Metro Weekly

The Big Question: Why should the LGBT community vote for you?

Candidates for City Council, Attorney General, and the State Board of Education explain why they deserve LGBT support

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As D.C. faces one of its more competitive mayoral races in a generation, the ongoing debates over candidate preference have sucked all the oxygen out of the room, leaving many voters with limited information about the other races on the ballot. In addition to federal races, such as the District’s non-voting congressional delegate, shadow U.S. senator and shadow U.S. representative, voters will also be able to select a Council Chairman, two at-large Council members, an individual ward member, and a ward representative on the D.C. State Board of Education. Most importantly, despite opposition from a majority of the D.C. Council, including the presumptive mayor-to-be, D.C. residents will be able to select their first elected attorney general, a position previously filled by the mayor.

As part of Metro Weekly‘s coverage of the District’s political races, we sent candidates for various city offices a questionnaire, tailored specifically to each race, that touches on some of the issues that they will be expected to address if elected. We hope that this exercise will be beneficial to our readers, who will be able to compare answers and select whichever candidate they feel is best suited for the office they are seeking. While not all candidates returned questionnaires, we had a particularly high response among attorney general and State Board of Education races.

We have posted our entire questionnaire, and the candidates’ responses (edited for clarity) on individual posts. Meanwhile, we offer their response to what we consider the big question: Why should the LGBT community vote for you?

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D.C. CITY COUNCIL

METRO WEEKLY: Why should the LGBT community vote for you?

Lee Aikin (SG, Council Chairman): I have been aware of LGBT issues for many years. In the 1980s I had a number of LGBT friends and acquaintances. Most of the people I knew from that period died of AIDS. Some told me about terrible lives of child abuse, rejections, rape, and incest. A number had drug and alcohol problems. I think I know more than most about the pains and complexities of living LGBT and will be deeply sympathetic to the issues. And also devoted to promoting any legal and administrative means that can improve existing problems. [Read More]

Charles Allen (D, Ward 6): I have stood time and again with the LGBT community not just as a partner, but as a true ally. I was one of only a handful of Ward Democratic presidents to both lead their organization through a successful endorsement vote for the District’s 2009 Marriage Equality effort, and testify in-person before the Council of the District of Columbia to support the legislation. As Council staff, I helped lead the successful effort to pass the Youth Bullying Prevention Act of 2012 to protect and defend LGBT youth. As Council staff, I helped lead the successful effort to pass the JaParker Deoni Jones Birth Certificate Equality Amendment Act of 2013, one of the nation’s most progressive laws to protect transgender individuals and remove discriminatory barriers and hurdles to employment, housing, and education. These experiences have put me in the fight alongside the LGBT community and taught me the importance and meaning of standing up as an ally. [Read More]

Pranav Badhwar (L, Ward 6): My solutions pertain to all our residents, including those in the LGBT community, and focus on relieving persistent poverty, my primary motivation for running for office. I aim to reduce spending and restrictions on people in ways that improve schools, create jobs, reduce crime, and alleviate housing and transportation costs. I would rebel at such things as civil asset forfeiture laws, or failure to disclose the cost of public programs, or the counter-productive drug war. My professional skills in creating services and overseeing operations are very strong. [Read More]

Anita Bonds (D, At-Large): In the 1970s I joined progressives in fighting Anita Bryant to allow gay teachers to remain in their jobs. This was a big deal then. I attended my first Gertrude Stein Democrats meeting in 1978 and have remained committed to expanding LGBTQ equality since. As an ANC commissioner, I was an active proponent of the “Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act of 2009” while it was under consideration of passage. As Chair of ANC5C, I led my commission in support of the Act through a resolution in favor of marriage equality. As Chair of the DC Democratic Party I established the LGBT Caucus on the DC Democratic State Committee, allowing greater diversity in ideas and engagement. I’ve fought my entire adult life to end discrimination as a civil rights and women’s right’s activist and naturally, I aligned this commitment to advancing Democratic principles and expanding LGBTQ equality. Love is Love. [Read More]

Michael D. Brown (I, At-Large): I have stood for equal rights for the District for the past eight years. I have worked to take our battle for statehood from almost non-existent when I first started. Until we become a state we will never have control over the District. Laws that deal with marriage equality, needle exchange, decriminalization of marijuana and every other priority of the LBGT community will always be subject to change by the will of Congress until we become a state. It’s time to put someone on the City Council that will stand for statehood and stand for your rights as equal American citizens. I am that person and I have the record to prove it. [Read More]

