On the Record: Ward 5 Candidates

The contenders vying to replace former Councilmember Harry Thomas, Jr. talk with Metro Weekly about their stances on LGBT issues that have made headlines in the past year

Read Metro Weekly’s interviews with candidates and community members who are concerned about the upcoming Ward 5 special election here: “Choosing a Candidate.”

NAME / PHOTO PARTY NEIGHBORHOOD BACKGROUND

John C. Cheeks

Independent Brookland Manufacturing, industrial consultant
(views on LGBT issues)
Tim Day
Tim Day
Republican Brookland Accountant, former ANC commissioner
(views on LGBT issues)
Shelly Gardner
Shelly Gardner
Democratic Langdon Park Teacher, entrepreneur, former legislative aide
(views on LGBT issues)
Kathy Henderson
Kathy Henderson
Democratic Carver-Langston Community activist, former ANC commissioner, Realtor
(views on LGBT issues)
Drew E. Hubbard
Drew E. Hubbard
Democratic Woodridge Council aide, director of the Council’s Committee on Housing and Workforce Development
(views on LGBT issues)
Delano Hunter
Delano Hunter
Democratic Gateway Former Nike employee, community organizer, president of Gateway Community Association 
(views on LGBT issues)
Ron L. Magnus
Ron L. Magnus
Democratic University Heights /
Brookland
Entertainment attorney, former Assistant Attorney General for the District of Columbia, former Anthony Williams administration official
(views on LGBT issues)
Ruth E. Marshall
Ruth E. Marshall
Democratic Queen’s Chapel /
Michigan Park
Director of administration for construction services firm, community activist
(views on LGBT issues)
Kenyan McDuffie
Kenyan McDuffie
Democratic Stronghold /
Edgewood
Attorney, policy advisor to Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice, former Eleanor Holmes Norton staffer
(views on LGBT issues)
Frank Wilds
Frank Wilds
Democratic Lamond Riggs

Business owner, vice chair of the Ward 5 Democratic Party, former ANC commissioner (Wilds was initially and incorrectly listed here as a current ANC commissioner
(views on LGBT issues)

Rae Zapata
Rae Zapata
Democratic Brookland Attorney, president of the Ward 5 Council on Education
(views on LGBT issues)
Amanda Broadnax
Amanda Broadnax
Democratic Near Northeast /
Atlas District
Political activist
(views on LGBT issues)

What They’re Saying on LGBT Issues

John Cheeks, a Roman Catholic, said he has nothing against LGBT people choosing to live with a partner, but supports the beliefs of his church when it comes to marriage.

Cheeks said that bias crimes are not solely limited to the LGBT community, though such crimes need to be addressed. He did, however, express concerns that cultural sensitivity training for police officers would require money, which means that police must either volunteer for sensitivity training, or, if such training is mandatory, taxes will have to be raised to pay for this training. He also noted that cultural sensitivity training hasn’t been afforded to many groups, including African Americans, over the years, and pointed out that there was an imbalance in how police deal with people of different races and gender preferences.

Cheeks is opposed to prostitution because of the other crime elements that come with it. He said he was not in favor of prostitution-free zones, but seemed not to be very familiar with their purpose, saying that prostitution is unacceptable.

In response to a question about hiring discrimination against transgender individuals, Cheeks pointed out that many different groups are discriminated against. He did suggest that transgender people could explain their gender in writing or show potential employers a card with information explaining their gender expression, as a matter of transparency and a compromise that would inform employers of the situation.

Cheeks said that anti-bullying laws and rules for children in school should be stricter, so that children will not be targeted for their race, religion, ethnic background or what clothes they wear. He also said education of young people on the topic could lead to a decrease in the amount of bullying that occurs.

[back to top]


Tim Day, an openly gay man, said at the March 3 WTOP/Brookland Heartbeat debate that he is supportive of marriage equality and would have voted in favor of the law had he been on the Council at the time.

Day said there should be a solid, periodic review (he suggested a possible quarterly or 6-month review period) of cultural sensitivity training for LGBT issues and racial issues. Day supports efforts to have citywide cultural sensitivity training for District employees, including the MPD, and said he would like to see unionized higher-ranking law enforcement officers undergo the same training as new hires and GLLU unit liaisons.

Day said he does not support permanent prostitution-free zones. “Prostitution is already illegal, so we don’t need a special law to say, ‘It’s a little more illegal here,’” Day told Metro Weekly. He said that the city has to do more to engage marginalized members of the community, such as transgender individuals, to help them find alternatives to survival sex work. He said the Department of Employment Services also needs to ensure that it follows through on its obligations to help struggling District residents find gainful employment, as with the Project Empowerment class.

