Gertrude Stein Club endorses Gray for mayor
The members of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, which represents gay Democrats, voted Monday night to endorse D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray over Adrian M. Fenty in the mayor's race.
The endorsement, which followed a heated debate between the candidates, is another sign that much of the establishment of the local Democratic Party is starting to rally behind Gray instead of the incumbent.
Club rules state it will issue an endorsement only if a candidate locks down the support of 60 percent of voting members. Gray received 63 percent. The club also voted overwhelmingly to endorse Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) after she drew 87 percent of the vote against challenger Douglas Sloan.
"Thank you so much for supporting me, " a clearly elated Gray said after the results were announced. "I really wanted the Gertrude Stein club endorsement. ... You can count on me."
The endorsement, made by one of the oldest Democratic clubs in the city, could help Gray make inroads with the city's politically influential gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community. With polls showing Gray well positioned to perform well among African Americans, many political strategists say it will be very difficult for Fenty to win if gay voters start abandoning him.
But the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club endorsement appeared to play on a minimal role in the 2006 mayor's race. In that race, the club endorsed then-council Chairman Linda Cropp. Fenty swept every precinct on Election Day, and he performed well in neighborhoods with high concentrations of gay voters.
Fenty, who has been criticized by some gay activists for not being visible enough, was well received at Saturday's Capital Pride parade. But the Gray campaign, which has printed up rainbow "Gray Pride" campaign signs, also plans to aggressively court gay voters. Gray will now be able to cite the Stein club endorsement as he tries to reach out to those voters, many of whom may not yet be familiar with him or his policies.
At the start of the endorsement meeting and forum at Town nightclub on Eighth Street NW, Democratic insiders were privately predicting that neither Fenty nor Gray would receive the 60 percent needed to secure an endorsement.
But Gray appeared to benefit from a strong performance during the candidates' forum. (Check D.C. Wire later this morning for more on the testy exchanges between Gray and Fenty). Some club members said Fenty also suffered because several longtime gay allies of council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), a supporter of the mayor, failed to show up to vote.
On Saturday, Gray also won the D.C. Democratic Committee straw poll, drawing 703 votes compared with 190 for Fenty and 75 for former television reporter Leo Alexander.
-- Tim Craig
June 15, 2010; 9:44 AM ET
Categories: 2008 District Election
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