Members of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, D.C.’s largest local LGBTQ political organization, voted by email last week to endorse Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden following a dispute over whether to endorse the Democratic candidate for the Ward 2 D.C. Council seat.
By a margin of 79 votes (58.1 percent) to 57 votes (41.9 percent) club members voted for “no endorsement” in the Ward 2 race in which gay Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Randy Downs is running as an independent against incumbent Democrat Brooke Pinto.
The club’s bylaws require a candidate to receive a 60 percent or more majority vote among club members to secure an endorsement. The bylaws also prohibit the club from endorsing a non-Democrat in an election in which a Democratic candidate is running.
The decision not to endorse Pinto is considered a sign of significant support among Stein Club members for Downs. Downs, who has been active in local LGBTQ rights issues for nearly a decade, is campaigning aggressively for the LGBTQ vote. He has received numerous endorsements from LGBTQ activists as well as from gay and non-gay bars and restaurants in Ward 2.
Pinto, who has expressed strong support for LGBTQ rights issues, has also received some endorsements from LGBTQ activists and businesses.
Stein Club members said a decision earlier this year to delay a vote on a presidential candidate was due to procedural issues rather than any reservations about Biden and his vice presidential running mate, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.). In the club’s electronic endorsement vote last week, 97.5 percent of club members voting voted for endorsing the Biden-Harris ticket.
Club members also voted to endorse the Democrats running for the Ward 4 and Ward 8 Council seats. They include political newcomer Janeese Lewis George, who won the Democratic primary for the Ward 4 seat, and incumbent Democrat Trayon White, Sr., who’s running for re-election to the Ward 8 Council seat.
The club endorsed other Council candidates at the time of the June Democratic primary but did not endorse at that time a candidate in the races for Wards 2, 4, and 7 because none of the many Democratic candidates running in the primary in those three races received the required 60 percent vote to win the endorsement.
The Democratic candidates that received the club’s endorsement at the time of the primary include D.C. Congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, U.S. Shadow Senator Paul Strauss, U.S. shadow representative candidate Oye Owolewa, at-large D.C. Council member Robert White, and Ward 7 D.C. Council member Vincent Gray.
During the club’s Sept. 28 virtual meeting members who support Downs raised strong objections to holding an endorsement vote for the Ward 2 race. After disagreements among club members about whether or not to proceed with the club’s past practice of endorsing all Democratic candidates who won the primary and who are supportive on LGBTQ issues, the members decided not to hold an endorsement vote on any of them, including Biden.
Stein Club President Kent Boese told the Washington Blade on the day following the meeting that he would look into whether the club should reconsider that decision.
But the initial decision not to hold an endorsement vote at the virtual meeting prompted gay Democratic activist and club member Phil Pannell, who is also a member of the city’s Democratic State Committee, the governing arm of the city’s Democratic Party, to announce he would introduce a resolution at the State Committee’s Oct. 1 meeting to suspend the Stein Club’s charter as an affiliated member of the State Committee.
Pannell later decided not to introduce such a resolution after Boese informed him that the club’s officers decided to reverse course and hold an electronic vote of its members on whether or not to endorse the three Council candidates and the Biden-Harris ticket. Pannell told the Blade on Sunday, Oct. 11, that he did not believe the club’s decision to withhold endorsing Democrat Pinto in the Ward 2 Council race violates a State Committee requirement that the club must endorse all Democrats.
State Committee Chair Charles Wilson could not immediately be reached to confirm whether the lack of an endorsement of Pinto violates any State Committee rule or policy. But the State Committee’s bylaws posted on its website state that affiliated Democratic organizations like the Stein Club “shall not be bound” by provisions of the State Committee’s bylaws pertaining to endorsements.