Graylan Scott Hagler (I, At-Large): Last year, my 92-year old father told me that he intended to vote in favor of gay marriage in Maryland. He explained “I’ve been discriminated against all my life and I’m not going to start discriminating against other people now.” I’m also against discrimination of all kinds, and will fight to eradicate discrimination against the LGBT community. I’ve been leading an LGBT affirming church for 23 years, and was performing same-sex marriages in the 1980s, before the vast majority of my colleagues had begun to consider it. I have been a committed ally in the LGBT struggle for justice. [Read More]

Kris Hammond (R, Council Chairman): I am a fiscal conservative who will cut wasteful spending and redirect the savings to important government initiatives. Unlike the incumbent Council Chairman, Phil Mendelson, who adamantly opposes the right of every law-abiding D.C. citizen to carry a handgun for self-protection, I believe that LGBT residents have the right to defend themselves against potential hate crimes. Chairman Mendelson has a good LGBT track record, and he and I generally agree on LGBT issues. Therefore, gays and lesbians who support some of my other policy positions can vote for me without being concerned that LGBT interests will be adversely affected. [Read More]

Brian Hart (I, At-Large): I believe in fairness, equal opportunity, and transparent government. I have worked closely with DC Appleseed in their fight against HIV/AIDS in the District. My law firm represented Edith Windsor in the DOMA case before the Supreme Court. The LGBT community is close to me both personally and professionally, and I will be a tireless advocate for LGBT rights if elected to the DC Council. [Read More]

Eric Jones (I, At-Large): I have always been an advocate for equal rights for everyone and continue to work hard to fight for fairness and equality. As a member of the DC City Council I will work to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to enjoy the best of what DC has to offer and that our government works for us and with us to improve our lives. [Read More]

Kenyan McDuffie (D, Ward 5): As a member of the Council, I have developed a strong voting record in support of the LGBTQ community. I publicly supported marriage equality as a candidate in 2010 and 2012. I am a member of the Human Rights Campaign and Gertrude Stein Democratic Club. One of the most important issues I faced at the Department Of Justice was protecting inmates from harm, particularly LGBT inmates who were being sexually assaulted. As a former advisor to the Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice, I worked with the Mayor’s Office of GLBT Affairs, MPD, and GLOV to address the violent attacks against transgender residents. I co-sponsored the LGBTQ Homeless Youth Reform Act of 2013, and voted in favor of the Marriage Officiant Amendment Act of 2013. As Chair of the Committee on Government Operations, my committee has oversight over the Office of GLBT Affairs and the Advisory Committee to the Office of GLBT Affairs. I am honored to work side-by-side with members of the LGBT community to ensure that all of our residents’ concerns are voiced and represented. [Read More]

Brianne Nadeau (D, Ward 1): I have been an ally from a young age, but as an elected official, being an ally is not enough. Our LGBT community, and in particular our transgender community, needs a champion. I will be there, fighting for full employment, access to healthcare and every other human right guaranteed by our laws. I have received support from the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club and many local leaders in the LGBT community, and I am proud to have that support. I hope to have the opportunity to serve. [Read More]

Khalid Pitts (I, At-Large): As a strong supporter and advocate of the LGBT community, I believe the LGBT community should vote for me due to my previous work, standing on the front lines to achieve fair treatment. I have demonstrated my dedication to ensuring that the LGBT community have not have their rights infringed on or been discriminated against. I began advocating for LGBT rights while I was employed at the D.C. Jail. In this role I was responsible for drafting policies at the jail to protect inmates who identified as LGBT against other inmates and possibly even correction officers who could potentially become violent towards them. At SEIU, I helped the union become one of the first private health plan providers to cover sexual reassignment and provide domestic partner benefits to LGBT employees. [Read More]

Eugene Puryear (SG, At-Large): As part of my volunteer activities and employment with the ANSWER Coalition, I have participated in a range of actions in solidarity with and in advancement of LGBT rights. I helped to promote the National Equality March in 2009, advocating for full federal equality for LGBT people. Prior to that, I participated in activities opposing Proposition 8 that took place in the District. I worked to support marriage equality in the District and in Maryland. Furthermore, I have played an integral role in organizing the ANSWER Coalition’s contingents in Capital Pride, which have consistently sought to show solidarity with the struggle of the LGBT community against bigotry and hatred by bringing a political message to the parade. My track record of support for the LGBT community is something I would like to extend to the D.C. Council. [Read More]

Elissa Silverman (I, At-Large): The LGBT community should vote for me because I am committed to making our city more inclusive and welcoming and to tackling the big problems we face. I’ve lived in D.C. for 18 years and I’ve seen firsthand what an enormous positive force the LGBT community has been in our city. I’ve worked side-by-side with committed LGBT advocates and I hope to continue to work side by side with them on the council. [Read More]

