September 9, 2020 at 2:21 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Lesbian, gay man nominated as D.C. presidential electors
Barbara Helmick and Michael McHugh

The D.C. Democratic Party on Sept. 3 selected longtime lesbian activist and D.C. statehood advocate Barbara Helmick as one of the District’s three Democratic presidential elector nominees.

Helmick’s nomination came a short time after the chair of the D.C. Republican Party, in consultation with the Trump presidential campaign, named gay Republican activist and D.C. Republican Committee treasurer Michael McHugh as one of the city’s three Republican presidential elector nominees.

Under the U.S. Constitution, 538 presidential electors from all 50 states and the District of Columbia become part of the Electoral College that meets following U.S. presidential elections to formally elect the president and vice president.

Political parties have traditionally selected their own slate of electors who are loyal to the party’s presidential and vice presidential candidates. The presidential and vice presidential candidates that win the statewide popular vote and the D.C. popular vote determine which party sends its slate of elector nominees — who then become actual electors — to the Electoral College, which convenes in December following the presidential election, to vote in each state capital and in D.C.

D.C. became the only U.S. jurisdiction other than a state to take part in the Electoral College under the 23rd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which was ratified in 1961.

With D.C.’s registered voters overwhelmingly Democratic, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden is considered the odds-on favorite to win the D.C. popular vote on Nov. 3 to capture the city’s three electoral votes. That means Helmick and the other two D.C. Democratic presidential elector nominees – party activists Meedie Bardonille and Jacqueline Echvarria – are certain to become the District’s actual presidential electors and cast their vote for Biden and his vice presidential running mate Kamala Harris.

Helmick serves as director of programs for DC Vote, an organization that advocates for D.C. statehood. She is a longtime member of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, D.C.’s largest local LGBTQ political organization. She has also served as a Ward 1 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner, a member of the Executive Committee of the Ward 1 Democrats, and a member of the D.C. Democratic State Committee.

From 2012 to 2016, Helmick served on the D.C. Mayor’s LGBTQIA Advisory Commission

“She has played a key role in building coalitions and developing strategy for a multitude of organizations across D.C.,” according to a statement released by the D.C. Democratic Party announcing Helmick’s selection as an elector nominee.

In addition to serving as treasurer of the D.C. Republican Committee, McHugh has served as chair of the Ward 1 Republican Committee and has served on the D.C. GOP’s Executive Committee. He served as an alternate delegate to this year’s Republican National Convention in support of President Trump.

McHugh is a partner in the Washington lobbying firm Urban Swirski & Associates, where he works on issues related to international taxation, financial services, and charitable and non-profit organizations, according to a write-up on the firm’s website.

The D.C. Republican Party, which nominated McHugh as an elector, has been supportive of LGBTQ rights and has had gays and lesbians as members for at least the past 20 years.

Helmick becomes the second known LGBTQ person to be selected as a Democratic presidential elector in D.C. The late Jeff Coudriet, a longtime gay Democratic activist who served as president of both the Stein Club and the D.C. Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, was selected as a D.C. presidential elector in 1996.

McHugh likewise becomes the second known LGBTQ person to be selected as a Republican presidential elector nominee in D.C. In 2012, the D.C. Republican Committee selected gay GOP activist Jose Cunningham as a presidential elector nominee.

Cunningham later became chair of the D.C. Republican Committee before being named by the Trump administration to his current job as Executive Director of the Advocacy Center at the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration.

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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