Your mailbox is full. Random people knock on your door. Campaign signs are everywhere. Yes, another election is upon us in D.C.
In many ways, we should be happy it's not 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic may still be with us, but we know a lot more about the virus — and are certainly more prepared to handle it. And unlike two years ago, this year's election cycle will seem somewhat normal; with one full election already conducted largely by mail, many D.C. voters now know what to expect of the June 21 primary to come.
But while the primary may seem more normal, its outcome may well be more consequential. This is the first mayoral primary since the pandemic hit, and the first mayoral contest in eight years that is being vigorously contested. It's also the first time since 2014 that the race for attorney general has been wide open; similarly, two longtime councilmembers in ward 3 and 5 have opted not to run again, promising an infusion of new voices on the D.C. Council.
The pandemic has scrambled D.C.'s years-long upwards trajectory, reconfigured priorities for the future, and thrown a whole new set of challenges at elected officials. The impact of the virus further exposed and exacerbated stark racial and income disparities that have long persisted in the District. Tens of thousand of office workers realized there's less need to commute into D.C. on a daily basis, offering them personal flexibility but throwing into question how downtown and Metro can survive in the long run. Housing is as expensive as ever, homicides and gun violence have jumped as the social fabric was further frayed by the pandemic, opioid deaths have spiked, the possibility of a Republican takeover of Congress raises new risks for local governance, and the prospects for statehood seem to be fading.
Needless to say, there's a lot that candidates for office have to talk about — and plenty of things that voters will be considering when they cast their ballots.
As usual, it bears mentioning: The winners of the June 21 primary will still have to overcome a second hurdle in November, when the party nominees (Democrats, Republicans, Libertarian, Statehood Greens) for the different offices will square off against each other and any independents who opt to run. This voter guide focuses exclusively on the Democratic primary, largely because none of the three other political parties have contested primary races.
For information on where the candidates fall on specific issues from public safety to whether D.C. should welcome back the Washington Commanders, the Washington Post has a handy guide here. Axios also has a good voter guide here.
The races: Mayor – D.C. Council Chairperson – Attorney General – D.C. Council At-Large – Delegate to Congress – D.C. Council Ward 1 – D.C. Council Ward 3 – D.C. Council Ward 5 – D.C. Council Ward 6 – Shadow Representative.
D.C. Councilmember Trayon White (D-Ward 8), Mayor Muriel Bowser, and D.C. Councilmember Robert White (D-At Large).
Don't yet call her the mayor-for-life, but if Muriel Bowser wins again this year, she'd be only the second mayor in the city's history to serve three consecutive terms. Those eight years in office are at the heart of her pitch for four more: Bowser says she has the experience, having managed D.C.'s 35,000-person workforce while steering through multiple crises and challenges (the COVID-19 pandemic and the Trump presidency among them), to lead the city through an uncertain post-pandemic future.
D.C. has seen explosive growth during Bowser's tenure, both in terms of population and almost entirely new residential neighborhoods (see The Wharf, Union Market). That growth cuts both ways, though — housing has only gotten more expensive, leading to a significant displacement of Black residents. While school enrollment has consistently ticked up, educational inequities remain. And in recent years, crime has been the prevailing worry for many voters: homicides have steadily grown, and gun violence has prompted repeated debates over how best to keep residents safe.
Still, D.C. voters seem to be at least relatively pleased with her performance: a February Washington Post poll showed her with a 58% approval rating, and she received high marks for her management of the city's response to the pandemic. Still, her overall approval was down from years past — and showed that Bowser is most vulnerable on crime and housing.
Enter Bowser's Democratic challengers: Councilmembers Robert White (D-At Large) and Trayon White (D-Ward 8) and former Ward 5 ANC commissioner James Butler, who unsuccessfully challenged Bowser in 2018. While they differ on some of the proposed solutions, the three characterize Bowser's reign in similar ways: she hasn't properly risen to the challenges D.C. faces, especially in the wake of the pandemic. Affordable housing is one area: While Bowser touts her significant investments in the Housing Production Trust Fund (up to $450 million next year), they say the money isn't truly helping the lowest-income residents. On public safety, they say she hasn't properly coordinated the many different programs (violence interruption, anti-gun violence initiatives) launched in recent years and is relying too heavily on simply hiring more police officers.
