GLAA and Stein Ready for Races

With endorsements and ratings, LGBT groups assess the Nov. 6 field with Mendelson coming out on top

When it comes candidates courting LGBT votes, the District enjoys an abundance of office seekers and incumbents. Several candidates running for political office tested their mettle before the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club Oct. 9 and came away with the endorsement of one of the city’s top political clubs.

According to Stein rules, a candidate for office must receive 60 percent of the votes cast by members in good standing to receive an endorsement. Leading the way was Phil Mendelson (D), current chairman of the D.C. Council, running for a first full term since being named to the position by his peers following the June 6 resignation of former Chairman Kwame Brown (D), who pleaded guilty to bank fraud and violating District campaign finance laws.

”I thank Stein Club for your support over the years. I’m glad to have partnered with you on issues important to you over the years, and I hope to have your support tonight,” Mendelson said in a speech detailing his record on LGBT rights to those assembled at the Metropolitan Community Church of Washington, D.C., for the Tuesday meeting.

Following his speech, Mendelson, who faces Democrat Calvin Gurley in a special election added to the regular Nov. 6 ballot, was later endorsed by acclamation. No representative from Gurley’s campaign was present at the meeting.

At the time of the Stein meeting, another major LGBT group, the nonpartisan Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington, D.C. (GLAA), held its own meeting to rate candidates for major local offices. The ratings, which are based on candidates’ responses to a GLAA questionnaire and what is known of their records on LGBT issues, are graded on a scale of -10 to 10. While the GLAA ratings process is exhaustive, the group makes no endorsements.

In the race for D.C. Council chair, Mendelson rated a perfect GLAA score of 10, based on his questionnaire responses and his longtime record as an advocate for LGBT rights, particularly in his role as chairman of the Council’s Judiciary Committee, where he has proposed LGBT-friendly legislation ranging from marriage equality to adoption rights for same-sex couples. GLAA gave Gurley a rating of 1, noting in the group’s posted assessment that Gurley submitted a ”weak questionnaire and showed confusion on numerous issues.”

By a 69-30 margin, Stein members endorsed Vincent Orange (D-At Large). According to Stein President Lateefah Williams, the decision to endorse Orange, the sole Democrat in the race, allows the group to consider endorsing one of the other candidates for the second at-large seat on the ballot. Stein will hold a follow-up endorsement meeting for those candidates, including incumbent Councilmember Michael A. Brown (I-At Large); independent challengers David Grosso, A.J. Cooper and Leon Swain Jr.; Statehood-Green Party nominee Ann Wilcox; and Republican nominee Mary Brooks Beatty.

Stein members also endorsed Shadow Sen. Michael D. Brown (D) with 86 percent of the vote; while incumbent Councilmembers Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7) and Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) fell well short of the 60 percent threshold, earning 34 and 31 percent, respectively.

For the Board of Education slots, Stein members chose to endorse Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Jack Jacobson (ANC 2B04) for the Ward 2 seat with 90 percent of the vote, and incumbent member D. Kamili Anderson for the Ward 4 seat with 65 percent of the vote. Both are running unopposed.

In contested Board of Education races, Stein chose to endorse longtime LGBT and Ward 8 activist Phil Pannell for the Ward 8 seat over incumbent board member Trayon ”Tray” White with 72 percent of the vote. Stein also endorsed former schoolteacher Karen Williams for the Ward 7 seat over a trio of challengers, only one of whom, Villareal ”VJ” Johnson, was present to address the group. Williams earned 63 percent of the votes.

In the at-large Board of Education race, Stein members chose to endorse incumbent Mary Lord over challenger Marvin Tucker, with Lord receiving 81 percent of the vote.

GLAA does not rate candidates for Board of Education races, but did bolster Stein’s rejection of Barry and Alexander, giving each a rating of -3.5, primarily for voting against marriage equality and for supporting permanent ”prostitution-free zones,” which critics say are used to profile and harass transgender people. While Alexander’s questionnaire was criticized as ”weak,” Barry did not submit one. GLAA also weighed Alexander’s introduction of an amendment to D.C.’s 2009 marriage-equality bill that would have gutted the D.C. Human Rights Act as it pertains to sexual orientation, and of a bill that would have mandated HIV testing for those applying for marriage licenses. GLAA also considered Barry’s participation at a rally opposing marriage equality.

Barry’s opponent for the Ward 8 Council seat, independent Jauhar Abraham, did not submit a questionnaire and has no record on LGBT rights, earning him a zero rating. Alexander’s Republican challenger, Ron Moten, did not submit a questionnaire but earned a 1.5 for his work with LGBT youth in the ”Check It” gang and for speaking at the vigil for murdered transgender woman Deoni Jones.

GLAA previously ranked Councilmembers Evans and Bowser, who are unopposed in November, rating them 8.5 and 6.5, respectively.

Where Stein and GLAA diverged the most was on the at-large Council seats, with GLAA going after Orange’s record on LGBT rights. According to GLAA’s explanation of ratings, Orange ”showed no understanding of the issues.” The group also knocked Orange for leading efforts to undermine the District’s medical-marijuana program; to introduce restrictions on dance clubs in Ward 5, where gay-owned businesses were promised they could reopen after being shuttered to make way for Nationals Park; and to make prostitution-free zones permanent. Orange’s final rating was .5.

Statehood-Green Party nominee Wilcox earned a .5 rating for her work representing GetEqual and Occupy D.C., but did not submit a questionnaire. Brooks Beatty, the Republican, did not submit a questionnaire and has no known record, earning her a zero rating.

Meanwhile, GLAA praised independent candidate Grosso for submitting a strong questionnaire and for supporting LGBT concerns while working for Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton and former Ward 6 Councilmember Sharon Ambrose. Grosso’s rating, 9, was the second-highest rating, after Mendelson’s perfect score, of all 2012 candidates in either the primary or general elections.

Michael A. Brown, whom GLAA praised as a ”consistent ally” on the Council, earned a 7.5 rating based on his record and strong questionnaire responses. GLAA gave A.J. Cooper a 4 for his questionnaire and work with LGBT youth to combat HIV/AIDS, and gave the same rating to Leon Swain for his questionnaire, but noted that Swain had little in the way of a record on LGBT issues.

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com