Metro Weekly

Critiquing the Candidates

Catania, Mendelson, Snowden top list of those receiving high ratings from the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance

Muriel Bowser, David Catania and Carol Schwartz

Mayoral candidates Muriel Bowser, David Catania and Carol Schwartz (left to right) all earned high ratings from GLAA, with Catania topping the field by earning a perfect +10 rating to Bowser’s +9 and Schwartz’s +8.5.

Councilmember David Catania (I-At-Large), Council Chairman Phil Mendelson and Independent candidate Courtney Snowden topped the list of candidates seeking high marks from the nonpartisan Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance (GLAA), with all three earning perfect ratings in their respective races for mayor, Council chairman, and At-Large Councilmember. 

GLAA does not endorse in partisan political races. However, the organization does send potential candidates a questionnaire outlining what its members feel should be the top legislative priorities on which the District’s government should take action. Those priorities are outlined in a policy brief drafted by GLAA, which all candidates are encouraged to read in order to educate themselves about issues of importance to the local LGBT community. Candidates are rated on a scale of -10 to +10, and can earn points, not only for substantive and thoughtful responses to the questionnaire, but for their own record or advocacy on behalf of LGBT issues. Because record and championship points are particularly difficult to get, generally a candidate who earns a rating of +5 is considered to have gotten a “good” rating.

In the mayor’s race,  Catania, an openly gay man, topped the field, earning a perfect rating and edging out his two most prominent rivals, Councilmember Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) and former Councilmember Carol Schwartz, a Republican-turned independent, who earned +9 and +8.5, respectively. All three are considered strong allies of the LGBT community. What was most noteworthy was that Bowser submitted a revised questionnaire from what she had submitted during the primary, when she defeated incumbent Mayor Vincent Gray, resulting in her GLAA rating being lifted by 3.5 points from an initial rating of +5.5. 

Statehood Green Party nominee Faith Dane Crannitch, appearing on the ballot as “Faith,” earned a +3, Libertarian nominee Bruce Majors, also an openly gay man, earned a +2, though that largely stemmed from a questionnaire that reflected his libertarian views on limited government, putting him at odds with policies or reforms favored a majority of GLAA members. Nestor Djonkam, an independent, received a zero rating, though he did not return a questionnaire. 

In the Council Chairman’s race, incumbent Chairman Phil Mendelson (D), a longtime ally credited with authoring and pushing through many of the District’s pro-LGBT initiatives, earned a +10, while Statehood Green Party candidate G. Lee Aikin earned a +3. Republican Kris Hammond, Libertarian Kyle Walker and independent John Cheeks all earned zero ratings, though none of them returned a questionnaire. 

Among the 15 candidates seeking two at-large seats on the Council, out lesbian Courtney Snowden, a Democrat-turned-independent who is a first-time candidate, earned a perfect rating, largely because of her strong questionnaire and record of advancing LGBT causes in her work with the Raben Group, the Human Rights Campaign, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN), and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. Rev. Graylan Scott Hagler, another first time candidate, Democrat-turned-independent and longtime ally of the LGBT community who has testified on behalf of several legislative priorities, eared a +9. Democrat-turned independents Elissa Silverman, Robert White and Brian Hart earned ratings of +8, +7.5 and +5, respectively, while incumbent Councilmember Anita Bonds (D-At-Large) earned a rating of +6. 

Statehood Green Party nominee Eugene Puryear earned a rating of +4.5, with GLAA noting that a number of his answers were interpreted as negative or non-responsive, and at odds with GLAA’s priorities. Independent candidates Wendell Felder and Michael D. Brown, currently one of the District’s two shadow senators, earned ratings of +3 and +2, respectively, while Democrat-turned-independent Calvin Gurley, who previously ran for the chairman’s race, earned a +1. Republican Marc Morgan, an openly gay man, earned a rating of +2, even though he did not return a questionnaire. He was credited for his work on campaigns opposing same-sex marriage bans in Ohio and Arizona, as well as for the National Minority AIDS Council, but was penalized for his support of three Republican candidates that GLAA classifies as anti-gay: Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), Gov. Robert Ehrlich (R-Md.) and State Rep. Laura Knapereck (R-Ariz.). 

Independent candidates Eric Jones, Khalid Pitts and Kishan Putta, as well as Libertarian Frederick Steiner, earned ratings of zero, though none of them returned a questionnaire. They also have no record, as all are first-time candidates. 

In the race for Ward 1 councilmember, Democratic nominee Brianne Nadeau earned a +5, while independent Ernest Johnson earned a +1.5. Libertarian John Vaught LaBeaume earned a zero rating, though he did not return GLAA’s questionnaire. The same thing happened in the Ward 3 race, where Libertarian Ryan Sabot was given a zero rating for not responding to GLAA’s inquiries. Meanwhile, incumbent Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh (D) earned a +8.5. 

In the Ward 5 race, Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie (D) earned a +4.5, while Libertarian Preston Cornish earned a zero for failing to answer the questionnaire. In the Ward 6 race, Democratic nominee Charles Allen earned a +8.5, largely for his work as a staffer for Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells and as president of the Ward 6 Democrats. Allen’s opponent, Libertarian Pranav Badhwar, did return GLAA’s questionnaire, earning a +2 rating for his responses. 

Richard J. Rosendall, president of GLAA, noted that this year’s election cycle saw some strong allies of the LGBT community announce their candidacies. 

“It was gratifying that our process is respected, and there was a solid effort to respond,” Rosendall said. “It shows respect, not just for GLAA, but for the members of our coalition that we work with on various issues.” Several of those coalition members were consulted when the organization drafted its policy brief, and were instrumental in shaping GLAA’s priorities for the current year. 

“The ratings reflect the quality of responses from the candidates,” Rosendall said. “It’s not really surpising, given that it’s an open seat, that it has attracted a number of good candidates. The community will have the happy problem of choosing between allies, rather than choosing between friend or foe.”

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

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