Day supports comprehensive anti-bullying legislation that would address other factors related to bullying, and said LGBT awareness should be included in those education and prevention efforts. “We need to realize our schools are diverse, and there needs to be LGBT stuff integrated into education,” he said.

[back to top]


Shelly Gardner told Metro Weekly in an interview that she “absolutely supports” the District’s marriage equality law and feels it went through the proper process. She also said she supports legislation that would address discrepancies between the marriage equality law and statutes that preceded the law that do not give equal rights, privileges and responsibilities to LGBT couples.

On bias crimes, Gardner said she is supportive of efforts to pursue and paper crimes. She supports sensitivity training for all officers, including veterans of the force, on a regular basis. Gardner said that MPD has in some instances been accused of bias against particular groups, citing cases of LGBT domestic violence where police “played down” the incident or did not respond appropriately. She said that sensitivity training could help combat that problem. Moreover, as a councilmember, Gardner said she would have no problem calling out somebody who engaged in mistreatment of crime victims, and would force the hand of MPD to treat complaints seriously and ensure the appropriate punishment for infractions.

Regarding the proposal to make prostitution-free zones permanent, Gardner said the proposal was “unconstitutional on its face,” and does nothing to solve the underlying issue that some, particularly members of the transgender community, are resorting to sex work. She compared complaints of police profiling by transgender individuals to previous efforts by MPD to combat loitering on street corners in neighborhoods like Trinidad.

Gardner also said she felt that the D.C. Office of Human Rights needs to be given not only appropriate funding, but grant-making ability and the freedom to allocate funds for particular efforts or programs as the office sees fit.

Gardner said she supports comprehensive anti-bullying legislation that would include a discussion of LGBT issues. Without prompting, she also made a connection between bullying of LGBT teens and a higher rate of truancy among that subgroup, which in turn can force such teens onto the streets, creating an “ugly, slippery slope” that would make it harder for such people to improve their economic situation in life.

[back to top]


Kathy Henderson said in the March 3 WTOP/Brookland Heartbeat debate that she was supportive of the marriage equality law and would have voted for it had she been on the council at the time. Henderson touts her longstanding support for the LGBT community, even citing her work in putting together the first LGBT citizens summit during the administration of former Mayor Anthony Williams.

Henderson said she always believes there are opportunities for police officers to renew their training or improve their skills in dealing with the community on an ongoing basis. “We want to make sure that any hidden biases, that may not be overtly stated, but may be conveyed nonverbally, are minimized. We want to make sure we allow everybody to feel they are a part of the District of Columbia,” she said. She also said she felt it was sensible to have a mechanism or way to grade officers that undergo sensitivity training, to see that they absorbed the information taught by volunteer trainers, and ensure that the trainers were communicating effectively so as to prepare police officers for situations where they might need to rely on the information they were taught.

Henderson, a community activist who has worked to fight crime over her career as an ANC commissioner, said she supports prostitution-free zones as they exist, but is concerned about statements made by Attorney General Irvin Nathan regarding the constitutionality of “permanent” prostitution-free zones.

“I do support prostitution-free zones; however, I am very reluctant to say we should make them permanent if our AG of the city has said that there may be an issue of constitutionality.” She also said she does not support profiling or the unfair targeting of specific groups.

Henderson is a supporter of anti-bullying legislation and resources to address LGBT bullying and related issues in the District’s schools.

[back to top]


Drew Hubbard said he supports the District’s marriage equality law “100 percent,” and would have voted in favor of it. He also believes in making necessary adjustments to the law to grant same-sex couples and parents the same rights as heterosexual couples.

Hubbard said the MPD’s Special Liaison Division needs to have enough resources, not only to respond to and investigate crimes, but to engage in crime prevention efforts. Hubbard also said he would engage in dialogue with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to make sure bias crimes are prosecuted to their fullest extent. He said he could also, as an elected official, ask Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton to exert influence on that office. Hubbard said he believes sensitivity training should be mandatory for all new hires and should be renewed on a regular basis for veteran police officers. He said he would prefer that such training is done by qualified professionals, rather than on a volunteer basis.

Hubbard also said that cultural competency training was needed in other fields besides law enforcement, including in healthcare and in government agencies, or any other person who deals face-to-face with LGBT people, whether they are service providers or frontline customer service representatives.

Hubbard said that it is illegal to assault anyone, and transgender people who find themselves attacked need to feel comfortable reporting crime to police if they are to stop violent offenders. He said, from the employment side, he would focus on oversight of job training programs to make sure the District is funding only those job trainers with actual jobs for D.C. residents. He said that by expanding the work force and matching qualified individuals with potential jobs, people would be able to find gainful employment and not resort to survival sex work.

If elected, Hubbard promised to push for comprehensive anti-bullying legislation, saying the bill should be passed in order to prevent teen suicides and promote discussions of issues affecting LGBT teens.

