By James Wright, Special to the AFRO

The common political perception is that District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser doesn’t have a serious challenger but James Butler strongly disagrees. Butler is running for the Democratic Party nomination for mayor on June 19. He said Bowser isn’t serving the interest of the everyday District resident.

“We have a mayor who is beholden to big business,” Butler, a self proclaimed entrepreneur who serves as the advisory neighborhood commissioner for district 5D03, said to a group of residents at Asbury United Methodist Church on March 24. “We need a leader who is willing to have a realistic talk about prosperity and disparity in this city. If you are in the pocket of big business and developers, so is your heart.”

James Butler speaks at Asbury United Methodist Church declaring his plans if he were to become the next elected mayor of Washington, D.C. (Photo by J. Wright)

Butler is a longtime District resident. He is a graduate of Kent State University with a bachelor’s degree and a juris doctorate with the Ohio State University School of Law. He has volunteered with the Capital Area Food Bank, Bread for the City, the Natural Ivy Foundation for the Homeless, Carlos Rosario Public Charter School, and Best Kids DC and worked with initiatives such as the Race against Child Hunger with his church, the Greater Mount Calvary Holy Church.

In addition to Bowser, Butler is competing against political unknowns such as Quincy D. Carter, Manley M. Collins, Edward Dixon, Victoria Gordon, Ernest E. Johnson, Art Lloyd, Ben Nadler, Fidelis Malachi Pietrocina, Jeremiah D. Stanback, and Michael C. Woods. Bowser has $2 million in her campaign treasury and the powers of incumbency.

Butler said the District has 6,000 or 7,000 non-profits and believes that if they adopt one homeless person, the homeless problem could be largely solved. “Those non-profits could get their homeless person addiction counseling if needed as well as other social services,” he said. “It would be a significant dent in the humanitarian crisis.”

Butler said another remedy to the District’s homeless crisis is allocating the city’s budget for better use to eliminate the problem. “This city has a $14 billion budget,” he said. “If we used 0.3 of one percent of the budget, $46 million, in the right way, we could end chronic homelessness.”

In area of public safety, Butler wants to put more speed cameras in the District and strengthen community policing. Butler is aware that affordable housing is a big issue in the District and wants to strengthen rent control laws. “Affordable housing in D.C. is a misnomer and what is needed is income-based housing,” Butler said.

Regarding the District’s public school system, Butler said divesting mayoral control of it is a discussion that needs to take place. “We have encountered a lot of problems since mayoral control came into being in 2007,” he said. “I think we need to look at bringing back the independent school board.”

Butler said he would offer tax incentives to grocery store chains to open in Wards 7 and 8. There are three full service grocery stores in those two wards that contain 150,000 residents.

Virgil Young Jr., an intelligence and technology professional, is supporting Butler. “This is a Black man who is willing to help,” Young said of Butler. “I have walked the city’s toughest neighborhoods with him and he is honest and caring. He is the one I want to be our next mayor.”