Robert White has leaned into big solutions: he's pledged to guarantee a job for 10,000 residents, dramatically scale up violence interruption, and expand vocational education and boarding schools. Trayon White similarly wants more career training in schools, better community-based policing, and displacement-free zones. Butler is the most law-and-order candidate, pledging to grow the police department (which Bowser is slowly doing), create a gun interdiction unit, and crack down on loitering.
Bowser, for her part, has criticized her challengers for not being ready for the job, and has more directly gone after Robert White and Trayon by noting that they are both second-term lawmakers. If they have such good ideas, she has said, why haven't they acted on them in the D.C. Council? She has also gone hard at Robert White for his positions on mayoral control of D.C. schools. While she would maintain the current system, White has said he would give more independence to the Office of the State Superintendent of Education and empower the D.C. State Board of Education. Bowser also says White's jobs-guarantee is unworkable and would be too expensive.
Ultimately, though, the race may not solely come down to who voters trust, like, and feel inspired by. From the early days of the mayoral race last fall one simple political reality was clear: Can any of her three challengers amass enough votes to deny her a third term, or will she simply take advantage of the expected vote-splitting?
Endorsements: Bowser has picked up endorsements from The Washington Post's editorial board, D.C. Democrats for Education Reform, Metro Washington Council AFL-CIO, 32BJ SEIU, UNITE HERE Local 23, and UNITE HERE Local 25. Robert White has been endorsed by the Washington Teachers' Union, AFSCME District Council 20, D.C. for Democracy, Jews United for Justice, D.C. chapter of the Sierra Club, Attorney General Karl Racine, and more. Butler has been endorsed by ANC Commissioner Peta-Gay Lewis, ANC Commissioner Kristin Solomon, and former ANC Commissioner Kathy Henderson.
Recommended reading (and listening): WAMU 88.5's live mayoral debate; the official D.C. mayoral debate; DCist's reporting on mayoral debates in Ward 7, Ward 5, and on student issues; the Washington Post's guide to the D.C. primary; the Washington Post's report on Trayon White's run for mayor and James Butler's longshot candidacy; DCist's reporting on how labor unions have split their endorsements between Robert White and Bowser.
– Martin Austermuhle
D.C. Council Chairperson
If there is one institution within the Wilson Building, it's probably Council Chairman Phil Mendelson.
First elected to the council in the late 1990s, he ascended to the legislature's top spot a decade ago — and sees no need to make way for anyone else to occupy the seat. Long known as a drama-free and detail-oriented lawmaker — he was once compared to Mr. Magoo — Mendelson touts himself as a reliable liberal who can pass progressive-minded legislation (marriage equality, paid family leave, more funding for at-risk schools, enhanced accountability for police) while still remaining pragmatic enough to balance competing interests inside and outside the council. Much like when he was challenged by Ed Lazere in 2018, Mendelson insists that progressives in D.C. can be too dogmatic, often seeing perfect as the enemy of good and equating compromise with caving in. And he thinks his many years of experience are a necessary asset to serve as council chair; how else could someone pass legislation, rework the budget, and stand up to the mayor when necessary?
Erin Palmer has been an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner in Ward 4 since 2019. Tyrone Turner / DCist/WAMU
But challenger Erin Palmer sees things differently. An ethics lawyer and Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner in Ward 4, Palmer thinks that what the council needs now is an infusion of new energy and vision — even more so as the city struggles to chart a post-pandemic path. Palmer is reliably progressive on the issues: she doubts whether D.C. currently needs to hire more police (she wants a staffing audit completed first), thinks the city needs to explore more options to bring down housing costs (expanding rent control, construction of social housing), and wants the council to beef up its oversight of schools (by reinstating a stand-alone education committee). But Palmer doesn't only want to focus on what bills get passed, but also how they get written — she's proposing increasing the size of the council's professional staff to better research and write legislation. She also regularly sets herself apart by saying she accepted public financing to fund her campaign; Mendelson, who voted to create the public financing, opted to fundraise traditionally, saying he didn't want to use taxpayer dollars for his campaign.