[back to top]


Delano Hunter did not initially support the marriage equality law when he ran against Harry Thomas, Jr. in 2010, and was supportive of a referendum. But he said at the March 3 WTOP/Brookland Heartbeat debate that now that the law has been passed he supports it and will not attempt to repeal it.

Hunter said that any police sensitivity training done by MPD should have mechanisms to grade trainees. Hunter said he would support doing training in “waves,” focusing not only on new hires, but “problem” police districts where there have been more complaints of police mistreatment by victims of crime. He also suggested a regular check-up on training and an evaluation of what is being taught to officers in sensitivity or cultural competency classes.

Hunter said he likes the spirit of Councilmember Yvette Alexander’s bill to make prostitution-free zones permanent, but thinks that the problem of prostitution could better be solved by getting more police officers to patrol areas where prostitution tends to take place, and by adopting effective community policing strategies. When asked about profiling of transgender individuals, Hunter said that police should be receiving training in order to combat prostitution without going so far as to unfairly profile or harass people. As to the issue of transgender employment and hiring discrimination, Hunter said the Department of Employment Services needs to train its workers to effectively deal with transgender people seeking gainful employment and reach out to the transgender community to help them seek alternatives to sex work.

When asked about the proposed anti-bullying legislation before the Council, Hunter said he would support it. “I think when we look at schools, we have to look at it comprehensively,” he said. “One of the reasons we have such truancy problems is because bullying is a root cause of truancy. Kids don’t go to school because they feel pressured at school, because of bullying.” Hunter said he would try to move comprehensive anti-bullying legislation through the council to address bullying, and would adopt the best practices from other jurisdictions that have passed similar legislation.

[back to top]


Ron Magnus said the marriage equality law has been passed, so it’s not relevant to the current campaign. He said he supports the law and is not going to try to repeal it. At the time, he said he had some questions about the law because of his strong Christian faith, but he will uphold it as a councilmember. He supports adoption of foster children by gay couples, and indicated he might be in favor of acts that address discrepancies between the marriage equality law and previous statutes from earlier years, such as the Judicial Declaration of Parentage bill proposed by Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large). Magnus said he wanted to look at the specifics of such bills before making a firm commitment, but was generally leaning toward supporting such measures.

Magnus said that as a minority, he abhors any level of hate or discrimination committed upon innocent people. He said he would stand up for people’s constitutional rights and pledged to do everything in his power to address crimes committed in the District. Magnus said that he would support ongoing, periodic sensitivity training for police officers, just as he had to undergo special training on a regular basis as a lawyer. “I think we have to go even further,” he said. “We have to send a message and send a statement that any kind of bias or prejudice or hate will not be tolerated for anybody’s violation of their constitutional rights.”

Magnus said he supports prostitution-free zones but is not sure that the bill to make them permanent is completely unbiased or targeted at one specific community. He said he supports the zones because of his opposition to prostitution, stemming from his Christian faith, but also did not want to use such zones to “bludgeon” any community or any people.

Magnus said he wants to provide services and assistance to provide a safety net or alternative options to people who engage in survival sex work. He said he supports education and information dissemination efforts to engage those engaging in prostitution and find them more stable, gainful employment. Magnus also said his platform of economic development, job training and educational and vocational opportunities for all residents would also help marginalized groups, like transgender sex workers, find stable employment and become productive members of society while also reducing crime.

Magnus said he supports a “zero tolerance” policy towards bullying and would support comprehensive anti-bullying legislation that would include a discussion of LGBT issues.

[back to top]


Ruth Marshall said she is supportive of the District’s marriage equality law. At the time it passed, she thought it should have gone to referendum, but she was unaware at the time that the District’s Human Rights Law would have prevented such a referendum. “A lot of the pushback against the law is not so much against homosexuality, but the feeling of being excluded from the process,” she said. That said, she believes such a referendum would have upheld the marriage equality law, saying, “We live in a different time, when there’s more familiarity, more knowledge of the LGBT community.”

On bias crimes, Marshall said police officers are expected to follow particular procedures regardless of who the victim or perpetrator is. She called for more open communication between the LGBT community and MPD, and said officers who don’t act appropriately need to be reprimanded. She supports mandatory sensitivity training for all officers, not just special liaisons and new hires, and feels such training needs to be renewed or updated on a regular basis, as many private-sector businesses require of their employees.

Marshall said she didn’t understand the point of permanent prostitution-free zones, since prostitution is already illegal. She said she understands they can be used as a method of crime prevention, but “hate(s) profiling to a T,” so she would like to find out the police point of view of why temporary PFZs are necessary.

Marshall said she did not approve of transgender individuals, or anyone, engaging in prostitution, saying there are always other opportunities available. But she was aware of complaints from the transgender community that they encounter difficulty when seeking out jobs. Marshall said if particular employers are getting a number of hiring discrimination complaints, the Council needs to enforce existing laws and exercise some oversight, possibly even fining businesses who are found to be engaging in discriminatory hiring practices.

