The Capital Stonewall Democrats, the District’s top LGBTQ political organization, has endorsed Councilmember Robert White (D-At-Large) in the Democratic primary for mayor, as part of a slate of candidates seeking election this year.
White, who is facing incumbent Mayor Muriel Bowser, Ward 8 Councilmember Trayon White, and attorney James Butler in the primary, earned the club’s endorsement by receiving 74.5% of the votes of club members. The endorsement occurred following a series of forums in which candidates touted their past work on LGBTQ issues and offered a vision for how they would promote LGBTQ equality measures if elected.
Bowser, who previously earned the club’s endorsement in the 2018 primary election back when it was known as the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, did not participate in the mayoral forum due to a scheduling conflict. However, should she win the Democratic primary on June 21, it is likely she would be endorsed as the party’s nominee ahead of the November general election — as she was in 2014, when she failed to earn the primary endorsement over incumbent Mayor Vincent Gray but was endorsed over openly gay independent candidate David Catania in the general.
To earn Capital Stonewall Democrats’ endorsement, candidates must received over 60% of the vote. Members used a ranked-choice voting system to select their preferred candidates, but could also choose to rank “no endorsement” or abstain from voting. A second automatic runoff, in which the candidate with the least number of votes was dropped, was then held, and votes from the eliminated candidate were reapportioned to their second-preferred option. If no candidate reached 60%, the club would issue no endorsement in the race.
Aside from White’s victory, others who were endorsed included Erin Palmer, an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner challenging incumbent Phil Mendelson for Council Chairman, who earned 60.1% of the vote on the first ballot; Ward 1 Councilmember Brianne Nadeau, who earned 69.4% of the vote on the first ballot; Zachary Parker, an openly gay candidate seeking the open Ward 5 Council seat, who earned 64.5% of the vote on the first ballot; and Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen, who is unopposed and earned 83.2% of the vote on the first ballot.
The club also endorsed Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton’s bid for re-election as the District’s non-voting member of Congress, with 69.7% of the vote on the fist ballot, and selected Oye Owolewa as the District’s shadow U.S. representative with 66.1% of the vote on the first ballot.
No endorsement was issued in the DC Attorney General’s race, the open-seat Ward 3 Council race, or the race for one of two At-Large seats, which has historically been held by a Democrat (the other seat must go to a non-Democrat, per the Home Rule Act). The top vote-getters in each race were, respectively: Bruce Spiva, who earned 52.55% in the second round of voting; former ANC Commissioner Matthew Frumin, who earned 44.07% in the second round; and ANC Commissioner Lisa Gore, who earned 43.38% in the second round.
Capital Stonewall Democrats President Jatarious Frazier told Metro Weekly that all candidates who received a spot on the primary ballot were invited to attend and participate in the forums, in keeping with the club’s bylaws.
For instance, in the Attorney General’s race, Bruce Spiva and Ryan Jones participated in the forum. But even though candidate Brian Schwalb did not, he was invited, and ended up getting the second-highest number of votes from club members when it came to deciding on an endorsement.
Incumbent Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie, who had been seeking the AG post, was left off the primary ballot after a three-judge panel of the D.C. Court of Appeals upheld a Board of Elections ruling that he was not qualified to run for the seat because he had not “actively engaged” as a lawyer for at least five of the past 10 years, when he’d been serving as Councilmember.
Frazier noted that Capital Stonewall Democrats had been in contact with McDuffie’s campaign team throughout the challenge, and let them know that he would be invited if the court were to rule in his favor. McDuffie later suspended his campaign but urged his Council colleagues to fix the law’s wording to allow lawyers serving in elected office to run for Attorney General.
Frazier noted that the club’s threshold for an endorsement is fairly high, and can be very difficult to reach in multi-person races, but speaks to the level of support candidates enjoy and their ability to win over converts through their answers to questions from forum moderators.
“We have a high threshold, but that’s good, because we want to make sure that we have strong support for the candidate that we choose to endorse,” Frazier said.
“Our candidate forums aim to provide a space for D.C.’s LGBTQ+ residents to hear directly from candidates how they plan to improve the lives of LGBTQ+ people and other marginalized groups in D.C. if elected to office,” he added in a prepared statement. “I am grateful to the candidates, our moderators, and everyone that helped make this endorsement process a success. The organization will now focus its efforts on turning out the vote for the endorsed candidates. We look forward to supporting our endorsed candidates to ensure their success in the June 21 primary election.”
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that some candidates had chosen to not participate, rather than were unable to participate in the forum. We apologize for this error.
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