Due to increased competition in this year’s D.C. elections, the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club was unable to reach a consensus when it came to endorsing a candidate in three of four ward races.
Stein Club, the city’s top LGBTQ political organization, routinely endorses candidates with a demonstrated record of support for the LGBTQ community, and candidates often tout their support from the club as a way to signal that support to voters who are not as politically engaged. To receive an endorsement, a candidate must receive 60% of votes from registered Stein Club members.
Last week, on May 11, due to COVID-19-related social distancing, Stein Club held its first-ever virtual endorsement meeting, during which candidates were asked to explain their record on LGBTQ rights and answer questions on various issues affecting the community.
Members were then asked to vote online, via a ranked-choice voting system, for their preferred candidate. In those races where no candidate reaches 60%, the second-choice votes of supporters of candidates who were not among the top two vote-getters are then reapportioned to the remaining Democrats.
Members may also choose to vote for “no endorsement” if their preferred candidate is not viable, in order to block opponents from reaching the 60% threshold.
Notably, in Wards 2, 4, and 8, where three or more candidates sought the club’s endorsement, voters simply could not agree on a consensus candidate. As such, no endorsement will be offered, and Stein Club will focus its efforts on turning out voters on behalf of its endorsed candidates ahead of the June 2 primary.
“Campaigning in the age of COVID-19 presents unprecedented challenges for the candidates, and in-person voting presents clear risks to voters in D.C. and around the country,” Monika Nemeth, Stein Club’s vice president of legislative affairs, said in a statement. “For this reason, the Stein Club plans to employ socially distanced campaign strategies such as phonebanks, social media engagement, and online advertisements to support the Club’s endorsed candidates. We encourage everyone to request their vote-by-mail ballot from the DC Board of Elections.”
In the Ward 2 race, ANC Commissioner Patrick Kennedy, the presumptive establishment favorite in the race, placed first on the first ballot with 31% of the vote, compared to openly gay ANC Commissioner John Fanning, who placed second with 27% of the vote. Former Councilmember Jack Evans, a Stein endorsee in previous cycles — whose campaign has been hampered by his resignation earlier this year — came in third with 10% of the vote.
Jordan Grossman, the Our Revolution DC and Working Families Party-endorsed candidate, came in fourth with 9% of the vote, followed by the Washington Post-endorsed Brooke Pinto, who earned 8% of the vote, ANC Commissioner Kishan Putta, who earned a little less than 8% of the vote, Yilin Zhang, who earned 3% of the vote, and Daniel Hernandez, who earned 1% of the vote.
On the second ballot, Kennedy and Fanning tied, both earning 39.6% of votes, while the remaining 1 in 5 voters chose “no endorsement.”
In Ward 4, incumbent and Post-backed candidate Councilmember Brandon Todd earned 48% of the vote, to the Working Families Party and Our Revolution DC-backed candidate Janeese Lewis George’s 46%. Marlena Edwards earned 2% of the vote, and 4% voted for no endorsement. On the second ballot, Todd earned 48.5%, to Lewis George’s 46.6%, with 4.9% voting for no endorsement.
In Ward 8, incumbent Councilmember Trayon White earned 36% of the vote, to Post-backed candidate Michael Austin’s 31%, with Yaida Ford earning 17% of the vote and Stuart Anderson earning 8%. Another 8% voted for no endorsement. On the second ballot, it was Austin who emerged on top with 42.6% of the vote to White’s 40.7%, with 16.7% voting for no endorsement.
In a follow-up interview, Jatarious Frazier, Stein Club’s vice president for administration, told Metro Weekly that the inability to endorse actually speaks to a positive development, because multiple candidates proved their dedication and commitment in terms of LGBTQ issues, and thus made it difficult for members to settle on a consensus choice. He said the vote also speaks to the intensity of support among the membership and club members’ strong and unwavering loyalty to the candidate of their choice.
The club ultimately ended up making five endorsements, four in uncontested races, giving its backing to Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District’s non-voting member of Congress; At-Large Councilmember Robert White, the only Democrat seeking one of two At-Large seats this cycle out of a field of 12 candidates; U.S. Shadow Sen. Paul Strauss; and Oye Owolewa, who is seeking the open U.S. Shadow Representative position being vacated by Rep. Franklin Garcia. Norton was the top vote-getter, earning 90.4% of the votes of Stein Club members, followed by White, who earned 89%, Owolewa, who earned 72.6%, and Strauss, who earned 71.9%.
In Ward 7, incumbent Councilmember Vincent Gray earned the club’s endorsement with 63% of the vote on the first ballot. Gray, who recently won the endorsement of The Washington Post, beat out openly gay ANC Commissioner Anthony Lorenzo Green, who has been endorsed by the Working Families Party and Our Revolution DC, who earned 22% of the vote. Veda Rasheed earned 11%, and Kelvin Brown earned 3%. Candidates Rebecca Morris and James Jennings did not participate.
“By all accounts, the Stein Club’s first virtual forum and endorsement vote was a resounding success,” Stein Club President Kent Boese said in a statement. “This would not have been possible without the support and engagement of our members to whom we extend our gratitude. We are equally thankful to Fenit Nirappil of The Washington Post, who gave his time and experience as the forum’s guest moderator. The questions Fenit asked candidates were on point and resulted in a deeper understanding of where each stands on LGBTQ+ issues.”
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