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Graham, Mendelson, Gray top gay activists' candidate ratings

UPDATED 10 A.M.

The Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, famous for conducting what are arguably the most thorough candidate reviews in town, has come out with its 2010 ratings.

Only two candidates -- incumbent Democrats Jim Graham (Ward 1) and Phil Mendelson (At-Large) -- won coveted perfect 10 ratings. But D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray was not far behind, earning an 8.5, the highest rating among mayor candidates.

"His strong score reflects his agreement with GLAA on all issues and his efforts in leading the Council in support of equal marriage rights, setting a tone and leading hesitant councilmembers by his example," the group's raters wrote. Gray also won the endorsement of the Gertrude Stein Democrats, the city's largest gay political organization.

His 8.5 points were enough to handily outrank incumbent Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, who was criticized by the raters for a "mixed" record.

"While his administration led the exceptional legal fight to keep and defend our marriage rights; they also spent nearly two years obstructing" a law easing the parentage-determination process for children born to lesbian couples, raters wrote. The group also cited a number of broken promises, notably that the gay community was not consulted on his police chief and human rights office selections.

Both, however, shone in GLAA's eyes in comparison to fellow Democrat Leo Alexander, who earned a -3 rating due to his "explicitly anti-gay and anti-marriage-equality campaign."

Because the GLAA considers a candidate's record of action in addition to his or her positions on the issues, a perfect rating is generally out of reach for non-incumbents. And even among incumbents, it takes more than being right on gay issues.

Graham won praise as a "strong fighter for our rights and our community's health for decades" who is "pragmatic and constructive." The alliance raters singled out his work to relocate gay-owned nightclubs displaced by Nationals Park. "The legislation is not the sort of thing that most politicians seek out, but we are especially grateful for the difficult work that Graham handled so deftly," they wrote.

As for Mendelson, his perfect score reflected "extensive efforts" on behalf of gay and lesbian rights, not least of which was his long and meticulous work to legalize same-sex marriage. It also helped that he really knows how to fill out a form: "Phil set the bar for the most extensive and detailed questionnaire demonstrating his in-depth knowledge of the issues and support of LGBT people in all areas," adding that "Phil is our greatest champion on the Council" -- a feat, no doubt, for a straight guy serving with two openly gay men. His opponent Clark Ray, who hopes to become the third, earned a 5.5, earning demerits for his embrace of the Rev. Willie Wilson, an Anacostia minister who has come under fire for anti-gay comments, and a lack of "solid understanding of the duties and function of the Council."

In the council chairman race, Kwame Brown won a marginally better rating than Vincent Orange, a former staunch opponent of gay marriage who won GLAA's respect as "the most improved candidate in this election." Brown gave all the right answers, raters said, "but offered limited substance" in his responses.

The Ward 5 race included a particularly dismal bunch of candidates from the GLAA's point of view. Incumbent Democrat Harry Thomas Jr. won a respectable six of 10 points, buoyed by his principled stand in support of same-sex marriage. "More than any other councilmember, Thomas risked his political future to do what he thought was right," the group wrote in explaining its rating. But no other candidate earned higher than a 2. Delano Hunter, a Democrat who has accepted campaign funds from the gay-marriage-opposing National Organization for Marriage, won himself a -2.

In Ward 3, Democrat Mary Cheh won a 7.5 rating, winning praise as "a strong advocate for LGBT rights, civil liberties, and marriage equality." And in Ward 6, incumbent Tommy Wells -- praised as a "consistent leader on our issues" -- solidly outranked Democratic primary challenger Kelvin Robinson, who also accepted NOM money.

UPDATE, 10 A.M., 8/26 -- Robinson has not accepted an NOM donation, as GLAA claimed in its rating materials. Bob Summersgill, a GLAA member who helped compile the ratings, says he confused Robinson with another at-large candidate who has accepted NOM donations. Robinson, who supports a citywide vote on gay marriage, did appear on a slate of NOM-endorsed candidates, but he says he did participate in any interviews or fill out any questionnaires to seek the endorsement. Summersgill says GLAA has no plans to change Robinson's rating.

By Mike DeBonis  |  August 25, 2010; 3:35 PM ET
Categories:  DCision 2010 , The District  
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