Endorsements: Mendelson has been endorsed by The Washington Post's editorial board; the D.C. chapter of the Sierra Club; Metropolitan Washington Labor Council AFL-CIO; UNITE HERE! Local 25; the D.C. Firefighters Association Local 36; and others. Palmer has been endorsed by the Washington Teachers' Union; D.C. for Democracy, Jews United For Justice; the D.C. Working Families Party; a number of ANC commissioners; and more.
Recommended reading (and listening): Our profile of the race between Palmer and Mendelson, Hill Rag's write-up of a recent debate at the Hill Center; the City Paper's report on Palmer's entry into the race and 2019 profile of Mendelson; the debate between the two candidates on WAMU 88.5's "The Politics Hour."
– Martin Austermuhle
Courtesy of the Jones, Schwalb, and Spiva campaigns/
From left: Ryan Jones, Brian Schwalb, and Bruce Spiva.
Courtesy of the Jones, Schwalb, and Spiva campaigns/
The attorney general's contest could well be considered a tale of two races: when D.C. Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5) announced his candidacy last year, and when he suspended his campaign in early May after he was knocked off the ballot for not meeting the legal qualifications for the office. McDuffie enjoyed a base of support stemming from his decade on the council, but his sudden ejection upended the race between the remaining candidates: Bruce Spiva, Brian Schwalb, and Ryan Jones. (Spiva was the candidate who initially challenged McDuffie's qualifications.)
Spiva and Schwalb come to the race to succeed Attorney General Karl Racine — who is stepping away from public office after two terms — with similar educational and professional backgrounds, starting at Harvard Law and working their way through the city's legal firmament. Spiva clerked for a federal judge and went on to found his own public interest law firm before jumping back to a big firm, while Schwalb worked for the Department of Justice before making the move to Venable, where he is currently the partner-in-charge of the D.C. office. (Racine was at Venable before he became attorney general.) Jones grew up in D.C. and went to law school in Illinois and D.C., after which he founded his own firm, briefly worked for the D.C. government, and went back to representing clients ranging from businesses to individuals dealing with housing issues.
All three candidates largely say they'd like to build on what Racine did when he took office in 2014, and much of that revolves around consumer protection and enforcing the housing code, as well as addressing juvenile crimes. (The U.S. Attorney for D.C. handles more serious and violent crimes committed by adults.) Spiva says he sees the attorney general's office as a large public interest law firm, one that would build upon his own experience taking on civil rights, voting rights, and antitrust cases. He says that's where his advantage is over Schwalb. "I've done some commercial litigation, but with a practice that for its length and breadth has been public interest. [Schwalb has] done some good pro-bono [work], but but the length and breadth of his practice has been commercial litigation on behalf of companies," he says.
Schwalb, though, counters that his public sector experience runs deeper and that he has spent more time managing big law firms. (The attorney general's office has some 700 employees.) "The experience I bring is broader, unique and deeper," he says. "I also bring the experience of knowing that we have a very complex ecosystem in Washington. And if you're not ready to step in and be able to understand the business interests in the city, to tax interests in the city, the regulatory overlay, the way in which things get done. So I bring that."
Jones says he's the outsider of the three, and the youngest to boot — he argues that he's approaching the prime of his legal career, while the other two candidates are coming down off of theirs. "These guys are older and they're on the downside of their careers. Their vision and what they've learned really might not apply to the world that's coming," he says.
Both Schwalb and Jones are using the city's public financing program, while Spiva has largely self-funded his campaign with a $300,000 personal loan.
