On Aug. 30, Washington voters began to cast their votes in the primary election. This is the first time the District has allowed early voting and along with that, initiated a variety of other enhancements and changes. This election cycle is definitely full of firsts for the Washington, D.C.

This is not, however, the first time the AFRO has made endorsement.

During each election season, the AFRO reaches out to the candidates in the races of most interest to the African-American community and those that most impact their lives. We start by sending a questionnaire and then, based on the answers and any additional issues or controversy surrounding the various races, bring candidates from select races, that completed the questionnaire, in for an interview with the publisher, Jake Oliver, and members of the editorial department.

Our endorsement are made based on this information.

This exercise is usually daunting for us, and this year was no exception. Without fail, we enjoy meeting the candidates, find them interesting and informative, and leave each meeting liking something about each one. With that in mind, please know that we endorse the candidates we believe will do the job, to the best of their ability, for the good of their constituency.

We then wait to watch what you, the voters, decide on Election Day.

With that, here are the AFRO’s endorsements for the 2010 Primary election in the District of Columbia.

Vincent Gray
Mayor, District of Columbia

Vincent Gray, acknowledged for his character, integrity and leadership on the City Council, comes to the table with diplomacy and a knack for being in tune with the needs of District residents. A member of the Council since 2005, Gray who hails from “east of the river,” is touting the slogan, “One City − Leadership We Need,” in his bid for mayor against incumbent Adrian Fenty.

While the AFRO gives credit to Fenty for being results-oriented and affecting a quick-pace manner in accomplishing his agenda, we had reservations about his ability to communicate with and ensure inclusiveness of the African-American community. For instance, while Fenty implemented school reform in a system that is predominantly Black, the community had little input in this process.

Through his own admission, Fenty has been aloof to the African-American community and he apologized, promising to do better. Even so, Blacks have felt somewhat neglected under his watch and the mayor’s lack of response to their needs has left much to be desired.

The AFRO was genuinely impressed with candidate Leo Alexander who possesses plenty of passion and polish for the city’s premiere leadership position. He’s committed to eradicating joblessness, improving schools, improving economic development and supporting small business, which he lists among a slew of other concerns. Unfortunately, Alexander lacks the political experience we believe necessary now for the job of mayor.

Gray entered the race late (March 2010) with the caveat that he knows how to get things done in D.C. Gray’s not only adept at organizing, he’s been a visible force dealing head-on with issues that overwhelmingly impact the public’s well-being. His success in winning approval of reform legislation giving the mayor control over the troubled school system and how he held the chancellor to task surrounding the abrupt firing of hundreds of teachers are some examples of his oversight ability.

The Ward 7 resident has promised to ensure transparency and inclusiveness in the office of the mayor and – armed with a three-prong approach for efficiency − will immediately tackle unemployment while fostering a strategy for increased economic development opportunities.

He responded on a recent AFRO-candidates’ questionnaire that he has demonstrated a thoughtful, mature and fiscally responsible approach to offset the city’s budget woes. “I realize the many difficult choices families have been forced to make during this recession,” he wrote, “and I treat the taxpayers’ money with respect by focusing limited resources on important social safety net priorities and core city services.”

In stressing his goals for decreasing the current 10 percent jobless rate, Gray referred to enforcement of a new law that mandates 51 percent of new jobs created in the city must go to residents. So far, “It has been poorly enforced,” Gray said. “We let people come from everywhere to work in the District, and our own people end up being out of work.”

The AFRO encourages voters to follow its lead by embracing Gray in the Sept. 14 Democratic primary.

Jim Graham
Ward 1 City Council

Jim Graham’s delivery of services to residents has been unwavering since he was first elected to the City Council in 1998. He has gone on to win elections in 2002 and 2006, with an overwhelming majority of votes in both the Democratic primaries and general elections.

As the AFRO did in 2006, it is again endorsing Graham based on his ability to get things done. He is smart, hard-working and dedicated to the issues he cares about – those of his constituents.

He has been an excellent chairman of the Committee on Consumer and Regulatory Affairs and has always tried to make the agencies under his jurisdiction responsive to the needs of residents.

Graham served as the chairman of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s board of directors until earlier this year. Having been a voting member of the board since 1999, the no-nonsense councilman pushed to keep Metro fares down so those most in need of the city’s bus and rail services could afford them.

He fought for and brought affordable housing to his Adams Morgan community, where the cost of living is among the highest in the city. In one instance, residents of an apartment complex were able to purchase the building they’d long called home.

Graham continues work to bridge the ward’s racial inequities – including his longstanding fight to help small businesses flourish in his mostly Black and Latino neighborhood. And more recently, the gay community pioneer successfully co-sponsored legislation to recognize gay marriage in the nation’s capital.

None of Graham’s three opponents comes to the table with the experience, the tenacity for upholding the rights and expectations of residents and the track record for providing solutions to issues that directly impact constituents.

The AFRO asks your support in keeping Graham where he’s needed most − in Ward 1, at the Council table − where he continues to make a difference.

Eleanor Holmes-Norton
U.S. Congress

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, one of the most powerful women in the District of Columbia, gets the AFRO’s endorsement based on her solid record of going to bat for residents.

Now in her 10th term, Norton has consistently broken barriers in the deliv