Gary Butler is a former advisory neighborhood commissioner. (Courtesy Photo)
Former D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray handily won the June 14 Democratic primary over D.C. Council member Yvette Alexander. However, former Ward 7 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Gary Butler wants to make sure residents have an option in the general election.
Butler recently resigned his position as a commissioner for single-member district 7B03 in Ward 7 to run as an independent against Gray on Nov. 8. In an interview with the AFRO, Butler said that he wants to be a “change agent” in the ward.
“I want to be a catalyst for change in Ward 7,” Butler said. “There needs to be someone who steps up and makes a change. I also want to improve the image of the Black male in public service in this city.”
Butler is a native Washingtonian who graduated from Anacostia High School in Ward 8 and attended the University of the District of Columbia. He is a real-estate broker and lives with his family in the Twining area of the ward, located near the John Sousa Bridge.
Butler and Ward 2 resident Bruce Majors are the only independent candidates running for ward seats in the general election. D.C. Council member Brandon Todd (D-Ward 4) and Trayon White, Democratic candidate for the Ward 8 council seat, have no opponents in the general election at AFRO press time.
D.C. Council member David Grosso (I-At Large) is seeking re-election and has attracted two independents, Jimmy Calomiris and Drew Franklin, the Republican nominee Carolina Celnik, and the Statehood-Green hopeful G. Lee Aiken as opponents in the general election. The other at-large spot will go to Democratic Party nominee Robert White because of the city’s 10 to 1 registration among Democrats.
Petitions to be on the ballot as an independent seeking a council seat are due on Aug. 10.
Butler said he will focus on issues such as more affordable housing in Ward 7, closing the wealth gap in the District, fighting homelessness, the need for better transportation in Ward 7 through the use of bike lanes, and better coordination with the always-busy I-295 corridor and government transparency. “Homeless people use to be only in downtown and now they are making their way over here,” Butler said.
Butler realizes no independent candidate for a ward seat has been elected to the D.C. Council. However, political empowerment for people who live east of the Anacostia River is the most important thing. “There is too much corruption and too much ‘pay-to-play’,” he said. “I will work on the council to get some of that out.”
“There are almost 150,000 people who live in Ward 7 and 8,” Butler said. “We need another voice east of the river on the D.C. Council. That would bring Ward 7 a level of respectability around this city.”
The AFRO approached the Gray campaign regarding Butler’s candidacy. “We encourage all candidates who have positive ideas about Ward 7 to run,” Chuck Thies, Gray’s campaign spokesman, told the AFRO in an email. “Informed, thoughtful candidates who run dignified campaigns add to the democratic process. When voters have choices, more people get involved. Vince is determined to increase civic engagement in Ward 7. We’re confident Mr. Butler has the same values.”
While many Ward 7 Democrats will support Gray in the general election, there are some who are willing to listen to Butler. “Gary Butler is welcome to run and that is part of the political process,” Cinque Culver, a resident from the River Terrace section of the ward, told the AFRO. “I want to support the Democratic nominee for council but I want to sit down with both of them to hear what they have to say.”