Endorsements: Spiva has been endorsed by 32BJ SEIU, Jews United For Justice, the D.C. chapter of the Sierra Club, former D.C. Council candidate Ed Lazere, former U.S. Solicitor General Don Verrilli, and more. Schwalb has been endorsed by The Washington Post's editorial board, Racine, former D.C. Attorney General Irv Nathan, and four labor unions, including the United Association of Union Plumbers and Pipefitters and Ironworkers Union. Jones has picked up the endorsement of former D.C. Councilmember (and current Ward 5 candidate) Vincent Orange.
Recommended reading (and watching): The Washington Post's Q&A with the candidates, the City Paper on Spiva and Schwalb's angling for the progressive vote, the D.C. Line's Jonetta Rose Barras on the racial politics of the attorney general's race, and this video of the official D.C. attorney general's debate.
– Martin Austermuhle
D.C. Council At-Large
Photos of Fleming and Gore courtesy of their campaigns, photo of Williams by Martin Austermuhle, photo of Bonds courtesy AFGE/
Clockwise from top left: Dexter Williams, Anita Bonds, Nate Fleming, and Lisa Gore.
Photos of Fleming and Gore courtesy of their campaigns, photo of Williams by Martin Austermuhle, photo of Bonds courtesy AFGE/
Every election is, to a certain degree, a referendum on the incumbent. But in no other race is this as evident as in the battle for the At-Large seat currently held by Councilmember Anita Bonds (D-At Large), a two-term incumbent and current chair of the council's housing committee. And it's her work on the housing committee that has drawn the most consistent criticism from her three challengers: Lisa Gore, Nate Fleming, and Dexter Williams.
While Bonds says she has worked collaboratively over the years with the mayor and council to address rising housing costs (including by increasing investments in the Housing Production Trust Fund and funneling money to public housing repairs), Gore says it's too little, too late. The former federal agent at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and current Ward 4 ANC commissioner says she would make housing her focus on the council, largely by increasing oversight of affordable housing funds and getting it to the lowest-income residents. "Housing, that's the foundation for schools, health care, food, access, everything. And we just have to do better," she says.
Williams, who formerly worked in Robert White's council office and now manages vote-by-mail programs for an advocacy group, would push to more quickly turn vacant units over to residents who need housing. But he says his primary focus would be on schools. He wants to increase vocational education options: "Everyone doesn't want to go to college. And I think it will serve us better as a city if we're preparing our students for both the academic route, but also a trade route where they're well prepared for a global economy," he says. Williams, a Ward 7 resident, also says the current system of mayoral control needs to be changed to increase transparency and independence.
Fleming, who first challenged Bonds in 2014, says his experience working as D.C.'s shadow representative and also as a council staffer for various lawmakers (most recently Trayon White) would serve him well in council oversight and legislating. The Ward 7 resident says he would focus on longstanding inequities in D.C. — many of which were made worse by the pandemic. That includes housing, education, jobs, and public safety. Fleming says the issues are interconnected; poor education, few job options, and rising housing costs leaves people prone to crime. Fleming was carjacked earlier this year, an experience he says highlights some of his primary goals if he's elected: he wants a universal after-school program for kids, the existing summer jobs program to be year-round, and a guaranteed jobs program resembling the Works Progress Administration created after the Great Depression.
Still, for all the criticisms thrown at Bonds, her three challengers face the unenviable political reality that they might end up splitting the vote against her. Much the same happened in 2018, when she defeated two challengers, and in 2014, when she bested four hopefuls.
Endorsements: Fleming was endorsed by The Washington Post's editorial board and Jews United For Justice. Gore has been endorsed by Greater Greater Washington and D.C. Working Families Party. Williams notched endorsements from the D.C. Latino Caucus and the Washington Teachers' Union. Bonds was endorsed by the D.C. Firefighters union, SEIU, AFSCME, the D.C. Realtors Association, and more.
Recommended reading (and watching): The Washington Post on the enigmatic Bonds, Fleming's entry in the race, and Williams and Gore. Here's video of the official debate between the four At-Large candidates, and the Post's writeup of the debate.
