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F.C. Makes Virginia History by Electing Gay Afro-American

Virginia history was made in the Falls Church city election Tuesday. By being elected to the City Council, Lawrence Webb has become the first openly gay Afro-American elected official in the history of the commonwealth.

Webb, 33, an assistant dean of admissions at Mary Washington University, ran on a slate endorsed by the City’s venerable civic organization, the Citizens for a Better City (CBC) along with Incumbent Mayor Robin Gardner, Incumbent Vice Mayor Lindy Hockenberry and three School Board candidates.

He wound up with 1,215 votes, 39 ahead of Hockenberry, to win one of the three seats up for grabs in the election, along with Gardner and independent Nader Baroukh.FALLS CHURCH MAYOR Robin Gardner (right), re-elected to a third term on the Falls Church City Council Tuesday, congratulates Lawrence Webb for also winning a seat on the Council during a victory party for candidates backed by the Citizens for a Better City (CBC) after the polls closed. Webb made Virginia history by being the state’s first ever openly gay Afro-American elected official. (News-Press photo)

In a statement to the News-Press following his victory, Webb said, “My sexuality is one aspect of my life and it has not or does not hinder me from completing my job. I hope my election opens the door for others to get involved in public service. It doesn’t matter if you’re gay or black or both. What matters is your dedication to building a better community, and your willingness to work hard at it.”

Since moving to the City of Falls Church four years ago, Webb has been involved in volunteer service as a City Council appointee to the City’s Recreation and Parks Advisory Committee, and with the CBC and Village Preservation Society. He notified the News-Press of his decision to run for City Council last fall, and received the nod from the CBC at its nominating convention in February.

Webb said he informed the CBC leadership that he is gay prior to the convention and that they were supportive. But he chose not to make an issue about it as a member of the six-candidate CBC slate until just two weeks before the election.

On April 23, he notified the News-Press that he’d sought and received the financial backing and support of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund in Washington, D.C., an advocacy group that works for the election of openly-gay candidates at all levels of government.

Webb later said he’d also approached the Virginia Partisans Gay and Lesbian Club, based in Arlington. Monday, the board of directors of the Partisans formally endorsed Webb, and a widely-disseminated e-mail was sent out to Partisan supporters and friends in Falls Church and elsewhere reporting the news.

On Election Day, the Victory Fund delivered with five young adult volunteers who arrived in Falls Church from Washington, D.C., before the polls opened at 6 a.m. to work for Webb at the five voting precincts in the City.

Led by the Fund’s political manager, Shawn Werner, and Adam Martin, they stayed until the polls closed, and then joined Webb and the other CBC-backed candidates and their supporters at a victory party in the social hall at the Center for Spiritual Enlightenment.

Yesterday, the Victory Fund reported, “Lawrence ran a fantastic campaign, our donors stepped up, and the Victory Fund staff was on the ground before the sun rose Tuesday morning to help turn out our voters. In the end, Lawrence won by just 39 votes.”

In remarks at the party, Webb not only thanked the CBC and its supporters, and promised a hard-working, productive four years on the City Council, but he singled out the Victory Fund volunteers who were standing to the side with his partner, Clifton. They received a thunderous applause.

Other openly-gay elected officials in Virginia include Arlington County Board member Jay Fisette and State Delegate Adam Ebbin. But Webb is the first who is also Afro-American.

Webb will be sworn into formal duties on the Council, where he will serve a four-year term, on July 1. At that time, the seven-member Council will also elect a mayor for the next two years and a new vice-mayor.

In his victory statement, Webb said, “Since moving to the City of Falls Church I have been involved civically and as I gained further knowledge about the city and its leadership, I felt that I could serve on the governing body. I am grateful that the citizens of Falls Church have entrusted me with the responsibility to help guide the direction of our City’s future, and I thank them.

“Growing up in Southern Virginia, I have always had an interest in public service. I became the first African American Student Government Association president at Shenandoah University, which helped me to feel confident in my role in politics. I wanted to seek public office but was unsure of how my sexuality would impact my electability. As I grew socially in Falls Church and met residents, I figured I would run, because my sexuality is one aspect of my life and it has not or does not hinder me from completing my job.”

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