In the end, there was really no debate at all — just a lot of Robert’s Rules of Order.
Backers of independent mayoral candidate David A. Catania failed to keep the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s preeminent LGBT political organization, from delivering its formal endorsement to Democrat Muriel E. Bowser on Monday night.
Endorsing the Democratic nominees who had not been previously endorsed before the primary has typically been a pro forma process for the Stein Club. Not so this year, with Bowser, the straight Democratic nominee, facing Catania, the openly gay independent.
Catania adherents among the Stein membership had hoped to prevent the club from extending a formal endorsement, which would have been a noteworthy micro-political victory for Catania. A small group came to Monday night’s meeting at the Human Rights Campaign headquarters downtown primed with arguments — and fliers dissecting the Stein bylaws — about how the club, despite its name, owes no special fealty to the Democratic nominee.
But the grand debate that they might have envisioned about the club’s past, present and future never happened. Instead, there was a quick motion for a vote to endorse all the remaining unendorsed Democratic nominees, and the vote was called. Another half-hour of parliamentary maneuvering ensued, led by longtime activist Don Haines, who suggested that the endorsement and future endorsements would be tarnished by the club’s actions.
“We have a choice here: We can make the Stein participation in the election pristine, or it can be clouded,” said Haines, who accused the club leadership of “changing the rules to turn us into an appendage of the Democratic Party.”
But Angela Peoples, the club president, ruled Haines’s objections out of order, and with the backing of the bulk of the roughly 50 members present, the matter moved to a vote, which passed 35 to 8, plus some abstentions and a spoiled ballot.
That prompted Paul Kuntzler, a co-founder of the club and a Catania supporter, to walk to the front of the room and discuss how the club was founded in his living room in 1976 before announcing, “Decisions made tonight are irrelevant; this club is irrelevant,” and walking out of the building.
Bowser participated in a Q&A session before the vote where the internal politics of the endorsement did not come up, but she sat quietly as the parliamentary drama played out.
“The Gertrude Stein Club endorses Democrats, and we’re proud to represent them,” she said afterward.