– Martin Austermuhle
Delegate to Congress
D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton has long been known as D.C.'s "warrior on the Hill," and over her 31 years in office she's done about as much as her non-voting seat allows. She's defended the city from Republican attacks and pushed first for D.C. to gain a full voting representative in Congress and later for it to become the 51st state. Norton is a civil rights icon, and it's all been assumed in D.C. political circles that the city's congressional seat will remain hers until she decides otherwise.
That's not stopping two challengers from stepping up to take her on. Rev. Wendy Hamilton is a middle school counselor who wants to use the perch of D.C. delegate to pursue issues like a universal basic income. "We bailed out banks, let's bail out the people," she said during an interview with Team Rayceen last year. Kelly Mikel Williams is a former D.C. Council staffer who also once experienced homelessness, which he says informs his campaign platform to secure housing for everyone who needs it.
For Norton's part, she says the 15 terms she has already served offer her a distinct opportunity to wield influence — especially in terms of eventually being able to chair a House committee. (She is currently the chairwoman of a subcommittee on highways and transit.) "It's no secret Eleanor's been at this a while. In fact, she's running for her sixteenth term in Congress. But this year, maybe more than any before, her seniority will allow her to fight more effectively for the District than ever," she says on her campaign website.
D.C. Council Ward 1
In the city's most densely populated ward, two political newcomers — former D.C. cop Salah Czapary and ANC commissioner Sabel Harris — are seeking to unseat incumbent Brianne Nadeau.
Nadeau, who has represented Ward 1 since 2016, stands solidly in the council's progressive block. She authored and co-sponsored legislation limiting the scope of MPD's power, supported increasing taxes on the wealthiest residents, and criticized Bowser's plan to clear the city's homeless encampments. She's won endorsements from a number of labor unions, Greater Greater Washington, and Attorney General Karl Racine, and has out-fundraised her opponents thus far.
While she holds onto strong support from progressives in the city, Czapary and Harris, both relatively green to D.C.'s political scene, entered the race in part due to what they view as Nadeau's lack of visibility with residents and her alleged inaction on public safety issues.
A first-time ANC commissioner, Harris has raised the least money of the three, according to D.C. Geekery, but boasts some notable names on her donor list. (All three candidates are participating in public financing.) The City Paper reported that former At-Large councilmember and Bowser ally Bill Lightfoot, as well as Phil and Jeanette Fenty, parents of ex-mayor Adrian Fenty, have sunk their dollars into Harris' campaign. If elected, Harris would be the first Asian American councilmember.
The major wrinkles in the race came in May, following the Post's endorsement of Czapary, who if elected would be the first Arab American and only openly gay member of the council. Shortly after the Post picked Czapary as their "clear choice," progressives found some unsavory ties between Czapary's Democratic campaign and far-right national figures.
Most notably, they flagged that Czapary's campaign chairman, William Pack, is the son of Michael Pack — a Trump appointee and former CEO of a right-wing organization, the Claremont Institute. Even without his father's legacy, though, a quick scan of William Pack's LinkedIn would make a position on a Democratic campaign look out of place. He's a Publius Fellow at Claremont (in the company of alumni like Ben Shapiro and Lauren Ingraham), and currently works at theEnergy Policy Research Foundation, a policy nonprofit that advocates for fracking and growing the U.S. economy through the oil market.
Czapary claims he met Pack through the police department, when Pack was serving as a volunteer reserve corps officer, and says he wasn't aware of any Republican associations unfitting for a Democratic council bid. According to Czapary, he "took for granted" that Pack was a Democrat, and chalks the oversight up to his campaign naïveté — "an amateur political mistake." He has since replaced Pack with Ward 1 resident and attorney Paul Kugelman.
Even so, Nadeau's supporters see Czapary's pick as, at the least, a troubling lack of judgment, and at the worst a plan to covertly insert a Republican voice on the council. Czapary, an independent who switched his affiliation to Democrat to enter the race, says he's never been registered as a Republican, and has "always voted for Democrats," including Hillary Clinton in 2016 and Joe Biden in 2020.