Courtney Snowden (I, At-Large): Over the course of my professional life, I have learned an important lesson — if you aren’t at the table, you’re on the menu. Come January, the LGBT community may find itself being served up, with no one, who personally has been impacted by its struggle in the most personal way, there to prevent it. We need strong LGBT leaders to stand up and represent our views on the Council, and I’m asking for your vote on November 4th because as a proud member of our city’s LGBT community, I will always stand guard to protect and advance equality for all of us. [Read More]

Robert White (I, At-Large): We must elect an At-Large candidate who is committed to the LGBT community and who has a track record of hard work and results. That is what I bring to this race. As Legislative Counsel to Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, I spent many years working to defend the rights and privileges of the LGBT community. Specifically, I worked directly with Congresswoman Norton and advocates to defend and protect the District’s Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act of 2009 from being overturned by Congress. Before and during my campaign, I have worked to show leadership on issues affecting the LGBT community, and, with your vote, you will see this commitment on the Council as well. [Read More]

Did not respond: in the Council Chairman’s race, incumbent Democrat Phil Mendelson, independent John Cheeks and Libertarian Kyle Walker; in the at-large race, independents Kishan Putta, Wendell Felder and Calvin Gurley, Republican Marc Morgan and Libertarian Frederick Steiner; in the Ward 1 race, Libertarian John Vaught LaBeaume and independent Ernest Johnson; in the Ward 3 race, incumbent Democrat Mary Cheh and Libertarian Ryan Sabot; and in the Ward 5 race, Libertarian Preston Cornish.

Click here to read more reponses from D.C. candidates.

ATTORNEY GENERAL

METRO WEEKLY: Why should the LGBT community vote for you?

Lorie Masters (D): As a practicing attorney in Washington, D.C. for more than 30 years, I have fought for the best interests of District residents. Particularly because members of D.C.’s transgender community face challenges in receiving the medical care they need, it is significant that I have been able to obtain health insurance for individuals diagnosed with cancer, multiple myeloma, and other life threatening diseases. In doing so, I have been able to guarantee that the clients get the insurance they need in order to proceed with the treatments recommended by their doctors. Because members of D.C.’s LGBT community, particularly young people, are vulnerable to sex trafficking, it also is significant that I have worked on many cases representing victims of human trafficking here in the United States. In addition to pro bono cases, I chaired the Women of Color Research Initiative of the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession, and I serve on the ABA’s Gender Equity Task Force. I recognize the interrelated challenges of equity vis a vis race, gender and sexual orientation. [Read More]

Edward “Smitty” Smith (D): I am fully committed to serving the needs of, and advocating on behalf of all Washingtonians, including members of the LGBT community. I believe that members of the LGBT community should be able to live in a safe and supportive District and have equal access to the benefits, programs, employment, and housing available to heterosexual Washingtonians. As Attorney General I will not stand for any discrimination that occurs on the basis of sexual orientation. I will fight to make sure that all provisions of DC’s Human Rights Act are enforced, including the provision requiring that single-stall public restrooms be gender neutral. I am proud to have received the endorsement of the Gertrude Stein Club, an organization dedicated to the needs of LGBT citizens in the District of Columbia. [Read More]

Lateefah Williams (D): As the only openly LGBT candidate in this race, I have a unique perspective into the issues our community faces. I’m not an outsider looking in. I’m a member of the community, so LGBT issues are personal to me. From my tenure as former president of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, to my pro bono legal work for the Whitman-Walker Clinic, to my service on the board for the Wanda Alston Foundation, LGBT rights have been a pivotal part of my social justice activism and that will not change if I am elected as Attorney General. We have had such amazing success with marriage equality but we still have so much more to do. Our transgender brothers and sisters are at particularly high risk of hate crimes and employment discrimination. Many of our LGBT youth face homelessness or harassment at school. As your Attorney General I will use every legal maneuver in my arsenal to make sure that our community gets the resources, respect and rights we deserve in the District of Columbia. [Read More]

Paul Zukerberg (D): My campaign has the support of ordinary, everyday working class people. The LGBT community, and all District communities, should support my campaign because I have a proven track record getting results and fighting for the people. As Attorney General, I will review every case on their merits to ensure everyone is treated fairly and on a level playing field. The question that voters have is this: Do you want an Attorney General for “K” Street or do you want an Attorney General for your street? [Read More]

Karl Racine (D): First, the LGBT community should vote for me for the same reason that other residents should: because I have the right kind of experience to lead the Office and to make it truly great, independent and effective. When it comes to my specific interactions with the LGBT community, I have always held a firm belief in the importance of treating everyone with dignity and respect. I have spent my career exemplifying these values. At the DC Public Defender Service, I represented children and adults who could not afford to hire a lawyer, and worked to develop comprehensive support plans that would provide alternatives to the criminal justice system. [Read More]

Click here to read more reponses from D.C. candidates.