Marshall said she was supportive of comprehensive anti-bullying legislation and education in the District’s schools. She agreed that LGBT issues can be addressed as part of an anti-bullying program, outside of a health or sex education curriculum. “Bullying is about people being viewed as different and treated because of that,” she said. “Everybody has a right to freedom from violence.”

[back to top]


Kenyan McDuffie said in the March 3 WTOP/Brookland Heartbeat debate that he was supportive of the marriage equality law and would have voted for it had he been on the council at the time.

As an attorney, McDuffie said he is concerned that police are adequately prepared to deal with a variety of people and have received sufficient training, including sensitivity training, which he says should be mandatory for all employees. He supports the idea of regular, routine, in-service training for veterans of the force, comparing a recertification of sensitivity training to the recertification process officers must go through to operate their firearms.

McDuffie said when he worked in the office of the Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice, he helped promote efforts to combat anti-transgender violence and set up the transgender cohort that went through the Project Empowerment job training program. McDuffie says he has concerns about profiling and the constitutionality of “permanent” prostitution-free zones, saying if the District is going to establish such zones, they need to be utilized and set up correctly and pass constitutional muster.

Asked about the Council’s proposed anti-bullying legislation, McDuffie said he supports it. “We’ve got way too many people, particularly our young folks in the LGBT community, who are being targeted by bullies, and we need to do everything in our power to make sure we fight back,” he said.

[back to top]


Frank Wilds said he did not have any position on the District’s marriage equality law when it passed. Now, he says, “The law is the law” and said he would defend it. ‘

On hate crimes, Wilds said those who break the law should be punished accordingly to the fullest extent of the law. “We cannot have people preyed upon because of their sexual orientation.” But when asked about bias crimes, he also objected to “special treatment” for any group and called for equal protection for all people under the law. Wilds said MPD should receive cultural competency training on a yearly basis and at roll calls to be prepared to deal with the newer, more diverse residents of Ward 5.

Wilds said he is against prostitution, but said he didn’t understand why there were special zones for prostitution when asked about PFZs.

Wilds also called for better monitoring of contracts with nonprofit agencies and oversight to ensure organizations receiving taxpayer money were using the money as intended. He said he was open to pushing legislation that would require nonprofits contracting with the city to focus more on service delivery and spend less on administrative costs.

[back to top]


Rae Zapata said she has always been supportive of the District’s marriage equality law. At the time it as being debated, as part of the Ward 5 Democrats’ meeting on whether to endorse the bill, Zapata said she spoke in favor of it and brought up short a number of ministers who she said were being very rude towards supporters of marriage equality. “Everyone deserves respect and courtesy, even if you disagree with them,” she said of the incident.

Zapata said that hate crimes in the District can not be tolerated and deserve to be swiftly prosecuted. She said she would allow the Metropolitan Police Department to do its job, but would make a formal inquiry if a particular investigation seemed to have stalled as a way of checking up on MPD’s progress. She compared the need for focused, cultural sensitivity training, including on LGBT issues, in the police department to sexual harassment training that many other public and private employees receive as a condition of their employment. “We really have to ensure the police department is sensitive to all people, regardless of their race, gender or religion,” she said. “Any disenfranchised group should not be subjected to poor treatment. We have to raise the bar and have people understand what is and what is not acceptable.”

Zapata said she was not as familiar with the concept of prostitution-free zones (PFZs), but said that if zones are in compliance with the law, they have a right to exist, although she did not say she supported permanent PFZs.

Regarding employment for transgender individuals, Zapata said she was in favor of programs like Project Empowerment, but suggested that the city should engage in more extensive outreach to members of the transgender community by holding job fairs or advertising employment opportunities in areas where transgender people tend to congregate in order to find them gainful employment outside of survival sex work. “Sometimes, we have to take the show to the people, and not wait for them to come to us,” she said. She also said she wants the Human Rights Office to actively follow up on complaints of hiring discrimination.

Zapata said she supports having counselors on hand in schools who are equipped to deal with the problem of bullying, targeting both the bullies and their victims to resolve the problem so that all children, including LGBT students, are able to attend school in a safe, nurturing environment.

[back to top]


Amanda Broadnax will appear on the ballot, but withdrew from the race on March 27, when she threw her support to Kenyan McDuffie. In her withdrawal statement, Broadnax said: “There is a lot at stake in this election. It is imperative that our community elects someone with competency, character and the courage to represent for all residents: black or white, new or old. There is only one candidate that I believe embodies these traits and has the fortitude to bring the ward together. That person is Kenyan McDuffie.”

[back to top]

Please Leave a Comment