"I was a member of MPD on Jan. 6, so not only were President Trump's racist comments and bigotry personal to me — my dad's an immigrant, my mom's a refugee — but also, I had friends and colleagues that were fighting for their lives in the Capitol," he says in response to speculation that he's harboring closeted right-wing ideologies.
And while his associations might point to the right, his platform seemingly leans in the opposite direction. When it comes down to the issues, an observation made across all three of the candidates' platforms is that, well, they're pretty similar. The Post's endorsement dismissed Harris as too similar to Nadeau (a characterization Harris tells DCist/WAMU she disagrees with), and lauded Czapary for his public safety plan, although its contours broadly resemble some of Nadeau's positions. Both support investing in more violence interruption, and moving certain responsibilities — like mental health emergencies and some traffic enforcement, out from MPD's authority. (One area where they differ is on how to deal with ATV and dirt bikes on Ward 1 streets; Czapary wants them impounded, while Nadeau wants to develop a solution in conversation with the riding community.)
What Czapary believes sets him apart from the incumbent is his experience as a cop, while Nadeau says she has a record of getting things done that her challengers don't. Harris and Czapary criticize Nadeau for being unreachable and poorly managing constituent services.
Recommended reading: Washington City Paper's dive into Czapary's associates, and the Post's write-up of Harris entering the race.
– Colleen Grablick
D.C. Council Ward 3
Three's a crowd — a crowded race, that is.
The ward featuring some of the city's wealthiest neighborhoods had the most candidates running for elected office this campaign season at one point. When mail-in voting kicked off on May 27, Ward 3 voters had to decide between nine people to fill the seat being vacated by Councilmember Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3), who unexpectedly announced earlier this year that she wouldn't run again. As of June 14, several progressive-leaning candidates dropped out of the race to coalesce behind Matthew Frumin, Cheh's former treasurer.
Whoever wins would be filling the void of the second-longest serving councilmember, who's spent more of her time recently working to reduce traffic injuries and deaths as chair of the transportation committee. Housing would be another key issue for the person elected, given that Ward 3 lags the furthest behind in meeting D.C.'s affordability and construction goals.
The Ward 3 race is a mixed bag, and includes the former chair of the D.C. Public Library Board of Trustees (Monte Monash), a council staffer for Ward 7's Vince Gray (Eric Goulet), and, until recently, an 18-year-old high school student (Henry Cohen).
Every candidate but two — Cohen and Deirdre Brown, who's a former advisory neighborhood commissioner —is participating in the city's Fair Elections Program, which provides limited public matching funds to candidates who agree only to accept small dollar donations and forgo corporate and PAC money. Cohen tells DCist/WAMU he's not fundraising and capped his spending at $500.
If you're looking at nothing but early campaign finance reports, Frumin and Phil Thomas seemed to be leading the pack. Thomas currently chairs the Ward 3 Democrats and has close ties to the Bowser administration, having done ward-level outreach for the mayor. Meanwhile, Frumin chaired Robert White's mayoral and at-large campaign races. More recently, Goulet has raised more funds and emerged as a frontrunner, leading at least three people to suspend their campaigns to support Frumin.
The candidates who are dropping out cited outsized spending from special interest groups, as first reported by the Post. Two pro-charter school advocacy groups, Democrats for Education Reform D.C. and DC Charter School Action, have spent the most money to support Goulet, as well as Bowser and Mendelson.
Cheh is voting for her former treasurer, and encourages others to do the same, after her first choice, Tricia Duncan, former president of the Palisades Community Association, dropped out of the race on June 13. "He is deeply rooted in the community and has worked, often quietly and without fanfare, on many W3 issues such as affordable housing and school reform," says Cheh in a statement shared by Frumin.
Duncan opted to suspend her campaign five days into in-person early voting and endorse Frumin, saying she wanted to throw her support behind a candidate who had a real shot at winning. In her announcement, she says the race is between two candidates, Frumin and Goulet. "We cannot risk electing a candidate propped up by special interests lacking ties to our fellow residents," Duncan says, referring to the Post report.
Cohen dropped out later on June 14, also citing, "a recent influx of dark money from pro-school privatization groups."
