The District’s party primaries take place June 14 and in these final days, there are signs that candidates are being choosey about where they spend their time and resources.
The most prominent example of this took place May 31 at an at-large, Ward 7 and Ward 8 forum sponsored by We Act Radio at THE ARC, a multi-purpose facility housing creative arts non-profits in Southeast Washington. None of the incumbents on the ballot showed up for the forum before a crowd of 74 people. “I guess some of these candidates had better things to do than to talk to us,” Kymone Freeman, the programming director for We Act Radio, said.
Former D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray.
Freeman said D.C. Council member Vincent Orange (D-At Large) and Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7) were sent invitations but didn’t respond. The AFRO approached Alexander regarding the forum on May 4 at an anti-violence rally at River Terrace Park in Ward 7 and she said she knew nothing about it. “I hadn’t heard anything about that,” Alexander said perplexed. “Was it in Ward 7?”
Alexander is in a tough race for re-election with former D.C. Council member Vincent Gray as the primary challenger. The Ward 7 race’s two other opponents, Grant Thompson and Delmar Chesley, didn’t attend the forum, either.
Gray sent a statement to the forum and it was read by Ward 7 resident Ambrose Lane Jr. “Our city is vibrant and growing but too many residents are still living without jobs, the security of a stable home, or the certainty of a warm meal,” Gray said. “My schedule didn’t permit me to be here this evening. I am meeting with the labor union, SEIU 1199 and following that I have a longstanding campaign event to attend. I applaud everyone in this room for being engaged in local issues.”
Lane, who runs a health care non-profit in his ward, told the AFRO he was asked to read the statement for Gray because he is a Ward 7 resident. He made it clear that he is neutral in the race between Alexander and Gray.
D.C. Council member LaRuby May (D-Ward 8)
D.C. Council member LaRuby May (D-Ward 8) didn’t attend the forum and Everett Hamilton, her campaign spokesman, told the AFRO she was previously scheduled for another event. However, the May campaign sent a statement through a campaign aide that was read by Freeman. “As the Ward 8 council member, I am committed to bringing long overdue equality to Ward 8 residents in the areas of economic development, education, health, housing, workforce development, and others,” May said. “This multi-prong approach will allow residents who live in the ward to stay in the ward.”
The statement mentioned her comprehensive bill, The SEED Act, designed to tackle the ward’s employment and education ills through government programs and the cooperation of private stakeholders such as commercial developers, business owners and leaders in the education community. “I work for transformative legislation like this because it is important to invest in the people and culture already living in Ward 8,” she said. “As change happens, I want Ward 8 residents to be number one in life.”
Hamilton said May has been going “door-to-door” and “has had multiple opportunities to hear the concerns of Ward 8 residents.”
Despite incumbents not showing up, the forums proceeded. The first forum had D.C. Statehood Green candidate Natale Stracuzzi, D.C. Statehood Green at-large council candidate G. Lee Aiken, and Democratic at-large candidates Robert White and David Garber discussing issues dealing with economic development and housing primarily.
The second forum consisted of Ward 8 council hopefuls Trayon White, Aaron Holmes, and Bonita Goode. Candidate Maurice Dickens didn’t attend the event. White, who served as the Ward 8 representative on the D.C. State Board of Education from 2011-2014 and lost the April 23, 2015 special election to May by 78 votes, said, “I am not a politician, I am a community activist,” White said. “I am the only candidate that can defeat this machine.”
Holmes took a slight dig at May saying, “You need representation that will show up.” Goode said people should vote for council representatives based on competency and “not popularity.”
The three candidates agreed on issues such as fighting the lead problem in D.C. public schools, generating more support for people who want to continue to live in the District, and addressing unemployment in the ward.