Just as they did when they sparred in 2014’s mayoral Democratic primary, Councilmember Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) and former Mayor and Councilmember Vincent Gray (D-Ward 7) again topped the list of office-seekers earning high praise and ratings in the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance’s (GLAA) 2016 candidate questionnaire. Luckily, though, this year they are not opponents, but allies seeking separate seats on the D.C. Council.
The biennial survey, issued to candidates seeking elected positions within the District, is used to gauge candidates’ activism and responsiveness to the major concerns of the LGBT community. Candidates are rated on a scale of -10 to +10 based on their answers to GLAA’s questionnaire, their record on LGBT issues and any advocacy on behalf of the community. All questions are based on issues broached in GLAA’s annual policy brief, “Building on Victory,” which is made available to all candidates in advance.
So far, GLAA has only rated those candidates running in the primaries for the District’s three officially recognized political parties: Democrats, Republicans, and Statehood-Green members, all of whom will select nominees in the June 14 citywide primary election. The organization is expected to release ratings for independent candidates — including incumbent Councilmember David Grosso (I-At-Large), who is running for re-election — ahead of the November general election.
Both Evans, running unopposed for re-election to his Georgetown, Dupont and Downtown-anchored district, and Gray, who is running for the Southeast D.C.-anchored seat he once held before becoming Council Chairman in 2007, earned a top score of +10 on GLAA’s rating scale, which ranges from -10 to +10. Both men have long and substantial records that indicate a commitment to LGBT rights from their years on the Council, and Gray, during his four-year tenure as mayor.
Other strong scorers on GLAA’s candidate questionnaire were Robert White, who is challenging incumbent Vincent Orange (D-At-Large) in the Democratic primary, who earned a +8.5, as well as Councilmember LaRuby May (D-Ward 8) and G. Lee Aikin, running in for the Statehood-Green nomination for one of two at-large seats, who both earned +7.5.
For the two at-large seats, challenger David Garber earned a +6.5 for agreeing with GLAA’s positions on all issues and providing substantive answers, but lost points because of his limited record on LGBT issues. Meanwhile, incumbent Orange earned a +4, which marks a significant improvement over his 2012 GLAA rating of +0.5. GLAA noted in its writeup of Orange that he has generally been an ally to the LGBT community, but did, during his 2006 campaign for mayor, call some of his primary rivals “morally unfit” for office because of their support of marriage equality. Republican Carolina Celnik, a Navy Yard resident and law firm employee who works on regulatory issues, did not return a questionnaire and was given a zero based on her lack of a record on LGBT issues.
In Ward 4, Democratic challenger Leon Andrews earned a +6, besting incumbent Democratic Councilmember Brandon Todd, who earned a +5, and Calvin Gurley, who earned a +3.5. Challenger Ron Austin did not return a questionnaire and was given a zero rating.
In Ward 7, Gray faces off against incumbent Democratic Councilmember Yvette Alexander, the only remaining councilmember who voted against marriage equality in 2009. Alexander, who earned a +5.5, showed improvement over her 2012 rating of -3.5 and has generally been an ally to the LGBT community on the Council, sponsoring and pushing through her committee legislation allowing transgender people to amend their birth certificates, require health professionals receive training to be competent in dealing with LGBT-specific health issues, and banning the practice of conversion therapy on minors. Democrats Delmar Chesley and Grant Thompson did not submit responses to GLAA’s questionnaire.
In Ward 8, May’s challengers Trayon White and Aaron Holmes earned ratings of +4 and +2, respectively, while Maurice Dickens and Bonita Goode did not submit responses to GLAA’s questionnaire.