Among other notable endorsements, the Washington Teachers' Union backed Frumin. "He understands our issues deeply and has been fighting for our budgets and facilities in particular for a long time," Laura Fuchs, who chairs the committee handling WTU endorsements, tells DCist/WAMU. "He also looks beyond just Ward 3 schools to how our whole system is interconnected, so when he advocates it is for us all and not for one ward at the expense of the others."
The Washington Post editorial board backed Goulet, citing his 19 years of experience in D.C. government. The board went on to say that "More than any other candidate, Mr. Goulet has a grasp of the issues and an understanding of the financial realities that must be a part of any policy." The D.C. Police Union has also endorsed Goulet, its only endorsement in any race so far.
Greater Greater Washington backed Ben Bergmann, an attorney who chairs Advisory Neighborhood Commission 3D, for his positions on land use, housing, and transportation. Per GGW, Bergmann believes "the city's limited public-subsidy dollars should be spent on constructing housing for those with very low or extremely low incomes, while market-rate units should be constructed en masse for higher earners." (Fellow ANC commissioner Beau Finley is also in the Ward 3 race.)
On June 14, Bergmann announced that he, too, will suspend his campaign and support Frumin. In his own announcement, he says he hopes progressives coalesce behind Frumin over Goulet, calling the latter a "conservative yes-man for the business community."
Only recently has the race intensified. Goulet came under scrutiny from his colleagues in the race for comments he made about voucher holders during a forum hosted by the D.C. Chamber of Commerce in March. His fellow candidates say his remarks echoed ones made recently by the councilmember he's looking to replace. (DCist/WAMU couldn't verify because the D.C. Chamber of Commerce would not release footage from the event.) Cheh has accused voucher holders of increased gun violence in her ward, however these claims do not seem to be supported by any public data. Even so, she proposed a moratorium on vouchers in Ward 3. Homeless advocates have called her statements "racist" and "classist."
Goulet has not called on a ward-level ban on vouchers but responded to a question about improving diversity by acknowledging the frustration of some neighbors who've linked the voucher program to increased neighborhood crime. At another forum hosted by Tenants Advocacy Coalition, Goulet accused his fellow candidates of "making a spectacle" for political gain. He also advocated for reforming the existing voucher programs, suggesting those with behavioral health issues move into housing that offer wrap around services.
Recommended reading (and watching): Axios on how the Palisades became a sudden hub of campaign activity, the City Paper on the Republican-turned-Democrat who is vying to succeed Cheh, the Greater Greater Washington candidate forum, the City Paper's handicapping of the Ward 3 race.
– Amanda Michelle Gomez
D.C. Council Ward 5
From left: Faith Gibson Hubbard, Gordon Fletcher, Zachary Parker, Art Lloyd, and Vincent Orange.
The Ward 5 council seat has always been a wide open race, thanks to incumbent Kenyan McDuffie bowing out for his ill-fated run for D.C. attorney general.
There are two major questions for residents of a fast-growing ward that encompasses sleepy neighborhoods, gobs of new development, and sprawling industrial land: Do they want new blood on the council, versus a return to more than a decade ago? And do they want a legislator more in line with the more moderate wing of the council, or someone likely to side with the progressive slate on issues like the number of police officers on the force, how to deal with homeless encampments, and whether the mayor should have absolute control over the schools?
Seven candidates have made it to the ballot: perennial council candidate and controversial former Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Kathy Henderson; Ward 5 Democrats chairman Gordon Fletcher; former Ward 8 ANC Art Lloyd; Ward 5 D.C. State Board of Education representative Zachary Parker; former NBA player and teacher Gary Johnson; former head of Bowser's Office of Community Affairs Faith Gibson Hubbard; and former Ward 5 and at-large councilmember Vincent Orange.
The vast majority of them applied to run under D.C.'s public financing program, which grants them matching funds from the city based on small dollar donations, so long as they eschew PAC or corporate money. (Neither Henderson nor Johnson met the threshold to qualify for the Fair Elections Program, and Lloyd does not appear to have filed any fundraising reports, according to the Office of Campaign Finance website.)
