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September 02, 2010

WaPo's disconnect continues in Council primary endorsements

The Washington Post today makes its endorsements in competitive D.C. Council Democratic primary contests. I have no quarrel with their backing of our good friends Jim Graham in Ward 1 and Tommy Wells in Ward 6. Otherwise their choices are appalling.

The Post has already endorsed Vincent Orange for Council Chair over Kwame Brown, touting Orange's "principled stands" in support of the baseball stadium and mayor takeover of schools, and his alleged superior judgment. In contrast, Kwame Brown is slammed for his personal financial problems, his vote of "Present" on the confirmation of Peter Nickles as Attorney General, and his lukewarm support of Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee. In GLAA's ratings, Orange got credit for coming around on the marriage issue and finally responding to a GLAA questionnaire, but Brown still came out ahead despite a lackluster effort on his questionnaire response.

The Post, which has always managed to miss Phil Mendelson's effectiveness as a legislator, makes no endorsement in the Democratic At-Large race. With challenger Clark Ray having offered no compelling reason to support him, and "the other Michael Brown" essentially hijacking the identity of Councilmember Michael Brown to get elected, the Post decided to sit this one out. They accuse Mendelson of timidity and pandering while providing no specifics, call him "a naysayer on too many initiatives to combat crime," and (do you detect a pattern here?) criticize him for not being sufficiently supportive of Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee. Basically, the Post doesn't want a D.C. Council that holds the administration accountable — much less challenges the blithe way Police Chief Cathy Lanier and AG Nickles pit public safety against civil liberties. They just want 13 cheerleaders.

The Post gobsmackingly endorses Delano Hunter in the Ward 5 race, all but dismissing his opposition to marriage equality while accusing incumbent Harry Thomas, Jr. of opposing school reforms. Once again we see the Post's cult of personality around Michelle Rhee, treating any push-back against her as proof of opposition to reform. Just this morning I listened to Thomas giving a thoughtful presentation of his ideas on school reform, which include focusing on the needs of the underprivileged children who comprise a significant portion of Ms. Rhee's clients in the eastern part of the city, and the need for greater collaboration by the chancellor with the school system's stakeholders. Unfortunately, like AG Nickles, Chief Lanier, and Mayor Fenty, Rhee doesn't play well with others. In contrast to the Post, I have been increasingly impressed with Councilmember Thomas and his political leadership.

In endorsing Wells for Ward 6, the Post regrets that his challenger, Kelvin Robinson, did not stick to his original plans to challenge Mendelson in the at-large race. They cite only Robinson's experience in government (he was COS to former mayor Anthony Williams) and business, while ignoring his opposition to marriage equality.

The Post editorialists pay little attention to the candidates' policy differences, unless their idea of policy is slavish devotion to whatever Adrian Fenty and his crew want to do. The Post seems not to understand that part of a mayor's job description is working with the legislature and communicating with (and consulting) the citizenry. They fall for Fenty's "results" mantra while entirely overlooking the reality that such reform efforts have poor long-term prospects in the absence of the collaboration that Fenty scorns.

Earth to the Post: This is a democracy. When an elected leader attempts to roll over the people as if he rules by divine right, he is in for a rude awakening. Come on, September 14.

Update: Joe Sudbay of AMERICAblog Gay comments here on the Hunter endorsement.


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Robinson is not opposed to marriage equality. He was never against gay marriage. He just wanted the bill to look more like the San Francisco bill. Here is his press release on the subject. Kelvin Robinson Supports Marriage Equality
WASHINGTON, DC‐ Ward 6 Council Candidate Kelvin Robinson called for an end to skepticism regarding his stance on same‐sex marriage in the District of Columbia. Robinson supports the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality law and will not do anything to restrict or repeal it.

“We are a Nation and a City of laws. I respect the District’s marriage equality law and support equal rights for all District residents including our GLBT neighbors,” said Robinson. “I have no intentions of imposing a referendum on this law nor asking the Council to repeal the law.”

Robinson’s opposition to the language of the marriage bill came during the debate on the bill last year. As a member of the Board of Catholic Charities during that time he did not believe the bill supported adequate religious exemptions. He pushed for a measure similar to the San Francisco same‐sex marriage law, which he supports, in which the Catholic Church continued to work closely with the city. Robinson hoped the District would have been able to reach a similar compromise.

It has also been reported falsely by many in the press that he had accepted campaign contributions from the National Organization of Marriage (NOM). He has not.

“I have not, nor will I, accept funding from the National Organization of Marriage and I resent the interference of any outside organization that attempts to divide our community and meddle in local District politics.”

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