STATE BOARD OF ELECTION

METRO WEEKLY: Why should the LGBT community vote for you? 

Tricia Braun (Ward 3): Throughout my legal career, I have always sought justice and equal treatment of the law. In the schools, I would also make equal treatment and equal protection a priority. There is no place for bigotry or bullying in our school system. The LGBT community should vote for me for the same reasons that any Ward 3 resident should vote for me: I have the dedication, experience, and involvement in DC’s public schools that make me the best candidate for this position. [Read More]

David Do (Ward 1): As a gay minority candidate I have a unique perspective. My family lived in poverty. I was an English Language Learner and a daily recipient of free and reduced meals. I understand the stigma that our youth go through and will have that experience to guide my policies. As a high school student I struggled with my sexuality. The hardest part was feeling like I was alone. I do not want our kids to feel this way — I want to make sure our kids are comfortable and have the support to succeed. With a strong support network our youth will be more comfortable with developing their individual talents and personalities. I want our children to know that there is a great community standing behind them. I have fought for all students, and I will continue fighting once elected to the school board. [Read More]

Mark Naydan (Ward 6): I am a public school teacher in Prince George’s County. I deal with children with different needs, different backgrounds, and different interests. Diversity is something we see as a strength in America. All of our students deserve an education that supports their development and makes them want to learn. The school board needs more people with the perspective of a teacher. [Read More]

Lillian Perdomo (Ward 1): For several years I have supported the LGBT community, as a member of both the Gertrude Stein Democratic Committee and the State Democratic Committee, an ardent supporter of same sex marriage. The LGBT community is an integral part of our Ward One community because it is comprised of parents, students, educators, administrators, friends, and neighbors that care about the future of our children. The LGBT community knows how important it is for all children to be in a school system that supports their right to a high quality education, regardless of their race, ethnicity, income level, sexual orientation, gender identity, and intellectual or physical disability. I share this deep commitment to our children and will work towards creating better, more equitable opportunities for our children to achieve academic success. [Read More]

Scott Simpson (Ward 1): The LGBT community is my home and heart. I’ve been rooted in DC’s LGBT community for my entire adult life. Being LGBT and in elected office comes with a special responsibility to be a thoughtful and capable representative of our entire community. I’ve volunteered thousands of hours at SMYAL as an AmeriCorps volunteer, mentoring and advocating for LGBT youth, and I’ve carried that experience with me throughout my career as a civil rights advocate. The LGBT community wants to eradicate the deep-rooted educational disparities in our city, and we need a seasoned and capable member of the State Board of Education as a change agent. [Read More]

Phil Thomas (Ward 3): The LGBT community should vote for me because I am an elementary school teacher who doesn’t tolerate bullying and enforces an anti-bullying policy. I have ground-level experience working with children, administration, parents, and working in the school system. I also realize that gender-based roles in families are changing. Marriage equality means some students will have two mommies or two daddies. In addition, society is re-examining gender assignment as a biological and cultural construction. As a teacher, I realize it is my responsibility to help students navigate these changing attitudes in a way that is responsible and culturally sensitive. [Read More]

Ruth Wattenberg (Ward 3): Because I can, and will, do the most to improve all of our schools for all of our kids. I am the only candidate running for Ward 3 school board who has both experience as a parent with our local schools and 30 years of experience in education policy. Members of the LGBT community can have confidence that the combination of this knowledge and experience, as well as my lifetime commitment to fair and decent treatment for all, means I’m the best choice to improve schools for all of our kids. [Read More]

Joe Weedon (Ward 6): For a decade, I have led education reform in Ward 6, bringing together communities and advocating for strong schools throughout our community. I strongly believe that, together, we can create well-rounded schools in every corner of Ward 6, and the city, that will serve the needs of our students, preparing them for success in college and the workplace. [Read More]

Laura Wilson Phelan (Ward 1): As a former classroom teacher, parent of young children in our schools, and non-profit leader working in education across our schools, I have the experience and knowledge to ensure that Ward 1 schools meet the needs of all students. I know how to create Safe Spaces for all children to flourish. I understand first-hand the challenges facing our parents, teachers, school leaders and students and will not need to climb a steep learning curve to begin making progress on the issues facing Ward 1 schools. [Read More]

Did not respond: E. Gail Anderson Holness (Ward 1), Stephanie Blessey Lilley (Ward 3) and Mark Jones (Ward 5).

Click here to read more reponses from D.C. candidates.

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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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