Angela Peoples, the current vice president for political and legislative affairs for the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s main LGBT political organization, won her bid to become president of the club by a margin of 25 votes Monday night, beating back a challenge from longtime Stein member and local transgender activist Jeri Hughes.
Peoples, who ran as part of a five-person slate seeking spots on Stein’s executive committee, received 49 votes to Hughes’s 24 votes. In the race for vice president of administration, newcomer Diana Bui, a member of Peoples’s slate, beat out incumbent Secretary Jimmie Luthuli, who was endorsed by Hughes, by a margin of 40-31.
The three other executive committee races were uncontested, with incumbent Stein Club President Martin Garcia becoming the new vice president for political and legislative affairs, Terrence Laney becoming treasurer, and Bobbi Strang becoming secretary as part of the Peoples slate. Strang, the first openly transgender person to work at the Department of Employment Services, and who previously worked in the Office of Latino Affairs, also earned an endorsement from Hughes for her ”engagement with the diverse populations that comprise the LGBT community, and her passion for full equality.”
In her bid for the presidency, Hughes said she hoped to use the Stein Club as a vehicle to fight LGBT discrimination in the District and reach out to marginalized populations. She said her experience advocating for less powerful LGBT District residents – and in getting things accomplished by applying pressure to stakeholders and various government officials – made her a good choice to lead the Stein Club to make a difference in people’s lives.
”I see this club as an instrument of progress, as an instrument of change, promoting equality for this community,” Hughes said. ”But Stein Club is not just about the people in this room. Let’s make that clear: It’s about the people on North Capitol Street, it’s about the people in Columbia Heights, in Trinidad, and across the river. … I’ve fed them, I’ve listened to them. … I’ve worked in those areas. I know their problems.”
Peoples emphasized her efforts on the executive committee to recruit and engage new members and said she’d like to focus on ”advocacy at the intersections,” or expanding Stein’s fight to issues that affect LGBT people but are not specifically geared toward them, such as wages, unemployment, affordable housing and immigration.
”Leadership is more than just having the experience or having a long résumé,” Peoples said. ”Leadership is about finding that person who is not a member, or maybe has never heard of the Stein Club, or maybe was part of the Stein Club and has become disengaged, finding that person, finding their skills and bringing them into the fold.”
While the two traded veiled barbs at each other in the course of their statements and responses to audience questions, both kept the tone of the conversation civil, with Hughes even joking at one point: ”My opponent, Miss Peoples, she’s young, bright, beautiful and articulate. I probably don’t want to beat her as much as I want to be her.”
In the vice presidential race, Bui emphasized her fearlessness to tackle tough issues and her desire to build coalitions with other groups, such as the LGBT Asian-American/Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, while Luthuli took a more technocratic approach, emphasizing her experience in two terms as the secretary for the club and her knowledge of the planning and logistics needed to successfully manage the website and events like Stein’s political endorsement forums.
Following her victory in the presidential race, Peoples said she was ”humbled and honored” to receive the support of the members.
I mean what I say, I want to continue to grow the membership, to strengthen the membership, and find new ways to engage, not just in the elections, but in policy and advocacy, and in reaching out to more and different communities, to show the force of the LGBT community,” Peoples said. ”It really is growing. I think we’re really going to be a powerhouse in 2014, and we’re going to have an impact on [next year's] election.”
Hughes also thanked her supporters following the vote.
”I appreciate the support I received,” Hughes said. ”It was a fair election, and Angela won. I will support the club and I will support her. There are a lot of issues that need attention, a lot of work to do. I’ll be seeking assistance from the club to get some things done.”
Courtney Snowden, a seventh-generation D.C. resident and longtime Stein Club member who had become inactive, said she was very excited about the victories of Peoples and Bui, whom she supported.
”I have been involved in the community for a really long time and have had the opportunity to see a lot of leadership be recycled over and over again,” Snowden said. ”I think it’s a new day in Stein. We’re going to see fresh, young leadership, with new ideas about how the club should be run in the future.”
Paul Kuntzler, a founding member of the Stein Club, who nominated Hughes, said he expected the final outcome but stressed the importance of the new board reaching out to veteran members of the club, who may feel slighted, or as if they’re being disregarded in favor of the priorities of newer members who control the entire executive committee. Peoples and Garcia were part of an insurgent slate last year that unseated then-President Lateefah Williams, who was supported by many ”old guard” members who felt disenfranchised when the insurgents won narrow victories, propelled chiefly by the votes of new or first-time members personally allied with Peoples and Garcia.
”I was sort of expecting the so-called ‘machine’ to win. We weren’t optimistic,” Kuntzler said. ”I think that we give a lot of lip service to this issue of transgender, and I think [Jeri's] election would make a big difference, and that’s why I supported her. She’s a very good spokesperson. … I think leadership should try to make a better effort to bring back the old members. They need to make a better effort to reach out.”