Summersgill responds to Rosenstein on candidate ratings
Related Links

Rosenstein: Moving beyond election ratings (Viewpoint, The Washington Blade) 11/15/02

GLAA awards high ratings to Schwartz, Cafritz, Wells, Hanrahan; endorses elected Attorney General 10/23/02

Points breakdown for GLAA 2002 general election candidate ratings 10/09/02

Summersgill: GLAA ratings: fair and nonpartisan 09/13/02

Editorial, The Washington Blade 09/06/02

GLAA to Council: Oppose creation of an Office of GLBT Affairs 09/10/02

Six Primary Candidates Excel in GLAA Ratings 08/31/02

Anthony A. Williams responds to GLAA 2002 questionnaire 08/08/02

Jim Graham responds to GLAA 2002 Council questionnaire 08/08/02

GLAA's DC Elections Project 2002

Summersgill responds to Rosenstein on candidate ratings

[Note: A severely edited version of this article appeared as a letter in the November 22, 2002 edition of The Washington Blade. GLAA President Bob Summersgill was responding to a November 15 Viewpoint column by Peter Rosenstein, who was issues director for the re-election campaign of Mayor Anthony Williams.]

Ratings are not endorsements
By Bob Summersgill

Peter Rosenstein ("Moving beyond election ratings," Nov. 15) says the Human Rights Campaign and the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance are "out of step" with the priorities of our community, when what he really means is that we are out of step with blindly partisan Democrats. To this GLAA pleads guilty. The record will show that we are resolutely nonpartisan, and do not tell people how to vote. It is our very scrupulousness that provokes attacks by campaign operatives.

While our friends at HRC are capable of defending themselves -- and, unlike them, GLAA makes no endorsements in partisan races -- Rosenstein's criticism of their endorsement of Rep. Connie Morella is illustrative. Ignoring the potentially disastrous loss of this friendly chair of the House DC Subcommittee, Rosenstein considers her long pro-gay record irrelevant because of her vote for the Republican leadership. But having set aside a Republican's pro-gay record, he slams GLAA for allegedly ignoring the record of Democratic Councilmember Jim Graham.

In fact, Graham got the maximum possible record points. GLAA's ratings are based on candidates' records AND their signed pledges on gay issues. If it weren't for Graham's halfhearted questionnaire effort, including answering only "yes" to 6 essay questions out of 17, he could have gotten the same +10 as in 1998. Even so, his final rating of +8 is something to be proud of.

Rosenstein suggests our questionnaire-based ratings points are merely about filling out forms. We do not use forms, we use questionnaires. There are no boxes to check off. We request detailed responses that show a substantive grasp of our concerns. What matters is not who drafts them (most politicians have help such as Rosenstein gave Williams), but who approves and signs them. Time and again, during legislative and policy battles, our careful election-year focus on issues and substance enables us to remind incumbents of their documented pledges.

Rosenstein objects to those involved in GLAA's ratings process being influenced by their own views. In fact, GLAA is more open about our ratings process than any other group. On our website,, we publish our agenda document, our questionnaire, candidates' responses, ratings breakdowns, and our explanation of the ratings. Our ratings meetings are open to the public, and we go over every questionnaire and every candidate's relevant record in an open, round-table discussion. There are no secret ballots, no arbitrary "beauty contest" scores. We require one another to justify our evaluations issue by issue and candidate by candidate. Members in the employ of candidates must recuse themselves from ratings in that race. We prevent partisans from packing our meetings by requiring participants to be dues-paying members for 90 days before they can vote. There is no more scrupulous, thorough, or unbiased ratings process in town.

Rosenstein is upset at GLAA's +4 rating of Mayor Williams. Apparently we are expected to ignore an incumbent's actual record as long as he says he's for us. We have already detailed our concerns about Williams' record. From his comments at a recent town meeting, Williams appears most proud of removing the congressional funding ban on our 1992 domestic partners law. In fact, the Mayor contributed little by way of strategy or lobbying effort. Those who did contribute significantly include HRC, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, and Councilmembers Carol Schwartz and David Catania. Council Chair Linda Cropp came to our rescue at a Capitol Hill hearing when Williams gave false information.

Apparently the only questions Rosenstein would have us ask of a candidate are these: "Are you an incumbent?" and "Are you a Democrat?" If the answer to both is yes, then they get an endorsement, with no need for the trouble of rating them. We think our community is better served by our tougher and fairer approach. Even Rosenstein faults only 2 out of our 32 general election ratings.

Rosenstein criticizes GLAA for being "political," as if he is not political to his fingertips. Our brand of politics is open, nonpartisan, substantive, and based on giving both credit and criticism where due, rather than being sycophants to incumbents and slaves to a single party.

As to the complaint that GLAA's ratings system allows relative unknowns to get high ratings, this was also true in 1998 when a newcomer named Anthony Williams earned a +8. We are sorry that his performance has fallen short of his promise.

Bob Summersgill is President of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance. He can be reached at

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