Loose Lips

Strange Busfellows

Leo Alexander and Andy Shalall

Leo Alexander and Andy Shallal

Busboys & Poets owner and mayoral hopeful Andy Shallal is good for gays. That’s the message from last week’s Gay and Lesbians Activist Alliance candidate rankings, which gave the restaurateur +6 on a scale of -10 to +10 on LGBT issues. That placed him behind Vince Gray, Tommy Wells, and Jack Evans, but was still a remarkably high score for an unelected candidate to receive from a group that gives extra points for legislative achievements. Among Shallal’s good deeds in the gay community: in-kind contributions to the Human Rights Campaign and hosting a gay-themed open mic night at his restaurant.

Shallal earned a much higher score from GLAA than the last mayoral race’s most viable outsider candidate, newscaster-turned-politician Leo Alexander. Before coming in a distant third to Gray and Fenty in the Democratic primary, Alexander received a very un-Shallal-like -3 rating from GLAA.

Shallal and Alexander do have one thing in common, though: Shallal’s mayoral ambitions. Alexander’s been working for Shallal since December as a consultant and received $4,000 from Shallal’s campaign at the end of that month, according to the latest campaign finance reports.

Alexander makes an odd fit for Shallal’s progressive inner circle, given his decidedly conservative social politics. In 2010, Alexander ran as the anti-gay marriage candidate, lamenting that the city’s gay marriage law hadn’t been put to a city-wide referendum. He received $1,950 in donations from the anti-gay marriage National Organization for Marriage, which put thousands into opposing Gray and Fenty that year. Alexander also earned the backing of Beltsville-based anti-gay marriage gadfly Bishop Harry Jackson, who was omnipresent in the run-up to the passage of the District’s marriage equality bill.

Alexander’s views on undocumented immigrants won’t be appearing at a Busboys open mic anytime soon, either. During his bid, Alexander blamed unauthorized workers in the city for endemic unemployment in Ward 8.

“A generation ago, Washingtonians worked in the hotel industry, parked cars in restaurants,” Alexander said at his campaign launch. “They’re still here, but they’ve been replaced by illegal working poor who will do the job for less money and won’t complain because they’re illegal. We’ve got to do something about that.”

That “something,” for Alexander, meant District employers using the federal E-Verify system to check job applicants’ Social Security numbers. Shallal, on the other hand, refuses to use E-Verify in his restaurants.

Alexander met with Shallal before joining the campaign and promised that he’d change his mind on the issues, according to Shallal spokesman Dwight Kirk. “It’s just pretty much that Leo said, ‘OK, I’m evolved from those positions at that time,’” Kirk says.

Alexander wouldn’t tell LL whether his positions on gay marriage and immigration have changed, but he did reveal one thing he misses from 2010. “I like being a candidate more than being a staffer, that’s for sure,” Alexander says.

Political dissonance aside, LL can think of an even better reason not to employ Alexander at getting votes: He’s not that good at it. In the 2010 primary, Alexander received less than 1 percent of the vote.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

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