Metro Weekly

Council Candidates Seek Stein Endorsement

Non-Democrats vying for second at-large seat to participate in forum held by LGBT Democratic club

At least half of the 14 non-Democrats seeking one of two seats on the D.C. Council have confirmed their intention to attend and participate in an Oct. 6 forum held by the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s top LGBT political organization, which offers its endorsement — and often, financial and volunteer support — on behalf of candidates who the club’s members best feel will represent or address the concerns of the District’s LGBT community.

Stein Democrats' Garcia Photo by Christophe Cunetto
Stein Democrats’ Martin Garcia
Photo by Christophe Cunetto

Although the Stein Club is a partisan organization, due to the nature of D.C. politics, the club often makes an endorsement for one of two at-large seats that are contested every election cycle. Under law, at least two of the four at-large seats must be reserved for non-Democrats. One “Democratic” seat — or, at least, one where the Democrat is favored to win — and one of the seats reserved for a member of a minority party are up every two years, with the eventual victors serving four-year-long alternating terms.

While Stein Club bylaws prohibit the group from endorsing a non-Democrat if no Democrat is endorsed for the other at-large seat, Democrat Anita Bonds was endorsed, along with all other members of the Democratic ticket, by a majority of club members following her victory in the April primary election. Prior to the primary, Bonds had fallen short of the 60 percent mark needed to secure a Stein Club endorsement, splitting the bulk of support with challenger and outgoing Shadow U.S. Representative Nate Bennett-Fleming.

As a result of Bonds’ endorsement, Stein Club is allowed to consider and vote on whether to endorse one non-Democrat for the remaining at-large seat. On the night of the at-large forum, the club will also hear from and vote on whether to endorse candidates for Attorney General, a position that, for the first time this fall, will be elected by District voters. All five candidates seeking the city’s top cop spot are Democrats.

Martin Garcia, Stein’s vice president for legislative and political affairs, said the club is also working on putting together a meet-and-greet with candidates seeking spots on the State Board of Education in Wards 1, 3, 5 and 6, although there will not be an endorsement meeting for those non-partisan positions prior to the election.

Independent candidates who confirmed that they will seek the Stein Club’s endorsement are Brian Hart, Elissa Silverman, Kishan Putta, Khalid Pitts, Robert White, Eric Jones and Courtney Snowden, who is an out lesbian. Independent Wendell Felder told Metro Weekly he had not determined what his schedule would be on Oct. 6, as there are other D.C. Council forums scheduled for that night, though he expressed interest in participating in the Stein forum. Several of the other candidates who confirmed also said they were trying to balance their time between the Stein Club forum and other forums and debates also scheduled for Oct. 6, including a forum hosted by the Washington City Paper, but all said they thought the Stein Club was an important and influential leader in D.C. politics.

“The Stein Club is really important to us,” said Kitty Richards, a spokesman for Silverman’s campaign, capturing the sentiment expressed by many of the candidates in a statement. “Elissa has a lot of very active supporters who are very involved in Stein Club. We have a big base of support in the LGBT community, and we want people to know Elissa will represent them and their concerns on the Council.”

The remaining three independents — Rev. Graylan Hagler, Calvin Gurley, and Michael D. Brown — did not confirm their attendance as of press time, though Brown, one of D.C.’s two Shadow U.S. Senators, is a member of Stein and has asked for the club’s endorsement in previous election cycles, and Hagler has been an ally to the LGBT community, testifying most recently on behalf of repealing so-called “prostitution-free zones,” which repeal backers say encourages discriminatory profiling of transgender women. Statehood Green Party nominee Eugene Puryear, Libertarian Frederick Steiner, and Republican Marc Morgan, who is openly gay, also did not confirm whether they would seek the Democratic Club’s endorsement for the remaining “non-Democratic” at-large seat.

To earn the Stein Club’s nomination, a candidate must register as a member of the Stein Club and pay member dues, complete a candidate questionnaire that was sent out to the campaigns prior to the forum, and then receive 60 percent of the votes of registered Stein Club members present at the Oct. 6 meeting. Backers of various independent candidates, of all political stripes, are expected to flock to the meeting en masse in order to secure a large number of votes for their preferred politician.

If no candidate receives 60 percent of the vote of Stein Club members, the club may vote on whether to hold a “run-off” between the top two vote-getters. In that second round, Stein Club members may then choose either of the two remaining candidates, or opt not to endorse in the race. If neither candidate gets 60 percent on the second ballot, there is no endorsement issued.

In the weeks preceding the forum, Stein will also hold its annual Leadership Awards Reception. Nominations for awards are being accepted through Friday, Sept. 12, at which point the club leadership will determine the awardees. The leadership awards reception, now in its 38th year, will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 23. According to Garcia, the club has requests for some special guests — usually a politician, celebrity or community member known for his or her contribution to the LGBT community — but has not yet confirmed whether some of those special guests will be in attendance.

The Gertrude Stein Democratic Club’s 38th Annual Leadership Awards will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 23 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Dirty Martini, 1223 Connecticut Ave. NW. Early bird tickets are $50 and must be purchased prior to Sept. 17 by visiting General admission tickets cost $75 and may be purchased online or at the door.

The Gertrude Stein Democratic Club’s endorsement forum for the at-large and Attorney General races will be held on Monday, Oct. 6. For more information, visit or follow @steindemocrats on Twitter.

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