 8 race and 43 or 16.7 percent voted for “no endorsement” in the second round vote.

Similarly, incumbent Council member Brandon Todd, who has also expressed support for LGBTQ issues, finished in first place in the Ward 4 race with 128 votes or 48.1 percent, ahead of challengers Janeese Lewis George, 122 votes (45.9%); and Marlena Edwards, 6 votes (2.3%). In the second round of voting Todd received 129 votes (48.5%), finishing ahead of George, who received 124 votes (46.6%).

In the At-Large Council race, incumbent Robert White, a longtime strong supporter of LGBTQ rights who’s running unopposed in the primary, received 250 votes or 89.0 percent. Twenty-seven Stein Club members voted for “no endorsement” and 39 members voted to “abstain” in the At-Large race.

In the Congressional Delegate race, Norton, another longtime strong supporter of LGBTQ rights who pushed hard for the U.S. House approval of the LGBTQ rights bill known as the Equality Act, received 254 votes or 90.4 percent, the highest vote count of any of the candidates vying for the Stein Club’s endorsement. But despite her popularity in the LGBTQ community, 27 Stein members voted for “no endorsement” in that race and 39 voted to “abstain.”

In the “shadow” U.S. Senate race, incumbent Paul Strauss, another strong supporter of LGBTQ rights, received 169 votes or 71.9 percent. Sixty-six club members voted for “no endorsement” and 85 voted to “abstain.”

In the “shadow” U.S. House race, Owolewa received 162 votes or 71.6 percent, with 61 members voting for “no endorsement” and 97 members voting to “abstain.”

“By all accounts, the Stein Club’s first virtual forum and endorsement vote was a resounding success,” said Stein Club President Kent Boese in a statement. “The Club will now focus its efforts on turning out the vote for its endorsed candidates.”

Stein Vice President for Legislative Affairs Monika Nemeth added that campaigning in the age of COVID-19 presents “unprecedented challenges” for both the candidates and the Stein Club.

“For this reason, the Stein Club plans to employ socially distanced campaign strategies such as phone banks, social media engagement, and online advertisements to support the Club’s endorsed candidates,” Nemeth said.

Stein Club Vice President for Political Affairs Jatarious Frazier told the Washington Blade the club’s endorsements will remain in effect for the November general election when the endorsed Democrats will face independent opponents as well as third party opponents, including Republicans and Statehood-Green Party members.

Frazier said the Stein Club does not plan to make an endorsement in the race for a second At-Large Council member in the general election. That seat, currently held by pro-LGBTQ Council member David Grosso (I-At-Large), cannot be held by a Democrat under the city’s election law.

The full tabulation and results for the Stein Club’s endorsement vote can be accessed here:

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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