Parker is in the lead when it comes to fair election payouts and the number of individual donors, including contributors from D.C. and from Ward 5 specifically, according to D.C. Geekery. Hubbard comes in second for contributions, Orange and Fletcher come in next.
The analysis of who, exactly, is donating to the campaigns tells a very similar story to the endorsements received — the lion's share of which have gone to Parker and Hubbard. Simply put: the more progressive groups and campaigns have hitched their wagons to Parker, whereas more moderate forces have lined up behind Hubbard.
Parker's campaign, for instance, shares nearly 20% of its contributors with Robert White's bid for mayor and about 12% with Erin Palmer's run for council chairperson, both candidates challenging incumbents from the left. More than 20% of Hubbard's contributors, meanwhile, also donated to Bowser's campaign or McDuffie's flubbed AG run. (All of these figures come from D.C. Geekery, which is definitely worth a perusal.)
That lines up with endorsements: outgoing D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine and Councilmember Janeese Lewis George (D-Ward 4) have given Parker their stamp of approval, as have a number of local unions and progressive advocacy groups. (See them all here.) A slew of current and former councilmembers are backing Hubbard, including McDuffie, Councilmember Christina Henderson (I-At Large), former At-Large Councilmember David Grosso, and former Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr., who dropped out of the race at the beginning of the year. She also scored the Washington Post editorial board endorsement.
Despite Parker and Hubbard taking up much of the race's oxygen, you can't ever truly count out Orange, who served as the Ward 5 councilmember from 1999 to 2007, followed by nearly a decade as a citywide legislator. He was voted out in 2016, and resigned early after outrage that he was trying to finish out his term while simultaneously starting his new gig heading up the D.C. Chamber of Commerce. Orange's decades in D.C. politics means he still has some of the best name recognition in the race. When he ran for the open at-large seat as an independent in 2020 (one of 23 people in the race), he came in third with 12% of the vote — and 17% of the vote in Ward 5, giving him the most votes of a non-Democrat.
In this campaign, Orange is back to running as a Democrat. He has faced fallout for his comments about Parker's sexuality. Parker publicly came out as gay in April. At a May Capital Stonewall Democrats forum, Orange characterized Parker's decision to come out as a "matter of convenience," drawing criticism on social media, including from a sitting councilmember, and resurfacing his own 2006 comments opposing same-sex marriage. (Orange has since changed his tune on the issue.) And he's also sued the Washington Business Journal and a former reporter for defamation; the publication calls his lawsuit meritless and dismisses it as a "campaign tactic."
Recommended reading (and watching): Axios on how the election in Ward 5 could break along generational lines, the Washington Informer on a candidate debate in May, DCist on an early debate in November (and the debate itself is here), the Washington Post on how the Ward 5 candidates are trying to bridge the divide between new and old residents.
– Rachel Kurzius
D.C. Council Ward 6
Unlike the council races in the other wards, the Ward 6 contest hasn't been much of a contest at all. That's because incumbent Councilmember Charles Allen drew no Democratic challengers, leaving him to cruise to an all-but-expected victory on June 21. It remains to be seen if he draws any independent challenger ahead of the November general. Despite their many criticisms of him, Republicans did not field a candidate for their own Ward 6 primary.
– Martin Austermuhle
D.C. has an elected delegate to Congress, but it also has a shadow delegation of one representative and two senators. These are the people who would, in theory, become the city's official congressional delegation where statehood granted. For now, though, the shadow delegation is basically the city's unpaid yet quasi-official advocates for statehood. Rep. Oye Owolewa is the incumbent, and he's running for a second term. A trained pharmacist, Owolewa has also served as an ANC commissioner in Ward 8. He is being challenged by Linda Gray, the vice-chairwoman of the D.C. Democratic State Committee.
– Martin Austermuhle
This story has been updated to include the news that multiple candidates dropped out of the Ward 3 race, and with Mary Cheh's new endorsement.
This story is from DCist.com, the local news site of WAMU.